Any advise please
Navigation in whiteout conditions needs confidence in your navigation skills. If just 'ok' when you can see you need a bit more practice, then start going out in the dark for some night navigation in particular when there is low cloud. To navigate in poor conditions you will have to know about pacing, on the level, uphill and downhill and also timing which does require a bit of effort to get it right. Several organisations run navigation courses but if you want to go a bit further why not subscribe to a Summer ML Training Course where the above will be instructed together with other skills.
One thing you can retain on steeper ground is slope aspect and changes of slope. You can get a remarkable amount of info from it in a lot of places.
If you're at a known(ish) place and there's more than one of you then you can leapfrog one another, using yourself as bearing targets. Of course, super-low visibility that will give you whole meters... perhaps!
Think yourself lucky you had the stone markers and footsteps to follow on this occasion. True whiteouts are completely different. Everything is the same colour in a true whiteout, and it's very difficult to figure out which way the ground is sloping. Still... there are neat little tricks you can use. One is to gather an armful of snow, and make little snowballs, lobbing them ahead of you as you walk. Naturally, this works best when there's soft snow everywhere. As each little snowball lands, it creates an instant visual reference ahead of you, convincing you that you are actually making forward progress, and at the same time, letting you know which way the ground is sloping. If you lob a snowball ahead of you and it disappears... then stop immediately... because there's a cliff ahead!
The last time I walked in a true whiteout was in the Alps, and there were three other people following me, and none of them had ever walked in a whiteout before. One of them commented on how slowly I was walking, so I let him take the lead, and he immediately realised the problem for anyone leading in those conditions. There's a HUGE difference between facing straight into whiteout conditions, and following someone else's footsteps. Each of those three guys stepped forwards to see just how blank things looked ahead, then they each stepped back and were more than happy just to follow my footsteps. When we reached a high pass, me met another walker coming the other way, and he was a bit worried about proceeding any further under those conditions. However... he'd trodden clear footsteps up from one refuge... and our own footsteps offered him a clear route onwards. We simply exchanged footsteps!
Incidentally... check this link...
I have no idea if John Martin continued developing his 'White-out Torch' after demonstrating it at CoLab 2009, but it was an interesting idea. The device was intended to shine red laser lines ahead of the user, in a grid formation. If the ground was sloping, then the lines would also slope, providing an instant visual reference in conditions where no other references were visible.
One other tip too add to above advice.
If you know what way wind is blowing, (say West) and in an area with nothing about to deflect wind. You can have a good idea which way is Westerly by wind hitting you or blowing snow along.
Infinite wrote (see)
I must say I really wasn't expecting a snow storm on Nevis especially as the weather below 'was' really nice
In the higher mountains in Scotland it can snow at any time of the year, the summer months are no exception.
There is normally a large snow patch on the cairned path that last well into the summer.
Plenty of useful pointers already given, but one potential help that hasn't been mentioned yet is gps. Now (imo) it's absolutely not a substitute for sound traditional navigation techniques, but it certainly can be a very useful (and reassuring) supplement.
It can be used to help you practice the other techniques such as pacing, timing, positioning by angle of slope, walking on a bearing etc., giving you instant feedback on your success or otherwise. And of course if you're using those techniques for real, the ability to confirm a positional fix can tell you if you're navigating accurately, or warn you early if you're not, giving you a better chance to evaluate what's going wrong and try again.
Of course you could even pre-program the route into the gps and use it as your primary means of navigation - for example the safe dogleg route off Ben Nevis's summit avoiding the gully tops is printed on the BMC Mountain Map and in other places and could be pre-programmed. I'd stress though that gps navigation has its own set of pitfalls and isn't a panacea - I'd not want to be navigating by gps in a whiteout without knowing I had the other tools in my kitbag, but I think a blend of approaches can work very well.
Many a person has been caught out by the fact it may be 'nice and sunny', but as you gain height the temp. drops. Usually around 6.5c per 1000m, on a still day. Even more if it's windy and you take the wind chill effect in to account.
Cloud, rain, etc. also have an effect, damp conditions cool you down too.
Matt C's advice is good, but do remember that even a GPS is not totally accurate.
It can be 10m or more out, OK so can nav.ing from a map and compass, maybe even more if you get it compleately wrong
I'm just saying on somewhere like the Ben, do realise that the GPS could be 'out' by enough that, in a white-out, dense cloud, etc. don't blindly rush off on the bearing. You still need to take care that the cliffs maybe closer than indicated.
Of course it could, I tried not to say different
Things like not setting magnetic devation, setting compass wrong by even 2deg. can make a very big differance.
Getting it wrong, by whatever method can be very dangerous, if not lead to serious injury or, god forbid, death.
GPS will you a straight line between two points
Bit like a compass!
[GPS] not a substitute for sound traditional navigation techniques, but it certainly can be a very useful (and reassuring) supplement.
Indeed. The basics remain the same whichever tools you use: know where you are, and where you are going. Staying in touch with where you are makes where you're going a lot easier. There may be a tendency with GPS to assume that since you can find out any time where you are that that's the same as knowing where you are, but it's not...
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