How we access is the hills is changing: the outdoor industry is far bigger than it was just a generation ago and majority of people are introduced to and engage with the mountains through some form of guide book, magazine article, organised event or challenge. There are some brilliant courses and ‘providers’ out there but sooner or later it’s time to go forth on your own. Developing your own ‘Hills Skills’ is a very worthwhile and satisfying.
We Learn by Doing
I’ve walked, climbed, biked and paddled in all corners of the UK and beyond. However, it has been in those far flung places that I’ve realised it is the exploration that gives most satisfaction, together with the appreciation of the freedom we are privileged to have in the UK.
Risk and Responsibility
Looking after your self in the mountains is as paramount as looking after the environment. Being warm and comfortable is quickly mastered – get your layers right and be flexible in your clothing. Modern fabrics make life a lot less sweaty, our rucsacs are lighter, our understanding of food and hydration a whole new science. We have better maps ( it’s not that long ago that maps of Scotland where only One Inch to the Mile) and now have a proliferation of techno gadgets that will get us to within metre of a known point on the globe. We have phones that can reach all corners of the world; if the signal is there and the batteries are sound!
Sound Mountain Judgement
We learn by doing. We can be taught skills and techniques whether it is knot tying or fire lighting but until you need to do this for real you have not mastered the skill. You learn; ‘When to turn back, How to respect the mountain environment, and be flexible in your plans’. It is often said, there is no such thing as bad weather – just bad clothes …. Or the wrong activity!
It is our responsibility in to make ourselves safe and in doing so we greatly enhance our performance and enjoyment. And the biggest factor in doing so is by learning how to navigate.
Hill Skills – Navigation isn’t Rocket Science
OK, soon as you mention the ‘N-word’, some people glaze over or become freaked by childhood memories of geography teachers or Duke of Edinburgh expeditions. Another group reach for their smart phone and then spend a while bringing up some form of mapping software which struggles to scan and sweep to the desired scale and location, whilst fearing the basic skill of navigation.
Contours are Crucial
All those wiggly lines are the most important things in the hills and mountains. Don’t worry too much about compasses; they are often over rated (especially complex ones just like Smart phones!) Yep, you need a compass and a map too of course but don’t get hung up on compasses bearings and magnetic variation. Good navigators ‘read’ the contours of map far more than they dial up a compass bearing.
Good basic navigation is easy! There – I said it. We can all do it, if we want to.
About Joe Faulkner;
I’ve spent 30 years walking, climbing, running, biking and paddling in the UK and gained a reputation as a competent ‘Mountain Athlete’. I coach all forms of mountaineering with a specialism for Hill Skills and Navigation. Further details can be seen at my NAV4 Adventure website – ww.nav4.co.uk