Mountain Leaders want to navigate less…

Navigation, navigation, navigation, is to mountain leading what location, location, location is to house selling. Except is it?

Let’s start again the mountain leader training and assessment process is navigation, navigation, navigation, a bit of leadership, a bit of enviro and some knowledge of emergency procedures (oh – and campcraft (even the word sounds dated!)).

Real mountain leading is leadership, leadership, leadership, a bit of navigating, a bit of enviro and some knowledge of (probably never used) emergency procedures (and not a lot of campcraft).

I exaggerate; I know. But, really, when we are out with groups, we are rarely out front with a map, relocating every 10 or 15 minutes. But we know we need to be able to navigate well; we need to be able to plan routes, vary routes and time routes. We need to know exactly where we are at all times in case we have, or we come across an emergency. Or do we? Really?

Yes, we do, there is no escaping it. However, what has changed is how we do this. On a day off I navigate with my phone. On a day at work, unless I’m teaching map and compass skills I navigate with my phone. The most guided mountain leader routes are long, dull (ish?) and quite featureless. Your amazing skills of relocation would be pushed to the limit on parts of the Llanberis path up Snowdon, or on the Brown Tongue on Scafell or the Red Burn path up Ben Nevis. On your assessment you are usually given a fighting chance to relocate as you’ll be by a feature, or a change in slope angle at least. In the middle of Allt Mosses on the Llanberis path you could be anywhere! So, the reality is, you can just pull your phone out of your pocket and it will, near enough, give you your location. The apps of Viewranger and OS maps work really well with the pretty powerful GPS (GPRS if you’re a pedant!) in your phone. Who wouldn’t do that!

I’m not arguing to do away with map and compass, but I wonder if we can lessen the intensity. Push it hard and pure on day one maybe, then relax a little, longer legs, using apps to relocate. Batteries last all day now, you can carry a power pack to top up, many modern phones are water resistant, you can buy water resistant and shock proof phones, there are a range of protective cases available. I’m wondering if the question should be, for the Summer ML, can you use your phone in the rain? The winter ML throws up more glove and cold issues, but maybe a proper GPS unit should be encouraged?

If we could move in this direction, we could work more on leadership styles, group management strategies and environmental information and issues…

As ever these thoughts are not in any way shame or form anything to do with Mountain Training or Plas y Brenin, they are purely my own and are deliberately antagonistic!

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