One of the benefits of being a rogainer in New South Wales is that there are a choice of rogaines put on not only by the local Association but also those organised by the ACT Rogaining organisation. As Canberra is surrounded by New South Wales these rogaines nearly all happen in our state – a point that has previously been remarked upon in these pages.
Over the years I have attended six ACT 24-hour championship events in the Brindabella, Kosciuszko, Budawang and Jerangle areas. The seventh and the best was held in April near Kiandra. The thing about high country rogaines is that if the weather is going to be bad it can be very nasty at 1500 metres. Not to mention the size of the hills and frequent fallen timber that has to be negotiated.
The 2022 event was in and around the Tantangara Valley and was very well set by David Baldwin and Julie Quinn. There were 78 controls, total 5000 points and enormous route choice. Sadly, they were unable to attend due to Covid complications however the rest of the ACT rogaining crew stepped up and the organisation of the event was excellent. By prior inquiry teammate Chris Stevenson and I learnt that the Hash House was to be on the edge of the course and that returning for a feed and a rest would be a viable option. We therefore arrived with a plan to do a long loop on the Saturday come back in for a sleep and then a shorter one on the Sunday.
Unlike some previous ACT rogaines the course was not too severe There was a lot of open country and the hills were typically around 100m with a maximum of 150m. We set off with plenty of clothes expecting a cool evening. Our course took us down into the valley via fallen timber we had been warned about and shortly across Tantangara Creek where we got wet feet for the first of many times. We made good time at our super veteran pace reaching out tenth and most easterly control (69) at 4.30pm. On the descent to it I managed a somersault when a dead timber foot hold and hand hold simultaneously gave way. Chris said the fall was spectacular. It left me unscathed but with bent glasses and a very large bubble in my squashed compass. It still worked but not as well as before. Reaching the Murrumbidgee River and Hains Hut still in daylight and with great views was a highlight. From there we climbed steadily meeting a cheerful three-woman ACT team – the first people we had seen for hours.
Soon after it got dark and from there things as usual got more interesting. Chris who was going more strongly than I concentrated on pace counting and we both were careful with our bearings. On a few occasions instinct told us to go particular way but the compass turned out to be more reliable. We made good progress to a 90 pointer before getting into some difficulties in the reeds of Tantangara Creek and a tricky control with some harsh words for the course setters. From there it was a long stretch across open country to a 100 pointer and subsequently a short stop for some food. Time had marched on and it was now 10.30pm the next control 51 ‘the saddle’ looked straightforward. We were approaching from below and if we went too far the country should fall away again. However, an hour later we had failed to find it and retreated with our tail between our legs to arrive weary at the House House via a 30 pointer at about 1:00am. After a sleep and a meal we set off just after sunrise and had a glorious frosty morning picking up another eight checkpoints. My tiredness from the night before had fallen away and we maintained a good pace on a conservative route.
The one that got away
So, what had gone wrong at 51? It went something like this:
- Our bearing drifted about 5° off the line as we skirted a broad spur
- After stopping for the break our sense of distance was confused and we started looking for the control much too early
- We did not bother pace counting
- The bush en route which was shown on the map as being fairly clear in fact turned into the most gnarly of the Rogaine and progress slowed to a crawl
- Chris was ranging ahead and our normally good communication was suboptimal
- When we did eventually climb the steep hill we didn’t know where we were on the ridge
- The moon was not yet up and the landform features were indistinct
We continued on a safety bearing until we reached a marked powerline and followed that to the Hash House. Had we stopped and thought carefully together about where we were we should have solved the problem. So, the lessons from this include being careful with compass navigation, do pace counting in the dark and communicate when location is uncertain to solve the crisis. We were able to put the problem behind us – another lesson is that it will be charmed 24-hour rogaine with absolutely no difficulties and you can always bounce back afterwards.
Congratulations go to Dave and Julie for a fantastically set course with great control placement. Also, to everyone else associated with the organisation. The only pity was that numbers were lower than and they could’ve been and we went many hours without seeing another team. NSW rogainers include ACT events of your future rogaine planning.