Since I started hillwalking again recently, my enthusiasm for the mountains has really come back and I am looking forward to getting into the hills again. Although I normally go walking with other people I have a bit of desire to eventually go out on my own and go solo. In order to do that, and to be confident, I must have good mapping and compass skills. I was lucky enough last weekend to take part in a navigation course.


Venturing Out

Navigation is crucial when you are out on the hills. The Scottish Mountains can be dangerous places particularly in winter time. Weather conditions can change by the hour, and sometimes you need every skill in the book. The Pentland Hills provided a perfect environment to develop confidence with mapping. I joined a team called ‘ Venturing Out ‘ in order to learn some new, and brush up on old skills.


The Basics

I had done a bit of map and compass work in the past. When I was in the Scouts I leaned the basics of setting a map and giving grid references, although this was a very long time ago. I looked forward to brushing up on old skills and learning some new ones.

Four of us spent the day in the Pentland Hills taking turns to practice different skills :

  • Leading from point to point.
  • Reading the map
  • Taking elevation into account
  • Taking bearings
  • Timing our route
  • Pacing out distances

Going Out With Confidence

I enjoyed the day very much. In particular I was really surprised how accurately I could pace out a distance by knowing the number of my own paces that equate to 100 metres. I do feel more confident about map reading now. However, I found it difficult to hold the map and compass and work with them. It’s fine on a summer’s day when it’s dry and you can spread the map out on the ground. But, it might be more difficult in the winter. I have invested in a map case which should make it easier. I really look forward to venturing into the hills again soon. I hope one day to be able to go solo and have the confidence to know where I am at all times in the hills and mountains.