Maps don’t always tell you all that’s out there.
I was doing the Great Lakeland 3 Day, a three day navigational event covering 100 miles of distance and 30,000 ft in climb in the UK’s Lake District. Not from the UK myself, the Lake District was yet uncharted territory: I was completely map dependent.
Nearing the end of Day 1, our seventh control was at the top of Bowfell. I was approaching from Stake Pass, North East of the summit. Between me and the control, the map showed closely packed contour lines, a mess of crags and cliffs right in my way. The map also showed a safe path running around Angle Tarn up onto the saddle, adding a kilometre on to the route, but keeping me alive.
Another guy was running just ahead of me, another fellow competitor. I watched him veer to the left of Angle Tarn and head straight for those same cliffs. “Nooooooo, don’t doooo it”, was all I could think. “But then again… maybe he knows something that I don’t know. Maybe the map isn’t telling me the full story. I’m tired. I can’t be bothered doing an extra kilometre”. So feck it, I followed.
He picked up a narrow, narrow path, threading its way through Hanging Knots Crags. At times, we were on all fours, scrambling up the scree. Scary though it was, it saved us 10 minutes, popping out ahead of some very surprised but faster runners.
Later he revealed that those attempting the Bob Graham Round use that path as they try to summit Bowfell and 41 other Lake District Peaks in under the stipulated 24 hours. A secret short-cut for mad endurance mountain runners that cartographers obviously thought too crazy to map.
Nothing like a bit of local knowledge.