Map Reading Skills
In August 2018 TRAIL magazine we were asked about pacing and measuring height, here are the articles on map reading skills.
Map reading skills – How do I keep pace count?”
Knowing your pace count over 100m for different terrain and conditions is an invaluable part of estimating distance and your location, but it is easy to lose count when someone asks you ‘just how far is it to the pub?’
At the Ultimate Navigation School we recommend a piece of paracord (it has many uses on the hill) tied to your rucksack strap with 10 locking toggles at the top. (Available from ShavenRaspberry.co.uk).
Every time you have walked 100m, pull one toggle down to the bottom of the cord, then you won’t forget how many lots of 100m you have already done. Each toggle at the bottom means 100m walked. Some people use pebbles in the hand and drop a pebble every 100m.
You could use worry beads but that probably won’t inspire your group’s confidence if you are playing with worry beads all the time.
If you are walking in a group get everyone to count their 100m pacing too if they know it, then all stop after each 100m pacing. The average for that 100m is the person stood in the middle of the stopped group, so start again from their position and repeat.
This improves your accuracy and stops them talking to you so you forget your count! Don’t forget to know your own pace count, going uphill, downhill, over rough terrain, through deep snow etc too.
Map Reading skills – How do I log altitude or height ascended?
Before you go you can plot your route on an App such as OS MAPS or Viewranger, or on a sat nav device, to see total ascent for your whole route. Then simply follow the route on the app or device.
Alternatively, you can just walk and start to track your route on the app or sat nav device before you set off. Then save the track to view the total ascent when you complete the walk. (Remember though that using your phone to track a route will consume a lot of battery power, especially in the cold, and you may need your phone in an emergency. So carry a charger pack and power lead if you decide to track using your phone).
Knowing your altitude is a useful tool to help with your navigation, so we recommend tracking your altitude using the contour height on the map for your current position, and reference checking your altimeter. Remember to calibrate your altimeter to a known fixed height before and during the walk, as atmospheric pressure changes will alter the altitude readings. Spot heights and trig points are easy reference points. Using slope aspect for a fix can help you work out your location too.
If you prefer old school, trace your route onto the map, then in the pub count the contours you crossed ascending along the route to while away the time before the pie and chips arrive!
The Ultimate Navigation School is a charity providing navigation training to hill walkers, with all our net profits supporting the following charities –
Mend Our Mountains, Fix the Fells, John Muir Trust and Mountain Bothy Assoc. Book a map reading course now and help the hills we all love.
Thanks to Mairi Oliver for the great images taken on her Ultimate Navigation Advanced course!