Understanding the Uses of the Military Crest of a Hill or Ridge

We have probably all heard of not allowing ourselves to be silhouetted against the sky when on a ridgeline or hilltop, while hunting or not wanting to be seen.

In law enforcement whenever we did surveillance in the hills, we always needed to be aware of our background.  This kept us from being seen by being silhouetted against the sky. Whenever possible you used the military crest of the hill.

military crest
Here you can see the military crest

Military crest is a term used by the military that refers to, “An area on the forward or reverse slope of a hill or ridge just below the topographical crest from which maximum observation covering the slope down to the base of the hill or ridge can be obtained.”  In military terms, the forward military crest would face towards the enemy.  The reverse would be a safer area.

military crest
This diagram shows both the forward and reverse military crests.

If you have to move along a ridge line staying in the military crest minimizes your being observed.  An observation post located at the military crest gives you the maximum ability to see anyone approaching your position from below.

I have spent a lot of time in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and traveled on many of the well-established hiking trails.  Most of these run on the ridgeline or crest because that is often the easiest route to travel.  The problem being that if you don’t want to be seen, you need to stay off these trails.  

Unfortunately using the military crest often makes you take a route that is harder and slower to travel.  you have to make a decision between speed and concealment, often this means traveling at night.

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When crossing a ridgeline or crest of a hill you need to be aware of the possibility of being silhouetted against the skyline.  If you are stalking game or trying not to be observed, use bush or trees for cover whenever possible.

Understanding the uses of the military crest of a hill, helps you to move about the countryside or observe what is going on without being seen.

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