So swiftly the sun sets in the sky
You rise up and say goodbye to no one
Fools rush in where angels fear to tread
Dance to the nightingale tune
Bird fly high by the light of the moon
Sometimes my burden is more than I can bear
It’s not dark yet but it’s gettin there
Not dark yet
How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
The answer, my friend is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin in the wind
Blowin’ in the wind
Shadows are falling and I have been here all day
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there
Well my sense of humanity is going down the drain
Behind every beautiful thing, there’s been some kind of pain
Let the wind blow low, let the wind blow high
Under the red sky full
I know it looks like I’m movin’ but I’m standin’ still
Every nerve in my body is so naked and dumb
Not dark yet
Went into the land of the midnight sun
Searchin high, searchin low
Searchin everywhere I know
Chilly wind sharp as a razor blade
So many roads, so much at stake
So many dead ends, I’m at the edge of the lake
Sometimes I wonder what it’s gonna take
To find dignity
It’s getting dark too dark to see
Hello darkness my old friend
Darkness at the break of noon
How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone
Like a rolling stone
Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?
I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains
I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways
I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall
”Twas in another lifetime
One of toil and blood
When blackness was a virtue
The road was full of mud
I came in from the wilderness
A creature void of form
Come in she said I’ll give ya
Shelter from the storm
Shelter from the storm
Midnight awaits the 24 Hour rogainer
The bridge at midnight trembles
The wind howls like a hammer
The night blows cold and rainy
Love minus zero, no limit
I’m searching for phrases
To sing your praises
I need to tell someone
It’s soon after midnight
And my day has just begun
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.
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!
I’d be interested in other people’s memory and experiences associated with the evolution of rogaine maps.
What was the original name of the Colo River (as named by white settlers)?
A second expedition up the Hawkesbury River was commenced on 28th June, 1789 by Governor Phillip. Captains Hunter, Collins and George Johnston and Surgeon White accompanied him. During this expedition the Colo River was explored and named 'Second Branch", the first branch on the Hawkesbury River being the Macdonald River.
Approximately how long is the Colo River?
The first 35kms have properties either side, the next 60 kms are rarely visited. There are many steep cliffs on the Colo further upstream and access to the river is difficult. There is a book that describes Colo River Passes by Brian Corliss and a sketch map by Bob Buck.
From were does the name Colo originate?
In what year did white settlement take place on the Colo (approximately)?
What year did the Upper Colo Bridge open?
See the following link from SMH 4th march 1936: https://coloriver.com.au/history/SMH-4th-march-1936..jpg
The bridge spanning the Colo near its mouth is known by locals as what?
The Bridge to Nowhere was officially opened by the Minister for Public Works, NSW, Mr Davis Hughes, on 2 August 1969. This bridge is located just upstream from the mouth of the Colo River at Lower Portland. An article prior to the bridge opening reported that the long range plans envisaged the bridge forming part of an alternative route to the north (Hunter Valley). Local residents stated that the bridge would not benefit them as they lived on the opposite bank of the river. Despite this, the building of the bridge commenced. Papers reported that 'Work has begun on a $225,000 "bridge to nowhere" over the Colo River at Lower Portland.' This bridge led to Una Voce, the guesthouse of the South Sydney Leagues Club and its members and a couple of other properties.
The first 16 kms of the Colo is tidal . What is the approximate tide time difference to Port Dension at the Putty Road bridge?
Lower Portand Ferry is 3:05 behind Fort Denison.
The Colo River begins at the confluence of two rivers / creeks. Which ones?
You can check it on the geographical names board web site here:
The Colo River is well known to fishers for catching what?
Australian Bass (Macquaria novemaculeata). Bass can be caught from the mouth of the Colo all the way up to the junction with Bob Turner's track and beyond. Turtles and carp are also common.
The Colo River floods. There is a river gauge near the Upper Colo Reserve. What level in metres is considered a "moderate" flood?
The ambient level of the Colo at the gauging station is about 0.76m. The highest it has been in the last 10 years is 12 metres. This photo of the Putty Bridge was taken when the river was at 10m. http://www.bom.gov.au/fwo/IDN60233/IDN60233.563033.plt.shtml
The Colo River is a great place to kayak and there is a published kayak trail.
How long is the Colo Kayak trail?
You can easily kayak the 30 kms from the Upper Colo Reserve to the mouth of the Colo River. Once upstream from the Upper Colo Reserve the river is very shallow in sections and more suited to liloing than kayaking. (Or wait for a flood).
Which of these Creeks /Rivers does NOT flow into the Colo?
What is a good reason for NOT competing in the Paddy Pallin Rogaine on Sun 16 Jun 2019?
This next rogaine includes absolutely beautiful country and is only 90 minutes from Sydney CBD. The rogaine will also take in a lot of private land, which you will never see if you don't join in.
How well do you know the Colo River?
Not a great result :> Was your map upside down?
You need to compete in our next rogaine and learn more about the Colo
Compete in our next rogaine and get to see more of the Colo
Great job you really know your stuff.
I reckon you cheated. It is hardly a trivia quiz if you look up the answers. If you really did get this score without assistance then Respect!
While sunny and clear, a quite hot, humid and windless day greeted entrants as they assembled at Springwood Public School for the 2019 Metrogaine – an unusual (and unexpected) day’s weather for the Blue Mountains in late March. Overnight rain made for some slippery tracks, and encouraged the leeches to be out in force. It was dry during the event, then a heavy downpour just at the conclusion made entrants, administrators and caterers all grateful for the school’s large covered areas and school hall.
Around 300 entrants launched themselves out of the school grounds at 10:00am. This was a later start time than usual. In planning, we anticipated that many, if not most, entrants would arrive by train and the start time was set to make this more practical. While there were a goodly number of ‘trainees’, the vast majority of people drove. Fortunately, there was plenty of parking available at the school. The problem appeared to be the frequency of trains, one an hour on Sundays, as well as the logistics of entrants getting to, and parking at, a convenient starting station.
Most people stayed out pretty close to the 4:00pm deadline – with a few teams late, some due to missing the train at Blaxland. Thanks for the phone calls – it helps the organiser’s fingernails a great deal to know that all the teams are accounted for within a few minutes of the end of the event.
Thanks to all of the entrants – we hope you had an enjoyable day and event. Congratulations to all the category winners and placegetters and to the overall score leaders – Team 86, Ivan Koudashev, Brian Brannigan with 1130 points in the lead, Team 104, Tim Austin, Jonathan Worswick second with 1080 points and Team 36, Gill Fowler, Jess Baker narrowly third with 1050 points.
The event itself was generally very well received, with a lot of positive comments about the area, quality and accuracy of the map, food (including some gluten free) and the side activities. And a few gripes about not enough tar considering it was a Metrogaine and far too big and steep a course, insufficient variety of food and no salads.
The ‘curious coincidence’ elves also had a win at this event. Martin Dearnley is nursing a small rib injury from slipping over in Sassafras Gully. Where did he trip? Wait for it … en route to Martin’s Falls! (He’s on the mend.)
There were two incidents during the event.
The first was the indistinct track marked above the cliff-line between 46 and 39 that turned out to be on private property, resulting in one very irate landholder. This is why, in the early afternoon, we put tape and signs up at each end of this track saying for rogainers not to use it. Our apologies and thank-yous to teams affected by this track closure. We didn’t hear of any teams traversing this track after the signs were posted.
The second incident was an entrant running out of water on
the climb between 27 and 100 and suffering heat stress on the way from 100 to 81.
Thankyou very much to the teams that provided assistance – telephone notification to the hash house, and
gave generously of their water, electrolyte and salt tablets. A big thankyou
also to Andy Macqueen, who walked in from 46 with water and electrolyte and met
the team along the Bullants Track. All ended well, with the team member
recovering enough to walk out via 81 and 55 to Blaxland station.
Preparations for this event went down to the wire, with the final permit landing late Friday afternoon. That’s right, the last business day before the event. As is becoming more common for events located close to Sydney, getting a suitable area involves numerous landholders. In this case, Blue Mountains National Park, Blue Mountains City Council (BMCC) – separate permits for both urban and track/bush areas, Crown Lands and Derubbin Local Aboriginal Land Council (DLALC). While very helpful, both BMCC and DLALC struggled a bit to fit ‘rogaining’ into their idea of an ‘event’ and their permits process, which made the process time consuming for us and frustrating for them.
Issues like – our entrants would not be staying at the admin centre? So, were we a demonstration? What were we demonstrating about? What would our route be? Would our ‘walking groups’ have a group leader, supplied and trained by the NSWRA? What were their qualifications, certifications and employment status? If not, how would the ‘walking groups’ know where they were going! What do you mean, there’s going to be 140 plus groups, each following their own route, that may change as they progress! Major road crossing points need to be marked, and manned to supervise group crossings.
To add to the joy, our first choice of Hash House bailed on us after the State election was called – they have a contract to provide a polling place, and could not cope with two events on the same weekend. The original caterers had a similar problem. This meant finding a new Hash House site and caterers at short notice. Many thanks to the extraordinarily helpful admin people at both Springwood Public School and the Springwood Salvos. Having the Hash House site up in the air also complicated course setting, map making and the approvals process.
For Tristan, this was the second rogaine he’d set in six months. A sterling effort – walking all the tracks, coming up with the games, setting the control locations and working with the vetters, flag hangers and collectors – Andy Macqueen, Greg King, David Williams, Christine Vibet, John Anderson, Belinda Kenny, Tova Gallagher and Rachel Merton.
Looking forward to seeing you at the next event, Michael Watts.
It has been brought to my attention that several teams, including some good ones, crossed out of bounds on the weekend. If this was deliberate then this is very unsporting conduct. If this was unwitting, then I am sure they feel guilty and will be a little more careful next time.
As a rule, I try not to cheat on rogaines but let me give you a few scenarios that involve me cheating and nearly cheating from the weekend:
I actually went out of bounds on the weekend. I visited control 30. I didn’t realise that at the last minute this control was made out of bounds. (That will teach me for socialising and not listening to the course setter briefing). I got to where control 30 should have been and was cranky because there was no flag. I even stopped and took a photo to prove I had been there. It wasn’t until the event finished that I realised that the control had been made out of bounds and I could have (should have?) been disqualified then and there.
Just before the event started I was also planning to break the rules. My starting course was planned to be 46-32-24-74. This would have meant crossing the out of bounds area. I hadn’t realised the road had an out of bounds corridor next to it. By chance I was talking to Ted Woodley before the event and he pointed out the fact that my planned course was breaking the rules, so I changed my course to make it legal.
I wore a GPS watch. Rule 7 states: “The possession of other navigational aids, including pedometers, altimeters and GPS receivers on the course is prohibited except when event organisers provide a means by which information on the devices cannot be accessed whilst on the course.” I do not wear my GPS watch to cheat and for most of us there is no on course benefit to having a GPS watch during a day time event (night time is a different matter where distance is more difficult to judge). I love wearing a GPS watch so I can review my track afterwards. In a championship events we make provision for bagging GPS devices, but we do not provide sealable bags for non championship events, mainly due to the admin overhead.
I have competed in over 80 rogaining events and I too cheated on the weekend and intended to cheat more, but in two of the cases, inadvertently. I suspect the other teams that cheated also failed to notice the out of bounds. Is not noticing a good excuse? Not really, but in the absence of a team lodging a formal protest the results will stand. If the offending teams crossed the out of bounds knowingly then that is very unsporting.
Take careful note of out of bounds areas
Listen to the pre-event briefing
Don’t cheat deliberately and try not to do it accidentally.
An interview with Toni and Smiffy on their experiences at the NZ and Tas Rogaining Championships
While many people, including regular “shorter duration” rogainers, believe that doing a 24-hour rogaine and staying out all night is crazy, longtime NSWRA competitors Antoniya Bachvarova and Andrew Smith decided it wasn’t enough and had to enter 24h events on two consecutive weekends. Publicity Officer Tristan White asked them a bunch of questions to hear about their experiences in the recent New Zealand Rogaining Championships (24-25 November) and the Tasmanian Rogaining Championships (1-2 December).
Tristan: What was the location of each of the events?
Smiffy: The NZ Rogaining Champs were set on the outskirts of Dunedin with a small part of the course covering a suburban area, other parts explored the extensive network of walking and mountain bike tracks just NW of Dunedin.
The Tasmanian Rogaining Champs were held on the northern part of the Forestier Peninsula, 60km south-west of Hobart. While primarily on the Bangor farming property it also included parts of Tasman National Park.
Tristan: Tell us about the two courses and how they compared?
Smiffy: The course for the NZ Champs was unusual for New Zealand, set in the hills behind Dunedin, with altitude ranged between 80 and 700m. The terrain was mostly steep, and varied between native rainforest, pine forest, rough open areas overgrown with flax, gorse and other weeds, and sub-alpine tussock/shrub land. A lot of the off-track was almost impenetrable and the rest was slow. There were some patches of native forest with moderate undergrowth. A couple of reasonable size creeks intersecting the course were potentially tricky to cross in high water.
The course setter, Matt Bixley, and his team put a lot of effort into mapping all the tracks and variety of vegetation to make route planning easier.
Unfortunately the weather wasn’t kind to us, nor to the organisers. There was a major rain event in the week before the Rogaine. As a result, the creeks were up and most of the vague tracks on the course had become unrecognizable. It also rained throughout the event, which not only made us wet and very cold for most of the time, it also made the already tough course even more challenging.
We were struggling to read the fine detail on the map, as our glasses were wet and foggy. At night our torch lights couldn’t penetrate the mist, so any navigation off track was almost impossible. As the rain intensified, all surfaces became extremely slippery, tracks turned to either muddy slides or ankle deep bogs. Some controls placed on creeks also became tricky to access, as water gushed down the waterfalls.
The persistent misty rain also meant we missed out on the many apparently great views from the high points on the course.
In contrast, the Tasmanian course was mostly open farmland and reasonably open forest. It was a lovely scenic landscape with rolling hills and beautiful coastline.
Fortunately there was some moderately dense scrub in the south-east otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to grumble about the setting. Elevation ranged from 0 to 330m, the weather was mild, and the forecast 10-25mm of rain forecast for the second half didn’t eventuate. There was a rain squall in the hour before dawn (which destroyed the Hash House tents) but after the weekend in New Zealand we hardly noticed it.
Tristan: How did you place in them?
Toni: As the wisdom goes, if we find the event tough, most likely other teams will as well. We finished the NZRC 11th overall on the same score with two other teams with 1860 (but finishing later than one of them) and 2nd mixed veteran – 70 points behind the winning mixed veteran team. The overall winners Tim Farrant and Tane Cambridge collected a smashing 3100 points – about 75% of the course score.
For the Tassie Champs, while there was a great turn out for the 6 and 15 hour events, only 18 teams did the 24 hour event. People just don’t realise how much better the 24 hour event is! To our surprise, we won overall! It’s the first time we’ve ever done that. Ciara Smart and Ben Armstrong put in a very solid performance to take second place (unfortunately we denied them the open mixed win – sorry guys!) and Gary Carroll and Ken McLean (MSV) took third after a navigation mishap took the wind out of their sails.
Tristan: What blunders did you make (if any) and what would you have done differently?
Smiffy: We had a few issues on the course during the NZ Champs.
The biggest frustration was a control placed in the rainforest, which was meant to be just 80m away from a track. First we had trouble following the vague track that was meant to intersect with the main track. After we found the right track junction, we tried to navigate to the control which was supposed to be placed on a junction of two minor watercourses. We thought we’d identified one of them and tried following it for a couple of hundred meters with no success. After a couple of back and forths we decided to abandon because it was just a 20-pointer. This is always the hardest decision – when do you pull the plug and abandon? We usually mull over these decisions for days. An even bigger disappointment was to later see our GPS track so close to the control – we must have somehow walked right past it twice!
After this experience we made a decision to avoid controls that required cross-country navigation for the dark part of the event and changed our route to some ‘easier’ controls.
There was still plenty of challenge finding knife-edge spurs on hill sides when all we could see was white mist in our torch light.
What we learnt the hard way in those weather conditions was a pair of rain overpants paired with a good quality rain jacket would have made all the difference to our level of comfort.
I got so cold, I didn’t have the motivation to keep pushing and try to do as much as possible right up to the end of the event. And that was the main reason I felt so frustrated after the rogaine.
The Tassie Champs went quite smoothly. I find Australian landscapes so much easier to navigate. Partly because the maps are usually higher resolution (<=1:40,000 & 10m contours) but also because the spurs and gullies are less intricate and often the vegetation provides better visibility. We didn’t make any significant errors on the course – the closest we got was 75 where the spur was difficult to read in the scrub and I thought we’d climbed too high and missed it. Fortunately Toni was confident we should keep going and the control appeared 50m further up (I walked past it – Toni spotted it). Our plan was working well – we dropped a less valuable control here and there to stay on schedule and we were able to make the most of the critical final hours by timing our return to the hash house via a productive route. The last hours of a 24 are always stressful and hectic – trying to avoid serious navigational errors with a mind dulled by exhaustion while trying to pick up those last precious points and finish just before the bell. We often find these last few controls are the difference between a win or not. It’s extremely satisfying to finish just in time knowing you did everything you could.
Tristan: Given that, even among rogaining circles, competing in a 24h event and staying out all night is seen as crazy enough, what possessed you to fly out to two of them on consecutive weekends?
Toni: We only found out about the Tas Champs after we’d entered the NZ event. 24-hour rogaines are our favourite format, so we are usually keen to do as many as we can. Still, we decided it would be too much to do both events back to back. We had a pretty rough time in Dunedin. It was the first time I was happy to finish a 24-hour event with 4-5 hours to go. Thanks to Smiffy’s persistence we kept picking up controls but still finished an hour early, even though there were two more controls within reach. I was quite happy to finally warm up with a hot shower and change into dry clothes. Still, our capitulation made the whole experience unusually unsatisfying and was made worse by the fact that we would have won the category if we had pressed for those two controls in that final hour. So on Tuesday we had a look at the airfares to Tassie and entered the Return of the Oysters Rogaine in the hours before entries closed. We were both pretty keen to end the season on a positive note.
Tristan: Why do interstate and overseas rogaines?
Toni: Every time we’ve done a Rogaine outside NSW or ACT I’ve appreciated how lucky we are to have perfect terrain for rogaining right in our backyard – large areas of native bush, often open and pleasant, and mountain landscapes that can challenge our navigational skills while rewarding with spectacular views.
Yet, competing in different conditions and against rogainers from other parts of Australia or the world gives us a chance to get out of our comfort zone, adapt to different conditions and meet the local rogainers and learn from them.
Rogaines in NZ are always challenging – tough and physically demanding and weather is usually a big consideration. Other places might offer easier terrain but then you would be tempted to go further. So there is always something to learn, an experience to remember.
And there are always great people to meet and get to know. Rogainers are always lovely people – you have to be to survive long distance team sports.
Tristan: How do you feel now?
Toni: Surprisingly we didn’t feel that tired after the NZ Champs. The rough terrain and vegetation forces a slower pace and shorter distance which in turn takes less of a toll on our bodies.
We did pay for it after the Tassie Rogaine with both of us having a slow run at the Wednesday Sydney Summer Series. It all caught up with Smiffy one week later at the Western Sydney Summer Series – he really crashed afterwards and slept the rest of the day
Tristan: Finally, how did New Zealand and Tasmania compare with other 24-hour events you’ve done in 2018, especially our NSW Champs?
Smiffy: It’s interesting to look at our stats for the championship events we did this year:
Abercrombie wins for vertical distance! And it was also the most demanding physically – our legs had absolutely no hills left in them at the end.
In Dunedin, where the vertical relief across the course was twice as big, the track network and minimal off-track options made it easier to minimise the ups and downs.
At Abercrombie there were very few controls you could link up without significant up and downs. Next time it would be nice to have a few more controls arranged so that it is worth doing a couple of ridge traverses to provide some relief from the vertical. But in a championship event you definitely can’t complain about it – it’s supposed to be demanding. However, it has prompted me to make a mental note next time I’m setting a course.
Tristan: Thanks for such a great update, Toni & Smiffy. All the best for 2019!
November 25th saw the small town of Berowra become littered with orange and white flags, and a record turnout of well over 400 people on many different missions – to maximise their score, to have fun, to see a new place, to build fitness, etc. It was really a “choose your own adventure” with two duration choices and 62 checkpoints on the course at all sorts of landmarks, and people could really choose whatever scenery, terrain, distance & activities that suited them.
As I visited no CPs on the day, I really am unable to properly comment from a competitor’s perspective, but having visited every CP at least once and in many cases more over the past few months and heard all types of accounts, I certainly have a point of view that others don’t.
I was delighted to see what a positive day people had for a range of reasons – the social activities, the spectacular scenery, the route options and the wildcard strategic challenges that left them “bewildered” at what to do. Taking the highlights of multiple teams in the 4 and 8 hour timeframe, it is impossible to write a linear account of events as a competitor would, so instead I’m going to take anecdotes from each respective area of the course to get a full picture of the event and how it was received by as many teams as I can.
Probably the first thing that was of particular note to a lot of teams was the utilisation of the trains, as although it is certainly not the first NSW event it’s been allowed, they had never seen it. As Kim Eales put it, “We had noticed the suggestion to bring an Opal card along and were wondering how it would be worked into things.” Even to those who’d done events with trains, the event stood out due to the extent to which they were utilised. With only one other track out of the Cowan section, the train ride was a necessary component of completing the loop to the north, and for 4-hour teams that wanted to go to Mt Kuring-gai, it made it much more accessible. With the start time set to 10 minutes before the first train to Cowan, it was packed with well over 100 rogainers cramming into the rear 4 carriages, the only carriages that fit the platform at Cowan*, making me feel a moment’s sympathy for the “bewildered” train guard. Many more (couldn’t count as train was already at the station) jumped onto the first one to Mt Kuring-gai to head into Lyrebird Gully.
The challenge with trains of course, unless they were caught right at the start of the event, was how to get the timing right to avoid wasting time waiting for them, or worse, missing them. Nonetheless this seemed to be perfected by the team who scraped 2nd place, who did the southern loop before getting the 13:35 train up to Cowan, presumably adding in the nearby low-pointers to fill in the time. Well done.
(*) I take this chance to send my commiserations to Adrian Plaskitt and Jon Sayers, who, after bagging a couple of extra CPs at the start and seeing the train already at the station, jumped into the front end of the train and only then realised that the front and rear 4 carriages were physically separated, thus they had an additional detour to Brooklyn and back. I did realise that, whilst the notes said “there will be no compensation for delayed or missed trains,” there was nothing about what would happen if one got in the wrong carriage. Needless to say, I gave no compensation and note, with amusement, that their team name was “Last Minute.”
Adrian & Jon weren’t the only victim of the idiosyncrasies of the rail network. Justin Stafford told me that he and his teammate missed the first train to Mt Kuring-gai due to its convention of having its doors close 20 seconds early. It fortunately didn’t seem to affect their placing too much – they managed to quickly work out an alternate route to put them in second place in the 4hr event.
Urban CPs (18, 29, 15, 19, 24, 46, 23, 24, 14)
I had no idea how many teams with strollers we’d end up getting along, but was careful to construct a loop that would be accessible by them, doubling up as the “Prime Ministers’ Loop,” where each CP had a quote by one of Australia’s (many) recent PMs, with prizes given to a team who could complete all the quotes. I was very impressed with those who had enough knowledge of political history to get all the quotes without even visiting all the CPs in the group.
North Fringe of Berowra (17, 16, 36, 27, 60, 14, 22, 13, 12, 45, 44, 34)
This area tied together a series of tracks (excluding 27 and 60) to make a nice loop for those who wanted to stick close to the HH, and although not widely visited, it seemed to be well appreciated by those that did make the trip out. 18 and 17 obviously became time-filler CPs that teams would collect if they had time to spare at the finish or before a train. 60 was an effort to reach given the elevation but the lovely waterfall it was under made the trip worthwhile.
45 (shown below) was probably the best view of the “urban” CPs as you’d never know it even was an urban CP when you got there. Set over the cliff of a popular rock climbing spot there were views for many kilometres. 34, the John F. Kennedy CP (on the grassy knoll), was really inserted as a waypoint to other more scenic locations but ended up to be one of the most visited CPs. Extra kudos for the teams that bothered to remember the bit of trivia on JFK that was hung there as well!
South Fringe of Berowra (35, 46, 80, 25, 37, 26, 38, 28, 29)
Another loop for families included most of these CPs, but there was unsurprisingly a large divergence between the popularity of each of them. 80 of course was a throwaway checkpoint, inserted to give all teams an easy 80 points at a great lookout, and was one of only 3 CPs to attract over 50% of all teams, and it seems that the poor flag really got very little time to itself all day with many teams setting up a picnic at the table and posing for a wide range of photos.
37, halfway along the GNW link track was unsurprisingly another widely visited CP, making 26 with an arguably nicer view, less popular. 28 stood out on the course as being the only CP not to be visited by any of the top five 8hr teams (and only 11 teams overall), indicating it was too low a score to be worthwhile.
Cowan (70, 51, 42, 32, 50, 40, 101)
The northernmost section of the course had a series of six CPs (excluding 101) that were physically isolated from the rest of the course by about 2km, a 150vm (vertical metre) valley on a single track and the train line.
The main CP of that little cluster was 70, perched at the end of a ridge, and in one way or other had the flag (not the punch) disappear soon into the event, presumably by a pissed off local. This created some challenges. Being on a short side trail before a sharp bend and steep climb should be enough for people to notice, but there were many reports of teams running by it, which teaches a lesson about why the flags themselves need to be locked. 40 was a nice little playground in Cowan where several teams proved that a Socialgaine is playtime.
I was truly amazed at the volume of teams who went down over 100vm to collect 32 (having already bagged 40 and 50), particularly after both the vetter and the hanger pulled me up asking why I’d given it such low value. What was inserted as “bite” to the top teams became a CP that more than half the Cowan teams went to. I’m not sure whether the combined extra score and decreased distance made up for the climbing, or people really just didn’t study the topography in detail, but no fewer than 40 teams punched off there, out of the 57 that made the trip to Cowan in the first place.
Also the source of surprise was the 13 teams, including two 4-hour ones, that made the 5km, 200vm out-and-back journey to 101, Jerusalem Bay, which both the vetter and hanger asked me what I was putting it there for. It was inserted as an outlier, intentionally there to fluster teams trying to clear the course who would in all likelihood have just gotten the train up and be forced to make the decision at the beginning. Mike Hotchkis told me he didn’t read the larger scale in the inset (slow clap) so perhaps other teams overlooked this. Whether it was more trouble than it was worth is a decision for each team to decide, but either way they were rewarded for their efforts with a stunning view at the bay.
Most teams who went to Cowan did it at the start, but certainly not all of them. The team to take 2nd, place, Bart Vonhoff, Andrew Brown and Richard Mountstephens, started with the big loop in the south, and jumped on the train midway through (well timed given they only are once an hour). Longtime rogainers John and Mardi Barnes took the risk of finishing up there and almost missed the last train back. There was one novice 4hr team that did miss it and, as there was no other way back, they were disqualified. Perhaps a stark reminder that trains in a rogaine are a privilege and not a right!
This is probably the section of the course that I ended up visiting the most in the setting process, and having also been mountain biking in the vicinity many times I knew the area well. 90 of course was by far the best lookout on the course (arguably one of the best in Sydney) and, as intended, was one of the most-visited CPs on the course. Many teams sat down for lunch on the rocks, and who could blame them, particularly if they had approached from the steep climb up from the ferry.
21, 41, 31 and 20 all had interesting views of the valley from different perspectives and teams picked and chose which ones they’d go for when they were in the vicinity. I was surprised at the number of teams who had trouble finding 31 due to ambiguity of which track it was on (perhaps the clue should have clarified, though it said it overlooked the cliff). 11, placed as a waypoint for teams coming in from Turner Rd, also caused some confusion, due to multiple tracks in the vicinity. Again the clue of “a knoll” would have made this clear to more experienced teams, but I do know of at least one team that couldn’t find it at all. Really I saw it as a chance to give some points to teams that read the clue!
30, at the foot of a nice waterfall, was originally a potential out-and-back after teams saw the ferry’s position at 90 and knew if they had time to kill, before I’d found the track to 43. I’m not sure if anyone collected it for this reason but it was obviously visited and appreciated by a number of teams anyway.
Berowra to Mt Kuring-gai via Waratah Bay (91, 65, 74, 73, 54)
I thought that I had covered all the main details in the course setter’s notes with extensive information about train and ferry times, but I didn’t even think of showing a tidal chart on it as well, which may have made teams revise their route. CP 91, which hung on a boat wreck at Waratah Bay, ended up being in almost chest deep water when the first teams went through. Having run on this track many times I have never seen even knee-deep water so indeed that was a surprise, so was glad that teams understood the “no swimming” rule in the course notes to include Berowra Waters only. Oh well, one way to stop them overheating! The tide went down to normal levels within hours, certainly making the process easier for later teams. Nonetheless, the experience seemed to be a favourite to many competitors, including Open Women’s winner Melissa Richardson (despite noting it resulted in “lots of half-naked rogainers”!)
I had been uncertain whether to add this loop of such minimal navigation & decision making, but the very nature of commitment and lack of pull-out points made it one big decision in itself. I was surprised so many teams – 30 – took this route given the sparsity of scoring along the way, though on further analysis, the minimal navigation and relatively flat terrain – at least compared with other parts of the course – would have have been quite attractive. And as people found out, the scenery was very attractive as well. 73 was a lookout discovered by chance two months before the event, which was intended to be done as an out-and-back but it seemed nobody did this despite the easy terrain in contrast to many of the other high pointers.
This assortment of CPs in the SW corner obviously turned out to be an interesting challenge, and the beauty of the Lyrebird Gully trail made me regret not offering more points. Kim Eales raves about the view in her blog before she very unfortunately sprained her ankle. Understandably, only a handful of teams made the trip to 71 at Crosslands, but those that did had the bonus of at least being able to refill water and view Berowra Creek up close and personal.
The bridge over Calna Creek at 47 has a fascinating history of being built (using two power poles), “upgraded”, broken and rebuilt – and upon further reflection was sorry I didn’t put the flag right on the sign giving that story. Nonetheless there were a couple of teams that remembered details about the sign who were rewarded with a form of chocolate goodness. I was surprised that two teams, including the 8hr winners, made the 3km round trip to 53 – intentionally inserted as an outlier – given how far anyone came from clearing the course. It was, however, the only CP to have no 4hr team visits and far lower than the next least popular CP of 101, with 13 teams. I’ve always found these teaser checkpoints add an interesting dimension, particularly to on-track events, and am glad I put it there.
Gundah Ridge (48, 62, 52, 64, 61)
Any teams who could bear with the rather unflattering scenery of the Mt Kuring-gai Industrial area were certainly rewarded with the brilliant views of the creek at 62 and 48 (though the climb up to the latter was certainly an effort for teams heading south). 64 was also a nice view of the valley and quite a contrast to the ugly buildings behind it. People seemed to approach this region in multiple ways (in either direction) – some got 64 and 52 on a direct run between 54 and 29, others went between 54 and 61, and still others went between 61 to 64 and back up towards Berowra.
Berowra Waters (43, 100)
If there were any CP that puts the event into the pages of rogaining history, CP100 would have to take the cake. As Colleen Mock said it will “surely become one of rogaining’s legendary CPs”. I just HAD to integrate the ferry into the course since it was there. I’m very grateful to see some photos of the crazy scene at 100 where at one point over 30 people caught the ferry across in one go. I’m also grateful to the ferrymaster (who was luckily forewarned in the morning) for being so accommodating of the 150+ people that made the trip across during the day. It was nice to hear how many teams saw this strategically as a place to stop and rest for 10 minutes as they planned their next phase of the event.
Despite my prior belief, I found out on the day that it was not the first ferry-gaine in NSW, with the first metrogaine in 2000 utilising the Mortlake Ferry and another metrogaine allowing usage of the Mosman-Circular Quay passage. I think it safe to claim, however, it is the first event to include trains and a ferry simultaneously!
My favourite story from 100 was a group of “bewildered” outsiders who surveyed the mob of rogainers punching on before getting back on the ferry thinking it was an electronic ticketing system! I only discovered the very faint track to 43 (and further up to Nayla Rd) several weeks out from the event, and this was a great find.
Probably the main surprise for me and the vetters was how far any team was from clearing the course. Although I suspected that it was well out of reach, particularly with 53 and 101 added to ensure this, I was expecting teams to break 2,000 points but nobody even did that. It was clear that our winners, Brian Brannigan and Ivan Koudashev far from slacked off so it, above anything else, gave an indication to the difficulty multiple 200vm climbs that were a necessary component of high scores.
From a course-setter’s perspective I was delighted to see the huge divergence in route choice in the event, not just between high and low placing teams, but amongst the top few teams in both the 4 and 8hr events. By marking up the top 5 teams in each event, I found huge divergences between them.
New Event Duration
I took something of a risk to diverge from the well-known 6hr Socialgaine to offer the 4 or 8 hour options instead. This was done as I believed novice and family teams would prefer the shorter duration, but if other teams wanted to get to all the far reaches of Mt Kuring-gai and Cowan, they would need additional time to do it. I got a lot of positive feedback about it at the event itself, and am really glad I took that gamble. What do you think? Please message me or comment below on other duration ideas for subsequent events.
I was delighted to see how many teams got into all the other “social” aspects of the event. In additional to the aforementioned “Political Bewilderness” challenge, teams were able to take note of the features at CPs to shout out for spot prizes. Every other team seemed to share my belief that it would be easier to score high points than it was, with about 30 teams placing bets on what the winning score would be, all of them higher than the actual winning score (team 134 ultimately won out in this challenge, betting the winning score would be 1770 points).
There were many great team names that I don’t have space to list, but some of my favourites include:
• Trophy Wives (Nicole Sellin & Sharyn Robins) • 1 Fast 1 Furious (Ellise Roper & Henry Williams) • Cannibal and Lunch (Melissa Robertson & Kirrily Dear. Melissa noted that “thankfully, no one got eaten”) • BE-fuddled, BE-wildered & BE-mused (Ted Woodley & Mike Ward) • Love your contours (Max Messenger & Emily Rowbotham. Another ironic name, it turned out. Emily unfortunately tripped over early on and sprained her ankle, forcing them to limp through the next four hours to Mt Kuring-gai station before getting a train back.)
This report would not be complete without an essay on those to thank for their time and effort, without whose efforts this fabulous event would not have been able to happen. • First and foremost, I must thank Graham Field, who, in addition to sending around emails trying to muster up other volunteers in his capacity as volunteer coordinator, took many long hours putting the map together using a very dodgy topo base map and a zillion markups I made from GPX files over a number of months. The fact that there were no complaints about this map is a testament to his work. If that wasn’t enough, he also spent a day out hanging flags around Cowan. • Secondly, Antoniya Bachvarova and Andrew Smith, who ended up deciding to bail on us to compete in the NZ champs held the same weekend, became invaluable assistance as they helped vet the course, give feedback on my plans, and hung a number of flags at Waratah Bay (it was dry for them too!) and Gundah Ridge. I’m also indebted to Toni for some brilliant promotional posters and flyers made up to put up in the local area. • Marnie Holmes, Lisa Gyecsek, and Andrew Geelan were also very generous with their time in hanging flags, as was Phil Smyth, who put up the Berowra Ferry flag on the morning and warned the ferrymaster of the influx of people. Lisa and Andrew also rendered a great amount of assistance setting up and clearing up on the day. • Other on the day helpers included Bob Kenderes and his three children, John Havranek, Bob & Pam Montgomery and John and Mardi Barnes, whose help with setup, traffic marshalling and helping novice teams find their feet ensured the success of the event. Bob and Pam also collected flags right afterwards despite presumably having aching legs themselves. Julian Ledger, Adrian Plaskitt, John Anderson and Martin Dearnley. • I’m also very appreciative to Guy Micklethwait, a Berowra local, who reached out to help at the last minute upon reading about the event in the local paper. As it turned out, he had a degree in photography and he and his friend Nicola kindly spent the day getting some great photos at CPs 19, 46, 80, 100 and 90 and the HH.
While the rest of Australia was focussed on a football final
of one code or another last weekend, I was hosing off the Abercrombie dust from
our vehicle (a rainy day in Katoomba helped) and mentally composing my wrap-up
of our NSW champs experience. I very
much enjoy reading other teams’ reports but so often they are the top teams and
it occurs to me that some people may relate more to the experience of a
middle-of-the-pack team. On the
off-chance, and at the risk of exposing the enormity of our rogaining
ineptitude, here goes.
Having missed so many good rogaines this year for reasons
beyond my control, I was determined to make the NSW champs despite the known intimidating
topographic relief. As to course
planning, we were completely non-plussed to be unable to construct an efficient
route comprising 2 loops with a break of up to 6 hours at HH in between, and without
long track hikes in and out. (Yes, I see
from the results that some teams managed it).
Limited easy pickings around HH and/or just off the tracks. What to do?!
The SE looked like it could easily swallow us in an unfriendly watercourse
system so we eventually settled on a single anti-clockwise loop of 24 controls across
the N half of the map that avoided the ‘problematic’ river crossing around 27
and 28, made the most of the cluster NE of HH, finishing…? whenever…? The big unknown was vegetation density, which
proved mercifully light!
We decided to save 65 to the end, so started off with the
crowd to 16 and 63, but while they mostly headed N from there we cunningly doubled
back to 48 (delightful shallow spur), 76 (the first of many killer climbs) and
38 (making good use of the track).
More trackwork to the pleasant spur to 47, no navigational
problems to 56 and the non-flashing 15.
Decision time – whether to take the straight-up-the-spur route to 72, or
include 35 and face a steeper climb to 72.
I favoured the latter and we duly set off but I drifted too close to the
river and as usual it was Colin who saved us by realising that we were one
watercourse junction too far down. Easy
river crossing and a zig-zag climb up to the spur line saw us safely to 72,
where we faced a particularly daunting descent to the track and across to 23.
Could not have managed this descent in one piece without my
trusty trekking pole, as we angled down hoping to locate ourselves on the track
for an accurate attack to the potentially tricky 23. Colin correctly identified which saddle we
were on on the track and we took great care following a spur/watercourse
sequence to the right gully. We were
acutely aware of the climb penalty for errors. I was later astonished to see in the control
visits that we were one of only 2 teams overall who visited 23, the other team
being in the 8-hour event.
On with the story. 5:30 pm now, time to be aware of fading
daylight. We were on schedule to get
across the vast interior to 61 before dark, and had a satisfactory average of 2
controls per hour. The plan was to
follow the high ridge SE then NE to 37, but we were too optimistic about how
far we had come across the ridge and I insisted that we were at the right
attack spur when in fact we hadn’t even made the SE/NE turn! So it was that we descended on a parallel
spur several hundred metres too soon and hit a major watercourse in a huge
washed-out sweeping bend that didn’t fit expectations, to say the least. Dark now, headlights out, look around, try to
relocate. By matching watercourse bends
with the map, we theorised as to our position, and tested the theory by following
the watercourse SE. Fortunately the
watercourse was broad and easy to walk along and – dare I say – a pleasant, if
unintentional, route choice. Our
confidence grew as we ticked off each matching tributary and bend. By the time we had made the NE turn and come
to a flattish spur we had no doubt we would find 37 there, as indeed we did!
But a greater, inexcusable mistake was yet to come, as in
our elation over 37 we overshot 29 by staying too high on the spur and looking
in parallel watercourses too far to the E.
In fact, so far to the E that in re-climbing the spur to relocate we
stumbled across the track! The decision
not to go back for 29 proved most regrettable because our final score fell just
10 points under the magic 1,000.
61 was a rare gift, followed by a long track climb to 10 –
nice to meet a few teams on this stretch – and then around to 74 just after
midnight. We had options for 69, 68, 53,
26 or 36 (most of which weren’t on our original plan though), but were deterred
from attempting any of them because we feared becoming drained by the
energy-sapping climbs. 54 was doable
though, then a lovely moonlit track trek around to 67, by which time we had
formulated the plan to rest up till daybreak, to be sure of not erring on the subtle-looking
Spent 10 minutes teasing apart our space blankets to wrap
around us for a chilly and uncomfortable hour and a half ‘rest’ – oh for an all-night café – before
welcoming the lightening sky at 5:30 am and bagging 45 with sunlight-boosted energy
The closing sequence 73-44-58-13-64-14 was navigationally
straightforward (despite some confusion over the track position N of 73), and
we had plenty of time in hand. I was
dreading the descent from 58 and the climb to 64 and both seemed never-ending;
I was certainly struggling to get to 14.
Made it at last, on easy street to HH, and with enough time
to race down to 65, but absolutely no energy to even
Overall, a worthy area and a worthy course for a championship. Much as the climbs were strenuous, the openness of the vegetation was a huge bonus.