Navigation

Normally the mountaineer can find his or her way using the many landmarks that are part of the alpine scene. During storms and whiteout conditions, however, landmarks disappear, and map and compass skills become essential. The ability to take a bearing from the map and follow it through the mountains,-the art of locating your position on the map by triangulating two bearings taken on prominent landmarks; and the skillful avoidance of hazardous terrain and dead ends through knowledgeable scrutiny of the contour lines on the map are all critical skills.

But total reliance on map and compass is not necessary or even desirable. If there is no map or the compass has been lost, then a finely honed sixth sense, like the one that allows the Polynesians to navigate unaided from island to island across large expanses of open water, comes into its own. We are all born with this instinctive sense of where we are and how to get from here to there, but learning to use it is a long process. This sense is buried by the technology we use in everyday travel, but it can be rediscovered with practice.

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