Every year I wait until the clocks go back, then run a series of very popular night navigation courses. With the right skills you will be able to get yourself down off the hill in the dark. We meet at 1pm and stay out until 9pm. This gives us a bit of time to get warmed up with the last of the daylight before spending a good four or five hours learning how to navigate in the dark.
What will I learn on this course?
- How to convert your daytime navigation skills to the demands of being out in the dark
- Pacing and timing to estimate distance travelled
- The best navigation features to concentrate on at night
- Using the compass to follow a bearing in the dark
- Simple navigation strategies which won't let you down
- What to do if it all goes wrong - how to get "unlost" in the dark
- Headtorches, GPS and other technological aids
- General hill skills always get covered too - safety, equipment, environment.
Above all, everything I teach is aimed at you gaining confidence and independence so you can stop being a follower and find your own feet in the mountains.
What equipment do I need?
All your usual hillwalking clothing and equipment, including:
- good quality waterproof jacket and trousers - we stay out in all weathers
- plenty of fleece or synthetic layers - night navigation can get really cold
- sturdy hillwalking boots suitable for rough ground away from paths
- gaiters (not essential but a great idea for these courses since we spend little time on paths)
- hat & gloves
- spare pair of gloves
- spare insulating layer (down or synthetic jacket)
- small personal first aid kit including any personal medication
- small rucksack around 40 litre capacity
- 2 headtorches, or 1 torch with spare replaceable batteries. Examples of popular models for your main night navigation torch include the Petzl Myo, Petzl Reactik, LED Lenser MH10, Black Diamond Storm, Black Diamond Icon, Alpkit Quark & Alpkit Prism.
- Waterproof map case, ideally an "Ortlieb" case. This is the only brand of waterproof case which works really well in all conditions. It'll last you a lifetime. I find the A5 size is best.
- Compass, ideally a Silva "Expedition 4" compass. This specific compass is the only model currently available in the UK which has measuring scales ("romers") for 1:25000, 1:40000 (Harvey Maps / BMC Mountain Maps) and 1:50000.
- A digital watch with stopwatch function - the classic choice is a Casio F-91W which retails at just £9.99. You do not need a £500 GPS smartwatch to learn to navigate (no matter what the magazines say!)
- If bringing smartphone, it must be in a waterproof case or cover
How fit & experienced do I need to be?
In terms of hillwalking fitness, you need to be able to enjoy a full day out on the hill. We'll be on our feet most of the day, and in a typical day might cover something like 6km with 300 - 600m of vertical height gain. Some of this will be on footpaths and rough trails, with the rest off-path over heather and rocky terrain. The focus is not on covering distance or going quickly though - there's a lot of stopping, talking and thinking time.
To get the most out of these night navigation courses you should have at least a few days' worth of daytime hillwalking navigation experience. Ideally you will have used a map and compass before.
Where will the course take place?
You only need to get yourself to Inverness, which has easy transport links by air, rail and road (see my Travel page). We meet at Whin Park, close to the city centre (see map at bottom of this page).
The city is surrounded by hills which are perfect for learning to navigate. The actual hills we visit change from course to course, but we never need to drive for more than 30 minutes. It would be rare for my courses to include an ascent of a major summit - that's for you to go and do in your own time afterwards!
What are the timings for the course?
We'll meet at 1300 at Whin Park. You can either walk or drive there (there is plenty of free parking). We'll get to know each other and set up the course. We'll then head out to the nearby forests and hill surrounding Inverness. No two courses are the same so the exact venue will depend on the group, the weather, and mountain conditions. The course will be finished by 2100.
Please have a warm change of clothes, food and a flask of hot drink available in your car for when we get back. You will likely be cold, hungry and tired!
How much does this course cost?
This course costs £65.
You need to arrange your own travel, accommodation and food for the whole course.
You need to bring all your own clothing and kit - see separate question on equipment above. I do provide all the maps, so no need to bring your own unless you want to.
A 10% discount is available for members of Mountaineering Scotland, Scottish Hill Running & the British Mountaineering Council. Enter code JP10 at checkout.
I am able to part-fund a limited number of places each year for participants who are either unwaged or on low income. If you would like to attend one of my courses and feel that you fit one of these criteria, please email me directly before going through the booking process.