The Importance Of Navigation

Carry a compass and don’t know how to use it? Carry a map and don’t really know how to read it? Could you find your way off the hill in poor weather in unfamiliar terrain in the dark if you’d wandered off the beaten track?

The importance of navigation skills have been highlighted today with Mountain Rescue in the news today for the work they do. Mountain Rescue work has increased in volume, and they fear that people aren’t prepared to handle the Winter conditions – and not just on mountains either- but hills.

Mountain Rescue is a volunteer led charity who do invaluable work saving lives – but to minimise the risk to them, as well as yourself, navigation skills have never been as important.
We interviewed Mike Park, OBE on his work with Mountain Rescue, who said that there was no such thing as a ‘typical rescue’.

“People fall off cliffs, jump from planes- and the floods were a problem too. The last floods in Cockermouth I was called at 9am one day and wasn’t back home for 5 and a half days! It’s that sort of environment. Mountain rescue is completely voluntary. Sometimes we can do a rescue and people say thing like ‘Why didn’t you come faster’ or they expect you to just pop out of a helicopter immediately, but you have to explain to them that you’ve been at home with your kids. Mountain Rescue is made up of volunteers with normal jobs and lives to lead around rescues.

It’s a big commitment. In the time I have worked for the Mountain rescue I have seen a dramatic increase in the amount if call outs per year. The workload increase had been dramatic! Last year we had about 80 call outs, whereas it was typically 70 or less in the last 5 years. We are busier in general. I would say that isn’t just because of diversity, although we are doing more rescues in urban environments, I genuinely think that the increase has instead come from having more people on the hills in general.

The key issue for Mike was that it’s not mountaineers who are experienced that need to be rescued.

“There’s no certain type of people that are out there needing to be rescued either, it’s just the sheer volume that’s increased what we do. I think there’s a chance of mishaps, especially when you haven’t been out in bad conditions before, but anyone is at risk. Mountain Rescue can be your first port of call if you are on the hills and injured.”

The important thing is to be prepared and to have a good sense of navigation.

A typical GO Activities Navigation Training Day will helps you understand:
• Maps, scales, grid system, grid references
• Concept of the three D’s – Direction, Distance and Detail
• The compass, different types, advantages and disadvantages, measuring and taking bearings, allowing for magnetic variation
• Pacing distances and timing distances, all measuring and calculations,
• Contours – the shape of the land – and interpreting map features

Don’t forget to do the basics before you leave too:

1) Carry a compass and know how to use it correctly
2) Carry a whistle which can be invaluable
3) Keep spare batteries on you whenever possible
4) Always pack more food and water than you think you will need
5) Keep an itinerary with someone of your planned movements if you head out alone
6) Wear warm clothing and carry appropriate gear (first aid kit, emergency blanket.)

To book a navigation training day with GO activities click here 

Do you have any other tips for mountaineers and hill walkers? Leave them in the comment box below!

GO Activities

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