Friday, 16 October 2009

WGL Day 1 - Night Nav Mares!

Walking Group Leader Assessment weekend had finally arrived. I met up with Andy, the assessor, and the other three candidates; Simon, Ken and Graham, at the Dartmoor Visitors Centre car park in Princetown. We retreated to a cafe, and after a briefing of the weekends activities, some paperwork and a couple of cups of tea, we got ready to head out for day one. We each took it in turn to navigate to a point that Andy asked us to find and we all seemed to be going ok and it was an enjoyable walk.

We got to our wild camp spot about 5pm, on the banks of the river Plym, close to one of the best preserved stone rows on the moor and a huge cairn called Giant's Basin. After dinner, and once it was dark, we then wandered off for the night navigation part. I wasn't particularly looking forward to it as I had never done it before.

It turned out to be a bit of a nightmare when it came to my leg. All was going so well; I had been assigned a cist (small bronze age burial chamber) to find close to Drizzlecombe stream on Dittsworthy Warren, and I got us close, no problems. I then headed off along a wall of an old building, to find my attack point at one corner, where I could take a bearing to the cist, a couple of hundred metres away on the other side of the stream. I reached the attack point, took my bearing and descended down to the stream. I crossed it, then began making my way up to the other side. It was then that I realised, nobody was behind me! I turned around and there were no torchlights.. nothing! My first mistake; so much was I concentrating on getting to the target, I just assumed they were following as we had all done on everyone elses legs! They thought I went off to check something when I climbed onto the wall. Instead, they had all stopped, turned out their head torches to have a chat and look at the stars!

I called out and they switched back on, I turned back to meet them as they came down to the river, but my second mistake was that unbeknown to me they weren't actually standing where I made my attack point. So now I was out of position! To add to the confusion, to my right I saw two more lights! "What the hell were they doing over there?" I thought! Turned out to be other walkers wandering the moor! I was completely confused! When they had caught up with me, I continued up on the bearing I had set, which by now was the wrong one, and suffice to say we were nowhere near the target.

Decision was made to return to the attack point and try again. This was when I realised that they were standing somewhere different but I was too tired to argue so we took a bearing from there. This time, the river crossing was more difficult, and once again we veered from our bearing to get over it, so when we paced to what should have been the cist, we were 30 metres wide of the mark. By then, I had had enough! We finally spotted Andy sitting with his legs in the cist, a small hole no more than a metre square!

I was relieved to be getting back to the tent, but I can't say I slept much, reliving the whole nightmare!