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Training Day

April 14, 2010

On Sunday last, the 11th of April I headed down to Glendalough to do two classes with Outdoors Ireland. This Kerry based outfit were doing a promotion in conjunction with the Great Outdoors, offering introductory sessions at €45 a pop.

The promotion includes a selection of three-hour classes on a range of subjects: compass bearings, moving on steep ground, emergency procedures and advanced navigation. I had signed up to learn about compass bearings and advanced nav.

The day was shaping up to be a cracker as I drove down, so I was excited to be heading out into the hills on what felt like a classic Irish summer morning. This feeling only increased as I parked up in Glendalough’s upper car park and got my boots on, with the upper lake as still as a mirror while the sun hit the steep hills above.

The Vale of Glendalough

The Vale of Glendalough, from the Upper Valley

After being introduced to our instructor – Tadhg – a small group of us started to run through the basics of how to use the compass and relate it to the map. Tadhg is a patient guy who does a great job of simplifying things, so it wasn’t long before matters started coming into focus and the power of the compass began to emerge. We used our compasses to satisfy ourselves that we were where we thought we were by comparing the orientation of the road we were standing on to the map. We then practiced walking along a couple of bearings to nearby locations before we headed on up the valley, with Tadhg touching on subjects like the use of Naismith’s Rule for judging how long it will take to get from A to B.

Walking and talking towards the Upper Valley, Glendalough, Co. Wicklow

Walking and talking towards the Upper Valley, Glendalough, Co. Wicklow

Once we reached the upper valley Tadhg talked us through more exercises, culminating with us each following a compass direction for two minutes before hiding our backpacks for the next person to find. Thankfully we had all taken our new knowledge on board and the bags were (eventually) retrieved.

It was all good fun and informative and we chatted our way back to the car park for lunch, passing rock climbers, walkers, hill runners and bouldering crews on the way. With such great weather it was a busy day in the valley.

After lunch I was with Tadhg again and this time just one other person to take the advanced navigation class. This was a perfect follow on from the first class as we headed up another part of the valley and learned numerous tips that will help me move safely in the hills. Notably, we practiced counting our steps to see how many paces it took to cover 100 meters. (64 double paces in my case) Having established this we used pacing several times to make surprisingly precise estimates of when we would reach a turning point in our route.

All in all this was a most enjoyable day that has equiped me with the basic tools to practice navigation in the hills and read a map with increased accuracy. I can’t wait to get out again and put it all into action. I reckon I won’t get quite so lost the next time the clouds descend on Kippure!

If you are interested in taking any of the classes I understand there are still free spaces for sessions this Sunday 18th of April. You can find out more on this page of the Outdoors Ireland website.


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