Winter Wrap 2015

Winter wrap

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by three fabulous rogaines

With apologies to Shakespeare and Richard 3rd.

Despite Sydney’s coldest winter for 26 years it has been champagne conditions for NSW rogainers with great events in June, July and August.

Paddy Pallin

The first of the winter rogaines was the Paddy Pallin 6 Hour event on a very sunny day on the south coast at Bendalong Point south of Jarvis Bay.

Course setter, Trevor Gollan, had generously set the checkpoints so that there were a number of legs with great beach views. After the start it was a question of either scampering north or south with most heading north up the beach as there were bigger pickings in that direction. Top teams took in extra loops but had a dilemma as to whether to head for two check points on the other side of Berringer Lake with no simple way to incorporate them. Wise heads ruled the day and even the winners gave them a miss.

The setting/vetting team was a whos who of legendary rogainers from past campaigns. Helping Trevor there was Peter Waterson, Maurice Ripley and Ian Arnold. Missing only was the warm and generous George Collins who very sadly passed away aged only in his late 50s late last year.

John Clancy and myself had the satisfaction of completing a good course and finishing up the southern beach with a few minutes spare.  Each of the winning three teams were late indicating the intensity of the competition at the pointy end. Winners were ACT rogainers, Julie Quinn and Dave Baldwin, amongst Australia’s best prospects at the World Championships in Finland’s Arctic Circle on 22/23 August. Second by 60 points were Greg Barbour and Steve Todkill who were 20 minutes (200 points) late. Close behind were the ever competitive Andrew and Nicole Haig followed in fourth by David Willaims and Ronnie Taib

Search and Rescue

In July it was the Search and Rescue Rogaine at Mt Yengo National Park and another story entirely. This is an event with all of its own traditions and a special purpose. Held every year on the first weekend of July in difficult country it is designed to replicate winter search and rescue conditions for missing bushwallkers. Most competitors come from the paid and volunteer rescue services. The events on offer start at 8.45am and finish at either 10.30pm or 2.30pm the following day. Old style control punches are used,

Although not far from Sydney and thankfully near sea level, the dirt road in was still an hour of winding track mostly following the ridges. I had the idea that ridges would be better going than the creeks and so that was our strategy.

In the morning it is hard to put a finger on one thing that went wrong but when everyone was ready for the briefing for the 8.45am start we were not.   We underestimated how long it would take to mark up the map from eight digit grid coordinates. Then there was the water container with a thick layer of ice and frozen tap which slowed filling water bladders. Anyway at the gun we started with a burst and had the satisfaction of being first equal to the first control at the top of a rocky spur. However at the second control things went awry due to a pace counting calibration problem. Just how many paces in thick bush is 100 metres?  We dived down into a gully to find ‘the gully’ but in due course it turned out that our steep gully was the wrong steep gully and a lot of energy was consumed. The 20 metre contours hid a lot of topography.

A short stretch of track gave us a mid-afternoon breather before another climb and then an interminable ridge bash followed by a treacherous decent into a ravine, an open valley walk and another steep climb. Darkness fell and we checked in for our obligatory radio checkpoint before heading in the general direction of the Hash House via two final check points. It was well below freezing and every bit of clothing went on as well as some regrets about no gloves. At about this point I realised the gullies were better than the ridges. In 10.5 hours we had visited only eight checkpoints! Our excuse – no two were joined together by an obvious route!

Next day it emerged that in the overnight event rogainers David Williams and Ronnie Taib had cleared the course with a little time to spare, had won the rogaine category and had the highest score overall. Superb effort.

The Search and Rescue Rogaine is not for the faint hearted but recommended to all those who don’t mind wilder country and night navigation. Don’t forget to take your winter gear.

Lake Macquarie and NSW Champs

August 1st and  Anne Francis and I got up early for the drive up the freeway to the Watagans, pitch tents and ensure time to study maps before the midday start. A Championship event and only 12 hours – I thought we’d be in with a shot in the Mixed Super Veterans category.  Not long back from the Boston marathon and with a training regime to match, Anne’s fitness was never in doubt. But what about my slowness up hills and Anne’s drop in enthusiasm after dark. How would we go?

Bert Van Netten, Bob Gilbert and team have made such a success of the Lake Macquarie event which has been going for so many years and always finding courses with new twists.

An hour after the start in a canyon with many other teams we agreed that when the other slid off another green rock we would not again ask ‘are you alright’ but wait to be told only if the answer was no. Eventually out of the rough stuff we made good time on tracks in line with Marg and Rob Cook – fellow travellers in the Supervets. The crux of the course was whether to make a major descent down a very steep spur followed by a chaotic gully and then a 200 metre climb back through the only 100 pointer on the course. We went for it.

By the time we had escaped it was dark and we were low on water. An unexpected time hazard had been the amount of timber recently felled by a storm meaning that we had been sliding over, under and through a labyrinth of tree trunks. Skipping two controls we made it to the busy tea and damper stop for hot sweet liquid and slice. Bert was helping to host and warned that the Great North Walk en route back was slower than it looked. Sure enough at each of the four check points off the track back we lost a few minutes – a combination of tiredness and the moon too low to help the dark night. We thought we were cutting it fine and skipped the last 20 pointer but then made it back comfortably although I was exhausted. And the Cooks had beaten us by 130 points – the value of those checkpoints we had skipped. They said training for Trailwalker had built up their strength.

Congratulations went to winners Martin Dent and Susie Sprague who managed to clear the course just in time. Martin is a former winner of the City to Surf and ran the marathon at the London Olympics (2.16 and 28th). I don’t know about Susie but she must be a very fine athlete. Second were Mike Hotchkiss and Neil Hawthorne only 40 points behind and a great hit out in preparation for their bid at the World Championships. Third only ten points off were, you guessed it, that strong partnership of David Williams and Ronnie Taib. Truly a championship field.

Thanks go to the many many people who volunteered their time to put on these three excellent events. And, we found every control we went for with only a little time lost along the way. Well done too to Sophie Stephenson on her first proper rogaine who took her dad along for the walk. Me, I’m heading for a big trek in the Himalaya and hope that rogaining will have been good training.

Julian Ledger

My 20 years of rogaining

Posted on 12/03/2015 by Chris Stevenson

I felt motivated to write to let everyone know that the 2014 Socialgaine held last Sunday represents 20 years of rogaining for me. I still remember the day a friend described this sport with a funny name that was, in essence, competitive bushwalking. From that moment on I was hooked.

Not being one to tread lightly, my first event was the 24-hour, Australian Championships held at Bethungra, near Cootamundra in 1994. I have three very strong memories from this event.

1. It was getting dark and my team and I were having a rest near the top of some nameless hill in the sweltering heat when “Chippy” Le Carpentier, with sweat pouring off him in torrents, ran up the hill and past us. I remember commenting to my wife afterwards that there were some really tough people out on the course.

2. We were doing quite well until about 11pm when we missed a control and suddenly I had no idea where we were. We stumbled around in the dark for another couple of hours getting even more lost until eventually we slept on the ground until dawn, worked out where we were and then wandered back to the Hash house with our tail between our legs.

3. My friend who accompanied me has never been on another rogaine. He was the fittest of the three of us, but he still reminds me, regularly, of the day of pain I put him through. Some people just don’t do endurance.

What I love about rogaining:

  • The challenge, there is nothing quite like silently grabbing a difficult control in total darkness and then quietly melting into the bush in search of the next one as other competitors walk in circles nearby.
  • There is also nothing quite like the pursuit of perfection. For a couple of days post event I am thinking about sub optimal route choices, poor navigation and what could have been, if only I was just a bit fitter or had the ticker to run the last few kilometres.
  • I also love the fact that it doesn’t matter what sort of car you drive, what you wear, or what sort of job you do. The social structure of rogaining is solely based on how many points you can get.
  • I love the beauty of the bush. You get into some very obscure, but beautiful, places when rogaining and I have very fond memories about some of the beautiful valleys, spectacular pagodas, and nameless mountains I have wandered over during the years.
  • Conquering demons. I am pretty sure it is not just me, at some time during a 24 -hour event you have to meet and conquer your demons to keep going. In modern life you can almost always avoid doing something that is difficult. Rogainers know and conquer difficult.
  • Lastly, as I get older, I love the fact that Super Veterans are still competitive. There are not too many sports where people over 55 can eyeball the 20 year olds, as an equal, on the sporting field.

What about me. I am part of the also-rans. I am very happy if I finish in the top 10% and cranky if I finish outside of the top third of competitors. In reality my results have not changed much in the last twenty years. Experience has made my navigation and route choice sharper and this has compensated for a marginal loss of speed and power. I am looking forward to becoming a super veteran and also looking forward to once again plunging down some unnamed valley with a mate looking for a stupid orange flag on a tree.

A big thank you from an injured competitor

Posted on 4/05/2015 by Dominique Pitot

A big thankyou

Yesterday, while participating in the Dharug Dreamtime 6 hour Autumn Rogaine, I slipped and banged my head against a rock. Team 58 were nearby and rushed to my assistance. I would like to thank Tom, Floret and Jeff Meredith for the amazing help they gave in looking after me, cleaning the wound and patching me up. I believe it was not a pretty sight, so thanks for not fainting on me.

The Meredith’s refused to continue until they could see that I was able to make my way back to the Hash House, which was a couple of kilometres away. I had to pass the “Who are you”, “How many fingers”, “Follow the finger” and many other tests before they helped me to my feet. Despite being in a race and with their points in jeopardy, they spent a long time with me ensuring my safety, and for that I thank them. My team then shepherded me back to the Hash House, across raging rivers and waterfalls. What a rogaine!

I would also like to thank the crew at the Hash House, for all their concern and assistance. I was taken to Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital for a CAT scan, where they discovered a tiny fracture and a giant leech. Six stitches later, I was on my way home. I look a bit of a mess, slightly worse then normal, but all is well.

Thanks again


Posted on 8/08/2015 by Chris Stevenson

The rules of rogaining are pretty explicit:

R7. Navigational Aids

(a) The only navigational aids that may be carried on the course are magnetic compasses, watches and copies of the competition map.

(b) 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.

Despite this rule, many people, the author included, carry navigational aids which, these days, come in many forms. I normally wear a GPS watch and a foot pod. I also carry a smart phone with GPS (I am sure when the rules were written GPS watches were not so prevalent.) The other thing to note is that a smart phone including a GPS is a really good safety measure. If a team, either lost or injured, can relay its GPS coordinates to the Hash House then search and rescues would be simple.

One view, may be that I should simply not carry such devices during an event, but the reality is that I really enjoy a post-event review of my track which highlights speed and small (hopefully) errors. In many respects having a GPS during an event is of little benefit, but in one respect there is a real risk of cheating. GPS can be used to track distance and there is a significant risk that people who carry a GPS will use it for distance reckoning rather than relying on the imprecise science of pace counting.

I think we understand the problem, but what should we do about it? My view is that using a GPS device in any form during an event is rightly banned and should be viewed as cheating, but given that so many rogainers currently wear GPS I am not sure that a strict enforcement of the current rule is the right solution. Possibly the best solution is to modify the rules to say that GPS devices may be carried but must not be worn and teams consulting these devices outside of an emergency situation will be disqualified for cheating.

I would be interested in the thoughts of others.

5 Responses to Cheating?

  1. Julian Ledger on 19/08/2015 at 8:29 pm says:

This is a timely post as devices with navigation aids built in are becoming ubiquitous. Next generation – why would anyone need to be able to read a map when your phone, watch or built in car system gets you there.

The rule needs review and I think that except for championship events that some flexibility is needed. The devices are very cool and I have certainly got enjoyment from downloading my Garmin Fenix 3 back home to have a better look at the route. Agree with Chris that measuring distance is the main potential benefit and should be explicitly noted as outside the rules.

  • Pierre in 31/08/2015 at 1:01 pm says:

I wear a watch in the only intention to overlap my gpx with the map and do my post race analysis. I agree that the downside of it if people uses it to track a distance. Maybe we could ask the rogainers to put their watch in their backpack rather than on their wrist (and use another simpler watch if needed). I have never been to major championship but I presume you can be disqualified on the spot with a GPS watch on your wrist …

  • Andrew on 19/09/2015 at 4:15 pm says:

I don’t think it is the rules that fall short. The rules state competitors can only carry such devices if they are not accessible during an event and organisers can verify this.

It’s just at most non-championship events, organisers don’t enforce the rules. That is, carrying all devices in sealed tamper-proof plastic bags is not enforced. I have attended a number of championship events and organisers have enforced these rules at all of them.

Personally I don’t have a problem with the lack of enforcement at non-championship events. Firstly, because of the benefits outlined in other posts; secondly, because these devices are good training aids and a number of competitive teams use non-championship events for training purposes; and lastly but importantly, it’s nice to be part of a sport where participants and organisers compete and are involved for the love and enjoyment of the sport itself.

I’ve participated in every rogaine event in NSW (bar one) for the past 5 years, as well as a number of ACT events and never have I seen nor heard of cheating by any competitive team.

If newbies to the sport get comfort from these sorts of devices then go for it, particularly if it encourages them to join our sport and experience the wild outdoors!

  • Matthew on 25/09/2015 at 9:26 am says:

The suggested solution is a good one, I think. (i.e. OK to carry, not OK to consult.) As with most rogaine rules, enforcement by honour system should be sufficient (except maybe for championship events).

It’s possible to purchase so-called ‘GPS loggers’, which will record your track and any waypoints you mark, but offer no form of navigational assistance (no interface other than a few buttons and status LEDs). I use one. They have the added benefit of being light-weight and able to record for the full duration of a 24-hour event.

I do think this issue should be addressed. For anyone who’s serious about improving their rogaining, a post-event GPS track is invaluable for learning purposes! My weaknesses became very apparent once I started recording tracks. (Their commonalities were remarkable.) I’ve definitely improved as a result.

  • Martin Dearnley on 2/10/2015 at 8:43 am says:

Tamper proof plastic bags (for any GPS devices on the course) are the simplest solution. We just need to remember to explain them in notes prior to the event, provide them at registration, and remind competitors at the briefing.