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!

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

Postby rlown » Fri Mar 11, 2011 8:39 am

there was nothing hard about getting to Mattie, and it was meant more as a game for those who haven't been there, but that ship has sailed now..



User avatar
rlown
Topix Junkie
 
Posts: 6357
Joined: Thu Oct 25, 2007 4:00 pm
Location: Petaluma, CA
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

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

Postby fishmonger » Fri Mar 11, 2011 9:18 am

self taught at a teen, updated when I was in the military where I quickly became the go-to guy for anything maps in the batallion. All that was pre-digital age.
User avatar
fishmonger
Topix Fanatic
 
Posts: 1001
Joined: Fri Jun 13, 2008 9:27 am
Location: Madison, WI
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

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

Postby Cross Country » Fri Mar 11, 2011 9:51 am

The first year I backpacked the Sierra I was overwhelmed by two obvious facts. If you stick to trails you're only going to see a small fraction of the mountains. Going off trail is much much more of an exploring adventure than sticking to trails. I almost immediately started trying to make sense of topos. I also got some help from Lee Starke. The first time he let me lead the way off trail, I led the group (6) up a ridge on a 1 hour hike that took twice that long. The group was very unhappy with me. It wasn't my last serious mistake. I made at least two more because of overconfidence. It took many years, but like many here I developed an expertise.
Last edited by Cross Country on Sun Mar 13, 2011 7:09 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Cross Country
Topix Fanatic
 
Posts: 1220
Joined: Thu Dec 24, 2009 10:16 am
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

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

Postby oldranger » Fri Mar 11, 2011 10:06 am

Learning by experience is pretty effective. I let my son choose routes quite a bit last summer. It cost me a few hundred feet of extra elevation gain but he didn't get lost and gained experience.

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: 2374
Joined: Fri Jan 19, 2007 8:18 pm
Location: Bend, Oregon
Experience: N/A

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

Postby gregw822 » Fri Mar 11, 2011 10:23 am

I found topo maps to be intuitive from the start. An altimeter, a topo map, pre-trip planning and common sense have served me well. I've never needed a compass, but I carry one (with instructions!), just in case. I have not given in to carrying a GPS.
User avatar
gregw822
Topix Acquainted
 
Posts: 55
Joined: Wed May 06, 2009 2:46 pm
Location: Eugene, OR
Experience: N/A

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

Postby TahoeJeff » Fri Mar 11, 2011 10:27 am

I've been in the Land Surveying profession for 23 years, using the 7.5' quads since the beginning. We use them to locate section and quarter corners, benchmarks and property corners. If you can find a 2" iron pipe using a 7.5' map you can certainly find a lake. Those maps are still my go to.
I use LIBREMAP.ORG to download them for free as TIFF images.
Many of us have been so brainwashed over the years — by sheer repetition, rather than by either logic or empirical tests — that statistical disparities are automatically taken to mean discrimination, whether between races, sexes or whatever.
Thomas Sowell Nov. 24, 2016
User avatar
TahoeJeff
Topix Expert
 
Posts: 706
Joined: Thu Mar 08, 2007 10:03 am
Location: South Lake Tahoe
Experience: N/A

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

Postby Jimr » Fri Mar 11, 2011 1:25 pm

I'm self-taught as well. Maps, from the beginning, I found intuitive and easy to read, plan and navigate. I spent many years scuba diving, so my compass skills were already fine tuned and it didn't take much to transfer those skills to map and terrain. I took a 13 year hiatus from backpacking to raise kids to a reasonable size, then took it up again a few years ago. With the internet, I quickly became amazed and consumed with the trip planning tools available at my fingertips. Once the trip comes, I find it rare to pull a map out, let alone a compass because I have the terrain and the big picture etched into permanent memory. I pulled them out twice last year between Desolation Lake and Lamarck Col. The first was to positively identify that I was on to hit Puppet Pass (Carol Col.) on a day hike into French Canyon and the second was above the highest of the Darwin Lakes to positively identify I was on to hit Lamarck Col. as I didn't want to walk from Sabrina Basin back to North Lake.

I'm obsessed with cross country above treeline, so route finding is just as important to the navigation as map reading and compass skills. I seem to have a knack for that as well.
In our thirst for freedom, we must be careful not to drink from the cup of bitterness and hatred

- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
User avatar
Jimr
Forums Moderator
Forums Moderator
 
Posts: 1621
Joined: Fri Jul 31, 2009 1:14 pm
Location: Redondo Beach
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

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

Postby tomcat_rc » Fri Mar 11, 2011 1:53 pm

While some seem to be hardwired in for navigating, experience will certainly enhance your skills. Even before the days of GPS, I was able to look at a map and decide if I wanted to try a x-country route to reach my destination(or discover alternate). One thing the topo cannot tell you is what type of terrain you will encounter. Often a shorter route has ended up taking longer due to scree or boulder hopping. I still use a map to check my terrain. Rarely have I had a need for a compass although I do carry when traveling in unfamiliar territory. GPS is good for checking terrain location and "waypoints", but you need the skills of map reading to keep from getting in trouble. The internet is full of stories of techno junkies who rely solely on GPS and then find themselves waiting for help in some cliffed out area.

My girlfriend struggles with navigation, but she is getting better with experience. We still laugh about this picture:
Image
mountain hiking is addictive:
I can quit anytime I want - I just choose not to want
User avatar
tomcat_rc
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 343
Joined: Sat Oct 29, 2005 8:05 am
Location: Ridgecrest, Ca.
Experience: N/A

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

Postby maverick » Fri Mar 11, 2011 1:56 pm

I too fall under the category of having a natural route finding and navigation abilities.
It is like having a sixth sense, which is even more in tune when I am in the back country.
I have a compass, because of the mirror on it, but it has never been used.
I could see using it if caught in a white out or fog, then it could come in handy.
Never used a gps even though I have one at home, but have never taken it with me in
to the back country.
I do carry a topo map, but do not use it much for navigation, but for maybe identifying
distant peaks.
We are fortunate in the Sierra that there are enough peaks, rivers, and other landmarks
that make navigation fairly easy.
Now a place like Utah, where dessert, and especially slot canyons, and lack of any
landmarks in some areas would make for a more challenging place to navigate cross
country.
I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
User avatar
maverick
Forums Moderator
Forums Moderator
 
Posts: 9184
Joined: Thu Apr 06, 2006 4:54 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

Postby oldranger » Fri Mar 11, 2011 3:43 pm

Tomcat wrote
Often a shorter route has ended up taking longer due to scree or boulder hopping. I still use a map to check my terrain.


If going into new territory above timberline I now use google earth to scout and make sure I am not planning on going over miles of talus or I just pm maverick!

maverick wrote
I do carry a topo map, but do not use it much for navigation, but for maybe identifying
distant peaks.
We are fortunate in the Sierra that there are enough peaks, rivers, and other landmarks
that make navigation fairly easy.
Now a place like Utah, where dessert, and especially slot canyons, and lack of any
landmarks in some areas would make for a more challenging place to navigate cross
country.


Yes we are spoiled in the Sierra. The terrain is so dramatic that it is pretty easy to navigate if you pay attention. Back when I lived in Maine and now in the Oregon Cascades the thick forests and complex micro topography require a lot more attention to barely discernible squiggles (technical term!) on the map that correspond to slight gullies and ridges on the ground and when the sun don't shine a lot of attention to one's compass which I have never had to do in the Sierra.

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: 2374
Joined: Fri Jan 19, 2007 8:18 pm
Location: Bend, Oregon
Experience: N/A

PreviousNext

Return to Backpacking / Hiking / Camping



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: hkyfsh and 11 guests