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Kindle Books

20 Yorkshire Walks with only one map OL21

Kindle book - My Lanzarote. 10 walks and a personal view

Kindle Book And A Pub For Lunch

20 Walks in the Yorkshire Dales with only one map OL2

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 Getting Lost

It is a fact of life that sooner or later you will get lost on a walk. “Lost” is a relative term and obviously there is a big difference between taking a minor wrong turn in good weather in a farmer's field and having not the slightest idea where you are in low cloud on a mountain top with night or inclement weather approaching.

There is no hard and fast rule about what to do when “lost” as it depends very much on circumstances and equipment. There are different sources of advice but I thought it might be useful to use the word “LOST” itself as an acronym to guide consideration of the situation in the right direction.

Linger - i.e. Stop - and relax.

Do not keep wandering on which might make the situation worse and above all do not panic. Remaining calm is essential to planning the best solution. Don’t agonise about why you are lost (unless knowing where you went wrong  helps identify a specific known location) and don't fall out with companions. Its too late! You are where you are!

Observe - look around you.

Can you recognise any landmarks in relation to the map? Shapes of fields, clumps of trees, roads, distinctive mountains, river bends etc can all help. It might help if you turn the map so significant features are in the same relative position as what you can actually see. You can judge this with a compass.

In what direction should you be heading – and are you? Check the compass or even the sun if visible as according to the time of day, you can expect the sun to be towards the east in the earlier part of the morning, west in the later afternoon and generally towards the south at other times (in the northern hemisphere!).

If you point a the hour hand of a watch at the sun, south will be half way between 12 o'clock and the hour hand.

Moss grows on the north side of trees in the shade.

If you have a GPS receiver (or appropriate mobile phone) it will give you an OS reference for where you are and you can work out from the map the best direction. However remember that GPS readings can be unreliable under trees or where cliffs etc can block the signal so ensure there is an open view of the sky.

You might see advice to follow a stream as it will flow downhill and guide you to lower level safety. It will certainly guide you downhill but beware. It might plunge over a cliff. This is only last resort advice!

Remember that in poor visibility without a reference point or use of a compass, you will walk in a circle as one leg will be dominant.

Stay on clear paths.

A path is likely to lead somewhere. If you go “off piste” without a clear knowledge of where you are going or a landmark to head for you could become more lost than you were in the first place.

If darkness is falling and you know you have no hope of reaching sanctuary in daylight, staying where you are until morning might be the best option as long as circumstances and equipment will enable you to stay adequately warm and dry. The prospect of an uncomfortable night on the fells in itself, is not a reason to call out the Mountain Rescue. They have problems in the dark too! If you have a mobile phone signal, let someone know what is happening to avoid them calling the emergency services. Better still, avoid becoming benighted by allowing sufficient daylight time for your walk. See Walking Time Calculator.

Trackback – i.e. retrace your steps to a point where you knew where you were.

Recalculate your route using the map and compass or even return to your starting point the way you came. The best of these options is probably going to depend on how far into the walk you are, distance to the end, time of day etc.

 All information on this site is given in good faith and no liability is accepted in respect of any damage, loss or injury which might result from acting on it.