This was not so bad; it provided verification we had taken a wrong turn and just needed to retrace our steps back up the hill. Some of the group disappeared into the bushes amidst mumbles of “This looks right”.
This looks right soon showed its true colours, being completely wrong.
We returned to the gate for a quick discussion. No-one had a map, no-one had a compass and only two or three of us knew how to use one. There was a GPS on offer but, again, no-one knew how to use it, including the owner!
It may sound obvious but you cannot get lost if you know where you are. This mantra was drummed into me many times ten years ago on an introduction to navigation course in the Lake District. The instructor’s point was simple – always concentrate on knowing where you are through regular checks on the map and landmarks. If you know your location, then the bearing and distance to the next checkpoint is easy. If you lose track of your location, especially in mist and dark (the two worst combinations), then it has the potential to be downright dangerous.
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We were in familiar surroundings, our local hills, and from previous experience we knew that our destination was only one mile away. As head torches swept our environment, as mutterings intensified and as more stubble was scratched we realised we were totally lost.
Soon, the expected calls of “Let’s try up here” or “maybe it’s this way” surfaced. We checked the limited maps on our phones to confirm that our little village was merely one mile away to the east. Despite a majority verdict in favour of the smartphone, I disappointed them by asking what was between us and our destination, for the screen offered a map of little detail. Blank looks all round.
‘Yes, it is that way,’ I confirmed. ‘But there could be a lake, two forests and a cliff face – it won’t tell you that. ’