13 January 2011

Pacing (For Mountain Skills)

Pacing is a technique used for Mountain Skills/Mountain Navigation, generally over distances of less than 500 metres. It's used mainly in bad visibility or for night navigation.

Pacing is knowing the exact distance between point A and point B; then knowing how many footsteps or paces you need to take to cover the distance.

You need a 1:50 000 OSI Map and Silva Type 4 Compass.

Stage 1
1. Using the millimetre ruler of your compass, measure the distance between point A and point B.

2. 1 millimetre = 50 metres
If you measure 6 millimetres, between point A and point B, then the distance is 300 metres, and so on...

Stage 2
1. It's hugely important you begin your pacing from the exact position of point A.

2. When you count your paces, you count every double-step - so every time your right foot hits the ground, that's one pace.

3. Pace for 100 metres, counting your paces in your head, until you reach the 100 metre mark.

4. You only pace in multiples of 100 metres, so once you reach your first 100 metres - stop; count off a multiple of 100 metres on your fingers; begin your second multiple of 100 metres; then your third multiple of 100 metres.

5. Once you've paced three multiples of 100 metres, you should be at point B, which is where you were aiming for.

Stage 3
1. Even in zero visibility, if you know that your pacing has taken you, for example, 300 metres to your point B, which could be a spot height; then you can be reasonably confident your spot height is close by.

2. If your point is not obvious, look around a little (without becoming misplaced), continue on for 50 metres, and also back-track for 50 metres.

Stage 4
What we've skipped so far is how do you work out how many double-paces you need to take to walk 100 metres across the mountains?

This is a different number of double-paces for each person, as each walker has a different leg length and walking style.

1. On typical Irish hillside (not too steep), you need to mark out a 100 metre section. For this use a builders tape ruler, a climbing rope of a certain known length or an experienced Outdoors Ireland instructor!

2. Walk this distance, at your average hill walking speed and taking average-sized hill walking steps. As you walk this measured distance, count how many double-paces you take to arrive at 100 metres.

3. Try this four or five times. Your number will probably be something between 54 and 72 double-paces.

Pacing is only useful when used in conjunction with other Mountain Skills techniques, such as Compass Bearings, Timing and Cut-Off Points.

Timing (For Mountain Skills)
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