NAVIGATION MADE EASY 1: GRID REFERENCES

 

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Catherine McMullin, Dáithí Ó Conaill, and Monica Dillane of TMC investigating a megalithic tomb in Loch a’Duin.

 

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The above photo shows members of Tralee Mountaineering Club (TMC) examining a megalithic tomb in Loch a’Duin on the Dingle Peninsula. The tomb was placed in the valley using an ancient navigational system that was, apparently, centred on the Spring Equinox.

It is located on a small plateau east of An Scoraid river, about 900 metres southeast of the Kilmore junction on the Conor Pass road. The location is marked by a red dot on the 1:50,000 Ordnance Survey map; red dots signify the location of archaeological features in the landscape.

 

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There is a more precise way of describing the location of the tomb. View Ranger gives its position as Q 52763 08134. This is called a grid reference, which is  an alpha-numerical set of geographic co-ordinates that is used to locate a feature on a map. Grid references are the basic unit of a navigational system that divides the country into twenty 100 X 100 kilometre zones. This is called the National Grid

Loch a’Duin is located in Q, one of two squares in the National Grid that cover the Southwest. This is the first element of every grid reference. It is followed by two set of numbers. The first is called the Easting (52763). The second is called the Northing (08134). These allow the navigator to zoom in on each zone, pinpoint the location of a feature on the map, and navigate towards it with confidence.

 

THE GRID

 

UTM and National Grid

 

This diagram shows the national grids of Ireland and Great Britain superimposed on a global grid, which is known as the Universal Transverse Mercator or UTM for short. It is named after Gerardus Mercator, a Flemish map maker who invented a system of world wide navigation in 1569.   The UTM was adapted to provide an agreed system of  geographical co-ordinates that could be used in global positioning systems ( GPS) like View Ranger.

The Ordnance Survey offices of Ireland and Northern Ireland adopted a modified version of the UTM in 2001. This was done to increase the accuracy of GPS measurements by minimising distortions in mapping across the island as a whole.  This is called the Irish Transverse Mercator (ITM) or, simply, the Irish Grid

The Irish Grid provides the organisational and geographical basis for navigation in Ireland but mountaineers usually use 1:50,000 maps. The ground covered by these maps is not the same as the area in each zone of the grid; each zone contains more than one map and many maps extend beyond the boundaries of individual zones.

 

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The Irish Grid (left) and a section of the grid superimposed on the corresponding 1:50,000 maps issued by Ordnance Survey Ireland (right).

 

Loch A’duin is positioned on Map 70 in zone Q of the national grid. Iveragh is located in zone V, the dividing line running along the southern shore of the Dingle Peninsula. Grid references for Iveragh – maps 78 and 83 – begin with the letter V. The zone is clearly identified on each map and the boundary between zones is clearly shown.

 

 

THE MAP

 

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Each map in the 1:50,000 series uses a grid made up of 30 by 40 squares measuring 2cm and representing one kilometer on the ground. Each square is defined by a vertical and horizontal blue line. The vertical lines are called Eastings and the horizontal lines are called Northings.

Eastings measure distance from west to east. The line dividing East and West is called the prime meridian.  This was  agreed in 1884 as the line of longitude running through the Greenwich Observatory, near London.  Anyone who has visited the Observatory will recall a metal strip in the ground that marks 0º Longitude; the line dividing East and West and the first of the Eastings. The prime meridian used in GPS is approximately 102 metres East of this line. This will read as 0º on satellite based systems.

 

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An aerial view of the Greenwich Observatory. The dotted white line represents 0º Longitude and the solid white line represents the line that divides East and West in modern global positioning systems. Source Why the Greenwich meridian moved.

 

Northings measure travel northwards from the equator.

 

Every Easting and Northing on a 1;50,000 map has a value between 00 and 99. On Map 70 the Eastings run from 20 to 60 while the Northings run from 88 to 99 and 00 to 18. Grid references contain two sets of numbers (co-ordinates) that define the position of a feature on a map in relation to Eastings and Northings, the Easting are always given first.

Q 52763  08134 is given as the grid reference for the tomb in Loch a’Duin.  52 refers to the Easting and 08 refers to the Northing.  These define a one kilometre square, which is read from the right (East) of the Easting and above (North) of the Northing. The point where these lines intersect –the bottom, left-hand corner – is called the origin and all travel eastwards and northwards within the square is measured from this point.

 

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The square formed by Easting 52 and Northing 08. Q 52000  08000 is the grid reference for the  origin, the point where the two lines intersect..

 

There is a problem with a grid reference that merely identifies a square on the map. It presents you with a square kilometre of ground to search for a feature that may only be three or four metres in size. The solution is simple. Each square is divided into a grid made up of 100m units. These are numbered 0-9 and are represented by the third number in the Easting and Northing component of a grid reference –  Q 52763  08134. This grid reference puts the position of the tomb in a 100m square that is 700m east of  line 52 and 100 metres north of line 08 on the map.

 

Grid 2&4

 

This still leaves us with a large area of featureless terrain to search but the last two digits of grid reference Q52763  08134 tell us that we have to walk 63m eastwards and 34m northwards from the origin of this square to locate the tomb. This coincides with the red dot that marks the location of an archaeological feature that is identified as a Tuama Meigiliteach.

 

CONCLUSION

Grid references are an essential part of your navigational skillset. They enable you to locate your position on a map, pinpoint features in the landscape, and navigate safely from feature to feature.

 

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

Grid 4

 

Use this system to generate grid references for the following features:

  1. The Gallán (Standing Stone) north of the tomb.
  2. The point at the edge of the forestry where a stream enters An Scoraid.
  3. Spot height 73.
  4. The start of the track leading into Loch a’Duin, from the Conor Pass road.
  5. The point where the track crosses the 100m contour.
  6. The point where the track meets An Scoraid.
  7. The point where An Scoraid crosses the 100m contour.

Handy hint:

You can use the 1:50,000 scale an your compass (Silva Expedition) to quickly and accurately establish a grid reference. Here’s how:

 

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Q 52763 08134

Q (NATIONAL GRID) 52 (EASTING) 7.63 (100M GRID)  08 (NORTHING) 1.34 (100M GRID)

 

Here is another type of navigational problem.

There is another  way of navigating to the location of the tomb. Open View Ranger, place the red dot marking the position of the tomb at the centre of the crosshairs and mark with a Point of Interest (POI). Then activate the Navigate To function. View ranger will present you with an onscreen,  point-to-point route to your objective and will guide you along it in real time. Simple!

Here is the problem.

An Scoraid river lies between the track into the valley and the tomb. To reach the tomb by this route you will have to cross the river. River crossings are one of the most dangerous aspects of mountaineering.

Find the spot where the track is closest to the tomb and read the course of the river in relation to the contour lines. The river is flowing through a fairly narrow  re-entrant. Would you consider crossing the river at this point?

Have a look at the flat area north of this, where the river drops from the 100m contour to the 90m contour over a distance of approximately 200m. Does this look like a better option? Remember a 10m drop is equivalent to the combined height of 5 very tall people.

The river is a very dangerous feature between you and your objective, the tomb. You need to navigate to a safe river crossing first, then from the river to the tomb. If you can’t identify a potentially safe crossing, don’t go to the tomb by this route.

The point is this; grid references allow you to pinpoint the position of a feature but you still need to (1) understand the nature of the terrain in which that feature is located and (2) be capable of assessing the risks and the opportunities presented by it. That is where skilled map reading contributes to safe navigation.

 

Previous: Navigation Made Easy: WEB RESOURCES

Next: Navigation Made Easy: FEATURES (May 2018)

 

End.

 

 

Holy Moly, Mass on a Mountain

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Celebrating Mass on Mount Brandon in 2015. This mass was organised for Ang Wong Chhu, a Sherpa guide whose visit to Ireland’s “holy” mountain was filmed by Seán Mac An tSíthigh for TG4. Photo: Ciarán Walsh

 

Did you know that Tralee Mountaineering Club has its origins in the pilgrimage associated with Mount Brandon. The mountain was a major pilgrim site in medieval and early modern Ireland but the tradition of pilgrimage stretches back to pre-historic times; it is associated with Lugh, the Celtic god of light and his dark counterpart, Chrom Dubh.

The Christians exploited this but eventually abandoned the pilgrimage in the 19th century, mainly because of the chaos associated with the “moral holiday” that followed the arduous trek to the top.  Many attempts were made to revive the pilgrimage and organised ascents of the mountain in the 1950s indirectly led to the formation of  a mountaineering club in Tralee.

 

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CYMS Pilgrimmage to Mount Brandon, May 23, 1954. The photograph was taken in Faha, on the site of the grotto that marks the start of the traditional pilgrim route to the summit. Photo Tom Finn Collection.

 

The first item on the agenda of the new club was the split. Some members of the club argued that it should remain focused on the pilgrimage while other’s argued that the club should concentrate on mountaineering. The club mass became a compromise solution. It was organised by Seán Kelly every January and continued until 2017, when it was dropped from the calendar of club events.

The decision was taken by the outgoing committee (Chairperson Simon Quinn) and was only noticed when the calendar was published. Some members approached the club’s President (Nuala Finn) and asked to have the mass reinstated. The current committee (Chairperson Shane Mulligan) agreed and the mass was re-scheduled for April 16, 2018. It was a little ironic that the 2018 club mass, which traditionally remembers deceased members of the club, recorded the passing of Seán Kelly in 2017 and his brother Pat in 2018.

There is a wider issue here. The tops of mountains are regarded as spiritual places by many people within and without the mountaineering community.  There is extensive archaeology associated with summits, most notably Queen Maeve’s tomb on Knocknarea in Sligo. Many peaks are also marked by crosses, many of which were erected in 1954 to mark the first Marian Year, which was ordered by Pope Pius to promote the cult of the Virgin Mary.  Mount Brandon has both pagan and Christian associations.

 

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Cross on summit of Carrauntoohil after it was cut down in November 2014. Photo: Cronin’s Yard/Twitter  published in The Irish Times

 

The cross on Corrán Tuathail was erected in 1976 and was cut down in 2014. This generated a debate about the association between mountaineering and spirituality and whether it was appropriate to mark the tops of mountains with symbols associated with one religious denomination. The consensus seems to be that there is room in the mountains for all believers and none and that the process of marking theses places as sacred is, in the end, a personal choice.

 

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A bonfire lit by a Lithuanian mountaineer on the summit of Corrán Tuathail to mark St John’s Eve or Bonfire Night (June 23). The new cross can be seen in the background. Photo Ciarán Walsh.

 

The tension between pagans and Christians is now part and part and parcel of the pilgrimage to the top of Brandon. The Christians climb the mountain on Lá tSin Seáin Beag (June 29th) and the pagans, who revived the Lughnasa festival in 1995,  climb the mountain on the last Sunday in July, which is known locally as Domhnach Chrom Dubh.

In 2015 nine of us attended a mass that was organised for Ang Wong Chhu, who was visiting Ireland’s scared mountain. Nuala Finn and I became sherpas for the day, acting as mountain guides and carrying filming equipment for Seán Mac An tSí­thigh of TG4.  We approached the mountain from the west. A month later over 150 pagans climbed the mountain from the east. To each his/her own.

 

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Sacred Places: the mass that was organised for Ang Wong Chhu, Sherpa guide. Photo: Ciarán Walsh.

 

 

 

 

 

The Wettest Day … EVER: The Reeks, Sun 15 April 2018

 

 

AWASH in the Devils Ladder. Nuala Finn, Tralee Mountaineering (TMC) President taking a break in the waterfall that was the Devils Ladder last Sunday, April 15 2018.

 

The forecast was not good. A band of organised rain was moving across the Southwest on Saturday night and Sunday Morning but some sunny spells were promised and a run to Corran Tuathail was on the cards. It turned out to be the wettest day we had ever experienced in the Reeks.

There was one other car parked in Lisliebane. Nevertheless, we headed off at 13.00, in the rain. We met Martin Murphy in the Hags Glen and he had been in rain all day. We met a few other mountaineers on the track but by the time we reached the ford on the track we were all alone.

 

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The rain never stopped. The water was lapping over a few of the stepping stone and every stream in the valley was a roaring white torrent. The work done by the Reeks Forum on keeping water off the tracks has really paid off but the upper part of the  track leading to the Devil’s Ladder was completely flooded.

 

Tralee Mountaineering Club TMC photo showing maintenance work being carried out on a path in the Hags Glen,
Maintenance work being carried out on the track leading to the Devil’s Ladder. Photo by The Reeks Forum

The Devil’s Ladder was one big waterfall and we were soaked to the skin, the combination of  rain and floodwater  penetrated the best gear that we had, almost. We pulled out.  We didn’t miss anything. We met Joe Doran and Tim Long in Kate Kearneys. They had led a group up O’Sheas Gull and came out by the Devil’s Ladder. It was very wet and windy. Joe counted no less than ten (10) torrents in the valley.

When we got to back to the car my feet were dry even though I was wearing North Face runners and Salomon ankle gaiters rather than boots. The secret: Dexshell Waterproof socks from Landers. These worked far better than Sealskin socks, which tended to get waterlogged and leak.

Every wet day has a silver lining.

Training Matters in Mountaineering

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Members of Tralee Mountaineering on a training run across Crib Goch, Snowdon, 2014.

 

Does training matter? Do challenging days in the mountains enhance members’ experience and contribute to the development of the club? Should the club calendar have all of those elements built into to it?

I come from a tradition within the club that says yes to all of that. In 2014 I led a group of Level 2 Climbers across the Crib Goch in Wales and, with that experience under our boots, we climbed Tryfan on the following day. The Crib Goch is a challenging prospect at the best of times and most of the members involved on the day would never have been considered capable of climbing those routes. Conditions were perfect for a spot of training and everyone completed the routes safely. We repeated the exercise a year later.

 

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Ann O’ Donoghue on Tryfan

 

Thats how we progress, that’s how the club works for the benefit of all members. All it takes is some leadership, training, a bit of teamwork and, of course, appropriate conditions.  For the past three weeks there has been lots of snow in the mountains, conditions that would have provided many opportunities for similar skills development in the area of winter mountaineering.

To take advantage of those opportunities requires a culture of progression in sport, a commitment to training, and, of course,  leadership.  Leadership has been identified as one of the main challenges facing TMC and mountaineering clubs in general. To meet that challenge we need to look at the skills within the club and the quality of leadership that those skills make possible.

We also need to make an audit of mountains skills appropriate to leadership at each level, including associated skills in first aid and rope work. Any gaps that emerge need to be filled by access to training, either on courses or through participation in club activity that has an inbuilt element of training associated with it – rope days, navigation days, or the application of those skills as a routine part of club walks and taking advantage of the opportunities presented by the current snowy conditions.

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An introduction to windslab, O’Shea’s Gully, March 4, 2018.

We also need to look  at the way the calendar is put together, making sure that walks  are pitched at an appropriate level and ensure that nominated leaders have the necessary skills to ensure an enjoyable, safe, and, where possible, challenging day in the mountains.  Challenging is main word here.

Attendance on club walks is increasing – there were 25 people on a recent level 2 walk –and it may be that the same walk does not fit all members at a given level. We may need to look at a wider range of levels, intermediate levels with varying degrees of challenge for instance.  We would need to train up even more leaders, encourage greater participation in mountain skills training programmes.

That represents a challenge in itself.

One way of getting around that might be the introduction of a Club Leader’s Award, as a first step for members engaging with the various Mountain Skills and Climbing awards schemes. The rewards are obvious.

 

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TMC on Tryfan 2014

 

 

Next A chance to develop new skills: theAlpine Summer Meet 2018

Mountain Log: Corran Tuathail, Macgillycuddy’s Reeks: March 4, 2018

 

A Quality Mountain Day

Three weeks of snow promised unprecedented opportunities for winter mountaineering. The worst of the weather had passed and the way was open for a day spent practicing on snow and ice in Macgillycuddy’s Reeks

 

 

The Weather

This walk was all about the weather, coming shortly after a red snow and ice alert had been  lifted, and before a widespread thaw had set in.

The forecast was a for slight rise in temperature and,  although temperatures would remain low, a thaw would set in, with rain moving in from the West in the afternoon. Winds would remain light. In the Reeks this would mean continued snow cover, though no consolidation, light falls of snow and uncertainty over visibility.

It was a day for ice axes and crampons.

 

The Team

There were four of us. Bertie Hickey, Andrew Kelliher, John Laide, and Ciarán Walsh. Nuala Finn had to pull out due to illness in her family.  We had done a lot of training in snowy conditions over the past three weeks and were looking forward to a challenging and rewarding day in the mountains.

 

summit 4

 

Conditions

Conditions were perfect. Access roads were clear of snow, except for the final 500m or so up to the carpark in Lisleibane. A number of cars turned around but we reached the carpark without difficulty in  a couple of 4X4s (one was a Honda!).

There was a lot of snow in the Glen. On the last club walk the snow started above Coomeenapeasta Lake. Today, however, there was 3 or 4 inches of snow in Lisleibane, with deeper drifts. It was very mild and there was no wind. As a consequence visibility was very poor and we opted for a straightforward run to the summit

 

The Route

We went straight for O’Shea’s Gully, across the rocky, southern  edge of  Beenkeragh Ridge, and on to the Summit, followed by a straight run (almost) to the Devils Ladder , and down.

 

Route March 4

 

Coimín Íochtarach (1st leve) and Coimín Láir (2nd level) were full of deep snow and visibility was very limited. Dave McBride, Sheila O’Connor, Richard Doody, and Richard Cussen were ahead of us and left a lovely trail of compacted snow. We met three Italian on Level 2, they didn’t have any gear with them and were retreating from O’Shea’s. We geared up at the step below Coimín Uachtarach (3rd level), left the trail and headed up O’Shea’s.

 

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O’Shea’s was full of snow which had formed wide bands of solid windslab.  It was perfect. In some places it felt like a 45° climb, perfect training conditions. A day spent in the Ice Factor in Kinlockleven last October paid off.

Beenkeragh Ridge had deep drifts on the Caher side so we stuck to the rocks. They were covered in hoar ice but going was good. There was some corniching but nothing major. We saw the marks of Dave and Co’s crampons at the top of Curve. They were still ahead of us. There was one other climber on the summit but he returned a short while later with a friend. That was it on the day.

 

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Visibility was vey poor and deep snow covered the trail. We headed down and took a slight detour to the right, corrected and navigated to the Devil’s Ladder. The snow in the Ladder was deep and wet and the ice was thawing, but otherwise descent was straightforward

 

Stats

Stas March 4

 

 

Verdict

A quality Mountain Day.

 

Comments

We have had three weeks of snow in the Reeks, with a lot of opportunities for challenging winter mountaineering and training, skills development and progression. The sort of thing we used to go to Scotland for. Magic.

 

 

Next: Training matters. Taking advantage of snow

 

 

Winter Mountaineering at its Best: Carrauntoohil March 4, 2018

 

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John Laide and Andrew Kelliher, Tralee Mountaineering Club, at the summit of Carrauntoohil on Sunday, March, 4 2018
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Andrew Kelliher, Tralee Mountaineering Club
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John Laide and Bertie Hickey, Tralee Mountaineering Club, heading up Shea’s Gully on Sunday, March, 4 2018
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Bertie Hickey, Tralee Mountaineering Club, getting stuck into the windslab in Shea’s Gully on Sunday March 4, 2018
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Perfect winter mountaineering conditions, windslab at 45 degrees in Shea’s Gully.
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Andrew Kelliher and Bertie Hickey, Tralee Mountaineering Club, reaching the top of Shea’s Gully on Sunday, March, 4 2018
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John Laide, Tralee Mountaineering Club
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John Laide, Ciarán Walsh, Bertie Hickey, Andrew Kelliher at the summit of Carrauntoohil on Sunday, March, 4 2018
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Heading towards the Devils Ladder
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The Devil’s Ladder
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John Laide heading down the Devil’s Ladder
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Wet Snow in the Devil’s Ladder
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Bertie Hickey on the Devils Ladder.
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Bertie Hickey
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Bertie Hickey and John Laide making the best of bad snow in the Devil’s Ladder.
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Bottom of the Devil’s Ladder

 

Dedicated to Nuala Finn, the Snow Queen, who couldn’t

make it on the day due to an illness in her family

 

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CW

 

 

 

 

What makes a QUALITY MOUNTAIN DAY (QMD)?

 

 

ANDREW MAP  ANDREW WALK STATS

 

 

These images record the TMC Level 3 Walk led by Andrew Kelliher on Feb 11, 2018. The route took us from Lisleibane, up a spur to Coomeenapeasta, across the Reeks to the Devil’s Ladder, out the Heavenly Gates and back to Lisleibane, a total distance of 13.39 Km, over 5 hours and 40 minutes, with a total height gain of 1184m.

The conditions were fantastic. The forecast (BBC) was for snow, which fell in bursts as pellets/graupel, and lay as powder snow. There was some pack on the ridges and a few patches of ice. The wind was light but gusting in snow bursts that reduced visibility on an otherwise bright and sunny day.

 

 

It was a fantastic day in the mountains and the question is this:

   does it qualify as a QUALITY MOUNTAIN DAY?

or

   would it be classed as a Quality Hill Walking Day (QHWD)?

 

A QMD matters if you wish to progress in the sport. The ML or Mountain Leader award requires that you log at least 20 quality mountain days. A QHWD, on the other handis the cornerstone of the award for group leaders. More about that in a later post.

 

DEFINING A QUALITY MOUNTAIN DAY:

According to the Irish Mountain Training Board, a broad definition of a QMD is one which presents new experiences and challenges. Such a day would generally consist of the following:

  • The candidate is involved in the planning and instigation.
  • The walk would last at least 5 hours and take place in an unfamiliar area.
  • The majority of time should be spent above 500m, distance should be over 16km with over 600m of height gain during the day, and cover a variety of terrain.
  • The use of a variety of hill walking techniques.
  • Adverse weather conditions may be encountered.
  • Experience must be in terrain and weather comparable to that found in the Irish and UK hills.

 

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Then there were six, approaching the top of the Heavenly Gates. Bertie is behind the camera. Connie and Billy headed for the summit.

 

Does Andrew’s walk qualify?

Six of us were involved in doing a recce with Andrew under very similar conditions, which qualifies as being involved in the planning and instigation of the walk. The conditions were challenging, cancelling out familiarity with the terrain, although there was still no need to navigate. The snow meant we had to carry extra  equipment, although the quality of the snow (pellet) meant that ice axes and crampons weren’t much use. That required other techniques. We were well over 500m for most of the day and our total ascent of 1184m was almost twice the minimum requirement of 600m. We covered 13.39Km, a good bit short of the 16Km recommended but we did have to use a variety of hillwalking techniques, especially going down the Heavenly Gates, which were full of powder snow.

 

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Generally speaking – and the Irish Mountain Training Board has given a broad definition  that generally includes the above – Andrew’s walk would have to qualify as a QMD. It certainly did present new experiences and challenges. That is why TMC has always  climbed in snow, and there is no better place for a quality day in the mountains than the Reeks on a snowy day.

For more on quality mountain days have a look at this forum or this blog.

 

Next: Far Away Hills Are White!