Last weekend I attended the FRA navigation course in Kettlewell North Yorkshire.
There were 30 spaces on the course with a waiting list of 15 – I had been on the list since last year.
It was a very intense weekend, based around Kettlewell YHA where we stayed.
It started on the Friday night where we were split up into small groups of 3, each with an instructor where we were introduced to maps, scales, compasses, how to set a map, attack points and handrails.
Saturday morning started at 7am with an optional 3 mile run, up and down a hill, 780 ft so was quite steady.
After breakfast we set off in small groups on the hills to start map reading, finding points on the map and going to them, and compass bearings. We covered about 8 miles.
At 2.30 we all met up for our first solo exercise, we were given a map and had to go to different checkpoints. We were set off at intervals and did the checkpoints in a different order to minimise cheating. It was only over a small area so wasn’t too scary.
After dinner we went back on the hills, in pairs for the night navigation exercise. Again we were given a map and had to go to checkpoints ( 1.75m, 550 ft), walking was fine.
The Sunday morning early run was retracing our route from the night before, we were all surprised how small and compact the course was.
We than had a lesson about the role of the FRA, and what kit we should have. We were shown some emergency shelters which I would consider carrying on a group run.
We were then given maps for our final solo challenge (10km, 1600ft) and a list of checkpoints. After planning our routes we set off at timed intervals.
Those of us that thought we would be slow (including me) were allowed to set off first. I walked most of the way but some people ran. There were plenty of instructors around the course if you got stuck and if you really didn’t want to do it alone, an instructor could follow you closely. I had a go alone and took it steady.
After getting back and having lunch it was time to pack-up and go.
It was a really useful course, suitable for all abilities – I was a complete beginner and wasn’t too overwhelmed.
The FRA run two courses a year, the next is in September.
I would thoroughly recommend it. Take plenty of clothes and changes of shoes!