TRIP: Beginners’ Navigation Weekend, 5-6 May 2007
Nicole St Vincent Welch
Yip Chung (Rita)
The aim of this trip was to provide the opportunity for new members and anyone else interested to learn map reading, compass and navigation skills, and then to put these skills into practise whilst enjoying an easy overnight walk in the beautiful Wollangambe wilderness.
It turned out to be a very popular trip and after weeks of emailing, organising, deorganising and reorganising, Saturday morning came and we were all in cars and on our way to Bell. Fortunately the dates of the trip coincided with a weekend of fine warm weather.
As many among the group had not had any prior navigation experience, we spent some time at Bell station going through the basics before heading off. Yours truly spoke about topographic maps, their scale, what a grid reference is, how to orientate a map and how to visualise common contour features depicted on the map.
Then we all set off with maps in hand into the Wollangambe wilderness, all eyes keenly taking in the surroundings and correlating these with what is shown on the map.
For lunch we sat on top of a high rocky outcrop with 360 degree views of the surrounding country. This was an excellent spot for lunch and also an excellent place to learn how to use a compass. After a bit more of a talk from me on compass skills, everyone practised using their compasses and maps to identify surrounding features and to determine our location on the map. Then it was time to put all these skills together in navigating through the bush.
So the afternoon was spent walking on a designated route. The track we had been following disappeared, we crossed a river, and thereafter our route was that which we chose for ourselves by looking at the terrain and working out the best way to go on the map. Along the way were some spectacular sandstone formations which we climbed for more great views. We navigated to a fork in a fire trail and several new members had a go at leading the way.
By now it was getting late and with only an hour to go before dark, I led the way down a ridge to the camp cave that we wanted to get to by nightfall. As we approached the camp cave I spotted a plume of smoke. Damn! The camp site was occupied, someone was already there! We could be reasonably confident that the campers would not want 19 bushwalkers turning up and crowding out the camp cave, so we started scouting about for an alternative camp site. A little further back was a pleasant area of bush with open tent sites among scattered scrub. This would do perfectly, and there was heaps of firewood! It was for the better anyway, because I had been uneasy about camping a large group of people in the fragile environment of the camp cave. This spot on the other hand was fine. Darkness fell and soon we were all setup and gathered around the cheerful camp fire.
It was a great evening around the camp fire, the sky was clear and full of stars, and a bit later on a large moon rose. At least one person slept soundly that night. Out of one tent began the snoring at around 9:30pm, while the camp fire circle was still in full swing, and the snoring didn’t end until 7 the next morning. A good sleep indeed.
Next morning after all were packed up we gathered to plan our route to our lunch spot. Then we split into 4 groups so that everyone would have a chance to lead. It became a very warm day as we made our way in small groups up a spur and then through some scrub towards our lunch spot. Each group was accompanied by an experienced club member. The lunch spot was a unique feature – a green grassy swampy crater surrounded by heavily weathered sandstone, faceted with many ledges and caves. It was a beautiful place to spend a while perched on top of a pagoda to wait for the other groups to arrive.
This was our rendezvous point where the 4 groups would come together for lunch. Philipp hobbled in with a minor ankle strain, but Kim, our resident physiotherapist, dosed him up with the right pills and trussed up his foot with the right type of bandage, so he was properly attended to. And when he wasn’t looking, we temporarily stole the heavy stuff out of his pack so he wouldn’t have to carry it. He then had no problem making the remaining 3 hour walk back to the car.
After lunch we began heading towards Bell as one group, and there were further opportunities for the new members to lead the pack on compass bearings, and follow the route on the map, finding the way to the best ridge leading back to Bell. Then after a last stop for water, we headed up the ridge back to the cars.
It was a highly successful navigation weekend. It was great to have so many people along who were keen to learn to navigate. Everyone enjoyed the walking in a beautiful part of the Blue Mountains. I think that some people actually learned something too!
Thanks to Marcelle, Cameron, Meredith, Pete and Nicole for their help.