Last weekend I went on a NNAS navigation course organised by C-N-Do in Stirling. Some of it was revision for me, but some of it was new, so it was a very useful course. A lot of time was spent doing micro-navigation in pretty featureless terrain in the Touch Hills near Stirling on the Saturday and in the hills north of Callander on the Sunday. Heavy rain on the Sunday added to the navigation challenge.
What really struck me on the course was how much very small features on a map (such as subtle contour features and small streams), vary with map scale, the publication date of the map, and the producer of the map. When you need to use such small features for navigation, it seems that being prepared for all route-finding eventualities means taking at least 3 different maps of the same area! Add to all that a compass, GPS & spare batteries, waterproof map case, pacing beads, extra romer for 1:40,000 scale maps (some Harvey’s maps), head-torch (for night navigation), pencil and paper (for emergencies and for navigation notes), route card and the concept of a simple day in the hills starts to diminish.
The important thing is to tailor preparation and planning for a hillwalk accordingly – for a solo walk or in an experienced group I would never take all this kit with me, and I would hardly ever do any of the sort of micro-navigation I was practicing at the weekend. But when leading a group of possibly inexperienced walkers into the hills then things change, and this sort of extra detail becomes important.