Navigation skills

There are three different levels of navigation to choose from, depending on the level of walk you wish to lead. These are described below.

Think carefully about which level to be assessed at as people very often walk in high level areas but never put their navigation to the test – many aspirant leaders overestimate their navigational ability. The main thing is that your map reading needs to be fluent. If you're leading a group you can't have your head buried in the map and hesitate at every path junction!

More information on Assessments

Lowland Navigation

For leading in lowland and coastal areas.

You will be assessed on your ability to navigate efficiently in urban, agricultural and low level wooded or open terrain. You may be asked to demonstrate the following skills, using the OS 1:25,000 Map (you may also be asked on occasion to use other suitable maps, with different scales).

  • An understanding of the relevant map symbols, and scales
  • The ability to measure distances on the map and on the ground
  • Some ability to interpret contour formations and relate them to features on the ground
  • Understand the principles of the magnetic compass and ability to identify the cardinal points, and an ability to use these in conjunction with the map to determine your direction.
  • The ability to make appropriate route choices in the event of having to deviate from your planned route
  • The ability to employ appropriate relocation strategies
  • Ability to use six figure grid references
  • An ability to orientate the map to the ground
  • Use of linear features as 'handrails'

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Moorland Navigation

For leading in moorland and lower level mountain areas.

In addition to the skills required for lowland leading, you will be assessed on your ability to navigate efficiently in moorland and upland terrain with limited linear features to assist navigation. You may be asked to demonstrate the following skills, (maps as for lowland).

  • Ability to judge distance travelled on the ground using techniques such as timing
  • An ability to navigate away from linear features in poor visibility
  • Contour interpretation skills, appropriate to moorland terrain
  • The ability to take accurate magnetic bearings from the map, and use them for direction finding on the ground over long distances
  • The use of simplification strategies like attack points and aiming off, check points, coarse & fine navigation

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Mountain Navigation

For leading in higher mountain terrain.

In addition to the skills required for moorland navigation, you will be assessed on your ability to navigate efficiently in mountain terrain which is open, uncultivated and remote (more than half an hour’s travelling time from a road or refuge). This type of terrain is prone to restricted visibility due to bad weather, and linear features are often lacking or misleading. You may be asked to demonstrate the following additional skills (maps as for moorland).

  • A high standard of ability to identify contours and significant ground shapes from the map and to use these for navigational purposes
  • A reliable method of distance judgement in various types of terrain, either by pacing or timing. This should be sufficiently accurate to be of significant use on featureless terrain or in restricted visibility
  • Use of map and compass for “continuous relocation”, by such techniques as a “check list” of contour features such as changes in slope angle and aspect, bearings along line features or on slope aspect, and back bearings from identifiable points
  • An ability to navigate safely and accurately through hazards
  • An understanding of the physical and navigational demands of high mountain and moor, and the effects of fatigue and discomfort on decision making

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Leading a walk

During the assessment you’ll lead a small group on a section of a full day walk. We’ll be assessing your ability to navigate, make appropriate route choices, manage a group and, at the same time, provide a safe enjoyable walk.

Leader assessment dates