Knowing where you are is the most basic mountaineering skill of all. Three-quarters of all rescue operations do not involve injuries, just locating lost hikers. This one-day, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado based, orienteering course will teach you how to navigate using a map, compass, altimeter, and GPS. Whether you’re a mountaineer, hiker or backcountry skier, this course is extremely useful.  Mountain navigation skills are a must have skill set.

Meeting location:

Colorado Mountain School
341 Moraine Avenue
Estes Park, CO 80517


This course is designed to teach students to travel with confidence in the backcountry.  The following skills are covered in this course:

  • Become skilled in topographic map reading – visualize maps in three dimensions
  • Gain compass, altimeter, and basic GPS skills
  • Learn to plan your intended routes before you go
  • Learn to travel in unmarked terrain


Colorado Mountain School offers a 16 bunk lodge that is conveniently located upstairs from our office and classroom in downtown Estes Park.  The lodge features a full kitchen, WiFi, a lounge and hot showers. Reserve a bed now for just $40 per night (plus tax).


All of our courses can be run as custom outings.  If you’re interested in a course, but it doesn’t fit into your schedule, please check out our custom guiding options.

All Upcoming Dates and Locations:

  • December 10, 2019 - December 10, 2019 - Mountain Navigation - Estes Park, Colorado
  • December 31, 2019 - December 31, 2019 - Mountain Navigation - Estes Park, Colorado
  • February 11, 2020 - February 11, 2020 - Mountain Navigation - Estes Park, Colorado
  • March 3, 2020 - March 3, 2020 - Mountain Navigation - Estes Park, Colorado
  • March 31, 2020 - March 31, 2020 - Mountain Navigation - Estes Park, Colorado
  • September 30, 2019 - September 30, 2019 - Mountain Navigation - Estes Park, Colorado
  • April 28, 2020 - April 28, 2020 - Mountain Navigation - Estes Park, Colorado
  • October 28, 2019 - October 28, 2019 - Mountain Navigation - Estes Park, Colorado
  • May 26, 2020 - May 26, 2020 - Mountain Navigation - Estes Park, Colorado
  • June 23, 2020 - June 23, 2020 - Mountain Navigation - Estes Park, Colorado

The Map

  • General definition of maps and United States Geological Survey (USGS) topographic maps.
  • Overview of information shown in the margins, including: Projections (Mercator projection); degrees, minutes, seconds; longitude and latitude; scales and series; reference lines (Universal Transverse Mercator [UTM] grid, State grid, section and range lines).
  • Color designations and meanings.
  • Topography:
    • Mean sea level
    • Contour lines
    • Contour intervals (dark brown vs. light brown)
    • Identifying land forms
  • Orienting the map

The Compass

  • Discussion on the anatomy of the compass.
  • A look at different scales used on compasses.
  • Learning to shoot bearings.
  • Learning to follow a bearing.

Map and Compass

  • Declination (true north vs. magnetic north).
  • Measuring angles on the map (azimuths).
  • Locating or identifying objects on the map and on the ground – ded reckoning
  • Triangulation
  • Intersection


  • Learn to read UTM coordinates from the map
  • Roughly by sight
  • Using an interpolator

Route Planning

  • Discuss tour planning basics
  • How to record the tour
  • How to establish legs
  • How to establish times
  • Stress overall importance of proper planning

Modern Tour Planning Devices

  • Show and discuss modern electronic tour planning/navigation tools
  • Caltopo, Hillmap, Gaia, Topo Maps


No experience necessary


Be Expert With Map and Compass, Hjellstom

Outward Bound Map and Compass Handbook, Randall


8:00am - 4:00pm


8 hours

Maximum Ratio:


Minimum Age:

Please call to register participants under 18


  • Trained and/or certified guide
  • Use of Map and Compass for the day


  • Food
  • Transportation
  • Lodging
  • Clothing, backpack and non-technical personal items
  • Park Entrance Fees (where applicable)
  • Rescue Insurance
  • Trip Insurance
  • Gratuity
  • Expenses due to unforeseen circumstances beyond the control of Colorado Mountain School
Item Description Quantity Example Purchase At Rent At Equipment Type
Approach Shoes

These are “hiking” shoes specifically made for approaching and descending from a climbing venue where scrambling is necessary, or even for climbing an entire route. They have sticky climbing rubber on the bottom and a formed fit to influence better climbing abilities while scrambling. Consider high-tops for additional ankles support if needed. Regular hiking boots or athletic shoes may be acceptable for many climbs.


Men: La Sportiva TX3 Men
Women: La Sportiva TX3 Wmn

Neptune Mountaineering

Backpack: 18-25 liter

This small pack is carries one’s approach shoes, water, food, extra layers, and toilet kit on the route. This pack should close completely so that no items can fall out.



Neptune Mountaineering

Climbing Pants, Shorts or Capris

For all seasons, cotton, loose-fitting (or tight, stretchy) pants are usually acceptable for rock climbing. Shorts are acceptable during the summer - though shorts expose the knees and shins to abrasions. New climbers are encouraged to wear pants or capris. A synthetic material (like in softshell pants) may be required by your guide due to potential rain storms.


Men: Rab Vapour Rise
Women: Rab womens Vapour-rise pants

Rab Stores


Used for navigation and orientation. A compass with adjustable declination is preferrable.


Silva Ranger CLQ

Neptune Mountaineering


Proper lunches that are prepared ahead of time are recommended (sandwich, burrito, leftover pizza, etc), along with an assortment of snack bars, gels, or trail mixes. Feeze-dried meals are acceptable on overnight trips, but not day trips.


Made in Nature, Thrive Tribe

Neptune Mountaineering


Useful for navigation courses, including hiking and ski tour planning.

1 Optional
Lightweight Baselayer Top

Synthetic or Merino Wool; Worn against the skin and is considered a "wicking" layer that facilitates the movement of moisture away from the skin and through the layers. Hooded base layers add extra versatility.


Men: Rab Forge LS Tee
Women: Rab Force LS Tee

Rab Store

Lip ScreenSPF 15 or higher.

Non-SPF rated lip balms can actually increase your chances of getting burned.


Rocky Mountain Sunscreen Lip Balm

Neptune Mountaineering

Mechanical Pencil

Great for taking notes in the field.

1 Optional
Midweight Baselayer Top

Synthetic or Merino Wool; Adds extra warmth and protection from the cold and wind without creating a moisture barrier as a jacket would. Having at least one base layer that is hooded adds versatility, protecting the neck and ears from cold winds.


Men: Rab Nucleus Hoody
Women: Rab Nucleus Hoody

Neptune Mountaineering

Neck Gaiter

"Buffs" are quite versatile in their uses. They can be used as light beanies, neck warmers, and can offer face protection from the cold wind or sun.


CMS Neck Gaiter

Neptune Mountaineering

Smart Phone App

There are a plethora of apps that assist in navigation. These apps use your phone's GPS functions and can work in the mountains offline.


Avanet; Gaia Maps; Topo Maps


Great for taking photos and videos. Smartphone batteries tend to shut down in freezing temps - keep your phone in a warm inner layer. A tether is ideal in the mountains to protet against dropping your phone.

1 Optional
Softshell and Fleece Jacket

Water-resistant, windproof, yet it "breaths," which means it allows moisture to move through. Hoods are ideal. There are multiple thicknesses of Softshell jackets. A lightweight or medium-weight jacket is preferred. Fleece jackets are acceptable.


Men: Rab Salvo Jacket
Women: Rab Salvo Jacket

Neptune Mountaineering

Sports Bra

Provides support and allows for full range of motion


North Face Beyond the Wall

Neptune Mountaineering

Sun Hat

A billed hat to keep the sun at bay during the approach and descent.


Neptune Mountaineering


"Wrap-Around" style sunglasses with 100% UV Protection.


Julbo Shield

Neptune Mountaineering

SunscreenSPF 30 or higher.

Travel size.


Rocky Mountain Sunscreen SPF 50

Neptune Mountaineering

Synthetic or Merino Wool Socks

Wool and synthetic blends are great for long days on the trail. "Ski" and "Snowboard" socks are especially useful when warmth is desired.


Point 6 Hiking Light Crew

Neptune Mountaineering


Many ice climbers prefer to bring a thermos of hot water or soup instead of one of their water bottles.


Neptune Mountaineering

Toe Warmers and Hand Heaters

Help keep you warm on particularly cold days.


Neptune Mountaineering

Trash Bag

Lining the inside of your pack with a heavy duty trash bag will keep the contents of your pack dry on rainy days.

1 Optional
Trekking Poles

Adjustable and without powder basket.


CAMP Backcountry

Neptune Mountaineering

Colorado Mountain School

Watch with Altimiter

An altimeter is very useful in gauging progression of altitude gain or loss when climbing, and especially when visibility is decreased due to weather. Many Altimeter watches have compasses or GPS tracking functions.


Suunto Vector; Suunto Core

Neptune Mountaineering

Water Bottles

1 liter bottles are the standard. Bladders such as Camelbacks and Platypus are acceptable for above freezing temps, but only in conjunction with another bottle. Bladders are not acceptable during sub freezing temps. Sports drinks are also acceptable.


Nalgene, Hydro Flask

Neptune Mountaineering

Waterproof Shell Jacket

Non-insulated, Gore-Tex, Dermizax, Event, or other waterproofing system is required. Mostly, this jacket sits in the bottom of your pack and comes out when the weather gets nasty with precipitation. This jacket should fit over all other layers.


Men: RAB Ladakh GTX Jacket
Women: RAB Women's Kangri GRX Jacket

Neptune Mountaineering



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