19 August 2017

Learning To Navigate In Forest & Jungle - Lenny Antonelli

In February, outdoor writer Lenny Antonelli travelled down to Glengarriff to spend a weekend undertaking the Forest Skills 1 Course in the woods with Outdoors Ireland.

Lenny and instructor Nathan Kingerlee both wore Portwest outdoor gear to keep them warm and dry on the course during the cold, wet February weather. Outdoors Ireland is a brand ambassador for Portwest.

There’s nowhere else in Ireland quite like the wood-cloaked valley of Glengarriff— it’s one of the few places on this island with woods big enough to really get lost in. So being a lover of Ireland’s woodlands, I was excited to travel here from Galway one February weekend for a course in forest navigation with Outdoors Ireland.

We met our instructor Nathan Kingerlee on a damp and grey Saturday morning, with the spitting rain blowing in from Glengarriff Harbour. After a quick briefing we drove to our start point — a remote road high on the edge of the valley that looked out over the woods.

Our small group of six had all done some mountain navigation training before — now it was time to apply the same skills to the forest. We started with quick refresher in how to take a bearing using a map and compass, and Nathan challenged us to use these skills to find our way to through forest and scrub down to the Glengarriff river, which was somewhere in the valley below, invisible from the road.

Compasses in hand, we crossed swampy bog and crawled through the trees, eventually finding our way to the riverbank, which was thick with rhododendron. Then, deep in the jungle-like terrain, Nathan showed us some other forest navigation skills: like how spiders will usually build their webs to shelter from the prevailing wind, and how to navigate using the sun and wind when deep in the forest.

Later, we hiked to a remote grove of big old oak trees on the banks of the rushing river, and here Nathan demonstrated how to gauge direction by looking at clues from the forest: like which side of the tree the moss is growing on (a technique that’s often cited, but isn’t always reliable), which way the trees are leaning (the prevailing wind may have blown them in one direction), and where on the tree most of the branch growth is (normally on the south side, in the northern hemisphere, which gets most of the sunlight).

He taught us how you can draw a simple, effective compass on your hand if you just know roughly what time it is, and can see the sun.

Later, he brought us into a dense conifer forest, and challenged us to use the techniques we’d learned to head in a north westerly direction. If we navigated correctly, we should should find him at a certain point after about 30 minutes of walking. He asked us, however, not to use the compass technique — to see if we could find him using just the wind and the features of the forest.

We each set off alone, and after fighting through dense forest and tough terrain, I eventually found him on a high bluff overlooking the valley. My bearing had been ok, but far from perfect — and admittedly, I’d also cheated and checked my hand compass at one point when I thought I was lost.

We met up again the following morning in even heavier rain. After a brief workshop session in the Eccles Hotel, we headed out to the woods again to hone the skills we’d learned the day before.

Throughout the day, Nathan brought us to various points around the remoter corners of this thickly wooded valley, each time challenging us to follow an accurate bearing using only the features of the weather and the forest, and each time giving us a few more skills and tips.

In the afternoon the rain eased, and exhausted but full of adrenalin, the sun came out and we watched a white-tailed eagle soar over the valley.

Towards the end of the day, Nathan disappeared into a birch wood near the head of the valley and set a campfire — our job was to navigate to the fire using only the smell of smoke. Once we found him, deep in the birch wood, he blindfolded us and had us see if we could get back to the fire using only its scent. Then he showed us how to make a simple compass by magnetising a piece of iron (such as a piece of barbed wire) and either hanging it form a string or floating it in water.

We rested in the woods as the day came to a close. Then we walked out of the valley through thick green woods.

Being a lover of Ireland’s woodlands, the weekend had been something of a revelation to me. I had gone into it thinking I knew a lot of about the forest, but came out realising I was only beginning to scratch the surface. But I was starting to feel that, even without a map and compass, I could now go out into the forest and get intentionally lost and — even without a map and compass — find my way out again.

18 August 2017

Amazing Wildlife On A Lead Climbing Course

Mature Herring Gull
Mature Herring Gull
Cinnabar Moth
Cinnabar Moth
Cinnabar Moth
Climbers Topping Out On A Lead Climb
Common Field Grasshopper
Young Herring Gull - 1 Year Old
Lead Climber Setting Up Their Anchor System
Red Soldier Beetle Or Hogweed Bonking Beetle

16 August 2017

Mountain Skills 1 In Burren Hills/Galway This Weekend

I have one space left for a Mountain Skills 1, running in the Burren Hills/Galway, this weekend. For more details or to book please contact me on 086 860 45 63. Thanks, Nathan

4 August 2017

Emergency Plaster From Mountain Grass

How To Make An Emergency Plaster From A Common Mountain Grass:
Fionnán Or Purple Moor Grass

This stayed intact on the finger for five hours and survived rope coiling, driving and (careful!) hand washing.

1. Pluck the grass carefully from as low down as possible.

2. Wind carefully and tightly around wounded finger, extending well beyond the wound.

3. Trap or wrap the beginning of the grass under itself.

4. A series of simple round interwoven knots, or clove hitch knot will hold plaster in place.

28 July 2017

Spare Boot Lace Always Handy

Good to always carry two spare boot laces in your backpack (long + heavy duty). Last weekend the sole of a student's boot came away; high in the hills, two hours from our cars. A boot lace wrapped it back up and got him back comfortably.

21 July 2017

Learn To Lead Rock Climb Course - Places Available

Two spaces left, if anyone is interested, in a Learn To Lead Climb Course, running over six days; 27th - 29th Jul plus 3rd - 5th Aug.

Beginner friendly, but intensive course, with all the gear provided.

At the end of this course you will be safe, competent and self-sufficient at bottom roping, top roping, abseiling and lead climbing. This includes the rope work needed for each type of climbing; the set ups needed, anchor placement and climbing techniques.

Block one runs in the Gap of Dunloe/Killarney. Block two runs on Dingle Sea Cliffs/Dingle. Price is €480 per person. For more details please contact Nathan: 086 860 45 63 / info@outdoorsireland.com

20 July 2017


We see a lot of this amazing little carnivorous plant, sundew, in the Irish hills and bogs; however rarely see it in flower for some reason. Here it is in flower - tiny white flowers at the top of each green stalk.

The reason the flowers are held high above the sticky meat-eating leaves is to allow pollinating insects like bees do their flower pollinating without being accidentally eaten by the plant!

15 July 2017

Forest & Jungle & Bushcraft Navigation Skills - DDECKSSS Card

For Mountain Skills we teach Route Card; for Forest/Jungle Skills we teach DDECKSSS. This is a simple page to be carried plus memorized.

D / Direction = What Is North/South/East/West Of Your Terrain
D / Danger = What/Where Is Your Main Terrain Danger
E / Escape = Simple Escape Route – Handrail Ideal
C / Conditions = Prevailing Wind Direction/Weather Forecast
K / Known = Known Point In Your Terrain To Re-Focus/Re-Group
S / Size = Max Length/Max Width
S / Shape = Square/Circle/Triangle/Mess
S / Slope = Approx Slope Aspect

You may need to do our training course for this to make full sense! It ties into Forest Skills 1. Next date is Glengarriff on 21st & 22nd Nov.

8 July 2017

Portwest Malin Jacket

Loving the new Portwest Malin Jacket. Using it as a kayaking jacket at moment.

Super impressed with it's toughness and breathability.

Nice to have a hood to pull up when the heavy summer showers come!

The velcro cuffs fasten in well, the zips are pretty sturdy, a useful chest pocket for compass/phone.

The Portwest breathable system, which they call Ventron, is superb and as good a breathable system as I have found anywhere over the years.

I have not spent much time in the mountains in the past weeks, but I am looking forward to putting it to the test in the Cork, Wicklow and Burren Mountains all in the next month!