Hill walk routes to climb in SW Scotland - also coastal paths and National Scenic Areas with maps, pictures and other useful information based on extensive local knowledge
A tip or two on navigation
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There are plenty of good books on hill craft, and we don't intend to compete with them here, but there are one or two tips on navigation that we could pass on from our experiences. First you are crazy if you go into these hills without

(a) a compass
(b) an Ordnance Survey map of the area
(c) the ability to use map and compass together
On the walks shown on this site you will mostly be on trackless terrain - except for the tracks of sheep, goats, and quadbikes, which can often be useful but don't necessarily take you where you want to go.
So you must be able to read a map and take a compass bearing.
The picture on the right shows the most commonly used maps. The one with the red cover is the 1;50,000 Ordnance Survey "Landranger". The one with the yellow cover is a 1:25,000 map also made by Ordnance Survey, specially for "Outdoor Leisure" in the Galloway Forest Park. The one with the rainbow and black cover is a another specially prepared map for the Galloway hills by Harveys - it is also 1:25,000 and is waterproof. In 2001 Ordnance Survey brought out a new series of maps for the whole country - the "Explorer" series. They are 1:25,000 and they have orange coloured covers. Number 330 in this series covers the Moffat hills on one map for the first time - it used to require 4 maps.
But the other one in the picture is the one we really want to tell you about. It is just a photocopy taken from the "Landranger" series and blown up by 140% on the photocopier. You will see, below, that it is slipped inside a loose leaf plastic cover such as you would put into a folder - that waterproofs it!. It has the route you are planning to do drawn on it by you in red biro in the comfort of your own kitchen or wherever. One copy of this is given to each person heading for the hill and one is for leaving back at base to tell folk exactly where you are going. It folds up to A6 size and goes in your back pocket.
Now if you are still wondering what I am on about, consider for a moment what it means to take out one of the real maps in the pouring rain and the living gale - the map rapidly turns to mush or blows away - or both.
We tried a purpose made mapholder - a plastic wallet on a cord that goes round your neck and hangs down in front of your chest. So first you try this outside your jacket and the wind keeps catching it and skelping you in the face with it. Then you try it inside your jacket and bang goes the breathability of the jacket and you simply cook inside.
So we recommend a 10p photocopy instead.
This however is no substitute for having a proper map in the first place. You will want to know what is all around you beyond the reaches of your photocopy. You will probably pour over it both while you're planning your route and after you have been on it - to build the picture you will carry in your head of the area in the future. We find that the "Landranger" maps are clearer to read than the "Pathfinder" (the old style 1:25,000 series - not shown above because we never used them because they were so difficult to read) or "Explorer" series. It is easier to see the form of the hills in the Landrangers. The Harveys map is excellent in this respect too, plus it shows the fire breaks in the forest which can be invaluable at times.

The maps used throughout this site are hand drawn - based mainly on the Ordnance Survey "Landranger" series. While they give a reasonably accurate picture of the general shape of the hills etc., they are not intended as main line navigational tools for use on the hill. The much greater accuracy and detail of a proper Ordnance Survey or Harvey map is needed if you are to risk life and limb in poor visibility. Even these are no use to you without a compass, and the knowledge of how to use it in conjuction with a map. Like most people who go on the hill we are very independent spirits and we have a relaxed attitude about most things in life - but poor navigation is not something you can be relaxed about and you can soon come to be very dependent on others that way
When you are ascending or descending it's usually pretty obvious that you have the basic direction right - especially if you are going along a ridge where the land falls off on either side of your route. But when you hit totally flat featureless summits, cols or whatever in poor visibility the compass/map and the wind direction are your only guides. Corserine has caught us out a couple of times on such days. There is no cairn on top though there is a trig point. We have been too casual on leaving the trig point without taking a compass bearing from it, and pretty damn soon realised that we would have to go straight back and do so. After all you can't take a bearing off a map if you don't know where you are on the map.

With the top of Corserine being so flat and featureless you can very easily get disorientated in mist. One great shoulder runs west and two run east off the main ridge so you have five ways off. Now if you spend any length of time at the trig point talking and wandering about, it is dead easy to lose the sense of the direction you came in from and yet still be convinced that you know it fine, and so you set off on what you are sure is the right direction until you suddenly realise, if you're lucky, that the terrain is not doing what you expect it to do according to the map. Part of the problem here is that there are only two points of reference, the trig point and you, and no other visible reference which keeps in your mind your relationship to the trig as you first encountered it - two points don't make a triangle, and without that third reference you can be anywhere 360 degrees around the trig and every view looks the same (ie. flat stony ground disappearing into mist).
You could easily end up going down one of the shoulders by mistake - not necessarily dangerous, but adding hours onto your day. Navigation in poor visibility depends on moving from one recognizable feature or landmark to another. When you locate each feature you know exactly where you are on the map and you just take compass bearings from the map for the next feature along the route. Trouble arises when for some kind of weird macho reason you think you don't need the compass because you believe you know instinctively which direction is which.

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