With Tamsin Barnes – 2nd morning

I attended the first world championships way back when in 1992 in the gold mining country around Beechworth, Victoria. Arguably the event was a bit premature (most competitors were Aussies) but it was statement of confidence about where the sport wanted to go. I made it to the next three championships held biannually at Mt Singleton WA, South Island NZ and Kamloops, British Columbia. Then work and family commitments took over and I dropped out until being part of the NSW Rogaining team that Organised the successful 2006 event at the Warrumbungles.

The attraction of a championships is the special atmosphere and for a world championship, the flags of competing nations and being out on the course with the world’s best rogainers.

Last year I travelled to the Czech Republic to a course in the mountainous forests bordering Poland. Then this year to California for an event that had been postponed from 2020. The 18th World Rogaining Championships was the tenth and final event of the Cal-O-Fest which included the North American Orienteering Championships. The primary host was the (San Francisco) Bay Area Orienteering Club. With only modest resources and a somewhat ambivalent ski resort hosting the hash house the team did a great job.

I had two other ulterior motives for going to California. Firstly, despite having been a few times including hitchhiking through twice as a student in the 1970s I had never been to Yosemite National Park. Secondly, I wanted to explore the footsteps of great x 3 grandpa Matthew Ledger who had died in the town of Sonora in 1851 at the height of the goldrush. (He had unwisely got caught up in it as an ‘old’ man of 50).

On arrival after one night in the city I headed off in my campervan (Aussie owned company). Like Australia once inland it got hot, very hot. Good thing the van was well air conditioned. In Sonora between visits to graveyards I spent time in the coolness of the library and a historic bookshop come bar.

112 degrees = 44C

Yosemite did not disappoint and has the most fabulous scenery. It is a popular place, gets booked early and in season is well known for long queues. I stayed outside the park and drove in early to start walking by 7.00am. Best day was the steep 6 hr return hike to the top of Yosemite Falls. Part of the idea was to get
used the altitude which at least made it much cooler than the lowlands. The next day saw me driving over the Tioga Pass upto 10,000ft and into Nevada. After the record snow season the pass had only reopened the previous weekend.

Tamsin and Lake Tahoe at the model event

Arriving at the event site I met up with blind date team-mate, Tamsin Barnes, and we headed off to do the model event. Idea is to get used to the mapping and vegetation. One thing you can be sure of at a rogaine far from home is that it is not going to be the same as you are used to. In the evening there was a low-key meal with welcomes and some nice musical entertainment.

Next morning, we were near the head of the queue to collect maps and had plenty of time for strategy. As an ultra-veteran competing in the mixed veteran category. I was not expecting to be competitive, and our plan (team name Australian Crawl) was to focus on enjoying ourselves. The start was in an outdoor ice link at the centre of resort which was busy with out of season activities including mountain biking. People did not seem too fazed by the sight of rogainers dressed for the conditions charging off in different directions at midday.

Our plan was a large loop on the Saturday on some the less mountainous part of the course returning to the hash house for rest before a smaller loop on Sunday. It worked out well. We made good progress although I was slow on some of the bigger climbs and through boulder fields. The trick was to keep drinking whilst keeping the fluids down. We filled up at one stream and treated the water for an hour before consuming. Tamsin as a vet was well equipped. I took some magnesium and had no trouble with cramp although by midnight was fading and pleased to reach the hash house at 2.00am. We slept well in the van and after some breakfast were walking again at 6.00am. The morning was pleasantly cool and the route was mostly on trails on steep slopes through bigger forest.

We met Gill Folwer and teammate Liz Dornom who were in good spirits and went on to win the Women’s Veteran category. We didn’t see bears on the course although others did, and we kept a wary eye. Organisers reported control flags having been bear-andalised. I did see the brown bear pictured below at the campground on Lake Tahoe just off the course.

Cartoon from Rogaining, Cross-Country Navigation by Neil and Rod Phillips

Thankfully our return route was downhill, and we got back with a nice 15 minutes to spare. Tamsin had been a great teammate and a very good navigator.

The altitude on the course ranged from 1900 metres upto 2700 metres. Here is the map. We had walked 56km with approx 600 metre altitude variation and scored 1480 points (For some reason our GPS tracker did not record our morning effort). Results are here: Cal-O-Fest – RESULTS

Consider this – we walked for 20 out of the 24 hours, lost no time on navigation or finding controls, only stopped for water and fixing headlights and the winners from Estonia scored three times our score. Amazing atheletes.

There was a friendly atmosphere as we waited for the results presentation. Tamsin’s husband Richard Robinson and Viv Prince had comfortably won the Mixed Ultra Veterans category. It was good to sit and eat and rest. Other Aussie teams included:

The next World Championships is scheduled for early summer (around June) 2025 in Spain. With rogaining popular in Europe bigger numbers can be expected although I would be surprised if the entry criteria of having achieved the podium in previous rogaines needs to be applied – eg all should be welcome.

Julian Ledger

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