Orienteering Lesson 2

Topic Progress:

Intermediate Techniques

In the basic section we started with was map setting or orientation. If this is not followed you may hit a track and just progress along it without checking its direction by simply lining the map up with north on the compass. Or worse still, you do it too quickly, see that it is nearly right and make everything else on the leg fit in with the mistake, even though it would have only taken 2 seconds to check it properly.

The moral of this story is that you need to know and apply the basics before moving on to more advanced techniques. If you meticulously go back to the basics


throughout a course, you will make far fewer mistakes of less duration!

1.  Compass Bearings

  • These can be used from an obvious attack point to the control. The basic method is described below but you should be practicing more advanced compass use as described after the basic method
    • Put compass on map with edge along where you want to go
    • Turn dial till lines in dial match the north lines on the map (note north to north!)
    • Hold compass with edge you used in stage 1 pointing away from you
    • Turn self and compass until the red end of the needle lies over the north arrow in the dial and you will be facing the way you need to go
    • Thumb compass technique does these stages automatically but misses out turning the dial.
    • If you use a base plate try holding it on the map all the time like a thumb compass and then you will always have a permanent rough bearing
    • Compass and map are meant to complement each other and I strongly recommend that you hold them both in the same hand, preferably your steadiest hand which is usually the one that you naturally carry the map in
    • If you do this you will always be applying the 1st basic technique described in the last section … orientate your map and check everything off against that orientation.
    • Most orienteers know how to take a compass bearing but it is included here in its full form so that you will be able to explain it to a newcomer.

2.  Contour Interpretation

  • Know some basic contour and earth features such as knoll, depression, earth bank and steep slope. Such a level of skill would overlap with the basic techniques described in the last section
    • understand contours in terms of being lines joining spots of equal height and realize that they are a picture of the shape of the ground, not measured
    • mappers may draw them slightly differently to how you see them
    • know what 2.5, 5 and 10m contours look like
    • understand features such as slope steepness, spurs, reenterants, break of slope
    • Have a method of working out up and down, use tags, streams and tops
    • notice that you can link contour features together or simplify them to create handrails

3.  Collecting Features

  • obvious features to go hard for on the route (collecting)
    • features beyond the control to “bounce back” off (catching)

4.  Aiming off

  • aiming deliberately to one side of a feature to know which way to turn when you hit it.

5.  Relocation

  • This skill is needed at all levels, but would be one to master at this stage
    • First of all orientate your map and try to match any line features
    • Then look at contour features and vegetation and try to match this up
    • Beware that there might be more than one possible match and take all into consideration
    • Try to think how far you have come and in what direction since a last known feature
    • Be prepared to run on further in the direction of the control to find something bigger to relocate on
    • Be prepared to back track to a big feature to relocate properly if necessary
    • It is often more efficient to get out to something big than to wander around in one place for a long time

The techniques described in this section are call “basics for red courses”. These will get you around a red course reasonably well. However, there are many more advanced techniques that will help you. Revisit the first section and practice these new techniques in the mean time and be ready for more advanced ones in the next level!

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