Quality Mountain Days
                                                                 & Advanced workshops

Taking and Following a Compass Bearing

Taking the correct bearing from the map
Any inaccuracy in taking the bearing will be magnified when you follow it on the ground so it is important to be as precise as possible. It’s good to have a firm surface to lay the map on so you can hold the compass firmly in place – sitting down or using one knee works well (Photo 3). Before placing the compass on the map, estimate what the bearing will be (from your location to the feature you want to go to). No need to do this in degrees, the cardinal points will do i.e. North; South; East; West or NW; SE etc. This will alert you to the embarrassing and potentially serious error of lining up the compass in the wrong direction or along the wrong grid lines – getting into this habit will mean that your bearings are always double-checked.  
Place the compass on the map with the Direction of Travel arrow pointing in the direction you want to go and then line up the edge of the baseplate with your location and the feature you want to go to (the magnetic needle has nothing to do with taking a bearing from the map and you don’t necessarily need to be anywhere near the area covered by the map when you take a bearing). You can also use the lines which run parallel with the edge of the baseplate – it is often easier to see the detail on the map more clearly by using these lines (Photo 5).
Once you have lined up the two points, press the baseplate firmly down on to the map to keep it in place (this is why it is useful to use your knee). Rotate the compass housing so that the north arrow points to north on the map (ignore the magnetic needle).

Make sure the lines within the compass housing are parallel to the eastings (the eastings are the Grid Lines which point north – they are called the eastings because they are numbered from west to east). Check that you have accurately lined up:-
Fig 5: Using the parallel lines on the baseplate to take a bearing 

1.   Your location on the edge of the baseplate (or a line parallel to the edge of the baseplate)

2.   The feature you want to go to on the edge of the baseplate (or the same parallel line as in (i) above)

3.   The lines within the compass housing are lined up with the eastings, pointing to north on the map 

You now have an accurate Grid Bearing. Take the compass off the map and note what the bearing is. You can read it at the cursor which is in line with the Direction of Travel arrow. Be careful not to dislodge the bearing by allowing the compass housing to rotate unintentionally.

Important: Participation Statement

Climbing, hillwalking and mountaineering are activities with a danger of personal injury or death.
Participants in these activities should be aware of and accept these risks and be responsible for their own actions and involvement.

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