Part 4: White forest with different character

The maps along the coast of Norrland have two different types of white forest. When I moved to this part of Sweden, it took me a while to understand this and learn the difference between white and white, but once you’ve cracked the code, then the difference isn’t especially complicated.

White forest in an area of complex contours usually indicates good visibility, open pine woods with outcrops of bare rock, and technically difficult terrain to run through. White forest surrounded by vague, smooth contours is generally dominated by fir trees, worse visibility, and softer ground underfoot, but is usually easier to run across.

These changes between good and bad visibility are frequently exploited by course setters, and you need to be aware of this when planning your routes on Norrland’s hillsides.

Read the terrain

For this first leg, I have a rather clear answer as to which route I would choose, but I find it somewhat difficult to clearly explain why I would choose it. The differences here are rather small. The approach to the control is similar on both routes, and the difference in climb isn’t that great either. There is not much of a difference in length. So what is the decisive factor? The hilltop that the red route traverses is open, but there is also likely to be a lot of mini ups and downs not shown by the contours. On that hilltop you will need to change speeds and occasionally slow down to look at your compass, and the footing will switch between hard and soft along the way.

The green route looks simpler and faster the whole way, with few places where you can be led astray. I expect good runnability down the reentrant in the beginning of the leg. I also expect decent visibility despite being in an area with smooth, vague contours. The navigation will be relatively straightforward, as I will have the hillside to one side and I should be able to make out the clear-cut area through the trees on my right. The only potential downside of the green route is the small rocky area in the middle of the leg, but I expect to be able to avoid it.

Therefore I would choose the green route for this leg.

Hills: over or around?

On this leg, the red route choice involves twice as much climb as the green (approximately 65 versus 30 meters of climb). Additionally, the red route does not offer a simpler attack in to the control, as approaches on both the red and green routes are relatively straightforward.

The green route should allow you to maintain very high speed the entire way. The runnability on that route looks very good with the exception of the rocky area at the bottom of the cliffs towards the end of the leg.

While it is not an obvious choice, I am likely to choose the green route for this leg.

Choose the route that suits your strengths

The forest close to the control in the area of vague contours is shown as green on the map, making it easier than usual to pick out the difference in runnability from the map. The first half of the green route looks very fast – downhill along a large reentrant – where you can expect to be able to maintain top speed. But what then?

From the large cliff about 250m south of the control it looks very difficult to successfully attack the flag. There are no distinct attackpoints, and the visibility only gets worse.

The red route requires some climbing in the beginning, but it looks worse than it is: three, maybe four, contours. You will certainly need to maintain a precise direction and look at your compass often, but the good visibility on the hilltops will make that easier. One might need to climb up and down a few small bumps and knolls, but I am willing to do that, since the red route looks very good otherwise.

The approach to the control is easier on this route since you can follow a ridge down from the hill, and then pick out two hills. The visibility should be good as you attack the control, allowing you to maintain good speed. I would choose the red route on this leg.

It is not always easy to choose your route, but I think that the most important part is to always make a conscious choice. You have to dare to stop at the control and think about the pros and cons of the different route choices. Are you better at running on the hilltops with good visibility, or does your strength lie in maintaining a precise bearing in denser woods?

Good luck!

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