Mountaineering maps (Part 1)
For the next few months I’ll give a couple of tips about preparing maps that are really fit for purpose for mountaineering and climbing in the UK all year round. This includes everything from tackling a long mountain scramble or rock-climb, but needing to navigate off the top in poor visibility; to navigating off the top of Ben Nevis in a howling winter gale.
The first thing to appreciate is that you can’t do either with a huge map. It needs to be small – pocket sized and hand sized. You generally only need to see a few kilometres of map area in front of you, so why have more? Of course, if you are on the South Downs on a balmy summer day, or even up on Snowdon on one of those rare occasions, then there’s nothing more interesting than spreading out the map like a tablecloth and seeing what you can see. But for 90% of the time or more, you’ll be carrying paper you never need.
So, get rid of it. If you have bought a folding paper or laminated map then cut it right down, brutally, to just the area you need. For Snowdonia, I have one map that covers the Glyders and a separate one that focuses on Snowdon. Of course, there’s some overlap but not much.
Once you’ve cut it down, then you’ll never again have need of those awkward, massive, strangulation and eye-gouging devices called map-cases which are utterly useless in a strong wind.
Perhaps even better, instead of buying and cutting paper maps, take out a subscription to the online OS maps and then you can print A4-sized custom maps of just the areas you need.