I believe that mastering orienteering along steep slopes will be an important key to success at O-Ringen 2018 High Coast.
Part 2 of O-Ringen's Orienteering School is written by Albin Ridefelt.
The amount of experience you have with this type of orienteering depends a lot on where you grew up and where you are from. The hills that I run on at home in Uppsala provide completely different physical and technical challenges than the ones we will encounter at O-Ringen 2018.
Where I come from (and in large parts of central Sweden), the straight-line route choice is usually the fastest, and the few hills that you encounter along the way are usually easy and quick to run right over. The terrain around Örnsköldsvik, on the other hand, will offer something completely different.
In this section of the orienteering school, I share what I believe are the most important keys to successfully handling tricky controls located along hillsides and slopes that are waiting for us next summer.
Some time in my youth I learned that you should always climb on a slope leg and take the control from above. There is definitely some truth to that, as runnability is often better on the higher parts of the slopes, but everything depends on how the course setter has "balanced" the particular leg.
On longer legs I prioritize runnability and simply select the route choice that I think will be fastest. On shorter legs, however, I think that being able to take the control safely is most important.
On the shorter slope legs, there is often more to lose than there is to gain. This means that it can be worthwhile to choose a safer, even if somewhat slower, route.
This map segment shows an advanced-level leg from the map Gensön, located close to the area for O-Ringen stages 1 and 2. I think that the blue route choice shown here is fastest. The route involves virtually no climb, and the runner can maintain high speed the entire way. However, I think that the blue route choice is a lot riskier than the green one. On the green route, you climb up in the beginning which gives you a good overview of the terrain. The green route also passes several distinct and unique features that will stand out in the terrain.
While running the green route, I would want to see the corner of the cliffs in the first part of the leg and then use the rock at the top of the reentrant with the cliff just before the control circle as my attackpoint. This is an example of a typical "unique" feature: when I see the combination rock + reentrant + cliff, there are not a whole lot of other places I could be. I could then maintain high speed all the way in to the control.
As mentioned earlier, the blue route choice saves some climb, but there are not many unique features to use for navigation, and it's very easy to drop elevation on the slope along the way. I would expect it to be about 15 seconds faster if executed cleanly, but over five days of orienteering, the green route is guaranteed to be better in the long run.
I have a different approach to longer legs. Of course, a safe approach to the control is important here as well, but it is even more important to be able to run fast.
This leg of intermediate difficulty has a longer route choice shown in green and a more direct one in blue. The green route has a rather difficult attack through a vague swamp. It can be difficult to lose your direction here and become unsure of where you are.
The blue route choice is shorter and, even though the first part of the route is difficult, the attack into the control has some unique and distinct features. On the blue route, you have a long edge of the swamp on the right, a yellow hilltop with a cliff and large rocks close to the line, and a clear-cut area to keep you from going too far to the left.
An important aspect of choosing the correct route is to know your own strengths and weaknesses as an orienteer. If you are very fast through rocky terrain, perhaps blue is the better route for you. If you are stronger on trails, then choose the green option. The difference may not be very large, but you can often get extra confidence from choosing a route that suits your strengths.
I also think the correct choice can depend on the point in the race when you encounter this leg. In the very beginning of the race it might be nice to run around on trails and use the opportunity to look over the rest of the course, even if I think the straighter route choice is a little faster.
Another extra tip for choosing your route is to read the control description. If you can tell that the control will be more visible from a particular direciton, that can make a big difference on a bland hillside.
Short legs - safety first!
Long legs - choose whichever route is fastest (for you)!