The majority of my early night navigation experience was spent during my time in the Officer Training Corps, where we would tactically trawl across Catterick training area. The main objective here was either trying to locate the enemy and ambush, or try not to be seen by the enemy and, well, hide....sometimes for hours. This is where I first experienced hallucinations, the type you only get when looking into the dark for so long trying to make out just what that shape is, that you begin to see the most ridiculous things. Any other time you would think "this is madness! There is no way that a tank is coming straight towards us" or "I know that I am not really seeing a Native American Indian over near that shrub......it is in fact....just another shrub.... isn't it?”
A quick note: anyone looking to navigate at night I would seriously recommend taking a night navigation skills course as it is different to navigating during the day and is a great skill to have if you get caught out in the dark on the hills. Also, like everything, practice makes perfect, so do a number of night navs in familiar, well tracked terrain, where you have an easy point of exit should things get dicey.
On this particular evening the weather conditions were perfect with clear skies a near full moon, though it was the coldest it had been in a long time, with a chilly wind exposed on the ridge. The OS Map was ‘265 Clwydian Range’ though the grid ref could be anywhere on the map, but I hazard a guess that they would choose a location on the range itself, so headed towards the car park Bwlch Penbarra.
Having no idea where they would be I decided to make my way up towards the Jubilee Tower just before the 7pm when the Grid Reference was to be published via the DAS facebook page.
Checking my map once again I made my way in the direction of the grid reference only to discover I was going across heather that was slowing down my process. With a bimble here and a few ‘flat on face’ falls I decided to head east to pick up a path before re-entering the heather again. This unfortunately was to become my folly as though it enabled me to run faster, it also meant that it added time on my approach to destination. As I began the run, skip and jump across the heather again, I noticed a light, which could only belong to a head torch. With a sudden rush of adrenaline I thought ‘that must be the guys from Denbigh Amy Surplus store at the destination. I’ve found it and in good time’ and picked up pace. It was only as I approached that i saw a couple more head torches and heard a group of voices....yup, sure enough I arrived at the destination to discover that I had been beaten by a group of three lads. And by only 4mins!!
Once back in the car, with warm clothes on and the heating turned up I thought about the night navigation and how much I enjoyed it, from the skill of map reading in the dark, to the tactical thinking that it brought out in me. So I didn’t win, but for me taking part in these DAS Resilience challenges is not just what it is about. It gets you out on the hills and challenges you to use your skills whilst adding an element of competition, whether it is with the other contenders or just with yourself. The guys who organise it are great and it is always a pleasure to catch up with them and meet other folk. Throw in a bit of adrenaline and excitement whilst waiting for the Grid Reference to be published and you have got an all round awesome challenge that is DAS Resilience!
And my mantra, which is often said at the end of these challenges.....’Next time it will be mine’!