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    Thursday, 20 December 2012 13:30

    The fabled ‘all night nav’!

    Written by

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    For all trainees, the ‘All night nav’ is a right of passage into the team and typically one of the final elements to be signed off in a their logbook before being nominated to become a full member. This year, Lugs has kindly written about his recent experience giving you an insight into what it takes to be part of a search and rescue team.

    Lugs says …….

    The all night navigation assessment is designed to test at night and over an extended period regardless of weather, a trainees navigation skills when tired and under pressure.

     The ‘all night nav’ assessment normally takes place when the trainee is at the end or near the end of their logbook.  My intake has had the chance of two previous all nighters to prepare us for the real thing. The first one turned into a full scale all night call out 30 minutes after leaving the vehicles,  and the other, in March this year, we were taken for a gentle ‘bimble’ so we had some idea of what it was like to be out and moving across the moor all night, while the then senior trainees were being put through their paces further out on the moor, in amongst the bogs and mires….

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    Finally it was around 8p.m and we are off. The first part of the evening involves getting to our Bivi site, the location of which we are only told the night before. We are in groups of four, two specialist nav team members and two trainees being assessed. The first couple of legs are fairly straightforward and act as a nice settler to get your ‘moor head’ on and making little adjustments to your bag which at this point is not the lightest as you begin to concentrate and warm up. Getting used to the terrain which even at this point isn’t easy going, striding through clumps of knee high purple moor grass and knee deep soft bog,  trying to get into some sort of rhythm, which isn’t easy.   You look at your map while remembering to dim your headtorch, trying to build up a mental picture of the ground…and so away we go, little specks of light in the blackness working our way out across the moor from point to point. Even though each trainee is given an alternate leg, there is no time to rest in between legs as you need to keep track and pace with whoever is leading because at some point you will be asked where you are…

    Sometime just before 12 midnight and having worked our way out via Deep Swincombe  to Ter Hill and back down the valley formed by the fledgling Swincombe, we arrive at the bivi site half way between Fox Tor and Childe’s Tomb. From here the main event starts. We unload, set up tents grab a quick cuppa and some fuel, in my case bananas and a well known chocolate confection, (ok a Mars bar). We now pair up with two different nav team members and off we go, the main event..the all nighter.

    Swapping legs between the two trainees being assessed it is now after midnight. On each leg, bearings, pacing and timing need to be accurate. We navigate to features that are not on the map ( there’s a lot on Dartmoor that’s on the ground and not on the map and vice versa) but we are told what we should be looking for and sometimes it can be just a tiny ‘kink’ in a contour line. Each trainee has to follow the route of the other, at any point the one that isn’t leading will be asked for a position, how far we have been or how far it is to our intended target, and so it goes on…At one point this year we had a good dousing followed up by a nice fog, which, as its pitch black anyway, doesn’t really slow proceedings down that much…just makes the evening even more interesting… I’ll not give too much away, I think if I say we went over Crane Hill, across Plym Head and back south easterly just North of Ducks Pool, on to Blacklane Mire and then back up towards Crane Hill all the time pace counting, checking bearings, checking timings, checking your surroundings, is the ground running up where it should be, is it starting to fall away where I expect it to, and is what’s supposed to be there actually there at all!

    All this is done with map and compass and dead reckoning. The team does of course use GPS devices but you have to be able to navigate to a very high standard with map and compass across any terrain and in any weather and every member of the team can, without exception.

    After making our way back over Crane hill we headed  back to the bivi site, stopping for a well earned brew on the way back arriving around 5.30a.m in time to grab a couple of hours kip before a hike off the hill and a well earned breakfast at The Tradesman’s in Scorriton. Needless to say navigating to such standards and across terrain such as this is hard work but ultimately very rewarding and as a Search and Rescue Team entirely necessary. 

     And there you have it the bare bones of the all night navex…well you didn’t expect me to tell you everything..did you?

    Thanks Lugs, an excellent insight to the standards trainees are expected to reach during their training. What Lugs didn’t say though was he passed. Congratulations and very well deserved.

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