For more information, click on one of the following
Why orienteering is different
Map and compass
The seven point plan
At a control
At the Start
Getting lost .... and found again
Punching at the wrong control
Return to the main About Orienteering page
Return to the CLOK home page
At a control
1. Check the control code.
Each control has a control code that identifies it uniquely. Before
you punch, always check that the control code matches the one listed
in your control descriptions. You might not be at the control that you
think you're at! The simple step of checking the control code is
well worth the couple of seconds that it takes. It's really annoying
to finish your run and find that you've been disqualified for going to a
The record in your dibber's memory chip or the punch-mark in the correct
box of your control card is your proof that you have visited that control.
If you miss a control you will be disqualified. So make sure
that you punch at each control. It's quite unusual to forget to
punch at a control, but not unknown. Be extra careful if there's a
drinks station or a map exchange at a control. The break in routine
can make you forget to punch.
3. Decide your strategy for getting to the next control.
You need a strategy to get from one control point to the next. As
I explained earlier in the page on Why
orienteering is different this is the most fundamental difference
between orienteering and road or trail races.
Your strategy can be as simple as "I'll run along this path until I see
Rather better would be a strategy like "I'll run along this path in an
eastwards direction, counting junctions on the left. I'll expect
to find my next control at the third junction."
In some cases, your strategy will have to be a bit more complex. For
example, "I'll run along this path in a southerly direction, counting
junctions on the right. Shortly after the third junction I should
find a stream crossing the path. I'll turn left and follow the
stream eastwards. I'll expect to find my next control on a crag on
the south side of the stream (the right hand side of the stream as I look),
about 200 meters from the path."
Strategies for the more navigationally challenging courses have to be more
sophisticated still, involving things like recognising land shapes,
following compass bearings through trackless woodland, using pace counting
to estimate distances, etc., etc. But that comes later. At the
moment I'm just covering the basic techniques that will get you round one
of the navigationally easier courses.
You may have a choice of two - or more - routes between one control and
the next. For example, one path might go directly up and over a spur
while another goes the longer way round, but with less climb.
Sometimes you may have the option of cutting a corner through a block of
forest rather than running round a path at its edge.
Be aware that on white, yellow, orange, red and purple courses you will
always have an option of following line features from near one control to
within sight of the next. You don't have to take that option - and
you may be able to save some time by taking a more direct and possibly more
risky route - but the line feature option should always be there. A
line feature is something like a path, a fence, a stream, the edge of a
forest, etc. that you can follow from one place to another.
Important note: If you don't have a conscious strategy then
you are effectively following a default strategy of "I'll just run along
in what feels like the right direction and hope that I come across my next
control". This type of strategy sometimes works ………… but not very
4. Check your direction as you leave the control.
As you leave each control, always use your compass to check that you're
going in your intended direction. One of the most common errors made
by less experienced orienteers is to head off in the wrong direction -
often 180 degrees out! This is because you get turned around as you
go through the procedure of running up to the control, checking the control
code, punching and sorting out your plan for going to the next control.
It's not just newcomers who make this type of mistake, though.
At a major event in 2003 two of the top junior orienteers in the
country "did a 180 after control 2"!
Go back to the main About Orienteering page.