Colorado Mountain Club – Hiking Navigation Class

CMC Boulder Map and Compass Class

On Sunday, I took a Colorado Mountain Club Hiking Navigation Class (Featuring Map and Compass skills). It had been 10 years since I had training and I thought it was time to have a refresher. Most of the mountaineering I do is out in the west, where there are expansive and uninterrupted views and generally predictable weather. It is very easy for me to gauge direction when I have such incredible line of sight, know how to make and read beautiful TOPO maps, and I avoid going out in extreme weather. However, if I suddenly had no GPS (batteries run out or the signal is degraded/non-existent) and I find myself in a heavily forested areas, or in severe weather, navigation using old fashioned map and compass techniques is essential.

Map and Compass Instructors
Hiking Navigation Instructors

The hiking navigation class offered through the CMC is very affordable. For $45, it includes 2 classroom lectures, one optional point plotting practice session, and a full day field trip. The instruction is first rate as lectures are given by experienced mountaineers to a small class size. Questions and class interaction are encouraged. Out in the field, there was a lead instructor and two assistants, so every student got personalized assistance with the exercises. I thought the class went really well and I’m glad I took the class.

Map and Compass Students Orienting the Map
To start off, we learned how to orient the map to the surroundings.

One of the Mapped Points
Next, we had to find points, given descriptions, such as “point #2 is at 35 degree bearing and 800 ft from point #1”. The points were actually marked in the ground and some were underneath shrubs It was not at all obvious, from a distance, that you had the right spot. (See the picture above at a close up of a point!).

Wooden Waypoint 10a
Waypoint 10a was tricky to find!

Success, We Found the Rocky Outcropping
This rocky outcropping was a little easier to find!

Jill and Clare Ready for Basic Rock School
We took a lunch break at the rocky outcropping. Here are Jill and I, hanging out on top!

View North from the Crag
View North, from the rocky outcropping.

After lunch, we found a few more waypoints and concluded the field trip with a recap discussion of the skill we had learned.

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