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Navigation Skills 11 Keeping on Track

By Dave Roberts   

on February 16, 2015    No ratings yet.

Navigation Skills 11 Keeping on Track

There are even more techniques that help you follow your route accurately. These can be used when following a route in full visibility as well as when you’re following a bearing. They can used in conjunction with a bearing, or as a much more straightforward alternative.

To follow a route well you’ll need to know:

  • How far is it? You can Measure the distance and Time / Pace by using Naismith’s Rule
  • What’s the easiest way there?  With proper Route Planning you’ll know if you need to be following Bearings or perhaps handrailing or funnelling (see below)
  • What will I see on the way? You’ll be ticking off features on the way (See below)
  • What will I see if I go too far? You’ll see overshoot features (see below)

Handrailing and Funnelling

You can use the features on the map and ground to your advantage. Any linear feature can be followed or used to guide you in the same way as a footpath or track. These are always preferable to a bearing where possible, so it’s an economical technique to use.


Handrailing. This is just about the easiest navigational technique available to the hill walker, and one they’ve all used whether aware of it or not. It’s simply the following of a linear feature such as a wall, stream, electric cables or even a path to get to your destination / attack point / aiming off. Why take a bearing to the river when you can take a bearing to the unmissable forest boundary and follow that to the stream? Not only is it easier, you’ll also reach the river at a known point.


Following a wall / fence. This is an extremely easy way to find yourself off a hill in mist when you know there’s a clear wall to follow. Of course, the map may often show a wall where there isn’t one, or it may not be there at all. Remember that the map only shows ‘boundaries’ and this could be a fence, wall or sometimes both together. The edge of a forest makes an exceptionally good boundary to follow.


Following a river or Stream. Like above, you can use a river to find your way, just be careful that you’re not following a river down treacherous terrain! Rivers also tend to have numerous tributaries, so while they join as you go down-stream, you could easily end up following the wrong stream up-hill. Streams sometimes split or bifurcate downstream, but usually only for a short distance.


Funnelling This is a more advanced form of Handrailing where you follow two linear features that’ll take you towards your destination. A classic example would be a valley where the steep sides on each sides keep you going forwards to your destination at the col. A pair of walls that are gradually converging acts as an obvious funnel as would any two features such as a river or a forest. This is usually a rough navigational technique, perhaps when you’re heading towards a known feature (on a bearing perhaps) and you know that your route is bound by these terrain features.


Ticking Off / Transit Points

Not the drubbing you’ll get for getting the party lost, yet again, but rather the common sense idea that you should note landmarks on the route to check you’re going the right way. This links in closely with your Route Card, as you can record noteworthy landmarks on there. If you know you’ll reach the forest boundary within 1 kilometre or 15 minutes, and you’ve been walking for 30 minutes and all you can see is bloody sitka spruce as far as the eye can see, are you certain the junction you took was the right one? Any feature on the map can and should be ticked off while navigating, and is one of the easiest techniques that keeps you on track.

A really obvious one is a boundary wall or fence, providing that it exists on the ground!


Overshoot features / points

These are a feature that show you’ve gone too far. You may know you need to find a specific point on the moor, but if you reach the forest boundary then you’ve missed it. Again, a boundary wall is handy, as is a river or just about any feature that’ll indicate you’re obviously off track or gone too far. These can be noted on the route-card if needed.

Of course, when you do reach that river, you’ll need to stop!


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Dave Roberts

siDave Roberts founded Walk Eryri in 2004, with the aim of providing routes that are off the beaten track. Walk Eryri is now part of Mud and Routes which continues to provide more off beat routes and walks in Snowdonia and beyond. Dave has been exploring the hills of Eryri for over thirty years, and is a qualified Mountain Leader. Dave also established Walk up Snowdon, Walk up Scafell Pike and Walk up Ben Nevis just to mention a few.

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