Do you enjoy or endure night navigation? Hati shares how she built her confidence and discovered the freedom of going solo on the moors by night.
(For more general advice on night navigation, read Chris’ blog on Top Tips for Night Navigation).
I left my Hill and Moorland Leader training brimming with excitement about almost every aspect of the coming consolidation. Little is better than having to prioritise long walks on the moors, mini navigation challenges and the pursuit of undiscovered remote spots in my local area. I’ll do my work/some cleaning/life admin later, right now it’s really important that I go out for a walk. What a treat!
I say ‘almost’ because there was one thorn in my side: night navigation. Night nav is one of the more common reasons for deferral on your Hill and Moorland Leader or Mountain Leader assessment, but that’s not what worried me. What worried me was being alone on the moors at night.
There were two prongs to my concern. The first was that getting lost and injured is more likely and more consequential at night.
The second was a little harder to prepare for. Experience, anecdotes and social norms have taught me that, for women, being out alone at night is verging on irresponsible. Although I don’t buy that sentiment, I do understand that being out alone at night carries added risks for women.
Having the ability to be self-sufficient and undertake solo adventures feels powerful, and I strongly believe that my being a woman should not cause me to miss out on that feeling. So it was important to me to feel not just comfortable, but confident when out alone at night.
Having spoken to others who share similar worries to my own, I thought I’d share some measures that have enabled me to enjoy (and not just endure) the experience of being out on the hill at night. Please feel free to share your own, it’s always great to learn new tips!
Head out really (really really) early
To begin with, I went out before dawn to practice night navigation. This way, should you get lost, sunrise isn’t too far away. Being an early bird, I’m generally more likely to go out at the start of the day than in the evening.
Go out with a friend
Yeah I know this is a post about going solo, but there’s no harm in going out with a friend/joining a group and leading alternative legs to get comfortable before you strike out alone.
Make sure someone knows where you are
Something I do without fail is to tell a friend/family member where you’re going and how long you’ll be. That way there will be someone awaiting your return, ready to sound the alarm if you run into trouble. I usually send my partner something like the following:
I’m parking at XXX, I’m running [route/area details], I should be XXX, If you don’t hear from me by XX you can start to worry.
I might also send an image of my route, but failing that I’ll send a voice message with details. As soon as I’m back in the car/in the house, I send a message to say I’m off the hill.
Share your live location
A step further is to share your live location with a trusted person using your phone. You can do this on Whatsapp or Messenger but there are also purpose-built apps (such as FindMyFriends on iPhone). I don’t usually share my location when running alone, but find it reassuring to do so when out at night. My partner often shares his location with me when he goes out climbing alone too.
If you are going to keep your location tracker on, make sure you bring a battery pack so your phone doesn’t run out.
But don’t advertise your live location to the world
By all means share your what you’re up to, but I tend to share adventures on social media after I’m back so that I’m not advertising my live location as a safety precaution. Whilst it’s unlikely that someone is using your social media feed for malicious purposes, it’s unfortunately a reality to consider.
If you’re nervous about getting lost, maybe don’t tackle Kinder Plateau on your first outing. I started on small moorlands that were close to or surrounded by roads before venturing to more remote areas. That way, if I got really lost, I could follow a bearing to a road to find my way back.
You can start small with timings too, gradually elongating your outings as you begin to feel more comfortable.
Panicing is never really helpful!
If you do get lost, don’t panic. Take a moment, have a snack and a drink, then work through the skills in your toolbox to relocate. Having a GPS in your bag can be reassuring, but don’t depend on it. I usually track my night nav on Viewranger so I can check whether I hit the points later, so it’s nice to know that I can look at it if I’m in a bind.
Plan for the what ifs
For a night nav session or a run in the Peak District I always take excessive snacks, some spare layers, a battery pack and an emergency bivvy bag. I also always carry a spare head torch. It seems like a lot, but it doesn’t take long to get cold when you’re not moving and it’s good to prepare for the worst.
But don’t obsess too much over the what ifs…
At night it doesn’t take long for my brain to leap to ghastly conclusions and start sifting through some pretty unlikely what ifs. There was one what if I forgot though: what if it doesn’t happen? Planning for the what ifs is important but if we dwell on them too much we’ll never do anything.
How do you feel about night navigation ? And what measures do you take to feel and be safe when practising night navigation? Let us know in the comments!
Beyond the Edge Ltd is based in Sheffield two hours by train from London and within easy travelling distance from Manchester, Leeds, Nottingham and other Northern towns and cities.
We are one of the UKs most experienced providers of climbing, walking, scrambling, mountaineering and navigation training courses.
Most of our courses are run in the nearby Peak District National Park which has some of the finest rock climbing, bouldering, walking and hiking in the world.