Every other year, Alpine Rescue Team takes on a new group of prospective members, or PMs and puts them through many months of training on pretty much everything we do. The goal isn’t to train in the outdoors as much to get used to how we do things so we all do it the same way. Although for navigation, it’s key to learn how to navigate many different ways so you can figure out where you are and how to get where your’ going with a map and compass, GPS using Lat and Long or other datum types, miles, kilometers, meters, feet or iPhone.
So, today, we were off to the Colorado Mountain Club’s navigation course near Genesee to practice and work with our PMs to get them a bit more acquainted with navigation. It was a nice day for a hike around . It started out cool and breezy and then got a bit warmer. Fortunately, once we got into the trees, the wind was buffered enough so it felt like a really nice, warm spring day – until you left the trees. The sunlight is still a bit harsh for plain old snap and shoot photos, but I got this nice one of a pretty round cactus in the shade.
When I was in Boy Scouts a few years ago (maybe more than a few), the very first merit badge I ever earned was Orienteering. I like maps and navigating and enjoy watching others learn it and teach it, and of course being outside hiking around while doing it. In Mountain Rescue, it a definite necessity to be able to navigate and find your way around. While you can’t always count on being able to use your iPhone, I for sure had to start looking for navigation apps that I could download. One of the ones I like is PDF Maps from Avenza. It has many free 7.5 minute topo maps from around the country. And while you can enter locations to search for in different formats (Latitude and Longitude, WGS84, UTM and Military Grid Reference System seem to be the ones so far) it’s really good at showing where you are on a topo so you can see where you are and where you might need to go.
I was able to enter a UTM to show where I wanted to go, then turn on the compass, orient it properly and know where I was and where I needed to go. With the exception of learning how to change my format to UTM and then enter my UTM, it was extremely fast and accurate. Much more so that the folks plotting our UTM, shooting the bearing and figuring it out on the map. Of course, I would never trade those skills for a technology solution, but, it’s fun to have. As part of my ongoing gear reviews, I decided to wear my Patagonia Drifter A/C GTX Hiking Shoe which I really like. Sometimes I tend to not tie my shoes tight enough and I think today was one of those days. I rushed out of the house so quickly, that they felt a little sloppy and loose. These are my most comfortable shoes that I wear all the time right now and that was probably part of it. I wear these all the time and they’re breaking in really nicely.
Because we were on an orientation course and not a trail today, these shoes probably weren’t the best choice. We were side-hilling a lot and with the shoes being a bit loose, that compounded the sloppy-ness issue. Tightening them more would certainly have helped, and they’re great for bounding from rock to rock, but on loose hillsides, I’d probably still rather have my favorite boots.
I’m still looking for a great new pair of boots and would love to know what you use!