Thursday, 18 November 2010

All-female navigation course: Fun and success

The best way to learn how to navigate the Scottish hills is to get out there and try. Our brilliant instructor ML Mike is a firm believer in learning as you go along and so his Glentrek navigation skills days include a walk to the summit of a hill or to a meaningful destination.

Just recently he led an all-female group on a successful Glentrek Basic Hill Walking Navigation Skills Day in Glenshee, Angus. Three of the women were self-confessed non-navigators, while one had "some vague idea that a map and compass were useful but I have never really got to grips with the art".

The group were all determined to become independent navigators (at some point in the future and perhaps after a few more lessons) and several said they were looking forward to the day when they could take themselves off to the hills "without a man in front"!

The women were not anti-men, they have simply reached the point where they would like to walk solo or as part of an all-female group and they had come to the conclusion that the only way to do this was to join a navigation session, and preferably a female-only class.

Many outdoor activity companies are reporting that female-only groups, from climbing, to walking, to navigation, to mountain biking, are becoming increasingly popular.

As one women in the Glentrek navigation course group said: "If there is a man in the group they tend to take over the navigation. Whether they are better at using a compass, or whether they think they are better, they still lead and then I just follow."

Indeed, ML Mike pointed out that women in all-female groups are more likely to ask questions and become involved in the navigation discussions than when part of a mixed group.

Certainly, the female-only atmosphere was uplifting. The navigation was achieved through friendly discussion, camaraderie and great laughs and chat.

At the start of the session, ML Mike gave a lesson in map orientation, basic compass use, how to identify aspects of the landscape and OS map detail, such as grid sizes and contours. If you're at all intrigued then why not book on to our next navigation course?

Then the women set off to summit a Munro. Stopping at frequent intervals, ML Mike revealed a range of important map skills techniques, such as route plotting, contour reading, grid references and navigating by compass and pacing from A to B. If anyone in the group was slower to get the hang of the skills then they were helped along by ML Mike.

So many times there were cries of "Oh, so that's how it works!" or "I just never knew that but now it makes perfect sense" and "Look, we made it to the right point. How brilliant!"

The day wasn't all learning and there were plenty of opportunities to take in the fantastic scenery, spot wildlife and stop for snack breaks and lunch. Reaching the summit of the Munro, Carn a Gheoidh, was really satisfying.

One of the participants said: "I feel so much more confident now. I wouldn't call myself an expert but I can see how we navigated the route and how we arrived at the summit. It's an up-lifting experience."

The final lesson was safe navigation back to the start of the walk. Despite snow flurries, mist and a darkening sky, the group successfully found their return route and still had enough time for tea, cakes and a good chat about the day at the Spittal of Glenshee Hotel.

To see some of the highlights of the day check out this fab blog video.

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