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How to Take a Bearing on a Map

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Uploaded on Oct 27, 2010

From IFMGA Guide Margaret Wheeler, this video take you through one of the foundation skills for navigating with a map and compass. In simplest terms, it links the information provided by a map to the terrain around you. You can use this skill to locate peaks or terrain features, to confirm your own location as part of resection, or to navigate in whiteout conditions. For more about navigating with a map and compass, check out the book Backcountry Skiing: Skills for Ski Touring and Ski Mountaineering.

Video Transcription:

Greetings from Chamonix, France! I'd like to take you through the steps to take a bearing from a map and to put it out into the field.

When you're doing this it's going be really helpful if you do it indoors first, in a comfortable place with all the necessary things. Now, your tools are going to be your compass, and your pencil and your map. But you might also want to have, for instance, a hot drink, handy. Make sure your hot drink is in good condition. Make sure your pencil is sharp and then,
also, you should check the declination of your compass to make sure it's accurate.

We're going use our starting place as the house in Le Mousseux, right here and we're going to take a bearing to a known point the first time we do this. So we're going take a bearing to the mid-station of the Aiguille du Midi across the valley. So we're going to put the backend of the compass, that's this one, at the starting point where we are; and the front end of the compass pointing to the thing we're taking the bearing from, that is, the mid-station. Line it up so that the compass is going from one to the other, and then you want to spin the dial of the compass so that the North of the compass faces North on the map.

It's a good idea to write the line and the bearing on your map so when you're out on the field you have that. So we have a hundred and thirty-six degrees. That's the bearing from the house here in Mousseux up to the middle of the Aiguille du

Now we're ready to go and take our bearing into the field. So we've got a hundred and thirty-six degrees on our compass. Let's take it outside and see where it points us.

So out here you can see there's a lot of mountains to choose from. I'm going to line my compass up so I can figure out which one is the mid-station of the Aiguille du Midi. What I want to do is hold the compass at arm's length and adjust the mirror so that I can see the face of the compass even when I'm holding it out in front of me. And then I'm going to move the compass until it lines up with the bearing that I've set. Make sure the compass is flat in a horizontal plane. You don't want it tipped to one side or the other.

Holding the compass out, using the mirror to look at the bearing, I can see when I point at a hundred and thirty-six degrees it points toward the mid-station of the Aiguille du Midi.

So that's a good way to test it. You know where you are, you what you're taking the bearing to, and so you can check and make sure your bearing will take you to the right place.

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