Canyonlands: the Maze districtThe back country trekker uses a chart, a compass, and GPS to find out where he is going and where he is. It seems simple, but it is not. Especially when visibility on the ground is limited by foliage, terrain or weather, it is difficult to know where you are or where you are going. Without tools, it is easy to get lost very quickly. Planning before the trip is paramount to determine elevations, bearings, and way points. Once on route, the back country traveler makes constant reference to the direction of travel, the altitude, the next way point, and the prior known locations, and distance to the goal.

It is easy to get lost in the forest or mountain even when standing or walking. It is easy to lose the trail or path, if there is one. It is impossible to walk in a straight line because of the terrain, foliage, and because mentally, the mind and the body play tricks during travel. A compass bearing will give the direction of travel, and a GPS will give fixes and distance, but will not give a context without reference to the larger chart of the area which has distant reference points.

Inherent in non motorized travel is the exhaustion factor of the trekker where hydration, supplies, energy, and injuries must be monitored. The trip unfolds into the unknown despite prior route planning. Hypothetical planned directions and routes give way to conditions on the ground as they play out such as weather conditions, changed terrain and ice, snow conditions, rocks, floods, fallen trees, slides, avalanches, exhaustion, wind, animals.

The applications to trading are easy to see, but difficult to apply even though the stakes are much lower. It's good to have a goal and a plan to get there. It's good to chart out the location, the route ahead of time, as well as contingencies. It's good to make regular references to navigation devices and charts. It's good to be flexible as well. It's good to monitor health, exhaustion factors. There are many decision heuristics that come into play that tend to lead even the best guides and experienced travelers astray. We've discussed some of these before here on the site in survival situations.

Pitt Maner writes:

Orienteering is a sport that might have useful "cross-training" effects for market participants. I have never tried orienteering, but one of my fondest college memories was walking for 8 hours across part of Teller Co., Colorado doing a mapping exercise using aerial photographs and a compass to field identify Cripple Creek vs. Pikes Peak granite. It does not appear like Hawaii has an organized orienteering club associated with the national group—so maybe an opportunity there for an enterprising fellow. Here is a useful manual on the sport.

Orienteering is also called the "thinking sport", because navigating through open country challenges the mind as well as the body. While running, the athletes consult the map and use a compass to decide in split seconds which route is best to get from one control point to the next.





Speak your mind

1 Comment so far

  1. Nic Chalmers on March 31, 2010 3:54 am

    I think one also has to keep in mind the relative danger (downside) of losing ones way and the associated fear factor. Fear, like our health, also interferes with our ability to make correct decisions and the greater the fear the worse the decision. The greater the consequence of getting lost then the greater the fear.

    If getting lost meant being five minutes late for a dental appointment then we would probably take our chances on having to maybe follow our nose. If getting lost meant being late for an important job interview then we would probably spend more time planning our journey and studying a map the night before. If getting lost meant starving to death or certain capture by an enemy then we would have to be very confident that we were completely prepared for all possibilities before taking a first step.

    Surely the hiker, soldier, sailor, nomad and trader need to have training and experience in planning a journey, staying on track and, most importantly, have a complete understanding of the disciplines required to get back on track if there was a situation that resulted in one getting lost.

    What does one do if one loses the map, or GPS, or even worse, the ability to think rationally? NC


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