Making lists of orienteering maps seem to be popular at the moment. Following the CompassSport 99 which featured a map in each of the UK’s ceremonial counties, and the Attackpoint 51 which does the same for US states, a project has launched to build a list of the top 101 unmissable orienteering maps around the world. It’s a collaboration between Jan Kocbach of WorldOfO and Ivan Nagy of OO.Cup. They are planning on making it into a book – If this comes to fruition as a coffee-table book of amazing photographs and maps (and I know Ivan takes good photos, the OO.Cup pages always look great!) then it looks like I already know what I’ll be getting people for Christmas.
I’m not sure if the emphasis will be on the best areas technically (and toughest physically), the areas that are most enjoyable to run in, or are in the most spectacular situations – the three types are subtly different, and the very best maps probably need to fufill at least two of these three criteria.
In terms of best technical areas that I’ve run on, The Trossachs in Scotland has got to be up there, along with most areas in Sweden I’ve run in – particularly Lunsen near Uppsala which was the venue of the Varsity Match in 2008. The most enjoyable race I’ve run in is probably Venice, and running around and through the Cite de Carcassonne in the south of France was pretty spectacular. Some of the urban events that are currently popular in the UK would rate quite highly as spectacular, I think, including Oxford in 2006, and my own City of London Race – particularly if we do have it on both sides of the River Thames in 2010.
An area that fulfils all three of the criteria without doubt though is Trockener Steg, which was Day 3 of the Swiss O Week in Zermatt in 2006. In fact, the whole week was superb, but this was my favourite map of all, particularly the running on the amazingly complex, recently glaciated rocks. The views to the Matterhorn were stunning, the orienteering was fiendishly complex and it was great fun.
(Article updated to clarify the project organisers, and add some nice photos.)