Ardnamurchan GPS Treasure Hunts

Some WARNINGS & TIPS:

The GPS system is operated by the US government and they could alter its settings thus causing inaccuracies in readings - without warning. Military exercises/sites can block signals also. Although alterations are unlikely; be on guard and prepared to use traditional navigation.

A GPS unit is more likely to cause trouble if you run out of batteries, lose it or break it.

Auxiliary antenna. Most needed when using your GPS in the car boat cabin or indoors. Check for availability with the manufacturer. The "active" type is best.

Receivers (GPS units) can only show you where you are after moving a bit.

Accuracy: Generally good. It helps to wait a short time at a point, before recording it. Accuracy can also be distorted a bit by echo signals deflected by near by cliffs or steep hillsides.

Sometimes when walking a set route and you are near your next point the receiver will show you the direction of the next point, yet you have not reached the one you are aiming for.

Some useful items:

Walking speed varies from 2 kph over rough mountainous ground to 4 kph for easier going. To measure distance on a 1:25,000 scale map take a piece of parcel string and mark it with a felt pen every 4cm. put the string along your route and count the marks. Each mark represents 1 km.

Always have a map, compass and watch as backup. Set your GPS to magnetic North to match your compass readings.

You will need a rain proof note book and writing tool to record features such as intersecting tracks, burns, prominent rocks etc and a watch with which to record starting time and time to each feature and any time spent stopped and where.

GPS set up

I use:

Time zone:- Other & UTC offset for time of year.
Location:- hddd*mm.mmm'
Map datum:- WGS 84.
Units:- Metric

ALL Point references are in GPS format:-

A mixed minutes/decimal format which is becoming the standard for GPS equipment. All values are positive; the hemisphere is indicated by 'N' and 'W'. Minutes are attached to the degrees of the coordinates, while seconds are expressed in decimal format with the minutes.

GPS courses show from point to point in a straight line. It is usually impossible to follow this line all the time as you will run up against obstacles. Pick your own way between points. If in doubt as to your ability to complete any section, take an easy way round (my old dog is expert at this). Your GPS unit is there to help you not to rule you. Distances and time if taken from track readings will be spot on but when measured, point to point will not relate to walking distance too accurately.

Mostly challenging cross country walking, possibly with short scrambles but no climbing. We have one phenomenon which must be kept in mind and that is flooding of the burns. The water level can rise very quickly. It could make trying to cross hazardous. It may require you to making quite a long diversion in order to get to a bridge or safe crossing. Fortunately they also recedes quite rapidly also (as with fog), a few hours wait may be unavoidable. Reed beds generally have deep water and should be avoided.

Bogs can also have dangerous spots and should be crossed with great care - if in doubt go round. Snow will slow you down a lot allow plenty of extra time, it is difficult to judge what your footing will turn out to be - so test before using. Walkers should have one experienced walker with them, be fit and to have used their foot ware / kit recently while in training and so know all is in order.

Dangers

* Check the weather forecast also physically as you go.
* Watch out that you do not slip and fall.
* Watch out for deep holes associated with small streams / boggy areas and hidden by vegetation also between rocks.
* Check with tourist office about possible deer stalking activities
* Do not go if it is likely to be foggy or icy.
* Always aim to get to your destination well before dark.
* Be aware that any creature can be dangerous.
* Gale gusts can blow you off balance.

Practical navigation tips:

Whether working without or with a GPS unit. Plan ahead. Look well ahead in the direction you wish to go. Pick a distinctive landmark at the head of the best looking trail ground. Watch it well and as it disappears from view use a substitute in the foreground until visible again. Note distinctive features as you go and look back at the trail you have followed, frequently, in case you have to return the way you came.

A fine strategy where you can see around but in a forest you look for the best way ahead and try that. If you find the way impossible, go back to where you were or further and try another path. Working from "Dot to Dot", ( from interesting - land features and rock/stones, tree/trees, flower, group of bracket fungi etc etc). You need a good memory to remember these natural sign posts, so that if you have to retrace your steps you can. Because GPS units have restricted vision of the satellites from within a forest or ravine etc their use is limited in these places.

Do not rush on, go steadily at all times. Pace yourselves. Start more lightly dressed or with jackets etc open, as body warmth soon builds up, and take other warm garments, gloves, hat, sun / protective glasses and waterproofs in case they are needed.

Cold is our major enemy. When it is blowing a gale and raining it will get through even the best clothing. Avoid these conditions.

Have you got:

A first aid Kit.
Spare batteries.
Compass.
Map and one covering a larger area so that you can identify distant mountains etc.
Pocket # marine flashing strobe / torch. ( will last many hours, Obtainable at most boat chandlers for about £15 ). .
Snacks & drink.
Mobile (Mobiles will not work in areas sheltered by the hills but will often work from higher altitude).
If fishing use a life jacket.

A good walking stick, not one of the modern telescopic jobs - Instinct put me in position to catch one man who's telescopic stick folded. Traditional sticks need reach, a convenient height on which to steady your binoculars or camera and have an antler " ice axe type hook ", with which to pull yourself out of a bog, up steep ground or to dig in if sliding.(take care not to fall on the point)

Leave details of your walk with someone who will be on call & leave that persons contact details visibly in the car.

You may need to arrange for someone to pick you up at the end of the trail or drop you at the start.

Please remember the country code.

Walks equipment check list

Binoculars.
Batteries. Spare.
Camera & spare CF card - films.
Compass
Dog, lead. Note: give your dog a broad spectrum worming before visiting the country and again in about 3 months time
First Aid & emergency kit.
Foot wear - used
Glasses - protective & reading
GPS Unit
Rations
Map - OS Maps at a suitable scale (eg 1:25,000)
Mobile Phone
Midge net
Pocket / marine flashing strobe / torch.
Route details
Rain coat & over trousers
Hat
Scarf
Walking stick
Watch
Waterproof note book & pen or memo Corder
Woollens, (spare woollens & towel in car )