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Orienteering
By:  Riel Allain   (2013/06/12)

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This is my first XC Ottawa article. At first, I was a little anxious, I felt like XC Ottawa has covered everything worth covering when it comes to skiing related subjects. Steffan Lloyd suggested I write an article about why I joined XC Ottawa, but that's boring, even I would not want to read that. But then I realized I should just write about orienteering. Orienteering, for those who don't know, is navigation from check-point (named control) to check-point using a highly accurate topographic map and compass. Every spring the Ottawa Orienteering Club hosts each Sunday a series of orienteering meets in and around Ottawa. If you want to participate in an event check out ottawaoc.ca for more info. Each classic Sunday meet offers several different courses with varying degrees of difficulty. You can chose to do whichever you can handle;

  • novice course (check-points are all easily accesible and visible, usually all on main trails)

  • intermediate course (a bit longer and some bushwacking involved)

  • short-advanced (a.k.a. the fun course, this is challenging, you will probably call yourself an idiot at least once if you choose this course. )

  • long-advanced (a.k.a. the most fun course, unless you are former XC Ottawa members Colin Abbott or Lee Hawkings both expert orienteerers, you will be in for a spanking)


A couple weekends ago, I participated in the Camp Fortune meet. I have participated in countless meets, but this was my first time orienteering there except for that time the meet was at p7 and I made my way to Camp Fortune when I became lost. I chose to do the short-advanced. The course had only 10 controls and was 4.5 km long as the crow flies. The following photos will give you an idea of what you are getting into if you choose to do the short advanced course.


You show up whenever you can between 10 and 11ish, you sign up at the tent and choose the course you want to do. Bring a friend, you can race as a team. They have the course maps laid out on a table so you can see which would be the most fun (usually it's the long advanced). If you are new and are not sure which course to do, then you should probably ask about novice vs intermediate. If you do not have any equipment, don't worry, you can rent stuff there. Just bring shoes, pants or long socks (for protecting your legs when bushwhacking) and some cash (check http://ottawaoc.ca for registration fees -).

Once you have everything ready, you can start whenever you want.


This was the start at Camp Fortune, there is usually a volunteer sitting on a chair making sure you don't start too close to another racer doing the same course as you. There are 3 little electronic boxes at the start. The 2 on the left are for making sure your dibber (small USB key-looking device that records your time) is cleared of all previous race data. The one on the right is the start, once you ''punch'' your dibber into the hole and hear a beep, start running!

This is my attempt to show the whole course... Start is the red triangle on the right, don't forget that you need to get controls in order!

Right after control #2 heading to #3, lots of mud. A second earlier this guy was stuck in the mud and was gripping the tree trying to free himself.


Control #3 - notice the small cliff on the map at #3 (fork-like thing).
I'm pretty sure this guy would have taken longer to find the control if it wasn't for me standing right next to it taking pictures.

At this point everything was going well, I was even confident enough to stop and take some pictures. At the time, I was thinking something like: "cheez, I think I've got this whole orienteering thing down, this is easy!" But then, the inevitable happened...

Red - my route
Green - ideal route
navigational mistakes, a.k.a. getting lost
This is how you loose time in orienteering... You try to make up for mistakes, but you just end up amplifying them.
I'm mostly embarrassed by my decision to climb the massive hill between 4 and 5 (next to the number 7) rather than going a bit further down the trail and cutting left.
7 to 8 was also a disaster. As I was trying to find 8, a kid who was also doing one of the courses asked me for directions. I tried my best to help him, despite myself also being lost.


Once you get to the finish, you get a printout of your race from Eric by downloading your dibber in the red box. ( he isn't as serious-looking as the picture would lead you to believe)

This is the printout. It shows your time between each checkpoint. Once at home, you can compare your times to others who did the same course as you on ottawaoc.ca.
After every event, there are always cookies and watermelon waiting for you.

This guy was 1st in the short-advance. He is a perfect example of the orienteering fashion - orienteering pants and some sort of Scandinavian club name on the back of your top.
I ended up 2nd in the short advanced course...

As with ski events, orienteering would not be possible without the hundreds of man-hours put in to organizing an event (someone had to put the cliffs, boulders, knolls, swamps, etc. on the map)
Thanks to Benoit Letourneau (left) and Bill Meldrum for organising the Camp Fortune event.
 
Interesting Reading. . .
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