Association members get to know their GPS's

It’s a small and generally misunderstood creature, bright yellow in colour and usually found lurking in the bottom of my rucksack . . . or hiding in a Random Dry-Bag of Stuff as it was last weekend which meant I was last to arrive for the start of the workshop on Saturday, oops! GPS workshop 1 It is of course my trusty GPS receiver; the etrex 10 to be precise. It’s a basic model, but on those clag-ridden poor vis days I’m always happy to have the little yellow unit stashed away, ready to give me a grid reference on those occasions where I’d just like to check if I actually am where I think I am. I’d always known that it was capable of much more than that and the purpose of this CPD workshop was to show us how to make the most of our GPS units.

Organised by Paul Poole, the MTA Regional coordinator for North Wales, we arrived in Plas y Brenin and met our course tutors, Stephen and Jim from Cotwolds Royal Oak in Betws y Coed. I’m one of those people who has never managed to fully understand the finer points of using any gadget; so Stephen had kindly set up my GPS receiver ready for use before I’d even left the shop when I’d bought it about twelve months previously. I had regularly used the unit to get me a grid reference and to help with pacing precise 100m stretches when I was practising my micro nav skills, but that was basically it.

Ten of us sat in the classroom with skills ranging from similar to mine; to having barely taken their GPS out of the box before. We began with an introduction to the Global Positioning System the networks of satellites that allow us to use our GPS receivers to locate our position pretty much anywhere in the world. Then we looked at the actual receivers in more detail. There was a range of models available for us to use, with the main emphasis being that this was a useful tool to be used in conjunction with a map and compass. We looked at types of receiver, setup, batteries, laptop software and the vast array functions and features which most of us didn’t even realise were possible. They really are handy bits of kit and Stephen and Jim had lots of helpful tips and real life stories / applications to tell us. Admittedly, the feature that made me smile the most was managing to get my GPS receiver to tell me the time - Simple things!

A useful couple of hours later and we had a room full of hungry outdoorsy types - It was most definitely lunchtime and chips and sandwiches were on the menu – ideal after a morning of brain usage!

GPS workshop 3 Waterproofs on, we then headed outside to put our new skills into practise. I borrowed a receiver for this activity so that I could navigate with mapping on the screen. Following a pre-loaded route or inputting / locating waypoints was actually quite good fun and following the on screen compass, or watching your speed and distance covered was really interesting. Stephen and Jim were really helpful; they’d set up a good little practise route and were able to answer all our questions. The only problem they couldn’t solve was how I managed to drain the batteries on every receiver I got hold of . . .

I like the MTA regional workshops. I find that they’re a great opportunity to meet likeminded people and have increased my skills and knowledge. This course was no exception; I learnt so much and had a really enjoyable day. My GPS receiver has now been promoted to the top pocket of my rucksack and I’m glad it’s now going to get a lot more use than previously! As with all good days, this one ended with a lovely coffee with some great friends in a local café. . . . where we talked about hills and stuff! Perfect .



Branwen Mcbride
Mountain Leader Summer