Evolution of the Rogaining Map (a Brief History)

By Tristan White

With the most recent Autumngaine having the new generation of LIDAR (LaserImaging, Detection and Ranging) data which is publicly available, contour elevation from the Department of Spacial Services, rogaines are able to be set in even more fine detail than ever before, as can be seen from the below comparison of the NSW Department of Lands shot to the most recent LIDAR image set.

This got me wondering about what rogaining maps in years past have been like. Given that I only started serious rogaining in the past decade, I asked Ian Dempsey, longtime organiser, competitor and mapmaker about this and here’s his response, including the 1983 3½-hour map and clue sheet:

“Paddy Pallin Adventure Stores had been running this as a 3½-hour event for many years but was struggling to find organisers. They approached the newly-formed NSWRA to negotiate us taking over the event, which we did in 1985 at Putty, further north on the Putty Road, and we extended it to a 6-hour rogaine, which it remains to this day.

“In the 1980s and early 1990s, after registering on the day of the rogaine, you typically received a folded paper 1:25000 topographic map (supplied by the then NSW Lands Department) along with 6 or 8-figure grid references for each checkpoint that you plotted on your map. The map was often then cut to size and covered with clear contact or folded inside a plastic map case.

“This approach had some limitations. First, limited field-checking of the topographic maps by the Lands Department meant that there were frequent omissions (e.g. tracks) and inaccuracies (e.g. the position of watercourses in flatter forested terrain). Second, organising events on overlapping map sheets created cutting and pasting challenges for competitors. This was also the pre-GPS era and, despite course-setters’ best efforts, finding checkpoints in slightly different locations to that marked on the map wasn’t uncommon.

“By the early 1990s, colour photocopying costs had reduced enough to allow pre-marked maps with map corrections to be given to competitors. In the next decade, NSW rogaining maps started to be produced via several computer-aided drawing programs such as OCAD and Adobe Illustrator, sometimes with the scanned topographic map as a background image. Now, free access to LIDAR data, and topographic data such as Six Maps Ship n Clip service, to produce detailed base maps for checking in the field, is commonplace. The other very helpful innovation in the last five years is the ability to use computer tablets in the field loaded with georeferenced maps and drawing programs to make accurate and real time changes to rogaining base maps.

“One consequence of these improvements in producing rogaining maps is that competitors expect far more accurate maps than they used to. This places extra demands on mappers and course-setters, particularly in longer-duration events. I wonder how others think about this change in expectations? Is this change helpful or does it take away some of the fun and randomness of our sport? (e.g. by happenstance avoiding a large patch of thick vegetation that slowed others down)”

The map and clue sheet are shown below from the 1983 3½-hour event with some fascinating differences with the today’s events:

  • Only 20 CPs in total
  • CP circles were not shown on the map; only grid references. Participants had to plot their own circles
  • There was no relationship between the CP number and its corresponding score
  • CPs were worth between 1 and 4 points. Nowadays we might scorn at wasting time for a 20 pointer when in this event there were only 33 points on the course!
  • Bonus points awarded for early finishes after clearing the course (although better placing given to the team back first in today’s events is in practice the same thing)
  • Clues had no “the” and “a” prefixes (the former implies the feature is shown on the map, in the latter case it is not). I can’t help but wonder what the difference between “knoll” and “top of knoll” is.
Map for the 1983 Paddy Pallin Rogaine
Checkpoint Descriptions for the 1983 Paddy Pallin Rogaine

Shown below is the 2001 Paddy Pallin Map, based in the same location as the recent Autumngaine, including the identical HH location. Indeed some CPs shared the same location. By this point Checkpoint locations were pre-marked on the map, though a careful comparison of the two maps shows much less detailed topography compared with the recent LIDAR set. Also note that the gridlines show Grid North, rather than Magnetic north, something that would take another few years to convert from!

2001 Paddy Pallin Rogaine Map

I’d be interested in other people’s memory and experiences associated with the evolution of rogaine maps.

One Reply to “Evolution of the Rogaining Map (a Brief History)”

  1. I started Rogaining just after high school in 1985 and although I haven’t done more than a Summer Series event for a while, I hope I haven’t finished yet.

    Ian wrote “despite course-setters’ best efforts, finding checkpoints in slightly different locations to that marked on the map wasn’t uncommon.”
    That would be an understatement wouldn’t it ? “An indistinct spur” could be very difficult at night.

    Does anyone have an original grid reference measuring tool ?
    I remember excitedly drawing mine up and contacting it on the day, so I could then mark the points on the map from the provided grid reference. Preventing bubbles in the contact was preferable to trying to remove one after the resulting crease obscured an important track. Waterproof paper is so much easier.

    At the time some of the orienteering maps were still hand drawn embellishments of the survey maps.

    The survey maps used were generated using at best stereo photogrammetery so large cliffs were often hidden by trees and only showed as steep slopes on the maps.
    I remember climbing down a tree near Bargo with Arthur Kingsland, who is scared of heights, because the 15m cliff wasn’t shown.

    In the Nineties, a few areas, especially in the ACT were lucky enough to have several accurately surveyed and mapped Orienteering locations adjacent or near to each other and Six or Twelve hour events were held, however this meant that there were some runners who could cover all of the controls and I recall that there was one where the area was too small and a Six hour team beat the twelve hour teams and got them all.

    The improvement since the Eighties, especially with LIDAR makes a map that is almost magic in comparison !

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