For the past two days I have been teaching on a Mountain Skills 2 course with students from the outdoor education course in Colaiste Dhulaigh. The MS 2 course builds on MS 1 and covers the use of a compass, route planning/choice, night navigation, steep ground/scrambling, emergency procedures and looks at mountain rescue services in Ireland.
Day 1 – We started the walk at the Glenmacnass waterfall car park below Tonelagee. We hand railed the Glenmacnass river until we found a suitable spot to cross and then hand railed Lough Brook stream all the way up to the wonderful heart shaped Lough Ouler (Eagle Lake) my favourite Lough in Wicklow. At this point we looked at setting our maps by using features and then setting our maps by using the compass. We made our way up to the col above the lough just as it was getting dark and started working on night navigation.
Throughout the walk we focused on the five D’s
Direction – Compass bearing from A to B
Distance – How much ground between A and B
Duration – How long it should take walking from A to B
Description – What the land is doing between A and B
Destination – What the land should be doing when we arrive at B
We continued over several spot heights and cols and then onto the Brockagh Mountains (Place of the Badger). These hills are ideal for practising pacing and following compass bearings and gave each member of the group plenty of opportunities to become familiar with the skills required to navigate at night. This fantastic walk brought us back down into Laragh. Total time on the hill was six and a half hours.
Day 2 – For the second day we decided to go to Glendalough. The boulder fields and scree slopes are perfect for for putting into practise all of the skills required for dealing with steep ground. The first thing we covered was the definition of steep ground. What is steep ground? Steep ground is somewhere you may not be able to walk comfortably, you may need to use your hands occasionally and remember it should never be too difficult that you might need a rope for support or confidence.
We then went on to cover risk management which requires a lot of personal judgement calls over a variety of terrains. I measure Likelihood and consequences on a scale of 1-5
1 = Minor consequences or very unlikely to result in a fall
5 = Very severe consequences are very probable
Throughout the walk we looked at personal skills, spotting, route choice, objective hazards, group movement/management, types of terrain and descent/ascent on steep ground. Total time on the hill was five hours.