I use GPS tracking to analyse your navigation back inside the classroom
Detailed contours mapped at 1:10,000
Orienteering maps allow us to do a lot of practice with minimal mileage
NAVIGATION COURSEs FOR WALKERS
Do you have some experience but feel that your navigation skills are holding you back? We will cover navigation for your local hills, for bigger adventures, and for going out in bad weather. You'll learn how to sort yourself out if you do get lost. Compass skills, map interpretation, route planning, emergency navigation, GPS tips and tricks - we cover all this and more according to your individual needs.
What will I learn on this course?
We will begin with a recap of the following fundamental skills. If these look totally unfamiliar to you, the Beginners' course might be a better fit.
- Map symbols & scales
- How to keep the map "the right way round"
- Simpler decisions - which way at junctions, uphill / downhill
- Using the compass to take a simple bearing
- Basic traditional skills of pacing & timing
We will then progress to the more complex skills which are harder to master:
- Navigating away from paths across open mountainside
- Making route choices in complex terrain
- How to handle cloud, mist, or darkness
- How to sort yourself out if you get lost
- Traditional navigation strategies - aiming off, attack points, catching features, handrailing
- Modern navigation skills - GPS, internet guides, digital mapping
The overall aim of this course is for you to gain complete freedom of the hills, enabling you to plan and carry out really adventurous hill days with confidence in your own skills.
How fit and experienced do I need to be?
With small groups of no more than 4 people I can adapt the teaching to suit different levels of experience, so please don't worry about being the one asking all the stupid questions...everyone else will probably be wondering the same thing! Every year I do put on courses for complete beginners which will suit you if you are starting from scratch and want to learn with other people at the same stage. In addition I send out pre-course learning packs which will help to ensure that everyone arrives at the course with a similar level of understanding. If you have any concerns please call me or email before booking.
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 for most of the day, and in a typical day might cover something like 6km with 400m of vertical height gain. Most of this will be away from paths and covering rough heathery slopes. The focus is not on covering distance or going quickly though - there's a lot of stopping, talking and thinking time.
It goes without saying that no two courses are the same and my plans will constantly evolve in response to the needs and abillities of each group member. I know you're not going to learn much if you're constantly on the edge of exhaustion, so I'll balance that against the need to get into some proper mountain terrain in order to practice.
What equipment do I need for this course?
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
- A headtorch. Popular models 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 welll in call conditions. It'll last you a lifetime. I find the A5 size 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
Where will the course take place?
You just 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.
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! We often start off with some exercises using orienteering maps in the local forests.
What are the timings?
We meet at 0900 at Whin Park. You can either walk or drive there (there is plenty of free parking). We'll have a tea or coffee, 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 day will end at 1700.
If you're planning to stay in the Highlands after the course, I'll gladly spend some extra time at the end of the course helping you to plan the next stage of your adventure. We can look at the weather forecast and think about the hillwalks which will help you to build on what you've just learned.
I'm under 18 years of age, can I still attend?
Under 18's are welcome on my courses but you will need to attend together with a responsible adult.
How much does this course cost?
This course costs £80.
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. 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.
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.