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hillskills

February Update

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February Update

Hello all,
As the “beast from the east” blasts through I thought I’d spend a bit of time in my office this week catching up on the paperwork and preparing for a busy season ahead! Hopefully the snow will not impact you too much, if you don’t want it too! This winter continues to deliver with some record temperatures and snow fall. Unfortunately, it’s also been a very busy period for our Mountain Rescue Teams, huge thanks to these volunteers for looking after safety on the mountains, I’ll be hosting another charity event in August for Aberdeen Mountain Rescue Team and any training I do in Braemar percentage of fees will go to the Braemar team. Stay safe, stay informed and get trained.

I was absolutely delighted to be in the latest issue of Scottish Mountaineer magazine and to be included on their website. You can read their article via my earlier blog here. My journey from back injury to Mountain Leader will hopefully help inspire some to believe they can get out and do more, thanks to Neil and the Mountaineering Scotland team for publishing the article.

We had a great mid term break down in Loch Tay, weather was good so we had some nice fresh walks up Glen Lyon and also up toward Meall nan Tarmachan for a bit of sledging! I also took the family to see the Fortingall yew, the oldest living thing in Europe, right here in Scotland, some 5000-year-old. Our time on earth seems a little insignificant next to that tree.

Meall nan Tarmachan

Meall nan Tarmachan

Fortingall Yew

Fortingall Yew

February has also seen me finalise my procedures and processes that I will submit to the HSE for my Adventure Activities Licence. This is the next stage for Hillgoers and will allow us to take groups of youngsters out on expeditions and walks, as we aim to become a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Provider by the early summer.  These activities will run aside the current activities and I’m delighted to be building my team for this with some great people.

The season ahead is looking quite busy already but there are still some places left on the planned walks and we have spaces for bespoke walks or corporate events. There is some availability on our hill skills and navigation award courses too. I have put in some new events for this as we try and cater for all – “Hill Skills with dogs” and “Navigation Awards during school hours” for busy parents! I’ll keep trying different ways to run the courses, if you have any suggestions I’d be happy to have them!

Keep an eye on my website, social media, etc for new events and please get in touch if you have any questions.

Take care in the snow.
Garry.
garry@hillgoers.com

Luna preparing for Mountain Leader exam!

Luna preparing for Mountain Leader exam!

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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!