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This page is UNDER CONSTRUCTION as of 1/2/12. Contact Matt Pickart for more information.

Orienteering trips are a great way to have fun outside and teach people useful skills! This page is meant as a resource for orienteering information (for trippees and leaders) -- and thus the first section is a general orienteering syllabus. The second section--supplemented by trip reports--includes helpful information on how to lead an effective orienteering workshop. The third section has links to useful maps.

Land Navigation: Syllabus

Orienteering Trips

Tips on Leading

Leading orienteering trainings can be a ton of fun, and can include both more direct teaching and more hanging back and observing than a typical hiking trip!

Matt Pickart ('13) and I taught a basic orienteering session in Fall '11 that was quite fun and, according to participant feedback, fairly effective. Here's an overview of what we did:

-Met around 10 am behind Robo (make sure everyone has plenty of food, water, snacks, warm layers, a compass, and *a good headlamp*) -Blindfolded the group and drove them out to the top of Bragg Hill (43.72363,-72.338669). Here, technically on Dutton Hill Rd, there's a pull-off where there's public access to a beautiful open farm field on the hilltop. From this field (on a nice day!), you can see much of the Upper Valley, including a bunch of good landmarks. If you keep the group tucked alongside the trees, they won't be able to see Baker Tower and DHMC, which is the easiest landmark to recognize for some. Here, we started with the very basics of compass use and map structure/terminology/symbology while staying stationary. We had participants use the Gazeteer topo maps of the Upper Valley to identify the mountains they could see using topology. Once they'd picked out a couple that they were pretty confident about the ID of, we walked them through taking bearings and triangulating. We split the group into a couple teams and let them race to pinpoint our (hopefully, previously unknown) location on the map. We had some snacks and discussed any remaining questions about the basics. -Next, we drove to the trailhead for Boston Lot Lake (43.666009,-72.302388) and hiked halfway up the trail (43.666676,-72.295707). We then talked over orienteering travel techniques such as leafrogging (with a group of ≥2), intermediate objectives, and careful use of contours/slope aspect. We split into groups with one leader in each. One group was assigned to start on the north side of the lake (43.668896,-72.287772) and the other up hill to the south of the trail (43.661383,-72.296011). Each group was given the same objective: arrive at the north end of the marshy clearing in the SE corner of the preserve (43.655127,-72.274956), aiming for both accuracy and efficiency. At this point, we leaders shut our traps except for the occasional advice on group management for travel efficiency and answering technique questions.

While it took a bit for the groups to get going, they rapidly figured out how to travel quickly and accurately. We gave them a bit of advice, mostly consisting of (1) always try to use multiple sources of info/data to confirm your location in the landscape (e.g., slope aspect and steepness, local topographic features, visible landmarks / triangulation, estimated travel distance, etc.) and (2) constantly reassess what you think you know about where you are / where you're going (don't ignore data that contradicts your theory! take it as a sign that you should seek out some more data sources to test your theories!).

We thought that Boston Lot was an excellent site because: -it's fairly large -there's relatively little human impact (although there is a mountain bike trail network) -it has a mix of visible landmarks (a couple hills, the lake) and places to see them from (e.g., the lakeshore, powerline cuts), but also plenty of space where you can't see much in the way of distant landmarks -on a small scale, it has fairly interesting topography, large enough to be useful in maps and varied enough to present some challenges (e.g., impassable cliffs... challenging rock bands) -it's fairly easy forest to move around in (read: good for beginners... unlike parts of Mt. Dartmouth...) -it's close to campus -it's bounded on roads/civilization on all sides... minimizing extreme lost-ness for groups that go astray...

We found the marshy clearing to be a good target because: -it's very hard/impossible to see from a distance but is big enough to find even with a bit of error in your navigation -it's a bit more than a mile (one-way) from our starting locations, which seems just long enough to be pretty useful practice but short enough to do in an afternoon (including plenty of stopping and map consultation as the groups get started!) -it's a pretty spot!

In the end, it took each group something like 1 - 2 hours to get to the clearing. They arrived within 15 minutes of each other and each hit the targeted north side of the clearing with less than 100 m error. Cool stuff for some participants first time orienteering! We got back to the vehicle just after dark (around 6 or something). Fun was had by all and many wanted to go orienteering again! (Especially on an overnight bushwhack up Mt. Dartmouth! Which is awesome. BTW - Bushwhack orienteering Mt. Dartmouth is highly recommended for folks who feel like they've got a handle on the basics and are ready for something more interesting. Lots of fun and gorgeous views, even though you wouldn't think it given that it's below treeline...)


birds '12 TOR

Trip Reports

10/29/11 We went orienteering on Mt. Moosilauke on Saturday morning after attending Lodge-O-Ween the previous night! After a satisfying breakfast we finished up learning the basics and then ventured out into the cold and snow (yup). We used the recent (2010?) maps, which work fairly well. Orienteering on Moosilauke is different from say, Stoors Pond. Distance between points is greater and the map is less detailed. It benefits from having a full day devoted to it, and from a leader who knows the mountain well. However, it is still a ton of fun. You a to look at a whole new part of this special place, and this kind of orienteering is closer to what you would be doing if you needed it on the trail. Tired from dancing and hiking, we arrived back at campus at 2.


"Find Free Topographic Maps (USGS) for anywhere in the US!" Click here to search!

Oak Hill Oak Hill is a good site for beginner trips because there are more landmarks to help trippees navigate. And many leaders are fairly familiar with Oak Hill already. A distinct disadvantage is that Oak Hill does not offer much of a challenge -- all possible orienteering objectives are not very far from paths. Map of Oak Hill.

Burnt Mountain Burnt Mountain is another option -- it is behind DHMC. Map of Burnt Mountain.