Faces of Nepal – limited edition book

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Due to popular demand I have produced a limited edition small landscape book (13cm x 10cm) on my photography undertaken on a recent working trip to Nepal to photograph the Everest Trail Race.

FACES of NEPAL

Is very much fuelled by a passion for photography, the intrinsic beauty in every single persons face and of course the magic of Nepal.

“Travel is the discovery of truth; an affirmation of the promise that human kind is far more beautiful than it is flawed. With each trip comes a new optimism that where there is despair and hardship, there are ideas and people just waiting to be energized, to be empowered, to make a difference for good.” 
― Dan Thompson, Following Whispers: Walking on the Rooftop of the World in Nepal’s Himalayas

Printed on 200gm paper on 24-pages with a super gloss finish. The book is hard bound and will last a lifetime. Only 30-books have been printed and all books can be signed (if requested) on the inside front cover with a personal message.

PRICE

£20.00 plus £2 UK postage or £5 postage outside the UK

To order

Ultra Running, Mountain, Trail and Skyrunning Review 2014

2014

Did that just happen?

Another year draws to a close and with it many races, many experiences and many highlights. I don’t need to tell you but our niche sport is progressing at an alarming rate: more runners, more races and more standout experiences, what a year!

It is no easy task being at the top of your game in our sport anymore. Competition is high at every race and past scenarios where a runner could return to a ‘fave’ race year-after-year and win it are long gone! I don’t think we will ever see a Scott Jurek or Ann Trason dominate the sport as they did in their times.

Runners at the top of the game now need to be specific, peak for races; recover and then re peak if they want to perform. The ISF (International Skyrunning Federation) and the UTWT add to the complexity of the race calendar by adding a ‘series’ element to proceedings. The need to be at your best for a series requires planning, commitment, dedication and patience. It’s way to easy to burn out… a good year, maybe two good years and then boom, gone! We have seen this happen time-and-time again. Ask Geoff Roes, ask Anna Frost, Tony Krupicka and so on. The need to balance racing and recovery is now more than ever a key component of the ultra runners weaponry and so therefore when I review a year, I do it with a sense of hesitation.

For sure, I am going to write about several runners who have excelled, who have repeatedly blown my mind with stunning performances and against all logic have recovered, come back and won again. So as I write this, please keep in mind the above. A long ultra running life must come with balance.

Also, the following summary and notes are my highlights of 2014 so I welcome your thoughts and feedback..

2014 in summary

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Jo Meek followed on 2nd place lady in the 2013 Marathon des Sables (2013) with a course record performance in The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica. Showing meticulous preparation and dedication, Jo just gave us all a glimpse of what was about to come!

 

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Ryan Sandes and Nuria Picas laid out a stall at Transgrancanaria and put on two consummate displays of ultra running prowess. Nuria lead from the front showing all the ladies a clean pair of heals whereas Ryan played the waiting game and moved through the field slowly but surely to grasp the race by the scruff of the neck in the latter stages and take a superb victory.

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Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel did the DrakTraverse and in doing so they showed us that big projects in the mountains are just as exciting as racing. FKT’s love them or hate them are here to stay and I for one love the concept. Ultimately it gets back to why we all run. Ryan and Ryno with considerable help of Red Bull really put South Africa on the map and the fellas at The African Attachment produced a great film called Trevelyan to document the record.

UTMF (Ultra Trail Mt Fuji) confirmed that Nuria Picas was going to be the lady to beat in 2014. Nuria’s strength, powers of recovery and ability to push beyond the norm elevated her to a new level. Equally, Francois d’Haene showed us that he had recovered from Raid de la Reunion in 2013 and when it came to 100-miles in mountainous terrain he would be the man to beat.

Nikki Kimball on her way to victory in the 2014 MDS.

Nikki Kimball on her way to victory in the 2014 MDS.

Nikki Kimball arrived in Morocco and for the 2nd year running put an American on the top of the ladies podium and in doing so she confirmed her status as one of the best female ultra runners in the world.

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I mentioned Anna Frost above and after 12+ months in an ultra wilderness the ever smiling lady from New Zealand returned to the volcanic island of La Palma and produced not only one of the best comebacks in our sport but in the process set a new course record for the Transvulcania La Palma course.

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As Frosty made that comeback, up the trail in La Palma, Luis Alberto Hernando was having one of the best races of his life as he went toe-to-toe with Kilian Jornet. He pulled it off! He beat Kilian and in doing so he achieved something that so few have done. His emotions on the line in Los Llanos provided a special moment in the sport.

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Zegama-Aizkorri had all the excitement and buzz of previous years and Kilian started a winning streak that placed his career on an all time high. By comparison, Pocket Rocket, Stevie Kremer took top honours confirming that her 2013 results were no flook (never in question) and that a repeat performance for the Skyrunning World Series was on the cards

Ellie Greenwood did it… she won Comrades and achieved the ultimate tick for her own bucket list but inspired so many Brits, Canadians and Americans in the process. It was quite a run and one that Ellie will take to the grave as a defining moment of her running. Jo Meek followed up victory in January’s The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica with 5th in South Africa; the ultra community looked on and asked the question: who is Jo Meek?

Kilian Jornet obliterates the record for Denali in Summits of my Life (11:48) – nuff said!

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Luis Alberto Hernando bolstered by his Transvulcania performance laid it all on the line in Chamonix for the Skyrunning World Champions in the 80Km Ultra event. Collapsing on the finish line not only had Luis achieved a lifelong dream but he had relegated the almost unbeatable Francois d’Haene into 2nd place. Emelie Forsberg won the ladies race against Anna Frost and Kilian Jornet proved what an incredible athlete he is by working his craft in the VK and SKY race just days after setting a new Summits of my Life record on Denali. Elisa Desco became ladies SKY world champion in a highly competitive and exciting race and Laura Orgue confirmed her outright climbing ability and was crowned VK world champion.

Steve Birkinshaw

Steve Birkinshaw produced the ultimate FKT and broke a long-standing record for the Wainwrights (518km) in the English Lakes. Summiting 214 tops with an elevation gain/loss of 36,000m Steve set a new record of 6-days and 13-hours.

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Ice Trail Tarentaise in the stunning resort of Val D’Isere allowed Francois d’Haene to once again excel in the snowy and cold mountains of this tough, technical and amazing Skyrunning course. Running head-to-head with Luis Alberto Hernando (again) with less than 20km’s to go, Francois moved ahead and took top honours. Emelie Forsberg took a back-to-back victory at the race and confirmed that her ability at the 80km distance was unmatched.

Kilian ©jordisaragossa

Hardrock 100 will go down in the history books as one of THE runs of all time. It was the most stacked field ever, it was a who’s who of ultra running and the prospect of Kilian Jornet finally getting an opportunity to test himself on what many consider to be the ultimate course was just way too exciting. Like a script from a screenplay, Kilian bided his time, pulled away, hung out waiting for Julien Chorier and then by his estimations ‘wasted’ 55-minutes in aid stations and still smashed the record. KJ’s victory guarantees an entry for next year when the course is run the opposite way; I wonder… could we see Kilian set two CR’s?

Western States was all about Rob Krar doing his thing and coming back for a repeat victory (14:53:22). This quiet unassuming man let his legs do the talking and produced what was the start of a trio of 100-mile successes. Max King in his first 100-miler set a blistering pace early on and eventually placed 5th… more on him later! Stephanie Howe was crowned ladies champion in 18:01:42.

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The Skyrunning Dolomites Skyrace was remarkable for two reasons. Laura Orgue progressed from a VK specialist to a SKY victor and remarkably Kilian Jornet, just 7-days after Hardrock ran the VK on Friday (placing top-10) and then won the SKY race on Sunday against the best in the world; ridiculous.

Sierre-Zinal, the epic mountain race in Switzerland was finally won by Pocket Rocket herself, Stevie Kremer after placing top-3 on two previous attempts. It was a defining moment for the little lady from Crested Butte and post race she said if she could only win one race, Sierre-Zinal would be it. A pattern is forming… yes, those two words: Kilian Jornet. Yes, he did it again!

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Trofeo Kima (Italy) only happens every 2-years and is arguably the jewel in the Skyrunning crown. It’s a kick-ass race of epic proportions and if I could only ever cover one race as a photographer, Kima would be it. Combining running, climbing, descending, chains, ropes, ladders and vertical drops it is a course that is made for Kilian Jornet. Needless to say the Catalan won and in doing so, he set a new course record. Emelie Forsberg look set to take the ladies crown but a lapse of concentration mid race took Emelie of course and loose approximately 1-hour. Despite chasing like a demon, Emelie could not pull back the time on ladies winner, Kasie Enman.

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The British Ultra Trail Championships crowned Jo Meek and Kim Collison as respective champions in two exciting races on the Lakeland 50 course.

Iker Karrera and Nura Picas won Buff Epic Trail in ‘testing’ conditions.

UTMB provided confirmation that Rory Bosio is one of the best female mountain runners in the world. Her 2013 course record performance was epic but as we all know, to come back and win again confirms the accolades. Nuria Picas placed 2nd and gets a nod here as her list of performances and results (on the UTWT) are off the scale. If anyone questioned who is the best 100-mile mountain runner in the world at the moment – Francois d’Haene backed up his incredible UTMF performance with an outstanding UTMB run against a stellar field.

Rob Krar backed up victory at WSER with a stunning Leadville 100 victory and set the stage for a repeat ‘Ultra Runner of the Year’ award.

Run Rabbit Run came pretty close after Leadville and to my surprise we saw Rob Krar toe the line. I was a little surprised. Rob has always been one of the more savvy runners on the circuit in that he peaks, recovers, trains and then re peaks. For Rob to run 100-miles so soon after Leadville was a surprise! Maybe the big prize bucks were a motivating factor? Anyway, what do I know… he took the win and the bucks! Nikki Kimball followed up 5th at WSER with the biggest payday victory of her career and she shed a few tears to show how much it meant.

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Skyrunning Limone Extreme confirmed Stevie Kremer as Skyrunner® Word Series Champion for the 2nd consecutive year but the big news came via Kilian Jornet. His victory in the VK confirmed him as Skyrunner® World Series Champion in all 3 Skyrunning disciplines – VK, SKY and ULTRA. If any of us needed confirmation of the Catalans all around ability, this was it!

Ultra Pirineu (Cavalls del Vent in the past) had Nuria Picas and Luis Alberto Hernando take top honours – unstoppable!

USA’s The Rut set the benchmark for Skyrunning in the USA with universal accolades about the course. It may come as no surprise that Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg took top honours and respective Skyrunner® World Series titles.

Raid de la Reunion became the Francois d’Haene show. He followed up his 2013 victory with a repeat consummate performance. Dare I say, ‘he makes 100-miles in the mountains look easy!’ Nathalie Mauclair also produced a quality back-to-back victory and along with great runs on the UTWT circuit set herself firmly at the top of the best female ultra runners in the world.

Doha finally became the venue for the 100km world championships and Ellie Greenwood backed up an incredible Comrades victory and placed herself on top of the world with a stunning performance. Big shout here too for the British ladies, Joasia Zakrzewski and Jo Meek who both placed in the top-5 ad took home team gold. Max King showed amazing depth of ability, speed and performance in taking the male victory ahead of some of the fastest men in the world.

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Iain Don Wauchope smashes the Salomon SkyRun record in South Africa and Landie Greyling tops the ladies podium.

Rounding out the year, Sage Canaday and Magdalena Boulet took top honours at San Francisco 50.

Phew…

Wait a minute! Kilian Jornet gets the last word. As I write this Mr Jornet is attempting another summit, Aconcagua. Only appropriate that we should end a year on a real high… Just below 7000m to be exact.

Get involved:

I am going to have missed races, missed performances and no doubt you will remind me of what they are. I welcome that. I’d love you all to comment (below) on what 2014 has meant to you and what/ who in your opinion deserves a tip of the hat.

MY 2014 AWARDS

  • Male ultra runner of the yearFRANCOIS D”HAENE (Rob Krar came close)
  • Female ultra runner of the yearNURIA PICAS
  • Best male performanceKILIAN JORNET for Hardrock 100
  • Best female performanceANNA FROST for Transvulcania La Palma and ELLIE GRRENWOOD at Comrades
  • Best single stage raceTROFEO KIMA
  • Best multi day raceEVEREST TRAIL RACE
  • Best FKTSTEVE BIRKINSHAW, The Wainwrights
  • Biggest surprises of 2014ZACH MILLER and the rise of JO MEEK. The AUSSIES at the Skyrunning World Championships.
  • Stand out athlete of the year – KILIAN JORNET
  • Best cinematography – The African Attachment and Seb Montaz
  • Best film – Dejame Vivir

Anything else worthy of a mention?

Personal message:

On a personal note, 2014 has been an incredible year! I have travelled the world and in the process I have attended and worked on 31-races. From the humidity of Costa Rica, to the heat of the Sahara and the cold of the Himalayas, my job has afforded me the privilege to watch, observe and photograph the best runners in the world work their craft.

 

I am eternally grateful to each and every race, race director and of course I must give huge thanks to Lauri van Houten and Marino Giacometti from the ISF for the continued support and opportunities they have afforded me in allowing me the opportunity to work on and cover the Skyrunner® World Series.

 

I must also give a huge thanks to every single person who listens to my podcast, Talk Ultra, reads this website and ‘likes’ or ‘follows’ my respective Facebook and Twitter feeds.

I am eternally thankful.

 

Now roll on 2015 and lets do it all again!

Everest Trail Race #ETR2014 Day 6 Image Gallery

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Race Summary for Stage 6 HERE

Everest Trail Race #ETR2014 – Stage 6

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Day 6 #ETR2014

On paper, today’s stage of the Everest Trail Race was mostly downhill with 3183m of descent in comparison to 2105m of ascent over the 29.5km course. Don’t be fooled though, it was a tough day. The terrain is relentlessly tough and technical and the altitude burns the lungs.

Leaving Tengboche the race retraces stage-5 to Phakding and then branches left up to the race finish in Lukla. It’s a course with stunning views and vistas and Namche Bazar is impressive when looked upon with a bird’s eye view. Surrounded by beautiful white peaks it would be easy to be tempted to stop and just look in wonder at the awesome arena the Himalayas create. Behind the runners, Everest, Lohtse and Ama Dablam slowly but surely disappear from view with every step to Lukla, a sure sign that the 2014 ETR is drawing to a conclusion.

Samir Temang and Phudorje Lama Sherpa really put the pressure on early in the stage reaching Khumjung in just 45-mins. From here they pushed on together through Namche Bazar, Monjo, Phakding, Cheplung and they crossed the line together in just 3-hours 20-minutes. A crazy time for the course and one that confirmed Samir as the 2014 Everest Trail Race champion. Zigor Iturrieta found his legs again today and finished 3rd on the stage and 3rd overall.

Anna Comet looked to take things a little more relaxed today secure in the knowledge that barring some disaster the ladies overall title was secure. Equally, Kerry Sutton decided to enjoy the final day and ran with 3rd place lady, Yangdi Lama Sherpa. Post race Kerry said, ‘I really enjoyed today and it was nice to look around and enjoy the surroundings.’

James Eacott placed 4th overall in the men’s race and he said that the ETR was one race that he would definitely come back to do again.

Samir Temsang and Anna Comet are crowned the 2014 ETR champions but all credit goes to each and every finisher. At 100-miles, this race may not be the longest but it is surely one of the toughest! The combination of tough technical terrain, relentless climbing and descending and of course altitude, all combine to make the ETR a race to do!

 

Results top-3 *times to follow

 

  1. Samir Temsang
  2. Phudorje Lama Sherpa
  3. Zigor Iturrieta

 

  1. Anna Comet
  2. Kerry Sutton
  3. Yangdi Lama Sherpa

 

OVERALL RESULTS *times to follow

 

  1. Samir Temsang
  2. Phudorje Lama Sherpa
  3. Zigor Iturrieta

 

  1. Anna Comet
  2. Kerry Sutton
  3. Yangdi Lama Sherpa

 

 

 

 

Everest Trail Race #ETR2014 Day 5 Image Gallery

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Day 5 Race Summary HERE

Everest Trail Race #ETR2014 – Stage 4

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Day 4 #ETR2014

Kharikola to Phakding is one of my favourite days on the ETR trails. It’s very much a transition stage. The first 3-days have been quiet with the occasional glimpse of life but now we are on the M6 motorway of Nepal. Porters are the HGV’s transporting all manner of goods from food and drink to 8’x4’ sheets of wood… yes, 8’x4’ sheets of wood. In and amongst this frenetic relay of goods the mule and yak trains add to the confusion and like all motorways there is a plethora of tourists moving up and down the trails.

It’s a magic section of trail and one that I love. The diversity is incredible. Children at play, parents at work and the faces… don’t get me started on the faces! Life is people.

The 2013 edition of the ETR presented wonderful vistas and blue skies, however, the Himalayas decided to hide behind low cloud today. An occasional glimpse of a peak way off into the distance offered a glimpse of what might. But the clouds were selfish.

Leaving the sleepy monastery of Kharikola, 31km’s awaited the runners and after a short and twisting technical descent, a vertical kilometre of elevation to CP1 (Kari La) provided a great way to start the day and brush off the cobwebs.

The descent to Surke (Cp2) is a 17km ankle twisting and knee swelling series of switchbacks of technical trail. But there is no rest, more climbing, more technical trails and finally the wire bridge at Monjo offers the ETR finish line. In total, 2996m of positive gain are balanced by 2335m of vertical descent.

It may come as no surprise that Samir Temsang and Phudorje Lama Sherpa dictated the pace from the start and arrived at Cp1 in 1-hour. It was a ridiculous time considering the technicality and elevation of the course. Zigor Iturrieta was holding his ground but the writing was already on the wall. The Nepalese runners really do make running look easy here… arguably Zigor is the first human in the race! After Phudorje’s fall yesterday, Samir consolidated his overall lead and the two ran together to the line finishing just 3-seconds apart.

Anna Comet is one seriously impressive lady! She has a look of focus and determination that is softened by a smile whenever she sees you. But don’t be fooled, it’s not weakness… it’s actually a smile of confidence. Hands-on-knees Anna powers the climbs and foot hops the descents. Today she once again excelled and took her 4th consecutive stage win and extended her lead beyond all reach. Kerry Sutton and Yangdi Lama Sherpa repeated the 2nd and 3rd places from the previous 3-stages; however, Kerry today twisted her ankle badly. Fingers crossed it will not impact on her performance over the coming two final days.

Tomorrow, stage-5 is a short day of just 16km’s and 2124m of vertical gain. It culminates at the monastery at Tyangboche with Everest, Lhotse and Ama Dablam providing arguably the most impressive finish line of any race!

 

Results top-3

  1. Samir Temsang 3:53:35
  2. Phudorje Lama Sherpa 2:53:38
  3. Zigor Iturrieta 4:09:41

 

  1. Anna Comet 4:28:18
  2. Kerry Sutton 5:06:09
  3. Yangdi Lama Sherpa 5:35:47

 

 

 

Everest Trail Race #ETR2014 – Stage 3

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Day 3 #ETR2014

After yesterday relentless uphill struggle today, day-3 of the Everest Trail Race was all downhill, well, sort of. Starting in Jase Bhanjyang runners passed through Jumbesi, Phurteng, Salung, Taksindu and then from Jubhing the race finishes with a tough climb to the stunning monastery at Kharikola. At 37.4km in length the total descent is a quad busting 4110m in contrast to 2512m of ascent.

Many thought today would be an easier day, however, for those in the know… although descending may be a little kinder on the lungs, descending 4000m+ on tired legs is no easy task. Especially when the terrain has added technicality and steepness.

Samir Temsang and Phudorje Lama Sherpa led from the front once again and the stage looked all set for a replay of the previous 2-days. However, Phudorje took a tumble descending hurting his shoulder and knee. This allowed Samir to open up a gap and looking strong throughout finished the stage in an impressive sub 4-hours. Phudorje obviously shaken from the tumble arrived over 15-minutes later and this now places Samir in first place overall with a convincing lead. Zigor Iturrieta ran a solid 3rd-place once again but today gave away more time.

Last nights fears over Anna Comet’s sickness subsided as the stage-3 unfolded and she once again grabbed the race by the horns and lead from the front. Kerry Sutton did say that she felt strong today and may well have contested the first place with Anna, however, caution prevailed and she decided to leave a little in reserve for the coming 3-days that lies ahead. Yangdi Lama Sherpa one again placed 3rd on the stage looking tired. Yangdi is definitely not in the shape of 2013 but despite this continues to fight hard.

The trails and route for the ETR from Kharikola to Tyangboche and back to Lukla are now on the main trekking routes and in addition to this it is the main transport route for all supplies. Porters, mules and yaks are like cars on a motorway as they move up and down the trail carrying loads that are often beyond comprehension. It’s amazing to see life unfold and I for one feel very privileged for the opportunity to see it and record it in images and memories.

 

Results top-3

  1. Samir Temsang 3:48:02
  2. Phudorje Lama Sherpa 4:07:47
  3. Zigor Iturrieta 4:50:57

 

  1. Anna Comet 5:35:35
  2. Kerry Sutton 6:09:55
  3. Yangdi Lama Sherpa 6:27:43

 

 

 

Everest Trail Race #ETR2014 Day 1 Image Gallery

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RACE SUMMARY HERE

Results top-3 for stage 1

 

  1. Samir Temsang 2:30:01
  2. Phudorje Lama Sherpa 2:30:39
  3. Zigor Iturrieta 2:56:46
  1. Anna Comet 3:16:16
  2. Kerry Sutton 3:36:35
  3. Yangdi Lama Sherpa 3:56:33

 

 

Navigation 101: Intermediate Navigation – Beyond the Basics by Mountain Run

Mountain Run

This is a second article in a trio of interviews with Ian Corless, about Navigation for Ultra Runners & more. Read article one HERE

all content ©mountainrun

In the first interview we covered the Basics of Navigation, this encompassed maps, compasses, setting your map & how to set a bearing.

The second interview was moving into intermediate navigation & it consisted of the following information & techniques:

  1. Declination/Magnetic Variation
  2. Grid Numbers/Plotting a Grid Reference
  3. Back Bearings
  4. Re-Orienting/Re-locating
  5. Thumbing the Map
  6. Hand-railing
  7. Catching Features
  8. Aiming Off

So lets start with:

1) Magnetic Declination or Magnetic Variation: 

There are 3 points at which north is seen. 1) True North, 2) Grid North & 3) Magnetic North. We are concerned with Grid North & Magnetic North.

Grid North is what is detailed on a map, its where the North/South grid lines show us the direction of north, according to the grid lines printed on the map. This is almost the same as True North, so we will group True North & Grid North the same. These are fixed points & do not move.

Magnetic North is what your compass needle points towards, being magnetised & this is not a fixed point, it moves over time. Magnetic North is explained as so:

“The North Magnetic Pole is the point on the surface of Earth‘s Northern Hemisphere at which the planet’s magnetic field points vertically downwards (in other words, if a magnetic compass needle is allowed to rotate about a horizontal axis, it will point straight down). There is only one location where this occurs, near (but distinct from) the Geographic North Pole and the Geomagnetic North Pole.

The North Magnetic Pole moves over time due to magnetic changes in the Earth’s core.[1] In 2001, it was determined by the Geological Survey of Canada to lie near Ellesmere Island in northern Canada at 81.3°N 110.8°W. It was situated at 83.1°N 117.8°W in 2005. In 2009, while still situated within the Canadian Arctic territorial claim at 84.9°N 131.0°W,[2] it was moving toward Russia at between 34 and 37 miles (55 and 60 km) per year.[3] As of 2012, the pole is projected to have moved beyond the Canadian Arctic territorial claim to 85.9°N 147.0°W.[2]

Because we have a variance between True North & Magnetic North, we therefore need to use something called the Magnetic Variation. This is described as follows: 

“Magnetic declination or variation is the angle on the horizontal plane between magnetic north (the direction the north end of a compass needle points, corresponding to the direction of the Earth’s magnetic field lines) and true north (the direction along a meridian towards the geographic North Pole). This angle varies depending on position on the Earth’s surface, and changes over time.”

It is also explained more formally, Bowditch defines variation as “the angle between the magnetic and geographic meridians at any place, expressed in degrees and minutes east or west to indicate the direction of magnetic north from true north. The angle between magnetic and grid meridians is called grid magnetic angle, grid variation.

Magnetic_North_Pole_Positions

Depending on which country you reside in will then depend on what the Magnetic Variation actually is. For example, if you live in the UK then the Magnetic North is 1.5 degree’s at the start of 2014 west of True North. The reason it is west is that we sit to the east of the Agonic Line or line of Zero Declination where Mag North & True North are the same. There are several points where this occurs around the world. Its a bit technical, but all you need to remember is that the Mag Variation is printed on all maps in the UK to advise what the Mag Variation is at what ever year the map was printed.

IGRF_2000_magnetic_declination

In order to correct your bearing to take into account the Mag Variation, you must adjust the compass 1.5 degrees east of the bearing you have taken, or more easily remembered, add 1.5 degrees on to your compass bearing you have just taken from the map. To make life even more confusing, the Mag Variation in 2015 is 0, therefore Mag Variation need not be corrected for that year, so it is almost not worth making this correction for the next year & certainly if your navigation is broken down into small legs. It really only comes into play right now, if you are travelling over large expanses of land, without any catching features, hand rails etc.

Transversely, if you are using the Mag Variation, remember when making a sighted bearing, whilst relocations, you might want to subtract 1.5 degree’s off your bearing in order to get an accurate bearing when you place the compass on the map. It all depends how accurate you need the bearing to be? Are you looking at a mountain summit? If so, is your bearing really that accurate anyway.

So Mag Variation in the UK is not really necessary right now.

If you are in Europe or other parts of the world like the US, then your Mag Declination/Variation will be different. It should be on the map you are using, if not consult a website like Wiki for more information.

North & South of the Equator. 

If you buy your compass in the northern hemisphere, then it is not set to work in the southern hemisphere & visa versa. Silva produce 3 types of compasses to work in 3 different magnetic zones. The best piece of advise is if you are traveling, then buy a compass for use in the zone which you are traveling. Best to contact a company like Silva to get the right compass.

Can I set the declination on a compass, so I can forget about the Mag Variation? 

Yes is the answer, but they don’t come at a small price. Most compasses, of reasonable value, like Silva 2NL-360 Explorer will have a Declination Scale on the bevel base plate, this can be used for quick adjustment. If you want to set the mag declination, then you need to purchase a compass capable of doing this, like the Silva 15T-360/6400 Green military compass. Its not really necessary for general use, especially in the UK right now.

Ok, so the confusing Mag Declination/Variation is done. Use at will, just remember to check on the country you are in as to what the variation is & apply it if necessary. Its list on the map you have in your hand, or at least the one you will be using.

2) Grid Numbers & Plotting a Grid Reference

Grid numbers are applied to the grid lines. These are a squared matrix applied to the whole country to divide it into different sections. They are laid out to make squares 100k by 100k, these squares are then broken down to have a further matrix applied giving squares of 1km by 1km. These are the lines/squares printed on your map. The lines running from east to west are numbered from south to north, these are the ‘northings’, the lines running from north to south are numbers west to east, these are called the ‘eastings’. A grid reference is made up of these printed numbers.

northings-eastings

So on the image pictured to the left, we have Eastings along the bottom & Northings running up the side. In order to find a certain grid we need 4 of these numbers. This a 4 figure GR.

We are always given the Eastings first & the Northings second.  A 4 figure GR would read as 17 45

Once we understand this we can move to a 6 figure GR. This is done by breaking down each of the squares into a further 10 divisions on either scale, making 100 squares inside the existing square and will allow us to pin point a location to within a 100m square on the ground. A 6 figure GR would be something like 175 454.

This can be taken into a further pin point of 10m squares by using the same logic & so on.

A roamer on your compass can be of great help here to pin point 6 figure GR’s.

Not following? Book on a course….

3) Back Bearings. 

Very useful in either re-locating yourself or using a feature to make sure you are looking at what you think your looking at. A back bearing is taken by using a sighting of an identifiable feature, be it a path, summit, building or  large reentrant & applying it to the map. This can help you do one of 2 things. 1 – re-locate yourself on a line feature (its hard to relocate with this technique exactly, but it can help your judgement or give you a rough location) or 2 – help you to make sure the feature you are looking at is the same one you are looking at on the map.

Remember that when taking a back bearing, you might need to subtract the Mag Variation to make sure its correct. 

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To take a back bearing, line the direction of travel arrow at the front of your compass with the feature, make it as exact as possible. Then swivel the rotating bevel so that you line the red end of the needle in the red house/shed, remember the Red in Shed. This is now your bearing set. Next put the compass on the map & line the front side up with the feature you think you are looking at, and move the compass until your orienting lines on the base plate match with the N/S Grid Lines on the map. You should now be able to locate yourself somewhere along the side of the compass.

A back bearing works best if you are already located on a line feature, as this bearing will then cross the line feature at some point, giving you a rough location of where you are on that line feature.

4) Re-Orienting/Re-Locating.

A very necessary skill, used to either make sure you are where you think you are, or as it sounds, to actually re-locate. Once you are adept at this skill, it should be used throughout the day, as you progress through your race or just through the mountains to keep a check on your position, but of course if you are thumbing the map, then it will be a whole lot quicker & easier. When you’re really good at it you will re-locate whilst on the move.

Clients on a recent OMM Mountain Skills Day relocating on Place Fell, Eastern Lakes

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How to do it: 

Use everything at your disposal. This means look for all the identifiable features you can see, summits, paths, streams, woods, walls, buildings, ruins, sheepfolds etc. Orientate your map, if it is not already! Now match the features on your map to the ground, or visa versa. If your still not sure, then use a back bearing by locating a summit or other feature & take a bearing from it by following what was discussed above.

If you are not on a line feature you will then need to start really assessing the contours & because you have studied your contours well at home, you have a good handle on how to interpret what you are looking at to the features/contours on the ground. Are you in a reentrant, or is there one close by. Is the valley in the right place in front of you in relation to the map.

Re-Location requires lots of practice, the more you do, the better you will get until you can re-orientate whilst on the move.

5) Thumbing the map. 

Thumbing the map with compass in hand.

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A very simple, but very useful technique. Once you start to get a handle on navigation, map reading & compass work you will be able to fold your map smaller, so not needing so much of it in view. The smaller you can have your map folded, the easier it is to thumb the map. By doing this we mean, fold your map in half, half again and so on until you have a manageable size to hold in your hand. Obviously make sure you can see the area you are in. Now, knowing where you are on the map, put your thumb over this location. Having the map oriented correctly in your hand is very important. As you walk/run along your chosen courses/bearing, you simply move you thumb small increments to keep up to date with your progress.

Why is this useful? 

Because you need to be able to locate your rough position on the map at a split second or whilst on the move. When you want to check your surroundings against the map, just pull it up to have a look & your thumb will be placed near to where you are, you can then re-locate very quickly & keep a track of your progress from map to land or the other way round. This is how you will learn to re-locate whilst on the move!

6) Hand-railing. 

It is as it sounds, using a handrail to help you on your way as you travel across the land. So what is a handrail? It a feature on the map that allows you to use it as a hand-rail. It is always a line feature & can be as simple as a path, or as obscure as a blind ridge line (by blind I mean rounded & not obvious). Once you have established the handrail is going in the direction of travel you want you can walk/run along it until you need to make your next decision.

Examples of Hand Rails

Handrails

How do you know when to stop? Use the next technique, a catching feature….

7) Catching Features. 

A catching feature again is as it sounds, its a feature that catches you. It can be designed to wake the brain up to say your nearly at your destination, next direction change or just as a marker to what is coming next. You can have as many catching features as you like along your chosen course. Don’t pick too many though, as it will be hard to remember. Try to limit them as wake up calls, or direction changes, but you can still use them as markers to track your progress.

Plenty of Catching Features in the image below: 

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A catching feature might be a wall corner, building, junction in a path or river or a crag that you are moving past. Used in conjunction with thumbing the map & hard rails, you can see that you can really track your progress as you move forwards.

8) Aiming Off. 

The last technique in our intermediate navigational skill set. We use aiming off to catch a line feature, that we may then use as our next bearing setter or as a handrail until we reach the next catching feature.

To aim off we use a bearing slightly off to the side of the line feature we are heading for. This can be either left or right, but it need to be obvious, otherwise you might miss it.

Aiming Of below so you don’t miss the control, best practice in foul weather!

Aiming-Off_edited_edited-1

Lets say your travelling across open ground south to north, there is a tarn in front of you running from west to east & you want to catch this feature, but keep moving past it. The weather is in and visibility isn’t what you want it to be. You want to pass the tarn to the east, so you need it to be on the western side of you. How will you know you have passed it, if you can’t see so well due to mist? The tarn might be 500 m long, west to east. By aiming off, rather than passing the tarn on a bearing and checking it off as you go, you are better aiming off your bearing slightly to the west & hitting the tarn, this then gives you an identifiable feature to break up your leg & confirm you are where you think you are. You can then take your next bearing to the location you want to reach, using the techniques of handrails, catching features & possibly aiming off again.

Get these skills dialled in good weather & you can now be ready to head out in to the open fell in inclement weather. Get them dialled in bad weather & your getting ready to head out at night.

Still not got it? 

Are you interested in an UltraTrail Nav Day or a Mountain Marathon Skills Day?

Send us your details here:

 

Rab Mountain Marathon 2014 Preview

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The 8th Rab Mountain Marathon™ will be held on the 27th and 28th September 2014. The Rab Mountain Marathon™ is a two-day fell running and navigation challenge for solos and pairs with an overnight camp.

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The Rab Mountain Marathon kicks off this weekend at 0830. Two days of navigation and running will unfold in the English Lakes using the popular score format.

Now in it’s 8th year, the Rab Mountain Marathon has become an iconic race that has visited many stunning locations, the Cheviot Hills, Derwent Fells, Snowdonia, Howgills and this year it once again returns to the English Lakes.

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Taking on challenging mountain terrain, participants need to be competent and confident at moving fast over tough terrain. As usual, the is the UK and runners will need to be prepared for the worst despite a recent spell of really good weather in the UK.

As one would expect, the Rab Mountain Marathon will take place over rough, steep and technical mountain terrain. Many sections of the course will be isolated and if bad weather comes in, everyone needs to be prepared.

©iancorless.com.IMG_5731GL3D_Day1The race format is ‘score’ as this tests navigation skills and avoids snakes of runners going from point-to-point. A rolling start window of 2-hours will spread the runners out and electronic timing is used to track the runners. As normal, different class options are available (including walking) and it’s possible to participate as a solo or team of two.

It’s hard to highlight some standout competitors for 2014. If I were to place a bet on the top Long Score competitors it would be between Adam Stirk and Andrew Higgins (who are a pair) and Stewart Bellamy (solo). Adam and Andrew finished 3rd last year behind Steve Birkinshaw (1st in 2013) and Alex Pilkington (2nd in 2013) both of whom are not taking part this year. They were also 2nd at the Highlander in 2013.

Stewart Bellamy is a strong runner and whilst he may not have featured in the results of recent mountain marathons, he did win the GL3D in 2013.

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The Rab Mountain Marathon’s approach is designed to be relaxed and less formal and structured than that of the OMM, which will take place next month.

Shane Ohly, race director for Ourea Events says, ‘But hey the Rab isn’t really about the elite runners and there is some super generous support from Rab who are providing vouchers to the value of about £10,000 for 1st, 2nd and 3rd across a huge range of categories. Check them out here: HERE

At registration on the Friday evening or Saturday morning, competitors can view a Master Map of the competition area which will give a full overview of the event area being used plus provide details of any out of bounds areas, map corrections etcetera. The event Master Map will not be over-printed with any control points.

So there you have it… two days of navigational fun in the English Lakes. It’s possible to follow a live stream HERE and a free APP has been created. Details HERE

Apps can be downloaded here:

iOShttp://bit.ly/1wwcbDKAndroidhttp://bit.ly/1AUZNhj

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Race Website HERE

Rab Apparel HERE

Rab Twitter HERE