NNAS Navigator courses: Come out the weather’s yucky! Why winter is the time to train in navigation

Hills of Hame has been able to deliver NNAS Bronze and Silver National Navigation Award courses for a while as an independent provider but it took being confined to Edinburgh during the period when travel was not possible to give me the time to think about course delivery in the local area. We’re fortunate to have a plethora of fixed orienteering courses and large parks to go over the basic elements of navigation and then there are the Pentlands just over the bypass, where the terrain becomes suitable for the more advanced off-path navigation that is part of the Silver syllabus. By basing courses close to where many people live, it is also possible to reduce the travel time for people and offer the option of active travel to and from courses.

Nav voucher
If a formal qualification course is not what you’d like, Hills of Hame can offer less formal skills courses too!

You can find out more about the syllabus for the courses on the NNAS website and a sample breakdown into sessions here. The syllabus elements are always covered but the ordering and breakdown of sessions can be quite flexible. With the continuing concerns about COVID, I’ve also found using Zoom to replace any elements that might be delivered indoors works quite well and allows me to make effective use of other resources, such as the versatile slide sets that Mountain Training offer, based on the illustrations in their course books. I recently worked with an aspirant Summer Mountain Leader and found it particularly helpful to be able to refer to a copy of ‘Hillwalking’.

Which course is for me?

Firstly, I will emphasize that NNAS Navigator Awards are personal skills courses. Participants are NOT being trained to lead groups; that is the remit of Mountain Training and other National Governing Body courses. However, the emphasis on a NNAS course is on training, rather than the assessment. So it can be an excellent supplement to training for those preparing for assessment.

NNAS have published a handy comparison table for the different levels of Navigator Award. Bronze is the most widely applicable award, as it involves navigating on paths (by foot, bike, horse or other appropriate mode of travel) or other defined routes (e.g. paddling a canal network on a stand-up paddle board). This is the entry-level qualification and the base of the qualification ladder. Silver is the next level up and only appropriate to travel on foot, as it combines off-path travel with the ability to carry out much more detailed analysis of contour features. As a qualified HML moving towards ML, I will be attending a Gold course in January to benchmark and improve my own skills. And get a CPD point! Gold Awards are only delivered by a specialist subgroup of providers who have demonstrated considerable experience and undergone further training to deliver this award.

If it ain’t raining, it ain’t training’.

“Ah, the nights are fair drawing in,” is a conversational line in Scotland. Short winter days are a big challenge in the high hills but in the rolling, medium sized hills the challenge can be ‘just right’. It is possible to train in darkness quite early on and the weather can be challenging too, with low cloud. Thus a course can offer a highly realistic, testing training environment that can be lacking on the long summer nights. Having been out on a peer-led MTA Night Navigation workshop recently, I can attest to the value of poor visibility navigation exercises as this time of year in pathless moorland terrain.

Next scheduled Hills of Hame courses (sorry 18 and over only due to AALA restrictions)

Bronze: Six places available on January course dates TBC

Silver: Two places left on course 29th to 30th January 2022. Book here

I am a palaeobiologist in my early 40's carrying out research work. I am based in Scotland.

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Al is a Hill and Moorland Leader and has also completed the Expedition Skills module
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