Ten Tors navigator's notes
There are some minimum skills that will make your life much easier during Ten Tors
When conditions are really bad and visibility is terrible you need to be able to:
- find where you are on the map
- take a compass bearing
- walk your group in a straight line from one known point to the next.
Although the weather can be harsh on Dartmoor, these conditions are exceptional. We normally have better weather and reasonably good visibility, which makes navigating on the high moor much easier. In good weather you can exercise a lot more skill when deciding your routes across the moor.
Become a weather expert; if the weather deteriorates dramatically you will probably need to change your route.
An easy-to-cross little stream may become an impassable river after a burst of rain.
A hard frost will make the going firmer and faster, but will increase your risk of slipping and falling.
A wet month will make some areas very difficult to cross altogether.
On a very windy day sticking to a route on the sheltered side of the ridge will be far less exhausting than walking on top.
A straight line is rarely the best way from one point to the next
Use your eyes to see your destination if you can.
Check what types of vegetation you will be crossing. You may be looking at heather, gorse, grass, bogs or rocky clitter. Each presents its own problems for walkers and you’ll need to understand the challenges. Always take your group the easiest and least tiring way.
What’s the shape of the land? It’s much easier to contour around a valley then to plunge across it. Your weary group may not thank you for steep uphill climbs!
When you have to walk on a bearing, use short navigation lengths. Nobody can keep to a straight line for very long, so small errors can rapidly become big mistakes.
Aim for linear features such as streams, walls and tracks – they are much easier to see than find on a map. When you arrive at a landmark like this you can use it to figure out which way to turn and they can then guide you to your next destination.
Use your map. A careful reading of your map will tell you a lot about the vegetation and the shape of the land you are about to cross. Add in your knowledge of the weather conditions to choose your route.
There are lots of hardened tracks on the high moor. Use them when you can as they are easier and safer to walk along, but don’t stop navigating while you’re on them; you can easily be led for miles down the wrong path!
One member of the group needs to take the lead at any given time. Make sure all group members are aware of who is taking the lead and when the responsibility is handed over to another person.
The fittest, fastest walker is not necessarily the best map reader.
Carefully examining the map and taking care and responsibility are signs of a good leader; and not necessarily a sign of being lost, or a reason to start panicking.
If weather conditions get worse take more time and care to read the map properly.
Even the best navigators make mistakes, but only those with true grit and skill will recognise and correct their mistakes quickly and not allow pride or tiredness to cloud their judgement.