Don’t get lost with GPS! Some information from the Mountaineering Council Of Scotland.

I find Technology great and it has helped me on so many occasions especially on the hill. Many of us rely on technology on the hill I do especially as a double check when out alone and with all the new technology it is easy to get lazy! I hear from a few “why are people still teaching map reading and compass work ” technology is God according a few!


Technology gives you another tool to use to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable day. It is not foolproof and it is wrong in my thinking that the map and compass is obsolete  it is still the essence of safe mountaineering and walking. Technology is a great and a wonderful resource but you must understand the basics of map and compass work to me to realise what terrain you are in and it is a no brainer on how you still need a map and compass and the skills to use them.

Map and Compass essentail and the knowledge of how to use them?

Map and Compass essential  and the knowledge of how to use them?

The following Press release is worth a read from the Mountaineering Council Of Scotland and I would advise all to read it, there is some great information in it! My advice is still learn and keep up with your basic skills in navigation that means no matter how experienced you are that is skill to stillkeep working on, “skill fade” especailly  is common amongst those who think they have seen and done it all”

Learn how to use your GPS or your technology and even attend a course that may work and improve both skills, basic navigation and GPS? Ensure you all carry a map and compass and can use them they just do not sit in your rucksack unused till its too late?

Reading a map and planning a route is great spend time looking at the map and what a way to learn about the hills. Be aware of cliffs and crags and rivers and how they are marked on a map, the more you use it the better you will become. The days to practise is on a long summers day in good weather not in a blizzard or poor weather and work on your skills. If you print a map out for a bespoke day ensure you have the grid system on it and if you have bad eyesight like me its worth blowing up the scale of any tricky area yo may encounter?

I always carry spare batteries for my phone and GPS how many do this and know what a GPS can do? It is not just good at giving a grid reference it has many other use but like all technology if you input rubbish you get rubbish out.

Top Tip – I always try to have a way-point on my GPS ready on any tricky places I may encounter on a mountain day as a back – up. Can you add a way – point on your GPS ? It takes time but if you do it as part of your preparation for the hills along with the weather forecast it becomes a part of the fun of planning a trip. It makes you look at the map and remember if your getting old like me the secrets of that hill or walk, maps are magic a never ending story?


Press Release 07 June 2016

For immediate release – Don’t get lost with GPS!

Mountain experts warn that GPS and electronic gadgets don’t make navigation skills redundant With numbers of hill walkers soaring during the summer months, a reminder has gone out that the key to a safe return does not lie in gadgets. Mountaineering experts have warned that electronic gadgets can even lead people into danger if they are not used properly. Heather Morning, Mountain Safety Advisor with the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, said: “Navigation devices such as GPS and satnav can be amazing tools – but only if people learn how to use them properly.” Walking in the Scottish mountains is well attested as a great way to improve physical and mental health, but people should remember that navigation can be challenging – particularly if the cloud comes down and visibility is lost. This is a time when many hill walkers will pull out their GPS, press a few buttons and expect their troubles to be over. However, experience of Mountain Rescue Teams has shown that’s not always the case. And it’s not because the gadget is wrong. Heather said: “Our GPS will do the job it’s designed to. It will tell us exactly where we are and it will compute the most direct route from point A to point B. But it doesn’t know whether there’s a river, a steep cliff or even a whole mountain between A and B – that’s what you have to know from understanding the map. And if you are going to be following the arrow on the GPS to get home, you need to know how to programme that information correctly into the device. “This all demands knowledge from you. It’s only with your input that a GPS can compute a safe route for you to follow. “It’s an attractive thought that purchasing an electronic gadget could solve all our problems in the mountains and keep us safe from harm. Recent trends with mountain rescue call-outs suggest in fact this is quite the opposite, and there have been cases where ignorance of how to use a GPS properly has actually resulted in a 999 call having to be made.” The basic skills of navigation remain essential in the hills and mountains of Scotland. As part of its role in improving safety in Scotland’s mountains, the MCofS offers a number of heavily subsidised navigation courses, which give walkers an easy to follow practical introduction to map and compass skills which will make them safer and more confident in the mountains.

2016 April Police notice No map

Details are available at the MCofS website at There are also courses available commercially in the proper use of GPS devices. Ends Notes for editors Images for this press release are downloadable here: Images of a GPS device on its own and of one being used by a walker Image of Heather Morning, Mountain Safety Adviser with the MCofS Further information

Contact Neil Reid, Communications Officer, on 01738 493941 or 07788871803 or About the MCofS

• The MCofS acts to represent, support and promote Scottish mountaineering. • The MCofS is the only recognised representative organisation for hill walkers, climbers and ski-tourers who live in Scotland or who enjoy Scotland’s mountains.

• The MCofS is a membership organisation with over 12,000 members representing hill walkers, climbers and mountaineers.

• The MCofS also acts for 75,000 members of the BMC or British Mountaineering Council on matters related to Landscape and Access in Scotland.

• MCofS landscape and access work is supported financially by the Scottish Mountaineering Trust and the BMC

• The MCofS is a not for profit company limited by guarantee and incorporated in Scotland. Company number SC322717.

• The Mountaineering Council of Scotland, The Old Granary, West Mill Street, Perth PH1 5QP

Comment from Bill Rose

Has ordnance survey got it right. Buy a map and you get a free download of the map to your phone as a back up. Download OS locate and you have a free app that will give you a grid ref of your location. Get lost, need help. OS locate can be used to text your location to anyone. Works with the poorest signal. No wi fi required.

About heavywhalley.MBE

After dinner speaker Lecturer and Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 36 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 4 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer and loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Enviroment, Equipment, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering. Bookmark the permalink.

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