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National Navigation Awards

Introductory videos:    NNAS Introduction    Too wet to navigate    Building navigational competence

We are a registered National Navigation Award Scheme Trainer and Assessor.

As Sir Chris Bonnington says: "Maps and navigation are literally the lifeblood of anyone walking or mountaineering.  You need to know where you want to go, and how to get there."  Excellent advice but I would add '- and how to get back' as most incidents occur when attempting to return.  Things look different in the other direction especially if the weather has worsened or it is getting dark.

The Award Scheme runs through Bronze, Silver and Gold levels.  With Gold being equivalent to the technical level of the Summer Mountain Leader scheme.  Successful assessments provide recognition of personal performance through badges and certificates.  The Bronze and Silver awards are conducted over two days and include the assessment.  Gold training takes place over two days, but the assessment is an additional day after a period of consolidation and practice.  The National Navigation Awards are a practical scheme with minimal 'classroom' input, so you need full hill walking gear and be prepared for the weather at the time of the course.  All three levels are on the SCQF framework with each having 2 points.  Bronze is at level 4, Silver at level 5 and Gold at level 6.  So in addition to a new certificate it adds something solid to your CV.

It is not mandatory to work through these levels as many people have sufficient experience of some navigation principles to start with whatever Award they would like.  Though there is a greater likelihood of not passing an assessment without experience of the preceding level.

The Bronze Award may be undertaken without previous practical navigation experience though to gain the most benefit familiarity with Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 and 1:25,000 mapping is recommended. Students who are not familiar with these maps may need additional introductory training prior to this level. The features we work with in the outdoors are invariably tracks, woodland, water courses, grid lines and contours, while many of the other symbol features are of lesser importance.

The Silver Award is designed to take those with Bronze Award skills to the next level, after an appropriate period of consolidation by personal experience.  This is the minimum level for navigating in poor visibility.  Experienced clients may be able to start at this level, contact us for a discussion first.

The Gold Award takes candidates who have successfully mastered the Bronze and Silver levels but adds the techniques required for navigating principally using contour features.  To get the best out of this level candidates would be ideally have some experience navigated in difficult terrain on many occasions prior to assessment.  This level is equivalent to the standard expected from a Summer Mountain Leader.  You will require a wrist accessible stop watch.  This level now includes the assessment phase as previously an additional day and consolidation experience was required.

Each award can be delivered over a weekend or series of evenings which are typically based on multiple 2 hour sessions.  Specific courses can be tailored to suit the participants.  A two day weekend course including a Friday and Saturday evening session if the Introductory module is being taken provides the best opportunity for Bronze and Silver learning consolidation as it avoids having to relearn things from previous sessions. 

The nature of the navigation courses gets harder and more demanding as the levels progress.  The minimum times apply to people who have reasonable experience of the principles at the previous level and have undertaken a lot of consolidation practice between courses.  Those who lack experience are more likely to fail.  Depending on the amount of repetition and discussion during the day it is possible that a weekend course could take up to 20 hours to complete. 

These awards are delivered in the outdoors, therefore you will need meals and equipment for a day in the outdoors, each day.  The exception to this is the Introductory Module which is classroom based, for which a packed lunch/snack is advised depending on the timing.

To register for the scheme please go to the NNAS website and complete the details.

Introduction to Mapping.  Depending on your basic map knowledge it may be necessary to undertake an additional Introduction to Maps module of around 4 to 6 hours tuition before taking a Bronze course, as a basic understanding and familiarity with Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 and 1:25,000 mapping is highly desirable to gain the maximum benefit.  Unlike the formal award courses this is classroom based, but waterproof clothing is advised as there are some short outdoor exercises.  If combined with a weekend Bronze Award course this could be programmed for the preceding Friday afternoon or evening.

Bronze Award Aim: To be able to plan and follow routes in the countryside using paths, tracks, and other linear features, with basic map interpretation and compass work.  This course has a minimum of 12 hours of training including an assessment over a distance of between 3 and 5 kilometres of suitable countryside per day.  Groups up to 6 can be accommodated.

Silver Award Aim: To be able to plan and follow walks in the countryside away from paths and tracks.  Using the skills acquired at the Bronze level but adding the skills and techniques required to navigate to features and places away from paths and tracks.  This award level takes at least 16 hours of training, including assessment over a distance of 5 - 8 kilometres per day in terrain which allows for the demonstration of the appropriate skills.  This level is also provided on a 1:6 instructor:student ratio.  This is the minimum level of skills to be able to navigate with confidence in poor visibility or at night.

Gold Award Aim: To be able to plan and follow routes in any open countryside, forest or hill environment.  It uses the skills of the first two awards, but adds techniques and further skills for dealing with complex contour features on terrain with few or no man-made features.  This award requires a higher standard of navigation skill.  This course also includes 16 hours of training and assessment.  The assessment takes place in wild terrain appropriate to this level.  You will require an accessible weatherproof stopwatch.

The focus of the Awards is to provide candidates with the tools and knowledge to safely navigate.  They are therefore part of a progression of learning and as each level introduces new techniques and concepts there is no expectation of slick or automatic performance.  It is understood that students are still learning even during an assessment.  Slick demonstration of skills only comes after a period of consolidation and additional experience, candidates are therefore encouraged to practice this after the courses.

For further details please contact us.  All navigation equipment is provided, including maps, map cases, and compasses.  The courses are based in the outdoors so candidates should come ready and prepared for walking in the weather and conditions at the time.  Packed lunch, snacks and drinks will be needed but are not provided.  In normal conditions we start off with a classroom session where it is easier to discuss aspects of theory.