On Saturday I competed in the Wingello Wingaine and I was very glad I did.
I have competed at Wingello before and I like the area. The bush varies from pine tree plantations to open forest and fight scrub. My partner Julian, and I, elected to do the 12 hour event and I was very much looking forward to putting my night navigation skills to the test and wow were they tested.
Having picked up our maps on Saturday morning, the first thing we noticed was that there were no 90 or 100 pointers on the course and there was only one really easy control on the entire course (Control 21 on a road junction). I think course setter Mike Hotchkis must have been channelling his Scottish heritage because he wasn’t giving any points away, in fact I think Mike had set a couple of the most difficult 20 pointers in rogaining history. There was control 22 which was only 400 meters from the hash house but was in a huge section of pine forest but with no helping features for at least 300 metres. The average time taken to bag control 22 was 18 minutes and 20 secs. I am not sure how many people found this control at night time but they deserve real kudos (and a mental health check for even attempting it). The map also included control number 24 which was only about 80 metres from a fire trail on a supposed knoll. This “knoll”, it turned out, was only about 3mm higher than the surrounding ground. Julian and I forgot to take our micrometre and theodolite and found the control in the dark through sheer luck.
Soon after the event started so did the rain, in fact it rained for 3 hours. I had a token raincoat on but it made no difference I was wet and cold the entire event (and loving it). In fact the warmest I was at anytime during the event was when I fell, waist deep, into the creek between controls 82 and 63.
Julian and I had a very good start. Despite walking at a leisurely pace we were the first team to control 64, via 35 and 46. The wheels fell off a bit when we tried an open country traverse from controls 74 to 83. We spent too long in fight scrub, travelling about 1 km per hour. We both decided that we were not having fun fighting through this dense scrub so we turned and headed north looking for easier going. Fortunately, we found the going easier once we crossed over the watershed of the ridge and the detour through the thick stuff didn’t end up costing us much. It is interesting that the average time taken for the traverse from 74 to 83 was 1:00:56. That is a long time just to gain 80 points. Once again evidence that Mike wasn’t giving anything away.
I confess I am a pine forest junkie. I like rogaining through pine forest at night. There is something about pine forest navigation that draws me in and I am not really sure why why. Perhaps it is the fact that pine forests are usually on relatively flat, featureless ground and it can take real navigational skill to find a control in the middle of a section of pine forest. I was pretty happy with Julian and my navigation skills during this event. We found everything we looked for, which many good teams didn’t, and we scored 40% of our points after dark. Admittedly, things were not perfect. It took us two attempts to bag controls 32 and 31 and as mentioned before we found control 24 by pure luck as we were on our way back to the road to try again. The other thing to note about the event is how lonely it was out on the course. We saw a bunch of people on the creek traverse from control 82 to 63 but other than that we spent most of the day and night alone. Mind you I am not complaining. I like finding the controls with my team mate and not being distracted by other teams. The problem with following other teams is that the “herd” mentality gets to you and you tend to follow rather than rely on your own skills. Julian and I have about 160 events under our belts between us and we really should know better than to try and follow someone else. Having said this I was very grateful to follow another team into control 41 last night because we got there about 7pm and were were both pretty knackered at that stage (we both perked up a bit when we got into the pine forest).
While wandering around last night trying to squeeze points out of Mike’s course, my thoughts turned to the Novices. This was not an easy event for the novices, but I noted that a novice 12 hour team, the Migrating Wombats, scored 850 points. Great job guys. The other thing to note about the course is that it was a great leveller. I think a few of the teams that usually score really well might have found their navigation skills fully tested by Mike’s course.
Mike Hotchkis was ably assisted in the course setting by David Griffith, Ian Almond and Chris Waring. Thanks to all. Julian and I had a really good time testing our navigation skills against this course, in the light and in the dark. If you didn’t take up the 12 hour option at yesterday’s event you missed a great opportunity to test your skills against quite a challenging course.
I can’t wait until the next Wingello rogaine.