Tuesday, 7 July 2009

First Peak District training

Well, after a 6 hour train journey with 4 changes and an hour's mountain bike ride, I finally managed to get my first navigation training day.

I say day, it was more like 2 hours stomping through gorse and nettles in the hills above Matlock, checking my pacing, estimating the distance of far away objects and checking them on my map, using timing and investigating odd looking contours.

Strangely, it was fun! All sorts of previously unidentifyable squiggly contours morphed into humps and mounds. They were not always the shapes I was expecting either, which was a great learning point. For example, rounded spur-looking contours can actually be hills on the ground, with the land rising within them not peaking over the magic 10m contour mark.

I made a few mistakes. Which, according to all the advice I've been given, is perfect training. I walked too far for one, wasn't sure I was on what I was really on on another, and curved to the right on the next. A good idea when you know you've gone wrong is to relocate yourself and reset your bearing and try again.

I was practicing the 3 navigation Ds. On my course with Stuart Johnston Mountaineering, Mountain Instructor Derek Bain told us about Direction, Distance and Detail. The first is when you take your bearing. The second is where you measure the distance on your map and work out how much time or how many paces you will take.

The last is when you create a mental tick list of the features you should cross on the way, and what the feature you are aiming for should look like. This includes the scale, which Derek said was the key to good micro navigation. If you know you are looking for a 30m long, thin flat spot you will have a much better chance of confirming you are right when you arrive at it.

It was great to get out, but I did wish I had someone else with me for inspiration and another burst of brain power for trickier features. I'm going to check out the MLTA forum and look for a buddy for my next trip. You can post there and meet up with other trainees, brilliant idea.

Next time I won't be a billy no mates!

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