Thursday 6 April 2017

Navigation Skills Training Courses in Scotland. Glen Coe. Monday 27th March 2017.

After his weekend in Glen Coe providing a Winter Skills/Winter Walking Course for Matt & Ellie, Iain had another course booked in for the next two day in the area.

Cambridge University Hill-walking Club have used our services for the last two years to provide an annual Scrambling Skills Training in The Lake District and they decided to book a Winter Skills Training Course to be run by us during their half term week in March. Unfortunately, this also coincided with the end of decent winter conditions in the area - not that there had really been any decent conditions all winter it would seem!

Therefore we had to offer an alternative training course for this group of ten people; and appreciating the situation, they were happy to accept a two day Navigation Skills Training Course - right from the front door of their accommodation (the SMC Lagangarbh Climbing Hut) at the head of Glen Coe.

Iain & Rich - our assistant instructor for the two days, met the group and split then into two. Iain took his group of five (photo one) and headed up on to the slopes of nearby Beinn a' Chrulaiste.

We started the groups Navigation Skills Training Course by discussing orientating the map to align it to the landscape - thus allowing us to identify features more easily. We also discussed the differences between the 1:25 and 1:50'000 map scales that we commonly use.

We then learnt how to measure distance on the map and pace it out on the ground before starting our journey - initially following a fence as a linear feature looking for tick off features such as fence/wall junctions or streams intersecting our route. Time soon went by and by the time photo two was taken, we had learnt how to find eight figure grid references and had used one of the previously mentioned streams to "handrail" up to this small pool of water (an attack point) before taking a bearing to a nearby spot height (summit). All good textbook Navigation Skills work.

By this time, we were into the afternoon and the group's first day of Navigation Skills Training was due to end at 5pm, but the group asked if we could get a mountain top in? Of course this was no problem. The summit of Beinn a' Chrulaiste was a mere 1375 metres away - in a straight line that was!

Iain got the group to take a bearing to the summit from our spot height and then walk - looking for features that were in line with the direction of travel arrow on their compasses; in a straight line, to the summit (photo three). Fortunately, the weather was very good; as was the visibility, but 1.375 kilometres is a very long leg and even a very small error in a bearing can lead to one being a long way off the mark when arriving at the intended destination. However, we were a mere 30 metres to the south of the summit after walking all that way. Now that's excellent Navigation Skills!

By the time we reached the summit of Ben a' Chrulaiste, it was approaching 4pm, so we had to turn and hike back fairly rapidly along the route we had come.

Just below the summit, we found a large patch of old snow and as the group had been given a helmet each and had brought ice axes - just in case. They couldn't resist, just for a laugh, having their photo taken in the Ice Axe Arrest position. Not sure if Jilles thought he was flying or just tripping over Erin who was laid down in the snow! The group were a lot of fun to work with.

This group enjoyed their Navigation Skills Training Day in Scotland with Iain and learnt a lot of useful new skills which we hoped would help them with their future hikes into the area's mountains during their week-long stay at Lagangarbh. It was fortunate that we could be so flexible and come up with an alternative plan for the group; and Iain would further demonstrate that flexibility the next day by taking three of this group elsewhere for some Scrambling Skills Training in Glen Coe - but that's another story.

For details of how we can assist with your Hill-Walking or University Mountaineering Club's Outdoor Skills Development Plan contact us here. We look forward to working with you.

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