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Tilden Park

Date: (Sun.) Jan. 13, 2008
Location: Berkeley, CA
Event Director:
Course Setter: Martin Kunz
Type: B; First "B" meet of the year

Course Setter's Comments


I finally managed to test the route choices I tried to set last weekend in Tilden. Normally this should be done in advance but I ended up to be too wimpy to weather the big storm, and also the steep trail routes would have been slower if tested in slippery conditions (how's that for a lame excuse?).

It seems to me that route choice is often under-rated as a technical challenge. Finding a tricky control is fun, but choosing the best route of a long, well-set leg is technically at least as demanding. This is the real puzzle-solving aspect of Orienteering, the one which is not easily replaced by GPS.

Here some general comments on how to solve these puzzles, which are intended for less experienced Orienteers (most of you know this already).

Apart from these general rules there are a lot of subjective factors. For example how easy do you climb, how good do you run off-trail, how much do you need "handrails". I for myself, for example, find often that I can afford a bit more climb in exchange for a shorter route, since I happen to climb easier than others. On the other hand, I find that I run much slower off-trails than on trail (lack of specific training, old age), and therefore a little extra distance for a longer trail section pays off for me.

Having said, this, the following route comparisons obviously bear some amount of subjectivity, especially where the differences are not big. (I drew all the discussed routes in RouteGadget ( on the Blue, Green, and Long Orange courses. Select the runners "Martin Kunz #N (Course Setter)".)

Red and Blue Courses

1–2 (51–52)

I think this is a nice example of a leg where the route that jumps first in one's eyes is not the fastest. One unforeseen spoiler, which happened here, though, is that I very late in the course setting process moved 52 from the hill at the trail fork east of its present location, in order to make the Martin-made ride to 53 easier to find (apparently it was still a problem for some—sorry about that). This made a route attractive that I did not want at all to be attractive, i.e., the one passing by 54 and 53 before getting to 52. This is a big course setter's no-no. I apologize for that. It's a small consolation that among the tested routes, the no-no route was the slowest.
I tested 3 routes:
  1. All the way east over Nimitz trail: 11:50
  2. Down to Wildcat Canyon, up the trail through the dark green: 14:46
  3. Same as 2) but up more west past 54 and 53: 15:30
The non-obvious detour to Nimitz trail is almost 3 minutes faster than the ones going down. More than I expected! This is mostly due to the large difference in climb, both routes deviate by about the same amount from the straight line. For runners climbing less easily, the difference may be even worse. Another reason to chose Nimitz trail is that while running on this broad, paved trail, one can run almost full speed and at the same time prepare the whole course already on the 2nd leg. All route choices can be made here, and no time and concentration has to be spent on this anymore, which makes you even faster in the total time.

4–5 (54–55)

  1. Exit through the ride towards NE, climb up the clearing and follow the yellow corridor to the big trail that loops around north of the straight line: 9:18
  2. Go down to the big trail and parking lot, follow Wildcat Canyon trail to the large clearing, take the small trail leaving that clearing at its NE corner and follow the yellow corridor to the small trail leading past 55: 9:24
The two routes are more or less identical. I would still prefer the northern route because it leaves me more time to read the rest of the course on the trail.

5–6 (55–56)

This leg was probably the easiest of the three major route choices of these two courses:
  1. Going down and up SE through the white and up the yellow spur to the trail. Follow the trail to the route passing starts and assembly area on road: 10:22
  2. Take small trail S through steep yellow slope to Wildcat Canyon trail. Follow trail past lake Anza, up to the trail shortly before 56: 9:23
The difference of 1 minute is smaller than I expected.

Green Course

2–3 (48–55)

  1. North all the way around on trail: 6:08
  2. Down on spur, up on steep yellow, small trail S of 55 to control: 5:09.
The difference is smaller than I expected. Makes the trail route almost worthwhile since it allows to pre-read the course.

3–4 (55–61)

  1. N to the big trail, all around to the yellow corridor before the small cliff, take the yellow to climb up and take 61 from above: 7:56
  2. down to Wildcat Canyon trail to the parking lot, up the small trail to the medium green, break through to control: 8:24.

7–8 (49–50)

  1. Up to street around merry-go-round, take control from above: 4:30
  2. Back to Wildcat Canyon trail, don't miss the right spot to cross creek and climb: 5:56
The street is clearly faster because it's shorter, the climb is done easier (although a bit too much). Furthermore the trail route bears the difficulty to find the right spot when to break off the trail.

8–9 (50–57)

Wasn't a real route choice I realize now.
  1. Follow Wildcat Canyon trail and lake, cross up to bigger trail, and follow it as it turns fine again to control: 6:58
  2. Same as 1, but climb at beginning of lake to clearing below assembly area, to small then thick trail, cross reentrant above cliff and take control from above; not a good route—too much climb without saving any distance, and hard running: 9:39

Long Orange Course

2–3 (48–63)

Very similar to Green 2–3:
  1. As a L.O. runner it probably makes more sense to follow trail all the way to small trail.
  2. Again, as a L.O runner, better to follow small trail on clearing all the way up to ridge and take 63 from trail.

3–4 (63–64)

Unfortunately the safest (although probably not fastest) route was partially cut off during the printing process. My sincere apologies for that!
  1. Leave 63 north onto trail (which was partially cut off map) and follow all around to 64: 5:22
  2. Down to Wildcat Canyon, parking lot, and up the trail to 64: 7:23
  3. A last route is a bit more technical than normal for Long Orange: Start like 2) but take yellow channel down to creek, cross it and climb up to trail just a little SE of 64: 6:15

6–7 (49–65)

  1. On the road over parking lot: 4:50
  2. Wildcat Canyon trail: 4:37