Techniques > Navigational Questions & Answers

Walking on a bearing

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ianj37:
I know that Mountain Training, who administer the Mountain Leadership awards, require a pacing accuracy of 10% or better for their awards but I can't find any figures for walking on a bearing. Somewhere at the back of my mind is that a 2 degree accuracy is good but I don't know whether I've just imagined that and if it is correct what distance it's over.
Any thoughts?

Thanks

Ian 

Hugh Westacott:
Ian

This is a complicated subject with several answers depending on circumstances. In practice, I suppose that a really expert navigator can achieve an accuracy of 2 when walking on a bearing but the occasions in the UK when that degree of accuracy is required normally only apply when navigating in restricted visibility, and especially when walking alone.

Factors that make it difficult to walk accurately on a bearing are wind, slopes, and broken terrain which tend to make the walker drift off-course. If you navigate to an accuracy of  4 (which in my opinion is more realistic) you will be off-course by 70 metres after 1000 metres, and if 6  you will be 105 metres off-course.

Rather than walking a couple of kilometres relying solely on a compass bearing, it is often better to to navigate to a series of readily identifiable features which you can tick off on your map. It may take longer and involve taking several bearings but is more reliable. Accurate walking on a bearing may be supplemented by taking backbearings and techniques such as pacing, timing and expanding square searches..

If in pathless terrain I was walking to a bridge over a watercourse, I would probably aim off by as much as 10 to ensure that I knew in which direction to turn when I reached the watercourse.

Hugh
I grow old...I grow old, I shall wear the bottom of my trousers rolled. T.S.Eliot

ianj37:
As always, thanks for your help Hugh.

The context is that I intend going for the NNAS gold award this year. I had come across an entry on UK Hillwalking which gave 6 grid references on Bleaklow used as a night navigation exercise by Edale MRT so I tried it (in daylight) as part of my practice. One  leg is to get to a, largely hidden until you're virtually on top of it, grouse butt 500m away with no intermediate points or paths and I just wondered what was a reasonable accuracy to achieve. I ended up  about 15 metres off so I'm quite pleased with that!

Any further update on your book?

Ian

Hugh Westacott:
I think, Ian, that you should be very pleased with yourself to have achieved such a level of accuracy when walking on a bearing! Did you consider a backup technique such as pace counting/timing plus, if necessary, an expanding square search?

I'm expecting a proof copy of my book shortly after which it will be published and a post announcing it will be published on this forum. The cover, Contents list, Introduction and Index will appear on my website and will be available to download.

Hugh
I grow old...I grow old, I shall wear the bottom of my trousers rolled. T.S.Eliot

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