Marsden Moor National Trust Hike

Hiking navigation skills course – a ‘refresher’.

I’ve just completed a four-part navigation skills refresher* course organised and hosted by Mountainfeet, a great outdoors shop that’s based in Marsden, where I live. The theory being that I’d be relearning some forgotten skills. Learning afresh was more to the point, it was a great course.

The sessions (two indoors/class-based and two on the hills) were led by Keith Saunders. Keith is a retired RAF Navigator and also leads walks with Saddleworth Walking Club so he knows his stuff and is great at explaining things. Which was good, as I realised early on that I was starting from scratch!

* I was taught map and compass skills on a school trip thirty three years ago, during an outward-bounds break in Snowdonia. Starting from the baseline of having an appalling memory, thirty three years of lack of practice essentially equalled zero ability.

Mountainfeet Navigation Course
Keith and Si comparing european maps versus OS map detail.
Mountainfeet Navigation Course map reading
Bob thinking through his route card for the following outdoors session.

I do actually take a paper map and compass out on most hikes but I’ve always kept them stowed in the rucksack. Not much use there, I know. And since I started using the Viewranger App a couple of years ago I’ve just relied on that. I think the App is brilliant but when I saw Si (at Mountainfeet) was hosting this course I stuck my name down: I wanted to get back to basics.

After the sessions I feel far better equipped and I met a bunch of lovely folk also brushing up on their navigation skills. So a great result all round. Actually, I missed one of the two outdoors sessions as I was in Wales in Cwm Penmachno but I did have map and compass out for a change 🙂

The following pics are from the second outdoor session, in the Uppermill/Pob Green area of Saddleworth and heading up to Alderman Hill (pretty mild for the first day of November).

Saddleworth navigation skills hills hike

Saddleworth navigation skills hills hike
Yes I know there’s a big Footpath sign behind us but we were heading in the opposite direction 😉
Saddleworth navigation skills hills hike
Slades Barn.. derelict itself but the modified caravan is actually lived in by some hardy soul..

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Saddleworth navigation skills hills hike
Alderman’s Hill .. with Dove Stone Reservoir below us.
Saddleworth navigation skills hills hike
Keith telling us an anecdote about being lost in a blizzard in the Cairngorms..
Saddleworth navigation skills hills hike
Heading off the hill to Pots & Pans / the obelisk.

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So I feel better equipped after the course but I know I’ll need to practice more regularly with an actual map and compass.

Finally, two words of warning, if Si runs another course and you wanted to attend:
– Keith, despite his 80+ years, could out-walk most people, he flew up the hills above Uppermill as we navigated up to Alderman’s Hill. Very humbling!
– You’ll need a lot of willpower to leave one of the indoor sessions without a new gadget, boots or clothing of some description 😉 Mountainfeet has a lot of lovely stuff in the shop where the course was held over two evenings.

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