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Newsletter – December 2020

By 27th December 2020January 12th, 2021Navigation, Newsletters, Summer, Walking

Tip of the Month

This is the second of two related navigational tips. The first one was in the November Newsletter.

Orienteers, and other accomplished navigators, refer to the techniques of ‘coarse’ and ‘fine’ navigation. If you prefer, you could understand this as ‘rough’ and ‘detailed’ navigation.

First, let’s consider a scenario in which you are going to drive from London to my house in Yorkshire. The directions that I might have given you would be to take the M1 from London heading north to Leeds, until you reach Junction 43 where it splits into the M1 and M621. This single instruction will have taken you 195 miles or around 92% of your journey. You will barely have had to give it a second thought.

Then, I might have given you instructions on how to leave the M621 and head into Leeds, looking for signs for the A660 towards Otley, Ilkley or Skipton. A little more attention is required on your part, but you know that if you keep following signs for those towns you will be fine. As you arrive on the outskirts of my town, you will have travelled a further 15 miles or so and you will now have completed 99% of  your journey’s distance.

Finally, I will have given you detailed instructions on how to reach my house. I will probably have mentioned specific street names and landmarks such as bridges, tight bends and pubs. You would probably drive quite slowly, and be looking out carefully for these landmarks so that you follow the instructions accurately.

Let’s call these three stages Green, Amber and Red. In the Green stage you can relax quite a lot, knowing that you just have to keep following an obvious way until something triggers you to enter the Amber stage (in this example, it was the M621). In this second stage, Amber, you are paying much more attention but the navigation still isn’t especially difficult as long as you don’t miss the main signs. Finally, another landmark (arriving at my town) causes you to enter the final stage, the Red stage. Now you are taking great care, looking out for every detail and matching these carefully with the directions I gave you. You may only be a mile away from my house, but if you get it wrong you may as well be 200 miles away back in London.

This Green, Amber, Red model is an enhancement of the idea of ‘course’ and ‘fine’ navigation. When you plan a navigational leg of a journey in the mountains, use this technique to help keep you on track. It should allow you to ‘relax’ during the Green stage but become totally switched on during the Red stage, and always find your target destination.

Fact of the Month

Earlier this month, very sadly, Doug Scott died. He was one of Britain’s, and the world’s, foremost pioneering high-altitude climbers. He was the first English person to summit Mt Everest, via a new route on the south-west face, in 1975. This was the first of Everest’s faces to be climbed. (Generally speaking, on mountains ridge-lines tend to be less steep and technically easier; routes on faces are steeper and technically harder).

Apart from his enormous and impressive list of mountaineering ‘firsts’, Doug Scott will be particularly remembered for his charitable fund-raising work. He set up charities (such as Community Action Nepal) and numerous fund-raising efforts to support the communities in the regions where his mountaineering took place. These were, and still are, some of the poorest parts of the world.

Route of the Month

There are many routes up Scafell Pike, not only the one from Wasdale Head used by countless of thousands of people doing the National Three Peaks walk. This route is the shortest, most direct, and most continuously ascending option. So not only is it over and done with in a short time, but it is physically tiring and horribly overcrowded.

Would you like a longer day that is more varied, more scenic and physically tougher even though it probably won’t feel it? If so, try the Corridor Route from Styhead Tarn to Scafell Pike. This route takes you over slightly scrambly terrain, meandering its way among the highest fells of the Lake District and above some spectacular gills (gorges). There are various options for how to approach Styhead Tarn, depending on which valley you want to start from, and it is easily reached from both Borrowdale and Wasdale. There is an even longer approach from Langdale, too.

Photo of the Month

It’s good to end up the year with my favourite shot of 2020. This was taken from the top of Catbells above Derwent Water, in the Lake District. In the background is Skiddaw.

I had gone to the Lake District with plans to go on Sharp Edge, on Blencathra, but as I got there I was in thick, low-lying cloud. I was optimistic that there would be a stunning cloud inversion at some point, so I quickly changed plans and headed for Catbells. The view from Catbells is one of the Lake District’s iconic views and it’s a great place to be when there is an inversion.

It was a gamble, because I could just have been in low cloud all day long. But on this occasion the gamble certainly paid off.

Skiddaw viewed from Catbells looking over a sea of low clouds - a typical view on guided winter walk or winter skill course in the Lake District© Patrick Hickie

Forthcoming Events

Unsurprisingly, Covid lockdown restrictions have played havoc with my plans for the winter season. The chances of my running any courses in Scotland this year are small, and certainly all of January’s Scottish programme is now cancelled.

However, I have a new Calendar page and I will be keeping this updated regularly. For January and February the diary will be focused very much on recurring activities in Yorkshire and the Lake District, with a winter skills courses available every Saturday and Sunday in the Lake District. These will be subject to snow conditions and Covid rules, of course.

  • January to February Mondays – 1-day Beginners’ Navigation Course (Yorkshire Dales)
  • January to February Tuesdays – Guided classic Lake District mountain walks (with or without snow)
  • January to February Thursdays – Guided sunrise or sunset walks in the Lake District
  • January to February Fridays – ‘Jedi’ series of navigation courses – Re-location Jedi, Contour Jedi and Night Navigation Jedi (Yorkshire Dales)
  • January to February Saturdays – 1-day Winter Skills Course (Lake District) – or book a 2-day weekend
  • January to February Sundays – 1-day Winter Skills Course (Lake District) – or book a 2-day weekend

All my usual bespoke courses are available at any time, so if that weekly programme doesn’t suit you then just get in touch and enquire about what you would like.

See Last Month’s Newsletter

Newsletter 2020 11