Author Topic: Walking Disaster  (Read 1443 times)

Little Foot

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Walking Disaster
« on: 10:45:58, 19/02/21 »
Ok, this reads like a TR, but there is a point to it being here as looking for advice and reasons I messed up please.

Last year when things were more relaxed, I embarked on more stages of the YWW with my 13yr old son (who wasn't keen on going). We'd already walked to Market Weighton on previous journeys. This time we were walking from Market Weighton to Millington, then Millington to Huggate or Fridaythorpe.

Day one went fine. It was a lovely walk. Straightforward with nice weather and lovely scenery. We stayed at Millington Village Hall, which was £15 each and included breakfast and the use of a full size table tennis set. A great experience to have the hall to ourselves. The only problem was the phone signal being non-existent.

Second day the weather had turned and it was miserable. My dad had a medical appointment in the morning and wasn't sure when he'd be able to pick us up so we carried on with our original plan and started the walk. I didn't receive his text that he was able to collect us that morning until much later.

We left Millington ok, climbing up the steep hill, then along it, another, much faster walker passing us (although I had a large rucksack with tent etc in). We couldn't see any of the view as the drizzling rain clouded around us and was becoming heavier.

Then it started to go wrong. On heading down the slippery hill into a valley I could see the sign for the YWW slightly up the other side and asked my son to go look to see which way it was pointing. He said it was pointing up the hill, going along the valley. We then made the decision to walk along the valley instead. Turns out the valley was going the other way.

Oblivious to the mistake we made our way along what we now call Death Valley, purely down to the amount of pheasant bones littering the floor of it, from the red kites which were circling above. The rain was getting heavier but as I stopped to check my phone's map, which wasn't working very well due to the rain and signal, I spotted something hanging from a tree.

It was a large bird tangled by twine around the feet, but as I approached, it flapped its wings. We must have been around an hour trying all sorts of ways to reach it, but it was just out of reach, and in the meantime we had got colder and wetter. I had the What 3 Words app so that logged the position (despite not having a signal for anything else) and later called the RSPCA with the info who went out and found it, but it had died. It was a pheasant. I thought it was a red kite due to the huge feet and beak lol.

On leaving the bird we headed up the hill, managing to find ourselves back on track (but not for long). We walked along the edge of a high field and came to a gate. Now, I don't know how I managed to get this wrong, and how my version of how I viewed things differs so much from how the map looks, but the sign for the YWW said straight ahead. We carried on seeming to go straight ahead, with a steep slope to the side, working our way along the slippery narrow path but stopped, noticing a bunch of cows blocking our path a short distance away.

Checking my phone map again, we had gone the wrong way again. On passing through the gate, we should have turned left and gone down hill, and when we had gone straight ahead we had in fact turned right. As I said earlier, I really don't see how I made that error but the map doesn't lie and I can only assume I was disoriented by the rain and stress at this point. We then got back on track and I made the decision to follow the road at this point which was slightly longer, but a much easier journey. As you can imagine, by this point my son was extremely annoyed, wet and cold, and I've put him off walking for life.

I've come to the conclusion that my navigation skills are awful and I'm embarrassed at how badly this trip went. I actually avoided the forum for a good while because of it. Can anyone shed any light on why I viewed things one way, but on paper, they are completely different? All I can think of is if things went this badly so close to home on relatively decent terrain, imagine how it could have been in somewhere like The Lakes. My pride has taken a battering.

Here's the maps of where I should have walked, and what we actually walked.
« Last Edit: 10:51:36, 19/02/21 by Little Foot »


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Re: Walking Disaster
« Reply #1 on: 11:13:51, 19/02/21 »
Hi Little Foot

I can't tell from the map where you went and where you should have gone but here are some thoughts.

Being cold, wet and tired is the ideal combination for navigational error. Also it is much easier to navigate if you have someone to talk to and discuss it with, a 13 year old can start to full fill this function. Make him map read now and in a couple of years you can pass over the navigation baton.

The map is tiny and the world is big. I know that's obvious but a path that in reality goes straight on for a very short way and then heads right may well look on the map like a sharp right turn. It is always tempting to follow signs and the path at your feet without checking.

If you want to stay safe and avoid the chance of getting lost then stay under your duvet and don't venture out but nothing major went wrong. You got to then end of your walk in the right place at the right time. You are both OK and will remember this walk for much longer than many others.

I had a scary experience when my son was about 9 and my navigation went horribly wrong, I check the map all the time now. Well I did until I made it his problem.


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Re: Walking Disaster
« Reply #2 on: 11:23:17, 19/02/21 »
It sounds to me like you have identified why you made the errors - weather and stress.  But please don't avoid the forum just because you took a couple of wrong turns - if we all did that the forum would be empty.  Mrs pdstsp and I lost the sea on the SWCP on a sunny day! :-[   And it sounds like the first day and the night in the Church Hall will live long in both your memeories for all the right reasons.

One small piece of advice is that, if you are using a phone app on which you have plotted the route, have a look at this as you approach the junction - it is often easier to recognise the correct direction in advance, as you are moving toward the stile or gate.  One thing that GPS Training recommended in an on-line course I did was to plot the change in direction slightly before or after the actual junction - they seemed to think this helped with clarity.

However, once you suspected you had gone wrong you did the right thing - checking other sources and then retracing to get back on track. Sometimes you may need to stop and look around you and then work out where you are, rather than making the map fit in with where you think you are.

It's a shame that your son has been put off - I wonder if the pheasant had been saved he might have thought exactly the opposite, but I am sure a couple of sunny days would get his mojo back!

One F

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Re: Walking Disaster
« Reply #3 on: 11:32:30, 19/02/21 »
Don't beat yourself up too much, we've all made navigational errors and I've probably made more than the 'average'. It happens and in the majority of cases we have enough knowledge, or in my case at times luck, to be able to correct the errors, as indeed you did with getting back on track and taking the road. I would have been happy to have found the right way eventually, even if it meant tarmac bashing and more miles.

Ridge has a good point about your son - book on a navigation course (both of you) and then let him have shared responsibility with the route finding. It's never too late to learn from a professional and I didn't make it, to my shame, onto a proper navigational course for years and years - plus I went awol on the course too (now that was embarrassing).

My only other comment would be, what did the compass tell you about your direction of travel?


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Re: Walking Disaster
« Reply #4 on: 12:45:29, 19/02/21 »
I'll embed the photos to make it a bit easier for everyone:


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Re: Walking Disaster
« Reply #5 on: 12:58:34, 19/02/21 »
For someone who runs a walking website, I suppose I could be expected to know what I was doing and never take a wrong turn. Donít you believe it. All I can say is I make the mistakes so you donít have to! We all do it. Donít feel bad about it. As far as I can tell from the maps, you were not that far out.

To be honest these days, I use a very basic GPS receiver with routes I have pre programmed with mapping software. In theory, all I have to do is keep the little character on the line and job done. However even then, paths donít always seem to be where you think, not exactly as the map or you think you are OK for a while and pocket the receiver, only to find when you look that you have missed a turn. Unless you have a very expensive GPS receiver with detailed 1:25000 OS maps installed, you can finish up not knowing exactly where you are, though they will all give an OS reference which you can relate to a proper map which you will of course have with you!

Lots of people rave about using their phones but as you have found, there can be problems.

In many ways, the best way of avoiding wrong turns is to use a proper OS map and refer to it frequently so you always know where you are relative to landmarks, field boundaries etc. In inclement weather, this means keeping it in a map case.

I find if leading a walk, the main contributor to taking wrong turns is distraction. But if you canít chat with your mates, whatís the point?

Overall, however you navigate there will always be times when you go a bit wrong and there is little point worrying about it. The main thing is, whatever navigation tools you use, refer frequently to them so you minimise any backtracking. Oh, and donít go over any cliffs!


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Re: Walking Disaster
« Reply #6 on: 13:22:25, 19/02/21 »

- Everyone makes mistakes.  Learn from them and this experience should be classes as a success (a lesson!).
- GPS is not a replacement for navigation skill, they are an assistant.
- Touch screen phone with GPS in poor conditions makes for an unreliable navigation tool. 
- Make sure you plot the route on Viewranger before heading out, so if you head off course it should be blatantly obvious.
- Get your son involved with the navigation, he's 13 and capable of it.  If you don't want to be involved, my family rule is you don't get to complain.  He is not 'getting an experience from you' he's taking part in an experience alongside you. 

What it seems you did:
- Doesn't seem like you were paying attention to what you expected to see in front of you
- Doesn't seem like you had a compass with you / didn't use it as you were walking almost 90 degrees out from your intended route.  Even a basic compass is very useful when confirming the path you are on is running in the direction you expect it to be going. 
- Reading between the lines you mentally may have not realised you were at a 'decision point' and just kept going on a path with roughly the same steepness and avoided the descent/climb, until you hit the end of the valley and were forced to pull your phone out to re-orient yourself.

Techniques to think about:
- When navigating you want to break the journey down and identify 'decision points', such as when you go through a gate which way do you turn.. this is when you want to look at what you expect to see in front of you (in the case of your second error, downhill path with the river immediately to your left).  Once you were facing east with a rising valley in front of you and no river, this should have set off alarm bells.
- You have some great features to navigate from, fence lines, linear topographical features (rivers! always great), woods etc.  It seems your next step might be to start putting these together in your mind 'Okay, so here's the gate, what do I expect to see in front of me?  What should be to my right? Should the fence line be behind me or stay alongside me?'

As a rule the poorer the weather, the more I want to be looking at my map and memorising some of those decision points.  Particularly if I'm taking a group out, I want to know I'm where I think I am.  When I get to a point I'll take a bearing, visualise the route, get them to take a rest if you wish whilst you confirm you are where you think you are.  On navigation courses you're often asked to give three reasons why you are where you think you are and this encourages you to look at the map and match the features in front of you.  Should the ground be falling away from me? Am I going uphill?  Is there a lake to my right?

I'd consider picking up a book like Cicerone's 'Navigation', which is one of the better nav books I've read, and if you want to book a navigation course some of them are incredibly cheap for the level of training you can get.  Don't worry about it!  Like any skill, sometimes you mess it up, sometimes you're distracted and conditions aren't in your favour and it goes wrong.  Lewis Hamilton still manages to crash his car despite being one of the best drivers in the world so even the best mountaineers make nav errors, especially when tired.
« Last Edit: 13:27:48, 19/02/21 by forgotmyoldpassword »


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Re: Walking Disaster
« Reply #7 on: 13:26:08, 19/02/21 »
We are all different in so many ways and our minds perceive direction , environment and feelings of security in many ways. I have been stressed at times on walks and gone in the wrong direction only to realise that later .
I thought about these times and understood some of The mistakes i made but the others I never really worked out why , so I put it behind me and hopefully learned something and also just accepted it could happen again . The importnat thing is how we get back on track .  O0

You had the responsibility of looking after your son along with bad weather , a distraction when finding the bird  etc . All these sorts of things to deal with can affect our judgment and it may be that there was not one single reason you went off in the wrong direction but a combination of many things . The bad visibilty not being the least of them . !

What some of the others say about preparing in your mind which direction to head before you actually get to a change of direction is valuable and/or looking at a point in the distance , but the problem on your trip was the visibility was not great .  :-\

I understand you not being happy with what happened but you made it back and actually sorted things out . That is a big positive . The thing about an annoyed child is a whole other story and not nescessarily to do with navigation skills . You made it and good for you... O0

Virtue is more to be feared than vice, because it's excesses are not subject to the regulation of conscience - Adam Smith


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Re: Walking Disaster
« Reply #8 on: 14:10:47, 19/02/21 »
Some great advice above but also if possible, could you go back to the area and do that section of the walk again? That way you might see where you wet wrong and help prevent any future mishaps. I know when I've gone wrong on walks before I have revisited another time and was able to work out my mistake.

There are many quotes/sayings about making mistakes but it's the learning from them which is more important. Two i particular like are

"It's fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure"  Bill Gates


"If you live long enough, you'll make mistakes. But if you learn from them, you'll be a better person. It's how you handle adversity, not how it affects you. The main things is never quit, never quit, never quit" Bill Clinton.

Keep getting out there Littlefoot and put it down to experience  :)


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Re: Walking Disaster
« Reply #9 on: 14:12:35, 19/02/21 »
Firstly, I'm afraid in my book that doesn't count as getting lost at all!! You went a couple of hundred yards off track, re-oriented yourself, and got back on track. And then did it again. I count myself as a fairly good navigator, but I've done that many a time - don't let it put you off, but don't expect it to stop happening either. Most importantly, you noticed after only a few hundred yards and corrected it - its only really getting lost when you don't notice for miles!

Secondly, its not actually open hillsides and wild country that necessarily pose the biggest navigational challenges. The sort of terrain in your map, with multiple intersecting valleys, all criss-crossed with footpaths, can be a nightmare! You ask for insight as to why you went wrong, and other than the general comments about stress and poor weather, on the second occasion it seems pretty clear that you were looking for a path which went "straight on". At that point, its actually the side valley which you went up which does appear to go "straight on" - the main valley makes a brief but definite kink to the left, which I suspect is what pushed you into the tributary valley. If there was any "lesson" from the experience, it might be to try and read the contours to a greater extent.

But overall, as I said, I wouldn't worry about it. Getting intermittently slightly lost is an inevitable part of finding the right way, so I'd just congratulate yourself on spotting and correcting it so quickly!


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Re: Walking Disaster
« Reply #10 on: 14:54:51, 19/02/21 »
If we're honest I think a lot of us have done the same thing, no shame in it. In the end we make it home, hopefully.


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Re: Walking Disaster
« Reply #11 on: 15:05:50, 19/02/21 »
Been there, done that! On the very first day of walking the GR10 in France I came to a left turn in the path. I saw a trickle of water (about 50yds away) through some undergrowth to my right so I turned right. I got out my water filter and guzzled away. Lovely sunny afternoon so I decided to lie down and have a sleep. I could hear the water trickling down behind me and I had found a wonderful area of moss to sleep on.

I awoke about 1.5 hours later and decided to walk on so walked back to the point where the path had turned left. I saw the French red and white paint flash direction information so without a thought I turned left (wrong move) and carried on walking and walking. Eventually the penny dropped, I was walking back along the route I had walked a few hours earlier, I cursed and swore and wanted to kick myself!

I was near to the village called Biriatou so I called it a day. I went there, it was about 6 pm, had a few beers in the local restaurant, then about 7.30 pm a full blown meal with wine and ended with coffee and brandy still fuming over my stupid hiking mistake.  By now it was nearly dark, so I wandered back along the way I came for about a mile, I drunk as a skunk as well. I found a camping spot under an electricity pylon, erected my tent (in a fashion) and slept it off, both hiking mistake and the alcohol. I proved one thing to myself though, avoid putting up a tent when drunk, not easy!

The next morning I walked again to the spot where I had found the water. This time I just turned left and I was on the right route. Easy.


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Re: Walking Disaster
« Reply #12 on: 15:08:46, 19/02/21 »
That's alot of advice above Little Foot !
I will confirm we have all ben lost / temporarily navigationally challenged / awaiting confirmation of exact position, or however it's described.
I trained and worked as a navigator, trust me, it happens all the time.
All I would add is after taking a navigational decision, look for confirmation at appropriate intervals. So eg. 'we go along here and then we should find the bridge next to those trees'. This isn't self doubt, it's reinforcing your decision.
I suspect your raising this topic has helped a few less willing to put their hands up  O0 [size=78%]  [/size]


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Re: Walking Disaster
« Reply #13 on: 15:21:04, 19/02/21 »
As previously suggested involve your son in navigating the next walk. Then be prepared to eat humble pie when he gets it right. That should help him to re-embrace walking O0
So many paths yet to walk, so little time left


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Re: Walking Disaster
« Reply #14 on: 15:51:04, 19/02/21 »
You went a couple of hundred yards off track
WHAT! I hadn't realised that. Call that lost, you're not even trying.
I'm signing up for Little Foot's nav course, if it means I never go more than 100 yards wrong I'll be well chuffed.

When I spoke of going the wrong way when my son was 9 I went three quarters of a mile north before I realised we weren't heading south. When it comes to navigational errors you are just a rank amateur.