OMM Competitor and OMM Lite Course Planner, Sam Atkinson, takes a look at the decision process OMM competitors face when moving between checkpoints.


With the 53rd OMM only a few short weeks away, we thought it would be fitting to have a look at one of the many puzzles provided by the same course planners last time we visited the area back in 2017.

Below you can see the problem presented on the Elite Course on day 1 of the event. Competitors needed to plot and navigate a route from CP4 to CP5.

When planning a route between checkpoints, I always keep in mind the following points (and usually in this order):

  • My strengths
  • Weather Conditions
  • Shortest distance & Least height loss/gain
  • Underfoot terrain
  • Attack Angle for checkpoint visibility

Playing to you and your partner’s strengths should factor in where you decide to go, as there may be an “optimal route” but does it work for your team?

  • Can you move quickly in boggy/ tussocky terrain, can your partner?
  • Are you stronger on steep terrain, where a shorter but hillier route might be quicker for you but will your partner struggle?
  • Can your ankles take the contouring strain or will your partner leave you for dust?
  • Will a longer but more runnable route on a path or trod suit you both?
  • Windy conditions might necessitate staying off the ridges
  • Rain could cause the rivers to swell, making lowland crossings difficult and boggy land harder to cross
  • Fog or low cloud could mean it is easier to navigate on paths or using straight bearings may be quicker

An obvious point to stress, I know, but the simplest, shortest route with minimum height variation between the checkpoints is the goal. It’s always a give and take guestimate with distance and height, picking a straight line across a valley is likely the shortest route but contouring round a depression might be the best choice If the ground is likely to be wet and boggy or the descent craggy:

This is encapsulated in the above checkpoint problem. Do you lose height by dropping into Greenup Gill, getting onto the longer (but faster) path into and up Langstrath Valley or do you keep your height and pick the more direct route by contouring round Greenup Edge to Long Crag and dropping down into Langstrath from there?


Difficult, slow going terrain is part and parcel of OMM events but trying to minimise the amount you traverse/ wade through is key. Use the information provided by the Harveys map to make your route the easiest possible and avoid the slower ground or obstacles that impede your progress.


What do we mean by Attack Angle? This is simply the direction from which you approach a CP. There might not always be a choice to be made in regard to your entry direction but it’s useful to consider if a certain route into the area will make it easier for you to spot the checkpoint or nearby landmarks to pinpoint your location. For example, in the above scenario, if the weather and visibility permits, I could contour round to Long Crag where I would be able to look down into the valley for the confluence of the streams making the navigation easier. When at the confluence I would set a bearing to Pinnacle Bield and traverse up to the control.


Day 1 was held on the 28th October 2017, the conditions were difficult with heavy rain, fog and cold temperatures. Below are three different routes chosen by 3 teams on the Elite. You can see that each team choose a different route option, possibly playing to their strengths on the day. Of the routes I can see there was a 50/50 split in either dropping into Langstrath on the faster path or staying high on Greenup Edge and travelling less distance.

The quickest route was undertaken by the Green team on the day. By contouring round Greenup Edge they kept their height and will have avoided the wetter ground in Greenup Gill, descended down to Langstrath Beck and made a beeline for the control, impressive navigation skills in the conditions. This roughly measures to 5.3Km with 475m of ascent.

The Red team chose a similar route but decided to drop into Greenup Gill for a more direct line across to Long Crag and then crossed the valley at a higher point which will have resulted in a steeper ascent to the checkpoint but a more direct line of attack. 5.2Km with 560m of ascent. An ever so slightly shorter route but with more climbing resulted in a 4 minute and 6 second difference to the Green team between the checkpoints.

The Blue team went for the longer but more runnable route into the Langstrath valley. This roughly measures to be 6.6Km with 600m of ascent. Considering this is an extra 1.3Km and 125m ascent compared to the fastest route I am surprised only 4 minutes and 30 seconds separated the teams. I can’t help but think the extra distance and climbing would take a toll on the legs and make a difference towards the end of the day however.


Last point from me is to not take too much time deciding the optimal route, one thing for certain is time spent not moving is not getting you nearer the finish line and will only reduce your body temperature.

I hope this has given you some food for thought with the upcoming event and we are looking forward to seeing you at Langdale on the 30th of October!

Thanks to Sam for this insight into the working of a competitor’s mind! Don’t forget to check out our other Event articles for some more nuggets of advice.

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