In our previous article on setting the map, features were identified as falling into three categories: spot, linear and area. After you’ve set the map and worked out where you want to go, linear features can be used as a ‘hand rail’ to help keep you on track.
The aim is simple - to keep the feature in sight and use it to guide your travel. Suitable linear features include the path that you’re on, a stream or river you can see or a fence or wall nearby. In some places it may be possible to use the landform as a linear feature, such as a ridge or escarpment, but only if the visibility is good enough.
Hand railing is a really useful navigation technique, except when the feature becomes indistinct or has been moved. This can be the case for man-made features which may have been repositioned since the map was created. It’s important to keep on top of this by ‘collecting’ other features along the way. These are often called tick-off features.
The process goes like this:
It may be that you’re following the linear feature to the end, but if not, it’s good to have a catching feature that lets you know if you’ve gone too far. The catching feature you choose should be very distinct and you should come across it even if you’ve wondered a bit further away from the hand rail than you’d intended. A wall or stream which crosses your hand rail is an ideal catching feature. It’s very similar to giving someone directions; “If you get to the big roundabout for the motorway you’ve gone too far.” Will you know if you’ve gone too far?
Mountain Training produces a range of books including Hill Walking and Navigation in the Mountains which both offer further guidance on the techniques described above. Their Hill & Mountain Skills courses offer a more practical approach to becoming an independent hill walker and are run by approved providers throughout the UK. Find a course near you.
Mountain Training also administers a range of nationally-recognised mountain leadership, instruction and coaching awards, such as the Lowland Leader, Hill and Moorland Leader, Mountain Leader and Climbing Wall Award.
For more info visit their website.