Key Points


Every year, tourists, walkers nad climbers get into trouble on the Scottish Hills due to errors of navigation. If you intend to go into the Scottish Hills, even the low ones, it is essential that you plan the walk using appropriate maps of the area.

Work out roughly how long the walk you have selected should take - this will depend on your fitness and the capability of the weekest member of your party along with a number of other factors:

Plan Ahead!

If you are inexperienced and/or you do not know the area, seek local advice about the route Get instruction and learn how to use a map and your compass, starting in easy conditions and practicing until you are competent in bad weather. Use a compass with a long base plate that is easy to read and well damped. Silva UK produce a good compass as well as other nvigational aids. Before leaving you may want to take note of crucial bearings you may require on the walk. You should also plan an alternative route incase of unexpected conditions or emergencies. Remember, don't feel obliged to carry on - it is safest to turn back early. If you leave details of your routes with a responsible person before you leave, make sure you contact them on your return.

On The Hill…

While on the hill, even in good visability and on paths, pay attention to the map and be sure of your position. Do not wait until you are lost before you use your map and compass - it could be too late!

Poor Visability

If mist or cloud begins to close in, note the ground features, estimate their position and distance from you and judge how long it will take for you to reach them. Use timing and pacing to help you. Pay particular attention to contours and try to stick to your chosen route. Take extra care when leaving summits of where ridges meet. Gross errors are made here and when descending in poor visability. Many parties become separated or lost at this phase.

When lost…

If you become unsure of your position, either retrace your track to the last known position or head in a direction that will take you back on course if it is safe to do so. If completely lost, stop and consider which is the safest way of the mountain. Use the compass to travel carefully in that direction, using the map and ground features together until you recognise features and relocate yourself.

Winter Conditions

Some of the most exhilarating mountain days can be had in winter, but it is wise to obtain extra instruction in the skills of using ice axe and crampons. Keeping track of where you are on snow covered ground and in poor visability needs a high degree of navigational skills and much practice to be successful. Unfortunately, winter tragedies are caused by prople straying onto dangerous ground or falling through cornices. When 'whiteout' conditions develop due to snow being blown about and cloud, it is easy to become disorientated and extremely difficult to navigate.