Summit Proposes Fresh Navigation Content & Line Up

Navigation and other committee leaders from four branches proposed recommendations for enhancing curriculum across all branches. The 21 volunteer leaders from all activity types met June 19/20 at Meany Lodge to chart a course for 2016 and beyond.
Peter Hendrickson Peter Hendrickson
June 26, 2015

Navigation Summit 2015

Navigation and other committee leaders from Everett, Foothills, Seattle and Tacoma proposed development of a coherent “navigation curriculum ladder” across all branches. The 21 navigators, climbers, scramblers, hiker/backpackers, authors, and back country ski and snowshoe  instructor/leaders met June 19/20 at Meany Lodge to chart a course for 2016 and beyond.

The tools of the trade

Hosted by Seattle Branch Navigation, they heard Friday night briefings on maps, compasses, altimeters, smart phone & dedicated GPSers, PLBs & satellite messengers, drafting of Freedom of the Hills, 9th edition (Freedom 9--2017), and an e-learning navigation pilot (instructor guided basic navigation workshop) now under development. While the central and critical role of maps was reaffirmed, there was intense discussion around the role of altimeters and GPSers in the backcountry. And there was strong support for “strongly recommending” altimeters as an essential backcountry tool.

Navigation Summit 2015 was convened to address the increased use of electronics in navigation, the upcoming revisions of Freedom of the Hills, and the impending navigation elearning pilot. The group has no authority to enact or command changes, only to report and recommend. Saturday breakout groups gave findings and suggestions by activity area.

It was acknowledged that GPS devices are now commonplace navigation tools and may soon be ubiquitous among both front and back country Mountaineers. Further, smart phones and wearables are pushing dedicated GPSers and altimeters aside. There was concern that these useful and powerful tools might lead to a decay of map and compass skills. Freedom 9 co-author Bob Burns asserted that map and compass skills would continue to be the heart of the navigation systems, the first of The 10 Essentials, but noted that more space and emphasis will be given to modern, electronic tools.

Several cautioned that navigation apps and devices are changing so quickly that navigation instruction and guidance needs to be more nimble. There was also a call for standard navigation terms (with common meaning) across the club. One suggested “ladder” for courses and seminars was:

  • Introduction to Navigation (an evening seminar for beginners exploring The Mountaineers)
  • Staying Found (front country skills for on-trail hikers, X-C skiers, snowshoers, and backpackers)
  • Wilderness Navigation (skills for climbers, scramblers, and back country hikers, backpackers, skiers and snowshoers)
  • Smart Phone and Dedicated GPS (strongly recommended for back country travel)
  • Back Country Winter or Glacier Travel (special considerations for snow or ice)
  • Advanced GPS Navigation (creating routes, sharing routes, saving tracks, .gpx file sharing, etc....)
  • Natural navigation (tool-less navigation with close attention to the natural world)
  • Advanced Trip Planning (tool integration, weather, snow pack, and other conditions)

Several participants noted the wide range of skills and experience encountered in navigation classes and called for differentiated instruction. They also recommended pre-requisite activities to better prepare students for instruction.
The proposed, self-directed elearning modules could provide pre-class learning, several said.

Elearning was also seen as a way to provide train-the-trainer lessons. Several committees noted a need for wider and deeper professional development for instructors. Many were reported to lack the teaching skills for altimeters and GPS. And it was generally agreed that trip leaders should focus more on pre-trip planning and trailhead briefings.

Support for modernization of curriculum and instruction was broad and deep. Participants cautioned however that a remake of courses and seminars would take time to generate understanding and buy-in across committees and branches. Seattle Navigation’s Greg Testa warned, “Beware of the ripple effect of changes. Don’t shortcut the process.”

A more complete report of the proceedings will be circulated to branches and committees over the summer.

Participants were:
  • Jim Bigelow, Navigation Co Chair Everett
  • Bob Boyd, Compass Co Lead Navigation Seattle, SAR
  • Bob Burns, Freedom 9 Lead Mountaineers Books
  • Doug Canfield, Elearning Lead Mountaineers Books
  • Chuck Cerveny, BC Ski Instructor Foothills, SAR
  • Dave Coate, Navigation Chair Foothills, Scramble Leader
  • Bruce Crawford, Electronics Lead Navigation Seattle, Musher
  • Tom Cushing, Scramble & Navigation Instructor Seattle
  • Glenn Eades, Climbing, Climb Leader Seattle
  • Rick Finkle, Navigation Chair Tacoma, Snowshoe
  • Lynn Graf, Past Navigation Chair & Scramble Seattle
  • Susan Graham, Hike and Navigation Seattle
  • Peter Hendrickson, Navigation Chair Seattle & Branch Secretary,
  • Jimmy Jet, Snowshoe Chair Seattle
  • Steve McClure, Treasurer BOD, Climb & Scramble Seattle
  • Pat Podenski, Backpack Seattle, Snowshoe
  • Brian Seater, Navigation & Scramble Seattle
  • David Shema, Past Climb Chair Seattle, SAR Naturalists, Youth Outreach
  • Brian Starlin, Navigation Co Chair & Climb Leader Seattle, SAR
  • Greg Testa, Navigation Co Chair Seattle
  • Heidi Walker, Hike Chair & Navigation Instructor Seattle

*Note: Most participants had/have other leadership roles, too.

Peter Hendrickson chaired Navigation Summit 2015 with organizing committee support from Bruce Crawford, Lynn Graf, Brian Starlin and Greg Testa. Contact him at.


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