Peak Region vs Technology - whole day workshop on GPS

The day dawned cool and misty, and hopes were high for a day of poor visibility, as a dozen enquiring minds (and a dog) gathered at YHA Edale to fathom the mysteries of GPS navigation. The day was put on by Steven Hayes and Jim Bob Derry from Cotswold Royal Oak in Betws y Coed who sponsored the event. Thanks too to Garmin, who lent a selection of GPS devices for the day.

In the classroom we wrestled with the technicalities of navigation theory and practice, and touched on cartography ancient and modern. The hidden abilities of the handsets were revealed; some of the programming is very unintuitive! The usual warnings about it not replacing map and compass were issued, of course. But we were all keen to get the theory out of the way, and move out onto the hill. As many of you will know, you can step straight out of the hostel grounds onto access land on the lower southern slopes of Kinder. so after a sandwich, we moved off, much to the relief of Monty the puppy, who had been very patient in his pen all morning. In fact, the Oscar for most excited entity goes to Monty! When you're about a foot tall, bracken is as challenging as the tropical rain forest.

The mist had cleared, so we had no excuse for what happened next. Experienced navigators, with qualifications up to and including British Mountain Guide, began with a comedy moment crossing the first field. Nobody was bothering to check the line of the concession route, so we ended up off track in a field of inquisitive and frisky bullocks. The landowner wasn't watching, fortunately...

Peak GPS 1 We tried out various settings and functions as we made our way up Ringing Roger, and arrived in the fulness of time on the plateau. We entered waymarks and objectives, and strode purposefully across the groughs (ah, Kinder! Craziest obstacle course in the Dark Peak!), locating points such a the wreck of a WW2 bomber, the top of our descent route, and of course the Trig Point, where Stephen, former OS cartographer, waxed lyrical about the Good Old Days when the surveying was all done by hand. Did you know that the Trig Point isn't the top of the pillar? Deep inside, the sighting channels now sealed, there is a needle. The Point is in fact the point of that needle, which is accurate to the millimetre as a height above sea level. And all done by theodolite. Great fun, and hugely informative.

Huge thanks to Stephen and Jim Bob, to Cotswold for lending them, and Garmin for the use of their kit. And to Ian Morton of Striding Ahead, who found out about the course in the first place, and did most of the hard work handling the bookings.

Stephen Jones
MTA Peak Regional Coordinator

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