Navigation Top Tips
Why did you get into rock climbing? Or, if you’ve never tried, why would you? Maybe you love being outdoors or maybe it’s an alternative to the gym and a good way to keep fit. If you reach a point when you want to climb an obscure rockface or a big wall tucked away you in a valley, will need to consult a map and have to work out how to get there. So, here are my 7 top tips for finding the crag:
1.Remember the 5 P’s
Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance! Look at the map before you head out and plan a route that’s easy to follow. Not all crags are on easy-to-navigate paths and may require you to pay attention to the route you’re following to find them. Planning in advance will save time and arguments! This is even more important for the multi pitch routes where you might need to walk off the mountain a different route and could find yourself in poor visibility. Always remember the five P’s.
2. Understand the map
- Do you know what all the symbols mean?
- Can you identify a footpath?
- Do you understand open access moorland?
If you’re not sure how to read a map, check the key on the map before you leave and get to know what the different symbols mean. Taking a course can really help, if you’re not confident. Our links page has some instructors you could use, or you can use the Mountain Training website.
3. Understand map features: Grid Lines
Grid lines are the faint blue squares on the map, each measuring 1km across the lines or 1.5km from corner to corner. Depending how much kit you have and how fit you are it will take you between 15 minutes and 30 minutes to walk the length of a grid line. The quality of route you are on will also affect the speed, it’s going to take you far longer to bog trot over 1km of moorland than it will you to walk 1km of bridle way. Bear this in mind when planning.
4. Understanding map features: Contour Lines
Contour lines are the faint orange lines that identify the shape of the landscape and while it’s easier to pick out the massive mountains from them, it’s worth studying the map to check that the path you’re taking isn’t also slowly heading uphill. Contours have the height marked on them at certain points, which gives away whether the route is up or downhill. It might not matter too much for a few km walk from a car park, but if you’re carrying kit a long way to somewhere a bit more remote then it will make all the difference to how quickly you get there, and how knackered you are! You need to roughly add 1 minute for every contour line you cross heading uphill, more if it’s not on a path and you are crossing scree, rocky terrain or moorland.
5. Get in the map!
If you’re going to use a map it’s useful to orientate it in the direction of travel. Get your map and turn it round until what you see in front of you is represented on the map, in the right direction. It can sometimes take a bit of practice, but it’s the easiest way to be able to quickly navigate and understand how what you see in the map relates to your surroundings.
6. Tick off the features as you go
- How many fence lines or walls have you crossed?
- How about the streams and rivers?
- Were you meant to turn left at the farm or go straight ahead?
As you’re walking, make sure you pay attention to what features you should pass on the route – check them as you pass over or by them. You can mark your map to keep track of where you are.
7. Have an escape route
- What do you do when you get to the top of the crag and you’re in the mist?
- Can you safely navigate your way back down without getting stuck?
- What about if it all goes wrong half way up or the weather turns wet and windy?
- Is there a track half way you can use?
- Or is it quicker to abseil?
- Have you got the skills and equipment to abseil
- Are you confident navigating in poor weather?
Having an escape route or even a few options to cut short your plans is useful to have planned in advance to make a quick exit. Weather can be extremely changeable even when you have done your best to plan.