How did you learn navigation/topo reading skills? | High Sierra Topix  

How did you learn navigation/topo reading skills?

If you've been searching for the best source of information and stimulating discussion related to Spring/Summer/Fall backpacking, hiking and camping in the Sierra Nevada...look no further!
User avatar

How did you learn navigation/topo reading skills?

Postby miked » Thu Mar 10, 2011 9:01 pm

I'm curious how the expert off trail navigators here went about learning how to read a topo and navigating in the wilderness. Was there a particular source you found helpful? were you guided by others?



User avatar
miked
Topix Acquainted
 
Posts: 20
Joined: Wed May 26, 2010 11:49 am
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: How did you learn navigation/topo reading skills?

Postby AlmostThere » Thu Mar 10, 2011 9:07 pm

I'm not an expert, but everything I learned was from reading things like the OA navigation guide and coursework, either from local resources or from search and rescue.

I find that teaching others really helps me hone the skills and keep them fresh, too.
User avatar
AlmostThere
Topix Fanatic
 
Posts: 1768
Joined: Wed Jun 24, 2009 4:38 pm
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: How did you learn navigation/topo reading skills?

Postby rlown » Thu Mar 10, 2011 9:23 pm

Map skills started in boy scouts (map and compass stuff), but that wasn't as helpful as the basic and advanced seamanship classes taught by the coast guard auxiliary. On the water, you can't always see the rocks, but they had great sections on laying out a course, following it and adjusting as you go.

When i take a map, I generally mark it up with sightings before i go out, so i can refine where i really am in the field.

I admit on trips in heavily wooded areas, i like my gps. The map/compass still come along..
User avatar
rlown
Topix Junkie
 
Posts: 5358
Joined: Thu Oct 25, 2007 5:00 pm
Location: Petaluma and Wilton, CA
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: How did you learn navigation/topo reading skills?

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Mar 10, 2011 9:32 pm

I probably learned a good sense of direction exploring city parks and streets when I was a kid. In the 1960's I started as a climber, not backpacker, and there were few trails that lead to the peaks we wanted to climb! I climbed with an organized group whose elders taught us younger ones how to navigate. My map skills were definitely perfected as a geologist. We not only get formal training in cartogrophy we take underground data from drilling and create topographic maps of rock units below the earth. During and after college I taught for the National Outdoor Leadership School where I learned more about the fine points of micro-navigation. This is not reading a map, rather picking the best route in tough off-trail terrain. As a geologist, I have a real good feel for the general topographic trends based on what type of rock. For example, if you know the joint systems in the Sierra, you can get around a lot easier! To this day, I do not use a GPS- I do not even know how to operate one. A lot of navgation still boils down to a good sense of direction and simply paying close attention to what you are walking through.
User avatar
Wandering Daisy
Topix Junkie
 
Posts: 2610
Joined: Sun Jan 24, 2010 8:19 pm
Location: Fair Oaks CA (Sacramento area)
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: How did you learn navigation/topo reading skills?

Postby paul » Thu Mar 10, 2011 10:11 pm

I pretty much learned it by doing it, although I did read a few things about how to read maps. I'm lucky that I have a good sense of direction and I have a knack for visualizing in 3-D. But as WD says, most of it is paying attention all the time, keeping track of the little details of terrain as well as the big landmarks. Fortunately the High Sierra is the cross-country traveler's Eden, with a lot of easy terrain at or above timberline so you can see where you're going.
User avatar
paul
Topix Expert
 
Posts: 446
Joined: Thu Mar 15, 2007 3:35 pm
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: How did you learn navigation/topo reading skills?

Postby AldeFarte » Thu Mar 10, 2011 10:24 pm

Self taught. I have always been fascinated by maps and geography.
User avatar
AldeFarte
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 215
Joined: Mon Jan 09, 2006 10:46 pm
Location: Eklutna, Ak.
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: How did you learn navigation/topo reading skills?

Postby rlown » Thu Mar 10, 2011 10:48 pm



Ok, I'm playing with this topic and Joseph's topo stuff for the first time, but..

Hypothetically, how would you choose to get to Mattie Lake from Glen Aulin (south on the map)? Mav, you can't answer.

Second question, how would you plan your trip from a topo to get to Virginia Lk (to the North beyond Cold Mountain) from Glen Aulin? I will add that there are trees in the way of everything until you crest out on the second question.

You have to scroll the map around but for some orientation, Mattie is down in the left-hand corner, and Virginia is North of cold mountain. You can change the zoom level with the scroll bar on the upper left.

Might not be much of a test for those that have been there, but it took us 4 tries to get it correct..

Russ
User avatar
rlown
Topix Junkie
 
Posts: 5358
Joined: Thu Oct 25, 2007 5:00 pm
Location: Petaluma and Wilton, CA
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: How did you learn navigation/topo reading skills?

Postby giantbrookie » Thu Mar 10, 2011 10:54 pm

I began as serious topo map geek at a very early age. This plus also being a rockhound (picked up some really nice quartz crystals hiking up Pacheco Peak in 1966 or so at age 7) inevitably led to being a geologist, it would seem. My dad had a lot of topo maps around and I was really fascinated by all manner of maps. One day when I was 6 I looked at topo maps and taught myself how to read them. I recall drawing myself a few cross sections (true scale) to calibrate how steep things were. I started out as a peak bagger, so most of what I did with my dad was off trail except for the approach. The route descriptions in those days were really vague so a lot of studying topo was in order and I did a lot of that both in real planning and daydreaming (much as I do now). I had a hand in some planning of trips by the time I was 9 or so. I recall celebrating my 10th birthday on a Sierra Club trip to Sawtooth Pk and Mineral Pk. From the summit of Sawtooth I pointed out all the major summits in view to the participants (all adults) on the trip, using multiple topo maps (the view from Sawtooth spans several 15' quads). This ended up getting written up in the Loma Prieta peak climbing newsletter Scree and my parents kept a copy in a photo album. My dad, who could read a topo very well, still was the primary route finder between the two of us up until I was 14 after which he much handed all of the planning and route finding duties to me.

My challenge now is teaching others to read topo. I teach students all the time (geology), but haven't ever consistently sat down with Judy and trained her in topo reading. Lee (will turn 9 in April) can't quite do it yet, and I haven't formally tried to train him, but he seems to be picking it up on his own.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
User avatar
giantbrookie
Founding Member & Forums Moderator
Founding Member & Forums Moderator
 
Posts: 2439
Joined: Wed Dec 28, 2005 10:22 am
Location: Fresno
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: How did you learn navigation/topo reading skills?

Postby balzaccom » Thu Mar 10, 2011 11:06 pm

Self-taught, but my family did endless road trips in cars when I was young, and we all loved "reading along" by following the map, planning out the routes, and checking off the highlights as we passed them.
'
From there it was an easy transition to topo maps and backpacking.
Balzaccom

check out our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
User avatar
balzaccom
Topix Fanatic
 
Posts: 1292
Joined: Wed Dec 17, 2008 9:22 pm
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: How did you learn navigation/topo reading skills?

Postby Herm » Thu Mar 10, 2011 11:42 pm

Wandering Daisy;
Your description
Wandering Daisy wrote: My map skills were definitely perfected as a geologist. We not only get formal training in cartogrophy we take underground data from drilling and create topographic maps of rock units below the earth.

is an interesting one, and brought recollections of making fence diagrams, for I too trained as a geologist (BS CSUFullerton 1994).
Herm
I am not in a hurry, so don't be hasty.
User avatar
Herm
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 255
Joined: Tue Sep 14, 2010 8:33 am
Location: Anaheim, CA
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: How did you learn navigation/topo reading skills?

Postby Troutdog 59 » Fri Mar 11, 2011 1:58 am

Self trained as a teenager, but it likely didn't hurt just being around my dad in the outdoors. I don't recall reading topos with my dad, but we used county and forest service maps alot hunting and fishing and I'm sure that helped. Some of the early guidebooks I picked up had 15' topos and elevation profiles and it all just kinda of made sense. Lots of lines = steep, not so many, not so bad.

Like WD, my map reading and making increased in school as I majored in geology (appears to be a common trade on this board :) ). I hesitate to call myself a geologist here, as I have worked in groundwater for years and haven't done any hard rock work or mapping in ages. That said, I still review boring logs and cross sections. And now like GB said, I have been working the last 10 years or so on passing it down to my son (21) who seems to have picked it up well as far as visualizing what he is looking at on the map. Hes the map guy and route finder on his trips with his buds.
If you stand in the light, you get the feel of the night, and the music that plays in your ear......
In your mind you can hear, a voice so sweet and clear, and the music that plays in your head......
As it flows up from the ground, taking all that hear the sound, close your eyes, it’s about to begin.

R. Trower
User avatar
Troutdog 59
Topix Expert
 
Posts: 549
Joined: Thu Dec 23, 2010 12:11 pm
Location: Clovis
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: How did you learn navigation/topo reading skills?

Postby oldranger » Fri Mar 11, 2011 8:03 am

self taught. Somehow I've always been able to navigate in the woods. Always getting into trouble as a kid by heading out on my own. I always knew where I was but for some reason my parents would get upset when I disappeared for 2 or 3 hours at a time. When I started backpacking as a kid the lines on the topo just came to life as real terrain. The concept of declination always made sense and never caused a problem when using a compass. Have so much experience using old 15 minute series maps that I still prefer them. I can sense just when the 80 ft. contours get too close for my comfort. I did find that they do not provide enough info for nw Yosemite as the area has a lot of rock faces that are not very high but create significant barricades to travel.

Russ, what is so hard about getting to Mattie? Did it when I was 15 with another kid. First 4 times I did it was up the canyon walls. Next 3 times was by the stock trail that cuts off the PCT about 1/2 way between Glen Aulin and Virginia Canyon.

Mike
Mike

Who can't do everything he used to and what he can do takes a hell of a lot longer!
User avatar
oldranger
Topix Junkie
 
Posts: 2176
Joined: Fri Jan 19, 2007 9:18 pm
Location: Bend, Oregon
Experience: N/A

Next

Return to Backpacking / Hiking / Camping



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 13 guests