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A day out hiking with Viewranger

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A day out hiking with Viewranger

I went up Bennachie last November to take in the sunset, it was one of those days where a warm south westerly wind was bringing over beautiful lenticular clouds, with plenty of visibility, so great for photography. I took a few photos that day, in all directions and I also took one using ViewRanger's new Skyline addition.

Not long after I posted the picture I was contacted about the possibility of ViewRanger doing a story on Hillgoers, which I was delighted to accept. I've been using the app for a few years now but it's not a replacement for good navigation skills (see my previous blog, don't get lost). I use the app every other day, for route planning, marking points of interest, occasionally checking position during navigation practice and I do like the Skyline feature.

I asked Jack from the team what he would like to see during our hike and he said a stag would be nice. Having picked Jack up from the airport, we only had a few hours to film the story and I didn't want to take Jack anywhere too technical, so opted for the trusty Loch Muick where stags are a plenty. And true to form, right in the middle of the dog walking area in the car park, stood a majestic Royal Stag!

Jack working his magic

Jack working his magic

We had a leisurely walk round the loch then up to Glas-allt-Shiel and the falls. Walking back the same route apart from going up to the old lodge, then back to the visitor centre to do more of the video (I was pleased it was leisurely as I was nursing a broken rib from a bike fall two weeks before, meaning little sleep, you can see it in my tired face on the video....).

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It was a cold December day with a bit of a breeze which made the sound recording difficult but Jack did a great job editing the video. I'm still a little embarrassed looking at it though...I hope you like it!

If you'd like to learn more or join me on a walk get in touch!

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Don't get lost!

Don't get lost!

Hill of Fare, just up from Banchory, is an ideal venue to teach hill and navigation skills. Just a short drive from Aberdeen, it's easily accessible but has all of the features you'd expect to see in the higher remote hills, woodlands, heather moors, rolling hills, changing contours, path and stream junctions. You can spend a full day on the hill and not cover it all. 

Relocating position

Relocating position

The start of the walk takes you through a changing forestry plantation, parts shown on the map, some of it gone, new trees coming through on the hill. A steady climb takes you past plenty of path junctions where you can discuss confirming your position on the map. Once out of the trees you have a better opportunity to cover the shape of the land, swapping between 1:25k and 1:50k maps, you can start to visualise the contours on the map.

The highest point on the hill is 471m and hosts a small hidden cairn on top. With no path to the cairn, you have to walk through the heather on a compass bearing to find it. By learning and practicing this skill earlier on the hill, finding the cairn is just one of the achievements for the day. Views from the top are superb on a clear day, taking in all the surrounding Aberdeenshire hills, into the Cairngorms and down to the sea.

Finding the cairn

Finding the cairn

Map and compass skills are essential should you wish to venture out into the remote areas of Scotland. Relying on a GPS or smartphone to guide you could be a costly mistake as these devices fail. Typically you need to use the devices in poor weather, the cold saps the batteries, you let rain in when changing batteries, they get dropped or lose satellite signal. I carry a spare map and compass inside my bag should the map get blown out of my hand or I break my compass, I use my smart phone as back up. I have a GPS but rarely take it with me now, I take it in winter.

On the walk home, new skills in the bag!

On the walk home, new skills in the bag!

There are plenty of places to go and practice the required skills, navigation strategies, timings, pacing, bearings etc, etc. If you're unsure of your skill level the safest option is to take a guide. Not only are they qualified navigators, they can be informative and pass on knowledge to help build your confidence. The second best option is to book yourself on a skills course!

Happy walking!

 

 

 

Lake District - Navigation Errors

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Lake District - Navigation Errors

I had a superb 4 day trek around the Lake District in August, thanks to a route suggested by Peter Dixon (@munro277) on twitter! The circular route started and finished at the Blencathra Centre and seen me walk approximately 80km with 6000m gain. 

Lenticular clouds over Blencathra

Lenticular clouds over Blencathra

I started my walk in sunshine but that soon disappeared for most of my trip and I spent a lot of it in cloud, which means I'll have to return again to see the views....Despite the cloud, it was a memorable few days, the scenery is special and the hiking is good. Going at the end of August might have been a mistake as there were plenty of people on the hills!

Being in the cloud gave me plenty of opportunities to practice my navigation skills.  I made one error but quickly realised and corrected it. One of my other errors was on choice of route near Scafell Pike. I'd taken the corridor route from Styhead Tarn, which was an excellent suggestion by Peter but my choice of route a km away (NY2150179) from the highest point in England, was not so clever. 

Corridor Route

Corridor Route

I decided to head for the col between Scafell Pike and Broad Crag, although it looked absolutely fine on the map, I ended up with a bit of a scramble up to the col, probably because visibility was so poor and I couldn't see an easier way. The scramble in miserable weather wasn't very nice. I should've stayed on the green dashed route going up the west side, which I'm sure would've been better, although I've never done it, anyone know?

However, after my small scramble and reaching the col, I met a chap who had just come down from the top and he asked me if this was the way to Wasdale, he'd pretty much gone 180deg in the wrong direction. We walked back up to the top together where I spent 15 minutes talking to others having the same dilemma!

Scafell Pike

Scafell Pike

After my tour around the tops I camped just below Thunacar Knott, the clouds lifted, the rain stopped and the evening sun started to break through, kettle on, perfect.

I'm running several navigation skills events throughout the winter, basic skills would have prevented some of the errors I seen on Scafell Pike.

 

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