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Sperrins Hillwalking Club
PO Box 45
Cookstown
BT80 8YU

Sperrins Hillwalking Club Navigation Course

18/02/2014

Sperrins Hillwalking Club Navigation Course Day 1 13 members met in Park on Saturday 8th February to participate in the course. The warm up session showed our instructor Shane what he was dealing with (move one chair to the right = crash) but after the initial confusion we got it. Shane realised quite quickly he had a mixed bunch (some experienced walkers and some relative newbies) but rose well to the challenge of our constant questions and after a couple of hours perusing the maps and twisting the compasses, off we went into the wilds of Learmount Forest. It didn't take long to realise that you were better to lift your head from the compass occasionally or you'd put your eye out banging into branches (ok that was me). We navigated our way through the trees, to the "eyelashes" and then took a bearing to a far distant junction that meant a steep climb down a ravine and up the other side. Thoroughly shattered after a half an hour in Learmount we agreed to meet the following week to test our skills on the hills. Day 2 Sunday 16th February, down to 10 members, and after a short debate about where to begin, off along the Altinure Road we headed. Mullaghash was the first challenge. We parked the cars at Map reference 625 025 (please God I got that right) and headed off 150 metres along the road in the direction of Dungiven. We turned right past a small dwelling and veered right up a track which was marked on the map. We had the route planned out and Shane missed no opportunity to enhance our knowledge. We paced out 100 metres to give us an idea of time and distance and made our first marker (fence) easily. From there we took a bearing and again with much learning of millimetres = kilometres and contour lines adding minutes onto our time etc. we struck out and reached the peak in good time. After a lovely tea stop, we decided to head for Barnes Top, and after a slight diversion to visit the historic Finn's Stone, soon found that the descend of Mullaghash and climb to Barnes Top through deep snow took a bit longer than anticipated. We laughed at each other in turn, knee and sometimes thigh deep in snow, but through it all, there was great camaraderie and support. The sun was shining and although cold in the wind, it was a fantastic day for the hills. Compasses and maps were shared and dropped and picked up and argued over but by the time we reached Barnes Top Shane knew he had met an extraordinary bunch of hill walkers. We headed for Knockabane and reached the saddle between the 2 hills for another welcome tea stop. But I've missed a bit. The unforgettable sights of 'one' flying down the snowy slope sitting on a plastic bag and picking up speed like you've never seen and 'Another' following. All agreed that what 'one' had in speed, 'Another' had in technique. I kid you not. In total 6 of us headed down that hill on our rear end on makeshift plastic bag sleighs and it was the highlight of the day. As the weather closed in a bit, and the sun disappeared we descended (after taking our bearing - 342) as quickly as we could, through the still deep snow towards the wee river between Mullaghash and Knockanbane. At this stage, feet were wet, but spirits still high as the snow underfoot changed to the usual mushy and soaked heathery moss that is synonymous with the lower edges of the Sperrins Hills. 10 cheery walkers crisscrossed the river and made our way back to the dwelling on the Altinure Road where Shane told a delighted bunch that we had all achieved our Bronze Navigation certificate and some had even achieved Silver. What a fantastic day - thanks to the committee for organising and subsidising, and thanks to Shane for his expertise.


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