The Navigator’s Mindset & the Navigational Story


With just a credit card and dependable net connection, an aspiring navigator can obtain the appropriate maps, sources, and gear.

The final two actions to navigational proficiency call for much more intention, self-study, maybe an evening or weekend course, and most importantly field practice. In other words, the approach is much more time-intensive, but also much more exciting.

These actions are:

  1. Placing oneself in the Navigator’s Mindset, and
  2. Establishing the abilities to interpret and operate the maps, sources, and gear.

This is the fourth installment of a multi-component series on backcountry navigation. If you landed right here initial, take into consideration reading the remainder of the series afterwards, or start out with the Introduction so that this post has much more context.

From a higher point above Tablelands, Brian Robinson discusses the proposed route with members of the group.

Inform me a story

When teaching customers how to navigate, we often ask them to inform us their “navigational story.” This device assists place them in the Navigator’s Mindset, particularly to be:

  • Attentive,
  • Present, and
  • Anticipating.

The story itself consists of 3 components:

  • Exactly where we’ve been (“attentive”),
  • Exactly where we are (“present”), and,
  • Exactly where we’re going (“anticipating”).

We ask customers to illustrate their story on the map, and to prove it with facts they glean from their map, sources, and gear. There have to be alignment — if there are discrepancies among the story and these tools, customers have to revisit their story line or double-verify their instruments.

Dave Eitemiller and crew get their bearings ahead of committing to a large climb up Adventurer Col on the Kings Canyon Higher Basin Route.


It’d be explanation to pause if:

The story is that we…

  • Reached a lake right after climbing steeply west for an hour, but in truth we only climbed for 35 minutes and we had been hiking east (“not attentive”)
  • Have arrived (we feel) at the ford of Return Creek on the Pacific Crest Trail, but our altimeters study eight,800 feet alternatively of eight,600 feet, and the creek is flowing southeast alternatively of southwest (“not present”) or,
  • Count on to attain a junction right after hiking downhill for 15 minutes, but the trail has been flat and we’ve been hiking for 10 minutes.

It is occasionally okay to proceed when the story is not matching up completely, but do so skeptically. If much more facts comes in that additional inquiries the story, then perhaps it is time to cease and figure issues out.

When a navigator is convinced that their story is appropriate even even though it is complete of holes, it is named “bending the map.” Although you might not want to “waste” much more time by having the story straight suitable now, my expertise is that it is time nicely spent.

Case study: Yosemite Higher Route

To demonstrate the navigational story, I’ll use a case study from the Yosemite Higher Route, which is fresh in my thoughts due to the fact I was on it in July.

Very first, let’s appear at the map. Suppose that we’re obtaining this conversation at the gun sight in the middle of the map, and we’re basically following the red dots from west to east.

Exactly where we have been. “We walked along the east shore of Rock Island Lake, crossed Suicide Ridge, descended a steep tundra/talus gully to the head of Crazy Mule Gulch, then climbed moderately in a northeast path for about 300 vertical feet.”

Exactly where we are. “We’re standing on the saddle among Crazy Mule Gulch and Slide Canyon, which I can prove with a number of pieces of proof.”

  • The description of this saddle in the Yosemite Higher Route Guide is quite related to how I would describe it.
  • The map depicts this saddle as getting above treeline and broad. Each are accurate.
  • From the base of the descent off Suicide Ridge, it took us 20 minutes to get right here, which is about suitable for hiking .six miles off-trail and uphill at altitude.
  • Making use of my compass, I located a bearing of 195 degrees to a peak that topographically appears like Bath Mountain.
  • My altimeter reads 9,920 feet. The maps says this saddle is at about 9,940, which is inside the margin of error for my altimeter.
  • Ultimately, my GPS says that I’m right here.

What we’re anticipating. “From this saddle, the guidebook instructs us to drop southeast towards a low-volume creek, and then to use this creek as a handrail whilst descending 700 vertical feet on Class two slabs to the base of Slide Canyon.”

The suitable tool for the job

A navigational story is much more convincing when it is supported by a number of pieces of proof. In the case study above, for instance, I proved exactly where we are by working with every single single item in my toolkit.

But the approach require not be so thorough every single time. 1 piece of supporting proof is mandatory, and typically enough. A second is superior practice, particularly when off-trail. When you are significantly less particular of your story, employ all of your tools till you turn out to be particular.

Leave a comment!

  • How have you discovered to greatest “stay located?”
  • When have you “bent the map” and got oneself in some difficulty? How did you recover?


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