I was recently climbing one of my favourite hills – Ingleborough – and struck up a friendly conversation with a fellow walker. He was following a downloaded route from a website and I was happy to provide him some of my knowledge about the route he was taking. However, he admitted that in spite of walking in the hills for 20 years he did not know much about reading a map and using a compass. As the mist came down over the top of Ingleborough I knew that without following a compass bearing he had a fair chance of missing his path off the top. To be honest even without the mist this is easily done as the top of Ingleborough is a large flat expanse with no discernable paths until you get to the edge.
I must put my hand up here and state that I have headed off the top of Ingleborough in the wrong direction a few times, luckily correcting myself before being too far away and berating myself for not getting out my compass.
Now if you do go the wrong way on Ingleborough you are more likely to add miles to your walk rather than fall off a cliff (although there are some small ones). But if you don’t notice until you reach a road or habitation, in poor weather that can be just as treacherous. Immediate consequences (i.e. falling off a cliff) are luckily fairly rare in the UK but there are frequent accounts of people getting disoriented and ending up miles from their start point – see recent posts from the mountain and cave rescue organisations.
So if you love hill walking please learn to use a map and compass – it will stop you being in embarrassing situations and may even save your life.
Our navigation courses can be found here.