Mountain Safety Advisor, Heather Morning takes you through the basics of map and compass, an ideal starter for beginners or refresher for those with some navigation experience.
Navigation in the Scottish mountains can be challenging. Our mountain weather is susceptible to change with little warning. A blue-sky day with good visibility can very quickly change to one of poor visibility, demanding good navigation techniques. It is also worth noting that there is not a culture of ‘way marking’ in the Scottish mountains as in some other mountain areas, and just because a path is marked on the map does not guarantee that it exists on the ground.
Check out our navigation skills advice on these web pages to give yourself a great grounding in the basics and remember:
We run a series of subsidised one-day navigation training courses which are the ideal preparation for safe navigation in Scotland’s mountains.
Learn about map scales, grid references to describe a location, and contour lines to describe the shape of the land.
Choosing a route, setting the map, taking and following a bearing, ticking off features, measuring distance, timing, pacing and assorted tricks of the trade
Sometimes, despite all your efforts, you realise you're not sure where you are. Learn useful relocation strategies and 'tricks' such as aspect of slope
It's rare, but your compass can come a cropper and be almost 180 degrees out. Find out why 'reversed polarity' happens and how you can avoid it.
GPS and satnav devices are becoming more and more common, and while they're a great navigational tool you still need to know how to navigate and how to make the best
Route cards - a note of where you are intending to go - can be an invaluable aid if you don't turn up, giving rescuers a good idea of where to look for you.
Planning to climb Ben Nevis? Take a look at our advice for a successful ascent and a safe return, from weather conditions and equipment to navigation. It is essential to have an understanding of mountain navigation skills when heading for Scotland's highest mountain. Walkers often get into difficulties when the cloud lowers or snow covers the track making the route less obvious...
If you would like more detailed information, we would recommend the official handbook of the Mountain Leader scheme, Hillwalking (ISBN: 0-9541511-0-0)
You can also visit the website of the National Navigation Award Scheme, a personal performance, non-competitive, incentive scheme for all ages to learn navigation skills and gain confidence to get out and enjoy the countryside. NNAS courses are delivered throughout the country by over 500 approved providers.
Alternatively, you may wish to employ a professional outdoor instructor who may be able to offer more flexible arrangements for venues and dates.