Trail masterclass: what to do when you’re lost
Q If I ever find myself off-route with no idea of where I am, what’s the best way to get myself un-lost? John Evans, Basingstoke
Paul says At some point we’ve all been a bit lost; we’ve been chatting to a friend and lost track of how far we’ve gone, or been looking for that path to appear… but it just hasn’t.
Ploughing on usually isn’t the best approach as that’s just building on uncertainty. We may get lucky, or, more often than not, we get that sinking feeling as eventually whatever we see is just not tying up with the map any more. Time for a rethink.
By far the easiest approach is to fire up a smartphone app like OS Maps or the free OS Locate, read off your grid reference and start navigating again. Or you could use the satnav device that has been sitting in your rucksack along with that emergency bar of Kendal mint cake from 2003. Sadly, a ‘gotcha’ with this approach could be flat batteries. Bear in mind that a smartphone out in your
hand at close to freezing temperatures will run flat in two hours using a satnav app, and then you have lost your communications, too, unless you have a charger pack with you. So you always need to know a way to relocate your position using a map and compass. Quick fixes First step is to stop and have a brew and that Kendal mint cake. Think and look around you. Techniques like resection or triangulation are okay, but if you can see a few features to take bearings by, you can probably work out where you are. When you are clagged in with driving rain, or it’s at night, you need an alternative approach. Think what your last known position (LKP) was? What time were you there? What did you last see? What is the ground doing around you now? If you’ve been walking on a bearing, consider walking on a back bearing by turning your compass so the white needle is in the north pointer and heading back the same time and distance from your LKP to find your last fix. If that’s not possible, or you weren’t using a compass, use the following process instead. Elimination & identification
Situation: imagine you’re walking up the path north-west from the lead mine (northeast of Sharp Edge in the maps below) and you’ve lost concentration – then the path. It’s suddenly become less steep. There should have been a junction and a kink in your path, but you are on open moor in clag with no features whatsover that give a hint as to where you are. You think you’ve been wandering on for about 10 minutes...
Follow the six steps below to get yourself back on track.