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Relocation (when lost)

​When it all goes wrong

Needing to relocate?

Needing to relocate?
Credit: Scot 6 Days 17 video

Last edited: Sun 15 Oct 2017

Lost? Or merely needing to relocate? As you get better, the mistakes you make will get smaller. But the only way to get better is to make mistakes, so you get practice at relocating! Yes, it is a bit 'Catch 22'

Over to Richard...

We all make mistakes, so perhaps the best orienteer is the one who loses the least time on their errors. So it's a good idea to know how to quickly recover and get back on course.

It is not uncommon to find someone loses 20 minutes or more on one control. I know this because it has happened to me!

In my case this indicated two mistakes: the first being losing track of where I was, this is known as losing contact with the map, but this was then compounded by failing to deal with this in a sensible fashion.

Experience has taught me that whenever I lose track of where I am, then the first thing to do is STOP! Then I need to put the search for the control on hold while I re-locate.

I have developed the following strategy to quickly re-locate:

  • Step 1: look at the map and mentally retrace the route since the last control. Where was my last known point? Did I miss a turn? Can I see where I might have gone wrong? If that has not resolved the problem then:
  • Step 2: look up at my surroundings and try to identify features that will be clearly shown on the map, such as a pond, an electricity pylon, a distinct vegetation boundary, and use these to regain contact with the map. If I'm still not sure:
  • Step 3: go and find a known point, for example I go to the nearest path and follow it to a distinctive path junction, or even retrace my steps back to my last known position.

One thing definitely to avoid is aimlessly wandering around, hoping to stumble over the control by accident, as this strategy is highly unlikely to be successful!

Richard Sansbury

  • Skilling Up- Hints and Tips for Improvement #14, from QuOnicle 157, September 2014

Further tips

Get Lost, Or How to be a Headless Chicken (by Solway Orienteers)