Night Navigation on the Dava Moor with the Moray Mountaineering club. A few lessons re learned!

Jenny night Nav

It had started to rain but we were all ready for a few hours on the hill. We had a chat checked our gear and set off in 3 directions to navigate.

First we used the maps spoke about timings pacing and bearings. We found the usual problems some compasses hard to read in the dark. How much slower everything is once of the tracks. How to handrail features pacing and other skills.

A good clear serviceable compass is essential.

Having your compass handy and map checking each other’s bearings measuring small distances with your Romer on your compass and really looking at the detail on your map.

A break in the day

We navigated to a bothy small hidden lochs and contours and Burns. I think all learned a lot. A few may buy a new compass all the torches worked well and never let us down. We came across mice, hares, Grouse and other wildlife on our travels. We saw the stars in there glory and I think we all enjoyed even the wee river crossings that made you think. In all it was about 4 hours out in the dark.

It was not on the mountains but in a wild area that off the estate tracks is pathless. I used to do these type of Exercises with my team many years ago often high up on the Munro’s but this was an ideal training venue.

In all a fun night lots of new skills new words like “worry beads “ for counting paces, hand railing, aiming off following features like burns to a defined point and the use of the compass for short bearings. As you get older the need for reading glasses to read the map especially at night. Something many forget.

We had a break half way through sat out on the Moor and watched the stars it was magnificent. We ate some food and had a drink and headed on. Some of the ground was hard going peat hags and bog but in its own way very satisfying.

We only touched the surface but I feel it made my wee group a bit more aware of walking in the dark. The need to all work together and check each other.

Few nowadays carry a watch or altimeter a watch is essential of course there is one on your phone but a simple watch is still a great tool.

I had my GPS on my phone and explained how handy it was but not to be used as the single navigation tool tonight.

The old basics like map interpretation timings and pacing are still very relevant today.

Thanks all for a fun night. We never saw any ghosts from Lochindorb Castle or the ghost of Culloden who came this way many years ago.

Handrails are line/linear features, but rather than being just a means to locate oneself, they are a means of navigating in themselves, and are especially useful in times of poor visibility. The extra detail can be a real navigational boost and save time when re-locating.

Lots of reading on navigation out there.

So when you go out on the hills in daylight instead of rushing round the hills get your map out. Look at the features practice taking bearings and walking on them. Check your gear is serviceable your torch works ? Your compass is still readable and if you need reading glasses for your map reading take them with you. Be part of the day do not rely on one person to navigate check. Look at your day before you go prepare well and in theses short day of limited daylight have a cut off point for getting of steep ground before it’s dark.

Every year practice these skills use technology as well but being able to read and understand a map is a great asset as is to take a bearing and share the responsibility of a hill day.

Every day/ night is a learning day on the mountains. We never know it all at time’s we just scratch the surface.

Safe navigation !

Mountaineering Scotland and other organisations run

Five hours of intensive training in techniques for navigating in poor visibility and darkness. This course is designed to build on your foundation of daylight navigation skills giving you strategies to cope with navigating in bad weather and to be able to safely navigate off the hill safely in the event of being caught out by short daylight hours. 

Techniques will include timing, pacing, walking on bearings, aiming off, attack points and more.

The majority of the time on the hill we will be in complete darkness. Instructor ratios are 1:6 and there are spaces for 12 people per course.

What will you get from attending the course?

  • Improve your ability to recognise contour shapes and features.
  • Accurately follow compass bearings and measure your distance across the ground.
  • Learn new techniques to help you relocate and confirm your position.
  • What to do if you get lost.

You will need to be equipped for an evening out on the hill with food and drink, boots, gaiters, waterproof jacket and over trousers, warm hat and gloves. Maps, map cases and compasses will be provided. A good headtorch with fresh batteries as well as a spare are essential. We will not be moving quickly so bring lots of warm kit appropriate for the conditions. 

The course fee does NOT cover kit or accommodation. There are many others offering similar courses !

Last night took me back a bit but I can say it was enjoyable and all seemed to learn a lot from it. It was good to see folk again we did all the Covid awareness as requested. The journey back was full of stars Deer owls and bats in a lovely night. I think I enjoyed it especially the soak in the bath after!

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer and loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Articles, Books, Friends, Gear, Local area and events to see, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife. Bookmark the permalink.

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