|Me and Dave half way up Skiddaw|
The course took place over a Saturday and Sunday and covered pretty much everything you could want to know regarding Mountain skills including Nav, route choice, kit and some hands on advice and tips from the two time Dragons back finisher Joe Faulkner. Also a good opportunity to spend some time with like minded individuals.
A good friend of mine, Dave Bowen is in a similar place to myself regarding navigation and mountain running. He has had his fair share of getting lost but is also a pretty decent runner who loves a bit of mountain running. So I thought I'd ask him if he wanted to join me and make a bit of a weekend of it. Of course he did.
The location of the course is in the Lakes, on Ullswater outside of Pooley bridge. I met Dave at Penrith station on Friday with the idea of bagging a few peaks. He drove us down to Keswick where we had decided to run the first leg of the Bob Graham. Keswick-Skiddaw-Great Calva-Blencathra
|Top of Skiddaw|
Introductions made we went to the pub, Dave already knew Richard and Annabelle, so we sat and talked about all things running. Very nice too. It was a bit late by the time I got to bed and the bunk house was freezing but I soon got to sleep.
I was up at 6 and had breakfast, Joe and the team had laid on endless supplies and it was all self service so no reason to go hungry. The bunkhouse lacked a seating area so we all just stood in the kitchen and got to know each other. 9am we hit the classroom and met the instructor for the day. Bernie, John and Stuart. We were split into groups of four, Myself, Dave, Richard and Annabelle teamed up with John as our tutor. We covered basic compass work in the class before heading out for a practical session.
|The Nav4 team|
|We have to navigate here!?|
As soon as the food had gone down we were handed a sheet with grid references on and a map. We had to plot our control points on the map and decide on a route. We then changed into our running gear and headed to the fells for the night navigation session. I had a good route planned and decided I was going to run it at pace to give a feel for navigation whilst running.
|John, Dave, Richard and Annabelle|
Sunday I was up early again and after masses of toast and eggs we all converged on the meeting room. With very little chit chat we were told to plot some points onto a map in preparation for a mock mountain marathon. I was still not awake and rushing. I was making mistakes already so had to reel it in and start again. Glad I did as my first attempt was totally wrong. We then had to quickly decide on a route before setting off to rendezvous at the start point. We had 4 hours to reach as many points as we could before returning to the start within the time.
|Its not often you'll see me in running trousers|
The fourth I lost it completely and although I knew I was right on it I couldn't find the control point. I decided to move on, because I had lost my exact position I had to head to a visible trig point and re-navigate from there. I picked off a few of the higher control points before heading out to furthest point on the course. I just couldn't find one and spent ages running around a peak looking before telling myself I was on the wrong peak and the next one must be the one I'm looking for. After a further half hour of looking a gave up and picked up the others all the way back to the finish. I made a further error and had to climb a big hill to get to a control point that I could have got earlier whilst on the high ground. Only when I returned to the start did I find that the furthest point I had been looking for wasn't out at all. We were all told before we started except I had been concentrating on something else and like a typical man I cant use my brain and ears at the same time. Doh! Anyhow I learnt a lot on that exercise and realized that my bull in a china shop attitude doesn't cut it when it comes to navigation. It s far better to take a few extra minutes with the map instead of rushing off in the wrong direction or making a poor route choice. I must constantly remember this at the Dragons Back. We all finished at about 1ish and headed back to the bunkhouse.
Overall the course was very good and well worth doing if you intend doing any navigational type races. Everyone on the course was really nice and some will remain friends for a very long time. John's teaching was really good and Joe's Dragons back knowledge was fantastic. I've nothing negative to say about the weekend, as a whole it did exactly what it said it would if I was to change a couple of things, I would make the kit talk a bit more interactive but that's probably more our fault for not making it so and I'd have liked something planned on the Sunday afternoon to encourage a few to stay but these are minor details that didn't affect the weekend.
So a big thumbs up from me and I wouldn't hesitate in recommending Nav4. Thanks to Joe, John, Bernie and Stuart. Also great to meet Paul and Nicola, Richard and Annabelle, Andy and Liz, Simon, Lizzie, Nigel, Leo and of course thanks Dave for joining me.