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Quick Pitch - GPS?

January 8, 2017

 GPS's are becoming more accessible but are they really up to the job?


The picture above was taken on the Llanberis path to Snowdon, it was surprising to me just how few people were carrying a map. Snowdons overly tourist feel leads people to think they do not need to carry the equipment that would normally be expected. Most people get away with it, but unfortunately some are caught out by the mountain conditions. I've had to lead people off the hill in Scotland when they've been completely lost and nearly ended up taking their family into serious scrambling terrain.


Over the last few years there are more and more people using GPS to navigate. There are gps system specifically designed for outdoor use with OS maps loaded onto it, but quite alarmingly there are a lot of people relying on mapping systems on phones and tablets. 


There is no denying that GPS is an accurate way of navigating, to know you can get a 5 figure grid reference at any point is always a great back up to have. The problems with GPS lie with the devices, if the battery fails or there is a problem with the software then you are stuck. Even if the map is the back up at the bottom of your bag it is still a vital that you are carrying one.


There is also something special about removing yourself from technology while out on an expedition. Map reading can be as challenging as you want it to be, I've spent many night navs counting my steps on a bearing to find a confluent in a stream or a tiny contour feature. It may seem over the top but these are the skills we can call on when the fog has rolled in or when you're in white out conditions on a summit plateau in the middle of winter.


GPS's are a very useful tool, but for me using a map is a much more interesting and enjoyable way to spend a day on the hill. Learn how to use a map and compass and always take one out onto the hill, you might be fine with the GPS but be safe in the knowledge that if needs be you've got your map packed away and can use it to navigate safely off the mountain.






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