Techniques > Variations of Existing Techniques

White-out navigation

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Was heading for the top of Ben McDui on Saturday in thick weather and away from the main highway of footprints. With uphill in various directions, only one of them right, I was walking on a bearing, usually picking on rocks/snow shadows about 20 to 50 metres ahead, which was the limit of visibility for snow shadows and black rocks poking through white snow respectively. A few legs offered nothing visible on the line of the bearing, but I realised that if you take two other visible points either side of the correct line, you can keep your line pretty well until you pick up something on route.
Worth keeping in mind.

Another valuable way to stay on a bearing during whiteout conditions when you have no landmarks to use is to do a back bearing on your own footprints. Do this well within your limit of viability meaning often sometimes as often as once every 10 meters and you will stay on your bearing. This is a trick we used when navigating whilst on skis. Its works and to coin a phrase of Lyle's; worth knowing.     

Lyle Brotherton:
Cairngormwanderer I have not used this method before,  I guess that they are a type of Radial Arm, did you simply make a mental note of their reference to you are mark them on your map?

Also were you coming up from the Deeside, albeit a longer route but it avoids the skiers, which always seems paradoxical to me as Macdui is situated in the centre of a vast wilderness. Heavy has some great stories of epi rescues across the top and over the valley to Braeriach - a stunning part of the world.

Yes Adi, for all of the challenges navigating in snow poses, the ability to check your backbearing is frequently overlooked.

Hi Lyle, I was walking very short legs between getting new targets and using a 1:50,000 map, so I just kept a mental note. I was coming up a gully out of the Loch Avon Basin (Pinnacle Gully beside the Shelter Stone Crag) so I knew my starting point and was able to take one single bearing on the summit, with no obstacles on the way and, given the lack of fresh snowfall and wind for several days, felt able to use the usual footprint highway from Cairngorm as a handrail to aim off at. Given the terrain and the weather, I don't suppose the task was too serious, but having walked through a lot worse, it's a tactic I'd feel happy about using when it does get serious.

Great tip Cairngormwanderer :)


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