Orienteering: What to do when Things Go Wrong

It is up to the orienteer to choose the routes between controls. The key to staying on track is to look at the map often, because it can take up to three glances before you realize the surrounding terrain is not what you are expecting from the map. Looking at the map more frequently ensures you won’t go as far before you realize you are off course. But there are days when things still go wrong.

There are many types of errors. Below are some examples.

– The parallel error — you are navigating using the wrong feature because it looks just like the feature you think you should be near.

– Turning your map in the wrong direction — you end up going in the opposite direction from where you should be going. You may think this could never happen to you, until it does.

– The compounded error — you are over confident and deny that you are lost, and end up getting yourself even more lost.

The key to finding your way when things have gone wrong is really a metaphor for life: correct the error while it is still small.

1. Stop. Accept the fact that you don’t know where you are on your map.

2. Orient the map using your compass. Keep your imagination under control; do not try to make the map features fit the slopes and forest or grassland around you, when they really do not match up.

3. Backtrack to the last place you were sure about on the map.

4. If backtracking does not lead you to a known spot, use your compass to lead you to an obvious feature, like a road, fence, or power line. Once there, use other obvious features to determine where you are.

5. Persevere and head to the control you were looking for when you got lost. It will feel great to finally find that control because you had to work so hard for it.

Sometimes you can get offtrack on terrain that is very similar to where you really should be, and you may even spot a control that seems to be placed on or near the kind of feature you are expecting. But it may not really be the control that you were hoping to locate. Always check the number on the control before you punch your SI stick into the SI unit. Once you have punched the SI unit for that (wrong) control, it is too late.

At the end of an orienteering meet, people often compare notes on where they went wrong. It is always a great way to learn from others and provide fellow orienteers some ideas on what not to do.

For more information on our family friendly orienteering events check out the Yukon Orienteering Association website at http://www.yukonorienteering.ca.

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