MWD Navigation

Never Too Old To Learn

by Mark Aston , with photo's by Sian Parry

MWD runners have started running Navigation practice days for its members.The first session was early in January.

MWD Nav 3We had an absolutely fantastic day out in the snowy, icy Brecon Beacons. I had offered to help by leading the navigation practice day.But even after nearly forty years of being in the hills I have never stopped learning too!

A group of five of us went up Cribyn and Fan y Big in sub-zero temperatures.  The snow was deep enough to hide less used trails, and the cloud meant we couldn’t see more than 10 meters. Great fun!

Such conditions are a great chance to practice map reading, and like any skill must be repeatedly used. On the day however, my biggest learning was about kit. Minus 3 on the summits and with the bitter wind chill, I brought loads of spare clothes.

I know this stuff – well prepared – says the fool in me. On the top of Cribyn, with the icy blasts, my hands started to get cold. I tried to open the zip on my jacket, where my extra gloves were – but the zip was frozen, solid! No gloves without destroying the jacket!

As with all mountain issues they easily get compounded. With my hands getting cold I wanted to put my new poles (testing them out for the day too) in a position where I could get them easily, and yet store them so I could warm my hands. All my preparations in working out how the silly little loops on my pack could hold the poles was useless.

MWD Nav 2Nearly forty years’ experience in mountain work, and I have poorly functioning clothes, can’t get at my gloves, and have to lug my poles ‘cos I can’t store them. In seriousness, I could have gotten my other gloves out of my pack if I was really worried – I had an alternative. But the lesson stands – there is always more to be learnt – and be that little bit wiser.

The point of the story? - I have been in lots of situations where even though people have the right gear, the right training etc still little things get in the way. I’ve seen people refuse to fix something, like getting cold, because of something trivial like poorly packed kit. On the mountains, this can quickly turn to hypothermia.

I don’t want to be overly dramatic. As it was we all had great fun. It was a truly wonderful day out. I use these days to become a slightly better mountaineer. Yet relishing why I am there. The pure joy of being in the mountains! Desperate to get out there again.

If you want to see how others saw the day out, look up the MWD runners facebook group

We will be holding another practice day on the first Saturday in February, if you’re interested.

Finally – my next trip will be to Up and Under to see how to fix frozen zips! And a thank you to my friends on the day for helping me learn that little bit more.


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