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Discussion: NAOC - Burnt Mountain Map Scale

in: Orienteering; General

Feb 3, 2017 5:00 PM # 
I enjoyed the ONA Winter 2017 edition's write up: "High Praise for NAOC2016 Courses. I note that the map detailing some of the Green X legs was READABLE! It was wisely printed in a different scale than the 1:10000 of the actual maps used in competition. I personally had a significant FAIL on that day of competition, not being able to decipher the Brown X course, resulting in a DNF. I acknowledge that the terrain was terrific, the weather wonderful and the map magnificent. However, I believe we need to use a different scale, perhaps 1:7500 in the future if similar conditions exist. I am not a BAD orienteer, had success the weekend before, happen to (luckily) be ranked 1st in the M-75 Class for 2016 and and almost never, ever give up. My eyesight is 20/25 for reading and 20/20 for distance. My map now resides in my bathroom, where once or twice a day, I continue to try to read it. This is not a complaint or simple sour grapes - but a suggestion for the future. The winning time on my course/class - by a very talented orienteer - was, as I recall: 1 hour and 51 minutes.
Feb 3, 2017 5:21 PM # 
Or, rather than increase the scale, put less stuff on the map.

I too struggled mightily with reading the map, for me at 1:15000.
Feb 3, 2017 7:10 PM # 
I'm with Alex. I had the same problem with the Fall A meet run by EMPO in 2015.
Feb 3, 2017 7:38 PM # 
same mapper. too much black in both cases.
Feb 3, 2017 8:31 PM # 
I'm with Hugh... DNF'd, my own fault, but would have been easier to discern trails and other key details if scale were bigger or there were less on the map. It's a great area and I have my map copy in the car, where I study it at stoplights. I hope to get revenge on the place at the Boulder Dash this fall!
Feb 4, 2017 2:05 AM # 
This Fall's Boulder Dash has been sanctioned to use different map scales:

1:5000 for White, Yellow & Brown-Z (M80+, M85+, F70+ to F85+)(same as at NAOC), 1:7500 for all other Brown & all Green courses, 1:10,000 for Blue & Red (all classes).

(Scale for Orange wasn't mentioned; probably an oversight.)
Feb 4, 2017 12:13 PM # 
Not to lighten the mapper's responsibility, since I am very sympathetic the the comments above, but the course setter also bears responsibility for selecting readable control features/areas, especially for the older eye classes (Brown/Green) .
My off-site memory is that the courses I saw were not eyesight adjusted.

Mac, I'm glad to hear that you are are maintaining "once or twice a day" regularity. ;-)
Feb 4, 2017 4:05 PM # 
While I agree that both the mapper and the course setter have to be cognizant of map legibility, the Burnt Mtn issues discussed above would have been mitigated by a 1:7,500 map scale.

I think Hugh is spot on. Organizers of local and national races should be more open to using a 1:7,500 map scale for masters runners. This will create a more enjoyable experience without taking away any of the core navigational challenges. And importantly, it’s a super easy solution to implement when maps are printed on demand anyway.

Alex’s comment of putting ‘less stuff on the [Burnt Mtn] map’ makes perfect sense for elite competitors running IOF regulated 1:15,000 Long courses. However, changes to the current mapping trend is exceedingly difficult to agree on, and that debate should not slow down meet organizers from being flexible on map scale for non-elite courses.
Feb 4, 2017 4:24 PM # 
What size features were mapped? I think that this is a key part of the discussion of how much should be mapped, versus the optimal scale. Some maps have a minimum boulder size of 1.5m, for instance, due to the amount of rock in the terrain. Concrete metrics like this, beyond just "map more" or "map less", are useful, both for the mapper and for the orienteer, who would ideally receive these criteria in the event information, and use this to understand what to expect to see in the terrain given what one sees on the map, and on the map given what one sees in the terrain. For topography, one can have a similar discussion, though the minimum feature sizes are somewhat implied by the contour interval. What minimum size of knoll, or reentrant, was mapped? I view my task as a mapper as ensuring that everything above the minimum size is mapped, and equally that everything below is not. For contours, that means "airbrushing" out minor fluctuations below the limit of what can (and should) be shown everywhere by contours and form lines. If I were to include every jitter no matter how small, even if it reflected true topography, then the map would not consistently depict the terrain, because some equal size topography between contours (and form lines) would necessarily go unmapped. But that all goes to the question of...what is the threshold for each kind of feature? And is that different for different terrain? Is the orienteer aware of those thresholds? Should boulders and cliffs have the same threshold? For topography, how does one describe that threshold? I think that's a key aspect to this discussion of the "right" amount of detail, a practical necessity of achieving readability, and one that I think the orienteer should be aware of, and even opine on. (Sorry, this may be too down in the details for some, but I think that it's an important interesting (to me) topic that's hand in glove with both how much to map, and with the optimal scale. And while I've heard it discussed a bunch decades ago, I see less discussion of it today, perhaps just because of forum or current address. I think that pondering it puts another perspective to the other topics of the thread (and many other threads).)
Feb 4, 2017 5:35 PM # 
I'll suggest Alex's comment "put less stuff on the map" applies to everybody.

The selection of detail on the map should be determined by what helps the orienteer at a competitive effort. (This includes aggressive, but not casual walking.)

The amount of detail should not be an impediment, by itself,. nor should the small details make it difficult to read the large or important details, but I think this is exactly the situation on numerous maps. Some I have seen first hand in the field, some I can only guess at, and rely on the comments of others. Yes, it is difficult to define human perception, but I think some maps and mappers are clearly crossing this line.

Sure, a larger map scale is a convenient improvement when the map/mapper includes useless details, but it is not the source of the problem.
Feb 4, 2017 6:16 PM # 
I think fossil's comment, "too much black" is spot on. If I can modify that to "too much rock", I think this would cover 80- 90% of the overmapping problem.

Overmapping yellow and green details may be a waste of time on unreadable features, but they usually still fit the overall impression, and don't obscure much because they are simply lighter. Handy example- the yellow on the WOC 2016 maps.

However overmapping small rock features, obscures many more important features, including trails, truly large rock features, and contour features. With contours, this includes the overall topo picture, as well as smaller details which are still more prominent than the minuscule rock features which can hide them.
Feb 4, 2017 6:48 PM # 
"However overmapping small rock features, obscures many more important features, including trails, truly large rock features, and contour features."
- This is exactly the main issue with the Burnt Mountain map.

I 100% agree that overmapping is the real source of a general map legibility problem. Swampfox described this well in a recent post:

My point is that while the orienteering community figures out the optimal mapping standard, masters runners and other non-elites can immediately benefit from a more flexible approach to map scale when it is appropriate for a given map and terrain.
Feb 4, 2017 9:06 PM # 
Mmm, but a problem with "map less", or "put the right amount of detail on the map" is that they lead to "yes, I do already". Quantifying this in some way makes the discussion more concrete, and thus more actionable. This will vary by terrain, of course, but just saying to map the amount that makes the map legible hasn't necessarily led to that over the last few decades. In fact, the amount of detail seems to be slowly ever increasing, despite this topic coming up frequently, and with every update of the specification. I'd suggest positing specific minimum feature sizes that you think would lead to the right amount of detail for a given terrain, or at least pointing out maps of detailed terrain that were legible, and then finding out what the minimum feature sizes were. The latter will need to be adjusted for different terrain, but at least it's something concrete. Or find some other concrete metric. Otherwise I don't think that the topic is likely to have much practical corrective effect, because it hasn't for the last few decades.
Feb 5, 2017 12:40 AM # 
One problem with trying to write specs like you would for someone writing software is that a map that includes multiple adjacent terrain types could easily have different answers for each area. The best approach isn't necessarily to be consistent across an entire map. (And nowadays when large areas get mapped and then different chunks cut out of them for any given competition day (e.g. West Point/Harriman or Laramie), how would that even work?) Map notes or course notes are often used to pass on clues to how the mapper generalized the area and whether the standards used were different in different parts of the map.

My feeling is that there is at least as much "art" to this as there is "science". The mapper should be able to print off a copy of the map at the intended competition scale, stare at it for a while, and then pronounce it "good" or "too cluttered (hard to read)" or even something like "there's room for more detail over here where contours are few". If in doubt probably good to run it by another experienced pair of eyes that wasn't involved in the process for some honest feedback.

Also... while I know nothing about the Burnt Mountain case, it occurs to me now that at Camp Wakpominee I recall the mapper expressing displeasure with the final printing of the map, with the black coming out far more pronounced than anticipated.

While I'm not necessarily opposed to allowing larger map scales for specific instances, it seems that every time we allow a scale increase the "nature abhors a vacuum" effect kicks in and more detail gets added, making the map at the bigger scale just as difficult to read as it was at the smaller scale.
Feb 5, 2017 12:52 AM # 
there's room for more detail over here where contours are few

As noted at the end of the post, that's not a good reason to add more detail. Some places are featureless, and should be mapped that way.

As far as increased scales, from a club perspective the perception is that the main obstacle to that is that Sanctioning will be opposed to it.
Feb 5, 2017 1:51 AM # 
oh yes, absolutely agree about not adding features just to fill space. That comment was meant only in the context of making decisions about what to leave out. But yeah, I should probably have just left it out.
Feb 5, 2017 2:22 AM # 
I definitely disagree with inconsistency across the map. There are maps that add more form lines wherever the terrain is blander or flatter, making the map appear even throughout, and thus making it harder to read the right (slope, what the terrain looks like, etc.). In the worst case, the map would have an even density of boulders throughout the map, but in one area they'd be 1.5m high and up, and other areas 0.5m high, with no way to tell which is which, other than riffling through the meet notes on course. That's as bad as different contour intervals across the map. Areas mapped as a single map should be consistent across. If divided up, they'd still be consistent. If multiple maps are merged, they need to be made consistent.

Having orienteering mapped for forty years, I think that O mapping desperately needs to be more science and less art; that's the problem with it, and why it's so hard to fix things like legibility. There should be agreement on how to measure the size of a boulder, the size of trail, the shader of green, and so forth. And the specifications do a pretty good job at that. More along that line is probably useful.

When I did multi mapper projects, an early decision was the minimum boulder size, minimum cliff size, and of course contour interval. This was pretty essential to a good result. I don't think it's a terrible stretch. But these things need thinking out before you have a hundred boulders mapped. And I suspect that discussing publicly that "such and such an area really should have a 1.5m minimum boulder size" will help steer mapping in the legible direction more effectively than encouraging the mapper's inner artist.
Feb 5, 2017 2:25 AM # 
It's also easier to read AP posts that are broken into smaller paragraphs...

Feb 5, 2017 2:27 AM # 
Point taken ;-)
Feb 5, 2017 2:34 AM # 
I've got at least one Swedish map that lists the contour interval as "2.5-5 m". It's not two maps joined together, with a seam where half of the contours disappear, it's rather that they used a bigger interval in steeper areas. Doesn't sound like a good idea to me, but I've never been in the terrain with the map.
Feb 5, 2017 2:49 AM # 
There was an Ontario map used a number of years ago (along the Niagara escarpment). The subtle areas above the escarpment were mapped at 2.5; the escarpment and below at 5. (I might have that reversed, whether it went from 2.5 to 5 or 5 to 2.5) Although it sounded scary in the event information, I didn't feel that I had any noticeable trouble transitioning on the run.
Feb 5, 2017 4:42 AM # 
2.5m -5m mapping-
I'm not advocating, but this does make sense on typical Nordic terrain (including some NA areas). The flat areas or flat hilltops are loaded with topo details, and are well suited to a 2.5m interval, but the hillsides would be cluttered with 2.5m lines.

The routine solution is to use 5m, but with the tops and flat areas getting a nearly complete network of form lines, effectively a 2.5 m interval.

now risking a bigger thread diversion-
Most appropriate 2.5m terrain still warrants some form lines ( ~1.25m lines) , which is why I suggest tolerance of a few double form lines on a 5m map in this flat, glacially rumpled, Nordic context, although not in other smoothly profiled 5m terrains. The Swedes and Norwegians seem to agree. The by-the-book, single-form-line Finns seem willing to live with some missing topo features, or I suspect more commonly, with mappers that compress (lie about) the contour interval on the hilltops. :-) (this will rile somebody)
Feb 5, 2017 4:52 AM # 
Well, technically: "The contour interval for an orienteering map is 5 m. In flat terrain a contour interval of 2.5 m may be used. It is not permissable to use different intervals on the same map." (ISOM 2000 section 3.2) Using form lines to create an area of 2.5m contours is of course possible. For the top of a hill versus the side, the effect isn't too bad, but for subtler changes in slope, use of form lines in the shallower bits, and especially use of stacked form lines in the flattest bits, leads to an even undifferentiated contour density, suggesting an even slope, and then it's an eyesight test to figure out which are form lines, and thus shallower slopes. Oh well. I find that pretty unreadable, though mappers have sometimes gone to great effort to do that.
Feb 5, 2017 7:42 AM # 
Yeah my club has a map that has 2.5m contour interval above the Niagara escarpment and a 5m interval along and below. Given that most of the escarpment on the map is an uncrossable cliff and cuts through the map as a straight line it is has served its purpose really well. It is very clear where the transition takes place.

Most of the area was from an early 80's basemap by Bakken and Helgesen. We had only used the western half of the basemap where there is only about 10 ha of above escarpment terrain. When it came time to map the eastern half in the late 90's we realized how poor the large above escarpment section was so we got a new basemap (Stirling) at 2.5m contours for that section.

Anyway, unconventional and against the rules and more ammo for the haters of our club. I joke. Sorta. ;-)

But back to the main aspect of this thread. The terrain at Burnt Mtn was excellent and the courses were good but the poor map readability made my personal race experience average at best. I got to run on 1:10K. I can't imagine what it must have been like at 1:15K. Having said that I really appreciated
the hard work of the course planners like Alar (and all volunteers) that weekend and look forward to another opportunity to run in that terrain this fall. Luckily I think I'm old enough to run green. Woohoo 1:7.5K
Feb 5, 2017 8:16 AM # 
There is limited value in quantifying what is to be mapped although I agree that "There should be agreement on how to measure the size of a boulder, the size of trail, the shader of green, and so forth ."
The wonderful thing about orienteering is that every terrain is different and there is only so much a map standard should dictate. The map should be readable when running first and foremost, but after that and ISOM/ISSOM maps are in fact art not engineering.
Feb 5, 2017 12:32 PM # 
Okay, motivation to upload NAOC photos . This was a mapped crag. There are a couple of other 'crag' photos in there.
Feb 5, 2017 2:43 PM # 
Feb 5, 2017 3:58 PM # 
Speaking of the NAOC Long map,one positive thing about it was not seeing
those idiotic names of hills, trails, swamps, etc. proudly printed over the named object, like "Burnt Mountain", "Crooked Creek", "Happy Trail", etc., present on the rest of maybe 99% of American maps, a telltale sign of backwardness.
Feb 5, 2017 4:57 PM # 
I like them, as long as they aren't getting in the way. Makes you feel more connected to a place or at least wonder about the origins of the names. I'd much rather have that than black ink being wasted on ankle-high cliffs.
Feb 5, 2017 5:05 PM # 
ISOM (not positive it's still in the latest version) actually mentions the proper way to do place names like that, pointing out that they can help you quickly distinguish between north and south. (Assuming you know the alphabet, of course.) There are some other reasons for doing it as well, not relating directly to orienteering.
Feb 5, 2017 8:31 PM # 
Tsk: yurets' aversion to names (signs) is so unbecoming. Not to go the Randy route, but a little more affinity for semiotics may do much to leaven his mood.
Feb 5, 2017 11:26 PM # 
I need to partially correct my 1st comment above, in response to

Becks: I'm with Alex. I had the same problem with the Fall A meet run by EMPO in 2015.

I wrote: same mapper. too much black in both cases.

I was thinking of Camp Wakpominee (May 2013 US SML Champs Long), which also suffered from too much black. The 2015 EMPO meet was at Pineridge, which I did not feel suffered from this issue. To me Pineridge seemed much easier to read, probably because it wasn't over-cluttered with black features like the other two. I felt this was a good example of map generalization, leaving out the smaller stuff and focusing on the most prominent and useful features. I do recall hearing others complain about "smaller features missing" though, so Becky was not alone in her opinion. Interestingly this was also the same mapper as the other two.
Feb 5, 2017 11:29 PM # 
EMPO used a different printer (producer, not machine) in 2015 than 2013.
Feb 6, 2017 1:43 AM # 
I recall feeling pretty intimidated by Wakpominee at first glance. Looking back, the first lines of my log entry are "Turned the map over and said some not very nice things! I don't know what I expected, but not all that black!"
Feb 6, 2017 4:19 AM # 
@: semiotics here is very simple: we'll tear down those signs, and build that ....
Feb 6, 2017 8:49 AM # 
Wow, giant 1m long shoes. Must be perfect for running on soft wet surfaces.
Feb 6, 2017 2:30 PM # 
Hi fossil. No, I also thought Pineridge was overmapped.
Feb 7, 2017 12:28 AM # 
Art vs science: Eric Andrews, regarded as one of Australia's top mappers especially in rocky terrain, referred to his work as "bush art".
Feb 8, 2017 3:45 PM # 
Thanks all. I learned much from these comments:

1 - There's a great deal that I don't know about maps and mapping, what's perfect versus what's good; and I'm relieved that I was not alone in my frustrations with this map, this scale, that day.

2 - Opinion: the perfect is the enemy of the good; and demanding perfection will make course-setter's, mappers and volunteers surrender; and Janet's mention of the next Boulder Dash using a 1:7500 scale seems to me to be "good" and appropriate.

3 - Look - breaking up long paragraphs!

4 - Opinion: Eric W. is correct, a course setter bears some responsibility in these circumstances. A little mercy on that damn second control would have been nice. I can still not really determine what the control feature was supposed to look like. There were (magnifier here) 11 black features and four or five contour features within the control circle. Look at BrownX #2: (Routegadget uses a smaller scale than the map and the trails are considerably more visable on Routegadget.) Meet day, I gave up, realizing that I did not know what I was looking for.

5 - I do not believe that ALL Brown courses for us old folks need a 1:7500 scale. Ward Pound Ridge's map certainly did not the weekend before.

6 - I learned a new word.
Feb 8, 2017 4:34 PM # 
I think that it's clear that specificity would help in the case of this map. A statement that 0.3m high cliffs would be mapped would seem crazy given how much rock the map has, and would flag up a problem quickly. It's not that subtle once stated objectively. (Stated in terms of subjective legibility it has taken dozens of posts with only vague conclusions.)
Feb 8, 2017 7:24 PM # 
the perfect is the enemy of the good

And the "good enough" is the friend of the mediocre...
Feb 8, 2017 7:26 PM # 
I thought that the map was good at 1:10,000, not that I did too well.
Feb 8, 2017 7:35 PM # 
I am hesitant to chime in on the Burnt Mtn. map because I don't know the whole story but I am pretty sure it was field checked twice for the NAOC event. The first time by Mark Dominie and than, a second pass by another professional mapper ( I think he was from Italy?), with the specific purpose (I think), to avoid over mapping and try to get an acceptable 1:15000 map. I don't know if Alar was comfortable with the final version but reading his coarse notes for the event, I get the sense he might not have been because he mentions the scale, detail and legibility and a number of revisions plus the use of a magnifier.

I think I also heard that an appeal to use 1:10K for the long distance was denied for the WRE categories. But again, I wasn't part of that so could have my facts wrong.

I do know that I used a 1:5000 +/- for setting/picking up controls and I really enjoyed it
Feb 8, 2017 11:10 PM # 
Agree with Igor. Thought the Brown course was fine a 1:10000. The map wasn't the cause of my errors.
Feb 9, 2017 12:24 AM # 
What was the control description on "BrownX #2"?
Feb 9, 2017 12:44 AM # 
middle cliff, 2.0, foot, water

This discussion thread is closed.