Navigating Safely

Navigating Safely

I hope you find the information on OpenRoutes useful for finding and following routes, but you should never rely on this information alone, especially when heading out into the more mountainous areas. GPS devices are incredibly helpful when it comes to following a route, or when you want to make sure you’re on the right track, but like any technology it can let you down when you need it most. Perhaps the device will malfunction, or your batteries will run out, so you need to have other tools and skills to fall back on when this happens.

I want the information here on OpenRoutes to be as accurate as possible, which is why I usually only publish a route when I’ve actually followed it on the ground and recorded the route myself. I work out and create routes all the time, but they only get published here when I know that they’re accurate. That doesn’t mean that the information will hold true in a month or a year’s time though, so you need to be able to navigate to safety when the device or the route lets you down. The most obvious method is to make sure that you always carry the appropriate map for the route, and a compass, and know how to use them. Each route lists the Ordnance Survey (OS) map covering the route (the exception currently being when two or maps are required – but I’ll work on that) – just check the information at the top of the route page for the line that looks like this:

This tells you which map is required (in this example “Outdoor Leisure 17”), and if you follow the link it will take you to Amazon, where you can purchase it.

You’ll need to know how to read a map, how to identify the features on the landscape so that you can determine where exactly you are and where you need to be heading. Next you’ll need a compass and to know how to use it in conjunction with your map to find your route to safety. Sometimes you can navigate using the map and seeing the paths and features around you, but I’ve found myself in thick fog on mountains when this has not been possible and a compass has been a vital tool. There’s some good information on the OS site on how to use a compass. For a comprehensive guidebook to navigating safely and general mountaincraft skills, I highly recommend getting a copy of Eric Langmuir’s ‘Mountaincraft and Leadership‘.

Have fun following the routes here at OpenRoutes, but make sure you stay safe. Ensure you take the right equipment, appropriate clothing and sufficient food and water. Always let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to return.