> 2009 NAV4 Symposium - Jamie Wilkinson

14/15 Feb, Longsleddale

The inaugural NAV4 Symposium for me began with a navigation exercise in itself finding the Longsleddale Outdoor Pursuits Centre in Cumbria. Arriving a little before 8 on the Friday evening (I would have been a lot earlier but was looking for something more obvious then 6 inches of hazard tape tied round a fence to indicate the track to the centre!), Joe and Louise were the only others so far. Dave and Val Atkinson soon arrived along with a few other adventure racers ready for the weekend. The plan was very much for a casual weekend, I was there specifically for a navigation session, but some were just taking the opportunity to explore maybe a lesser known and visited area of the Lakes with some training runs combined with some navigation.

The area had been used for the 2005 KIMM and also in last year's Open 5's December event so Joe had plenty of marked-up maps for people to make use of. On the Saturday morning several more bodies joined us, Chris and Jan Little, Katherine Davis and several more adventure racers, those who hadn't met before soon finding a common theme.

I had opted for an intermediate session, so was teamed up with a guy called Andy, a keen mountain biker and adventure racer from Chester, and we left around 10am with our instructor for the day, Peter. We were up on the hills for a good 5 hours, Peter focusing on mountain marathon tactics, spotting and using features, strategy planning and learning to think from the point of view of the organiser, why have they put the control there? Always assume they are being devious! It was a great learning experience in a very controlled environment, Peter was extremely knowledgeable and was a great source of information, encouraging questions constantly.

There was another group out also doing navigation exercises whilst Dave, Louise and Mick spent the day out running (with an indeterminable amount of time spent in a café!), so everyone had been busy. That evening turned into a talk first by Joe into kit selections, equipment and nutrition before turning into an open debate, almost everyone having their point of view and opinions. For me it was great, a wealth of information and experience from people who have done everything from mountain marathons and all manner of adventure races to BG's and Ultra's, so much more precious than reading from a website or magazine. James Thurlow, the organiser of the Open Adventure racing series, joined us and gave everyone an idea of what it takes to organise his events. He was subsequently grilled by many of the audience and was very forthcoming about the issues he has to deal with.

On Sunday morning everyone was keen to get out for a run so using the 2005 KIMM long score map we set off to hit a few controls to drill home some more navigation experience, and while we had Joe and John Allen it was the perfect opportunity. It became very clear that everyone has their own approach, their own strategy as several times the group split but always arriving at the same point. The weather turned from lingering cloud when we set off to fantastic sunshine as the second half of the run followed the route of the Kentmere Horseshoe from Harter Fell.

Things began to wind up and by 3 everything was packed up. By all accounts Val outdid herself while we were out on the hills, making sure the Centre was a lot cleaner than it had been even before we arrived!

A fantastic weekend, a real insight into not only the art of navigation but how each individual has a unique approach. And most importantly I feel, the confidence to trust your skills and know you can find that control or in extreme circumstances, get yourself out of trouble and safely off the fells.

Jamie Wilkinson

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