postheadericon Which Way? - Basic Navigation Strategies


by Roy Hiller

Finding your way around a Rogaine map is not such an easy task. A long time Rogainer, Roy Hiller, lays out some basic strategies and skills for tackling the navigation challenge.

You have worked out in advance which controls you hope to visit and the order in which to do it. Now comes the start and off you go. As there are few controls very close to the hash house, you may find yourselves following a mob for a while, but before long you will have to navigate. The question is how?

An orienteering compass is your only permitted tool : hopefully you have learned how to use it. If not, place the compass on the map with the long edge parallel with the route you want to follow, then rotate the central dial until the big north arrow points to the magnetic north on the map. Now, hold the compass in front of you - facing ahead - and turn yourself until the red needle is aligned with the big north arrow on the dial. Now, if you walk straight ahead you are going towards your goal!

Clear as mud? Ask an official how to do it - before the start.

So, you have started and soon the crowds thin and you have to choose which way to go. If the ground is flat and open, by all means rely primarily on your compass for direction, and use “pace counting” to tell the distance. When pace counting it is best to count in double paces eg. 1,2,3.. each time your left foot touches ground. Each such double pace will be rather less than two metres, depending on the length of your stride. Work this out in advance, but remember that as you climb hills your stride is shortened, likewise as you go through bush and towards the end of a long day it is surprisingly very much shorter.

As I said, use compass and pacing when your route is clear and open. But, it hardly ever is! A straight line may be the shortest route, but it is seldom the easiest or the fastest.

Use your map to work out the easiest route. This generally means avoiding hills, thick bush, deep gullies, wide rivers and such like obstructions. Choose the best overall route between each control. Experience will tell you that in some areas flat, lateritic hill tops are open, in others prickly; sometimes casuarinas indicate rock sheets; that open wandoo is, here, good going just below scarps; that the big streams are, here, lined with impenatrables, etc. Meanwhile, enjoy learning such things in the bush.

Major mapped features are important landmarks. Look for them, aim for them and use them. Especially useful are line features such as tracks, streams and fences. But you need to know where on the “line” you are. This may be achieved by following it down to a recognisable point such as a junction. But, make sure that you don’t follow it the wrong way; avoid this by aiming off - ie by approaching the line feature a bit to one side of the seeming best route, so that you know which way to turn on arrival.

Contours are very often the most useful features shown on your map. Use them to identify hills, valleys, steep pitches, summits etc. Learn to distinguish big features from small. Check the direction of ridges (e.g) with your compass and make sure that you can tell up from down. If in doubt, find a stream on the map which means valley bottom, or a summit and work out from that which way up you are.

Now you are getting on! But, don’t get too smart. The best route may be a track.

As you get close to a control, you may find that you have to take great care to read map detail. The control should be very near the centre of the marked circle, but read the description too. And remember that the control feature itself may or may not be on the map. The key words are usually “the” and “a”. “The 2 metre boulder”, will be shown on the map. “A 2 metre boulder” will not be shown, but you should be able to find it in the middle of the circle.

I could go on, but I lack space - and I don’t want you to beat me on your first event! Have fun, anyway.


Last Updated (Sunday, 04 July 2010 16:04)

Event Entries
Subscribe to Enews Updates
Keep up to date via our Enews