The Yukon Orienteering Association kicked off Orienteering Week in Canada with a Learn To O course for beginners this Saturday in Riverdale.
“We always like to start the season with the Learn To O,” said instructor Barbara Scheck, as she watched the 16 newbies head into the woods across from FH Collins Secondary School, all carrying a map and compass and a safety whistle, of course.
The all-day session started with a lesson on the rudiments of reading an orienteering map — deciphering the myriad symbols is just one of the challenges of the sport.
“People are always amazed at how detailed these maps are,” said Scheck. “It’s good to get some instruction in it.”
Although most of Saturday’s orienteers were brand new, some were back for a refresher after some tough outings last year.
“When bashing around in the bush… lost — it’s sometimes not a lot of fun,” said Scheck.
The rookies learned how to use linear elements on the map as “handrails” to guide them along, and learned how to spot “attack points” — landmarks in the vicinity of checkpoints.
The real challenge is route choice, said Scheck.
Once you know how to read a map, it comes down to finding the fastest way from checkpoint to checkpoint.
“This is great fun,” said rookie Rosemary Klupar as she huddled over her map with husband Karl, the pair attempting to orient themselves to the surrounding landmarks.
“It goes by really fast, because you’re always thinking… it’s not like running.”
Scheck said that the sport is the perfect family activity — “You can start with the kids on your back, when they’re really young, then they’ll surpass you, and you can compare times.”
Scheck knows of what she speaks; her daughter Justine has travelled much of North America and Europe competing in the sport, after getting her start in the Yukon.
“We’re a real hotbed,” said Scheck, of orienteering in the territory. She mentioned some of the local orienteers that have competed at the World Championship level – Ross Burnett, Pam James and Brent Langbakk.
Langbakk is planning to make another run for the world’s this year, and two juniors, Lee Hawkings and Colin Abbott, are heading to Sweden in June for the World Juniors.
The elite athletes really have to have the complete package — map reading, technical stuff, as well as being strong runners.
Try it: Orienteering Week continues on Wednesday with a regular meet on the Chadburn Lake map — meet at the Chadburn Lake Road ski trails parking lot at 6:30 p.m.
Memberships are $20 for adults, $40 for family.
Maps and re-usable electronic checkpoint keys go for $7 (and can be shared) – and non-members can compete for $5 more.
On Thursday, the YOA is hosting an urban orienteering session in the downtown core for “Seniors and Others” — meet at the gazebo at Rotary Peace Park between noon-4:00 p.m. “It’s very suitable for people on their lunch break, or stay-at-home moms, etc,” said Scheck.
Check out the season schedule at www.yukonorienteering.ca.