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Discussion: Sand Dunes

in: Orienteering; General

Aug 17, 2017 12:56 PM # 
I am fairly new to Orienteering and have a 2 day event in sand dunes coming up shortly. Is there any top tips for me to minimize being lost and running around like a headless chicken?
Aug 17, 2017 1:47 PM # 
Sand dunes are particularly difficult. Go very slowly and try to be certain where you are at all times. But they can be super fun. What kind of sand dunes? Open sand, grass covered, tree covered? How high?
Aug 17, 2017 2:12 PM # 
It seems open dunes with very little vegetation and certainly no trees. Area bounded by fence so that could aid and a few tracks. I will try and keep constant map contact but the map looks just like yellow with contour lines.
Aug 17, 2017 4:37 PM # 
I have no experience at orienteering in dunes but for open terrain in general:
It really pays off to look far ahead! Stand still for a minute and match the map to the terrain if necessary. If you spot easily identified objects from afar, that can save you a lot of time, especially if you are going to pass them on your planned route.

Difficult terrain in general: Finding easy and safe routes can be more important than finding the theoretically fastest one, especially for (relative) beginners. In dunes, that could mean running over the top of a hill and being certain of ones location instead of going around.

I have been orienteering for 5 years and from time to time I still regret not acting according to those two advices. ;)
Aug 17, 2017 5:29 PM # 
Precise compass bearing, constant contact with map, and magnifying glass for detailed topography on map.
Aug 17, 2017 6:27 PM # 
I agree with Sergey, in sand terrain, the compass is paramount.
Aug 17, 2017 7:45 PM # 
My top 3 tips:
!) As important as the compass is distance calculation - how far do you need to go/ how far have you gone. Count the ups and downs you need to traverse. Count your paces.
2) Keep track of the vegetation. Some sand dune areas will have areas of thick tree/ bush growth in the low parts -those should be mapped in some shade of green. And the thickets are easy to map so they should have an accurate shape on the map. Most sand dune areas will have very sparse vegetation along the high parts. Look for distinct mapping there with sandy area instead of rough open.
3) Many will run the dune tops as if they were trails, sometimes going a fair bit off the straight line to have the easier running and an attack point from above.
Aug 17, 2017 9:58 PM # 
Beware the 1-contour feature. Filter them out of your mapreading. Try and chain together routes thru or over 2-or-more-contour features.

Dunes usually have a reason for being, around here its usually wind. The wind creates characteristic features, and it helps to have names for them. On lots of my maps I can identify boomerangs, horseshoes and strings of sausages.
Aug 17, 2017 10:54 PM # 
Ah, an orienteering Rorschach test.
Aug 18, 2017 1:36 AM # 
If a given leg provides no options, or you an experienced orienteer, I'll second the preponderance of the suggestions above.

However if a given leg has options, and you are "fairly new", then I'll suggest looking for the route that is the simplest to execute, or the one you understand the best, with the emphasis on the ease of attacking the control, even the possibility of attacking from behind. Have you heard of the concept of planning backwards from the control?

At your stage, it can often be worthwhile to run a very wide route just for the security of staying in contact with the map, making use of the trails/tracks, or just finding simpler terrain, to reduce your chances of mistake time.
Aug 18, 2017 7:36 AM # 
Thanks to everyone contributions, it's given me some good strategies to try out and that's what it's all about. I will keep you posted on the result! However it's not until Sept 1.
Aug 18, 2017 11:12 AM # 
Still sooner than my planned return to orienteering.

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