I enjoyed reading your comments, very much so.
I've only been to the Manitoba sand hills once, 1982, Canadian Champs one weekend, NA Champs the next, a couple of low-key events during the week between. I loved it. Though I wasn't sure what percent of the field liked it, as it's not easy orienteering. And when you're lost, it can be a big problem.
We were in an area without the bigger dunes you had here. I'm not sure what differences there might have been in the vegetation, but I suspect it was not so different. If anything, the bigger dunes should have made the navigating easier?
As far as the mapping, back then the maps were obviously much less detailed. 1:15,000 and I don't remember any difficulty reading them on the run.
what I wrote about the second day of the COC some years after the fact. Clicking on the title gets to the map.
So with you and Charlie going, and my fond memories from the area, I followed along over the weekend to see how things went. And I was left with two conclusions.
1. Once again, a map that is way too busy, way to hard to read.
I even went and looked up the current IOF map specs. A bunch of times it talks about how important it is that the map be legible, such as:
"The mapper must always take into consideration the special conditions for orienteering map reading. Firstly, running makes reading a map more difficult. Secondly, orienteering often takes place in forests, and in all kinds of weather. The light in forests with dense canopies is dimmed even in the middle of the day, and there are numerous other factors that impact map reading, such as rain, dirt and damages to the map or plastic bag caused by rough handling. Therefore, it is obvious that legibility is of utmost importance for orienteering maps. Minimum graphical dimensions must be respected and unnecessary detail must be avoided."
To just choose a single example, think how much better the map would be if you removed every single form line. Every single one. I doubt you'd have a single complaint. The course setter might have a couple of locations that he/she might want to change -- using more distinct control features -- but that too would probably be an improvement.
Of course, then you could also go after the other aspects of this "fill up the space with details" mentality, which could also be called "map every bush." Forget the tiny patches of green, the little clearings in the green. Respect the IOF minimum dimensions.
Think of the amount of work that went into this, and how much better the map could have been with less work.
I think one of the reasons it happens is that everything is done on a computer, and it's so easy to blow up a map segment to fit in more details, and that's considered cool.
But it's really a shame.
2. I'm still somewhat baffled by comments from you and Charlie that it was way too hard. You guys are both really good and really experienced. Realize that I wasn't there and therefore it may have been quite different from the way it looks on my computer.
My experience in such negative terrain is that three skills are essential. The first is using handrails. And the map shows all sorts of handrails out there. And certainly when you're in the open areas, they should be very visible.
The second is using a compass very very accurately. Particularly in two cases -- when you are following a handrail, to make sure it is going the right direction (and therefore you are on the handrail you think you are); and also when going through areas of limited visibility to make sure you go exactly the intended direction. I see a lot of cases where I can't imagine a compass was being used with much care.
The third is skill in reading contours, particularly in understanding the particular characteristics of features. Knolls, for example, are not just high points. Each has a certain size and shape and orientation in the terrain. One should be able to not just check off the various features you are passing, but also be absolutely sure you have identified the correct feature.
With regard to the third item, I looked for reports on the event on AP to see how folks were managing and found the following -- "Everything really does look the same. Most every depression and hilltop is the same shape and size of flattish kidney-looking thing, and there are quite literally zero stark features, whether linear, round, or point. No trails, no cliffs, no ponds, no creeks, no boulders, nothing man-made. And few reentrants or spurs in the usual sense, i.e. larger than one or two 2.5m contours with maybe a form line thrown in just for fun. "
To which all I can say is Nope. Things are different, you just have to look.
Again, I was just really surprised at the struggles of the two of you. And Charlie wasn't even on M35... :-)
Thanks again for the write-up. If I was still orienteering and they offered another event in the sand hills, I wouldn't go back unless I had my eyes (and legs) of 30 or 40 years ago, and certainly unless the map was really legible.
And that means legible without using a magnifier, a crutch that seems to have become common at the elite level in recent years. I never thought that was, or should be, any part of orienteering for anyone of reasonably normal vision.