North West Orienteering Club
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The Stepping Stone Technique

The "Stepping Stone" technique of orienteering involves simplifying a leg on a course into a series of "stepping stones" that you must pass or see before continuing on the leg.

One way of looking at it is using the analogy of crossing a river. Look at the photo below and at first glance the river looks uncrossable.

If you take another look you can see that there are some rocks that you could use to get to the other side. These are marked with an "x" below.

This river above is running quite fast but the same technique of crossing the river can be applied to a small stream, with the difference being that you will not need as many stepping stones.

You can see apart from the leaving point and the landing point on the other side, only one stepping stone is needed to cross the stream.

This same crossing technique can be applied to orienteering - if you think of an orienteering leg as a river or stream, you need to go past or through features to successfully navigate the leg.

Look at the leg below - at first it looks a bit daunting.

But, if you look at the leg it has several features that can be used as "stepping stones". These are marked with a cross below.

The way you could do this leg, using the stepping stones technique, is to leave towards the large re-entrant, go through this to the fence, head towards the hill and cut across this right at the northern end of it. Cross the light green bit with the stream in it. Out into the farmland over a fence and through or around the marsh to the control site.

We have used a lot of stepping stones on this leg to demonstrate the technique, but if it is a simple leg you may only have two or three stepping stones.

An important thing to remember when you are physically doing the leg is that if you do not pass or see one of your stepping stones you stop and go back to the last one, otherwise you will get lost, or using the river crossing analogy you will fall into the river.

Try it at home - Armchair orienteering

You don't just need to be out orienteering to practise this technique. Find an old map at home, if there is no course on it either draw one on or imagine it. Then you can draw on the 'stepping stones' you would use to navigate each leg in the comfort of your armchair - just draw a cross for each stepping stone you would use.