The 57th Paddy Pallin Rogaine

57th Paddy Pallin Rogaine

For the last 57 years the Paddy Pallin organisation has combined with NSW Rogaining to put on a Rogaine. The Paddy Pallin rogaine is a special feature on the rogaining calendar since it is our most popular event and for the winners there are some good trophies to be won. For most of us who are unlikely to ever win a Paddy Pallin rogaine there are usually spot prizes given, courtesy of Paddy Pallin.

This year’s rogaining calendar was disrupted due to the impact of Covid 19 and it wasn’t until the 26th of September that groups of up to 500 people could participate in outdoor sporting events. The Paddy Pallin rogaine would be a different event to normal years because there was to be a staggered start (and finish), no food and no presentations. All participants would find out their score from the web site after the event and trophies would be presented to the winning teams by post in between events.

This year’s Paddy Pallin rogaine was also unusual because it was being held over a metropolitan course with the Hash House based at Club Willoughby and the event was being held in late November rather than its usual June – July time slot. The event location on the lower North Shore meant that this was going to be a fast event with little technical navigation but a lot of beautiful views, beautiful houses and beautiful people to be seen out on the course.

What hadn’t changed for this year’s event was that many good athletes signed up for the event and in the end the total number attending (plus volunteers) came close to the 500 Covid 19 imposed limit. Heat is always a risk in endurance events held late in the year, especially in a metropolitan course where there’s little bush canopy to give respite from the sun. Fortunately the weather gods smiled on us and the forecast maximum for the day was a perfect 23C. 

Having a staggered start for the event gave it a different vibe. We are used to the seeing up to 600 people disappear in all directions at a mass start with the good teams running off at high speed to get ahead of other competitors. This year you could start at any time during your allotted hour and teams drifted off when they were ready. The good teams looked just as focused as they normally do, but it was interesting to see them take off at a gentle jogging pace which they presumably increased once they got out side of the Club precinct.

Normally at the end of the event there is a mass finish and the pressure is then turned onto the administrators, to try and get accurate results published and presentations started within 30 mins of the event finish. In this event there was no mass finish and no presentations and greatly reduced stress for the administrators who were under no pressure to produce the results quickly.

Overall, Men’s and Men’s VeteransGlenn Horrocks and Richard MountstephensCourse Cleared
2790 in 5:05:31 (45kms)
Mixed and Mixed Veteran’sRobert Hayen, Fiona Castle and Brian BranniganCourse Cleared
2790 in 6:00:00 (See below)
Under 23Xanda Kolesnikow and Ivan Koudashev2640
Women’sNicole Mealing, Rochelle Tregear2370
Men’s Super Veteran’sMichael Hotchkis, Andrew Duerden2210 (35kms)
Women’s VeteransMadonna Cavanagh and Kathryn Vaughan2100
FamilyJohn Havranek and Jack Havranek2080
NoviceTaras Mencinsky and  Mike Evans2070
Mixed Super Veteran’sDale Thompson and Mark White1960
Mixed Ultra Veteran’sKerry Emslie and Ross Emslie1800
Men’s Ultra Veteran’sJulian Ledger and John Anderson1780
Women’s Super Veteran’sMelissa Grant and Penny Field1250
Women’s Ultra Veteran’sDebbie Hotchkis and Sue Jackson740

There was little surprise that the overall winners were Glenn Horrocks and Richard Mountstephens. Glenn and Richard are well known in both the rogaining and orienteering communities as outstanding athletes and the metropolitan course allowed them to use their fast endurance running to their advantage. Both Glenn and Richard also do well on a bush course and they have both had good form in the Paddy Pallin event over the last decade:

YearGlenn HorrocksRichard Mountstephens
20201st Overall with Richard Mountstephens1st Overall with Glenn Horrocks
20194th Overall with Jonathan WorswickDNS
20181st Overall with Jonathan WorswickDNS
20172rd Overall with Keelan Birch1st Overall with Ondrej Pavlu
20163rd Overall with Keelan Birch1st Overall with Greg Barbour
20142nd Overall with Andrew Brown1st Overall with Andrew Hill
20132nd Overall with Patrick Gunnarsson1st Overall with Andrew Hill
20121st Overall with Richard Mountstephens1st Overall with Glenn Horrocks
20112nd Overall with Lisa GrantDNS
20101st Overall with Andrew Black and  Joel Mackay2nd Overall with Andrew Hill, Ben Rattray and Steven Todkill
20091st with Michael BurtonDNS

While Glenn’s performances are consistently outstanding, it should be noted that his 2020 partner, Richard Mountstephens, has won the last 6 Paddy Pallin events he has entered. So together they make an unbeatable team.

Richard Mountstephens and Glenn Horrocks – Winners of the 57th Paddy Pallin 6 hr rogaine.
Glenn Horrocks, Joel Mackay & Andrew Black, open winners of 47th Paddy Pallin rogaine.

There was a small controversy over the Mixed and Mixed Veteran’s winners. The team of Robert Hayen, Fiona Castle and Brian Brannigan had actually stopped during the event to help an injured member of another team and were compensated for time lost, giving them a course clearing score. It is a rule in rogaining that team must abandon their course assist teams in distress (Rule 32). This is essential in a sport where competitors are often many kilometres from the Hash House and also often in very remote bush. In this case Robert, Fiona and Brian were assisting Daniel Tiyches from team 43 who fell and sustained a nasty compound fracture of his little finger. A member of the public gave Daniel a lift to Royal North Shore Hospital, where he spent the night waiting for an operation to put his finger back together. Daniel is a bus driver so it might be a while before he is back at work. Daniel takes with him best wishes from the Rogaining Community for a speedy recovery.

Daniel’s Little Finger

It was good to have the Hash House at Club Willoughby. While no food was served at the event competitors could finish the event and then stay on as a Club patron to get some food and drink. Given how hard the clubs have been hit by Covid 19 it was nice to see competitors spending some money at the Club after the event.

The other interesting thing that happened during the event was that the Bomb Squad was called to one of our controls. Control 55 was attached to a park bench in Beauchamp Park north of the Chatswood shopping precinct. A slightly overzealous member of the public reported the rogaining control as a suspicious object and the Bomb Squad was called. This happened despite the fact that all of our controls are accompanied by an orienteering flag and a sticker explaining what it is.  I am not sure how long it took the bomb squad to recognise that the object was an orienteering control not a bomb, but I suspect that it was not long. Fortunately all this happened after the last competitors had passed by and we were able to “spring” Control 55 from Chatswood Police Station the next day with only its security wire cut. With time served already and time off for good behaviour, we can expect to see Control 55 at our next event in February.

This is how the Controls looked at the event

Vivien de Remy de Courcelles did an excellent job with the course which took in some of the fabulous views that the area provided. Vivien had predicted that the top teams may clear the course. I suspect he may have been a bit surprised that this was achieved in a little over 5 hours.

Thanks also to the rest of the team for putting this event on:

Organiser, web site  and trailer towingChris Stevenson
Course SetterVivien de Remy de Courcelles
Flag HangingChris Stevenson, Vivien de Remy de Courcelles, Steve Ryan and Martin Cousins
On the Day helpersTrevor Gollan, Steve Ryan, John Clancy, John Bowles and Chris Stevenson
Photography and Map MakingAndrew Smith and Toni Bachvarova
First AidSteven Young
AdminAnita Bickle and Vivien de Remy de Courcelles
Flag CollectingJohn and Kath Anderson, Chris Stevenson, Vivien de Remy de Courcelles, Steve Ryan, Martin Cousins and John Clancy.

Overall the 57th Paddy Pallin 6hr rogaine was very warmly received by all competitors who appreciated the course with combination and street and park with stunning views over Middle Harbour and Sydney from many points on the course. It was really nice for NSW Rogaining to once again team up with Paddy Pallin to hold this important event in the rogaining calendar when so many other events have had to be cancelled due to Covid 19.

Never Too Young for Lawyer Vine

You are never too young to experience the joys of lawyer vine which, after all, is an Australian native (Smilax australis) pest rather than an introduced one. Sophie, my daughter’s first experience with lawyer vine was in the 2015 Lake Maquarie rogaine when she was 8 years old. Yesterday was her 3rd Lake Macquarie rogaine and now she considers struggling through lawyer vine and getting cut to shreds to be all part of the fun experience.

Yesterday I teamed up with daughter Sophie and novice friend Imi to enter the Lake Macquarie rogaine. With both the 6 and 12 hour events on offer the choice was easy, go for the 12 hour. This may not seem the obvious choice when rogaining with two 13 year old girls but very few family teams do the 12 hour events so there was a very good chance we would win the family category, which we did (yes, we were the only family team in the 12 hour event). I was also keen for the girls to do some night rogaining in order to get the full experience.

The next consideration was a team name, Sophie and I have competed in our two previous Lake Macquarie events as the “Zombie Unicorns” so yesterday team name was “Zombie Unicorns Ride Again”. We collaborated to create a team logo using Photoshop and some purloined images.

Our team logo

A good team name deserves some good team nicknames so we went with ‘Pegs’, ‘Problem’ and ‘Phather’. Sophie went with ‘Pegs’ which became her nickname after a recent camping trip with Imi’s family where there was an incident with some tent pegs. I was ‘Phather’ wihich was a spelling of ‘father’ starting with P to be consistent with my team mates and Imi was ‘Problem’ which was apparently some self-evident truth.

It was really good to catch up with some old rogainers who I have not seen for a while due to COVID 19 impacting our rogaining schedule. I miss the fatigue and the trash talk, I miss having good teams fly past me and I miss grabbing controls and sneaking away while other competitors wander around scratching their heads. Yesterday, I taught my team mates an important lesson on what not to say when you see a control and also how to bag a control in complete silence and disappear into the bush without the other teams noticing.

Problem and Pegs doing some route planning.

Yesterday my team mates and I went about three hours without seeing any other competitors. Usually when you don’t see any other teams for a long time it is because you are lost, moving too slowly or chasing “sucker” controls. Yesterday we bagged 72, 36, 46, 37, 73 and got almost all the way to 103 before we saw another team. While I love not seeing other teams on the course, after 90+ rogaines it still gives me the feeling that I might be totally lost.

I think Imi (Problem) really enjoyed yesterday’s rogaine. She seemed to be especially enjoying the lawyer vine because everytime we turned around she was lying face down in the scrub having appreciated yet another piece of lawyer vine.

A couple of interesting things happened during the event yesterday. After about 5 hours of rogaining the girls interest turned towards the tea and damper control over getting more high point controls so we made a long side trip to the tea and damper control. I forgot to warn the girls that the Tea and Damper spot would probably have neither tea nor damper, but the disappointment was quickly overcome by mouthfuls of muffins and various pieces of fruit which were consumed without drawing breath.

The second interesting thing that happened yesterday was that we came across an acoustic recorder in the bush near control 46. The owner of the recorder will be puzzling for some time over the noise made by “Problem” falling over, yet again, near the recorder.

The third interesting thing that happened is that our team was cursed by Andrew Duerden. We had arrived back to the hash house to have a quick rest and some dinner. While we were there I was chatting with Andrew who was telling me that some good teams were struggling to find low points controls close to the hash house. I wasn’t worried because, up until that time, we had been finding controls pretty easily and hadn’t missed any all day. Sure enough Andrew’s words were a portent of doom because we failed to find 21, 22 and 32 all within a few minutes walk of the Hash House.

In conclusion, I must thank Pegs and Problem for their fabulous efforts yesterday and for putting up with my continual pushing for just one more control, despite the fact that we had already won the family category (unless we got disqualified). Thanks also to the organisers and vounteers including Bert van Netten, Anita Bickle, the Montgomery clan, Bob Gilbert and others for putting on another memorable event. I have competed in the Lake Macquarie event regularly since 1995, I still enjoy them greatly and I am looking forward to more lawyer vine in 2021.

Solo-Super-Sped-Up Rogaining (Urban Score Orienteering)

by Tristan White

A key ingredient to rogaining (in addition to the navigation, teamwork, and route planning) is pushing through the long duration of the event. Excluding multi-day events such as the Tour de France or Test Cricket, a 24-hour rogaine is one of the longest continuous “official” sporting events.

But even the deepest rogaining tragics couldn’t hope to compete in a 24hr rogaine every week and simultaneously hold down a job, have some sort of family life, and keep their body physically intact. So what better way to keep up the routine of route planning, navigation and keeping fit on a weekly basis than a solo, super-sped-up version of a championship rogaine?

NSW is fortunate enough to have these Solo Super-Sped-up rogaines run by our various orienteering clubs. Despite the supposed rivalry between orienteers and rogainers, these events have long been popular amongst both the orienteering and rogaining crew, and for good reason. I did my first score orienteering in 2013 after a couple of years of serious rogaining and was immediately hooked.

As the summer orienteering starts kicking off around the State I had the privilege of having Ross Barr and Samantha Howe, coordinators of the best known midweek “Score-O” events in NSW, answer questions about the Sydney Summer Series (SSS) and Newcastle Summer Street Series (NSS) and explain why it’s such a great thing for rogaining regulars of all persuasions to give it a crack. Thanks to Sam and Rosscoe for their responses.

Sam (at right) with teammate Cath at Berowra Bewilderness Socialgaine 2018

Tristan White: How did you get into orienteering/rogaining in the first place?

Ross Barr: I was leading NPA day walks back in the early 1980s and my bushwalking friend, the late Bill Maclean from Garingal Orienteering, was a regular who used to urge me to give O a go. “You love the bush, you love maps…” But I didn’t think I had that competitive bit or wanted to run… How wrong this proved when I did eventually give it a go (at Macquarie Uni in 1987)! I was instantly hooked. I did my first rogaine a couple of years later – a Paddy Pallin I think.

Samantha Howe: I got into Orienteering and Rogaining through friends in the Newcastle Uni Mountaineering Club and was immediately hooked. I started helping by setting occasional street events and am now the Street Series Coordinator and I regularly set different events.

The Castlecrag course was one of the highlights of the 2018-19 SSS Season (and it may likely form part of the upcoming 2020 Socialgaine)

TW: Give a summary of how the series works.

RB: Each SSS course is 45 minutes in length, with controls numbered 1-30 on the map; 1-10 being ten points, 11-20 twenty, and 21-30 thirty; hence a total of 600 available points. The controls are generally in relatively easy locations, such as track junctions or fence corners; with a flag and electronic punch (SportIdent Unit) hanging at it. Competitors generally run (or walk) solo though we do permit team entries as well. Like a conventional rogaine, 10 points are lost per minute late, and generally the course is set so that the best runner collects almost (but not quite) all 600 points, and there is no obvious route so athletes are rewarded for clever route planning. There are 26 events this year, coinciding with each Wednesday of Daylight Savings.

Runners can usually collect maps from 4pm (though that’s changed somewhat with Covid) and start between 4:30pm and 6:45pm. The course closes at 7:30pm at which stage controls begin to be collected.

SH: NSS has always been a 45-minute score course with two minutes of map-reading time before starting. Maps are A4 size at 1:10,000. NSS used to have a multiple-choice question at each control (eg. #93 Colour of Letterbox: Red / White / Green) which were marked at the finish to give your score. Controls were worth 1, 2 or 3 points with 1 point lost for each minute late up to 5mins, then 2 points per minute up to 10mins late before disqualification at 55mins. Now we are changing over to MapRun which uses GPS on your smartphone or Garmin watch to beep and register each control as you reach it, then uploading your score at the finish. Controls will now be worth 30, 40, 60 or 90 points (changing due to MapRun control number limitations) with 30 points lost per minute late. A competitor’s best 10 results count towards their series total. Toblerones are awarded to any competitors who come to every event in the series and there are usually 5-20 people each season who manage this. Andrew Haigh seems particularly partial to Toblerone as he has the best record of attendance in the last ten or so years.

Starts are from 5pm – 6:30pm with course closure at 7:30pm.

TW: When and why did the Summer Series start?

RB: SSS began as something to keep you in touch over the summer when we had a hiatus from other events. Early years had various formats, but in 1991 we settled for the ‘Mini- Rogaine’ 45-minute score course we now have. The locations are slightly North Shore/Northern Beaches/Inner West Sydney centric, but we do cover quite a wide area.* This season includes Auburn and Earlwood for instance. Garingal Orienteers (my club) began it all, and we still do roughly half the 26 events each year. The other four Sydney-based clubs (Bennelong, Western & Hills, Uringa and Bigfoot) share the balance, with my role balancing the competing areas and dates – always a challenge! We get an average 200 attendees for each event, and a very much rusted on demographic. Our web site (about to be updated with the new branding from dirtyd) shows the programme, captures results and news. The latter usually being my cryptic race reports** – that I’m sure no one reads!

(*) There are now similar South and West Sydney Summer Series’ with a similar format, however less regular and held on weekends

(**) They really are cryptic. Each week Ross invents an original theme that somehow ties in with the location, course, organiser or best athletes. As an example, for the course I (Tristan) set at North Wahroonga he managed to compare the natural setting with different shades of “White” paint to coincide with my surname.

A SSS from 1995 at Boronia Park, North Ryde. It has more recently been utilised in the Lane Cove Rivergaine 3 in 2017

SH: The Newcastle Street Series started in 1990. Arthur Kingsland won the first series and several later series and he still competes each year. Club members of all levels take part and the street series has always been aimed at bringing new people in to try orienteering. A lot of Novocastrian rogainers have been attending the NSS for many years including Andrew & Nicole Haigh, Rob & Marg Cook, Van Netten family, Charlton family, Montgomery family, Ian Dempsey, Bob Gilbert, Neil Chappell and many more.

The trophy for outright winner is a 4kg+ lump of bitumen (see below photo of Andrew holding this trophy).

Clare Williams, Alex Massey and Andrew Morris with their NSS trophies

TW: What gave you the idea to start up the SSS, and what type of people came to the events back then?

RB: Big Foot had an event before I started, and I think there were earlier series’ that had faded out. Maybe I was just the right person at the right time – and 30 years later wondering, “Gee, what happened here?” Most of our early runners were all O club members, but then we started getting non-O athletes. Some fantastic runners have joined us over the years, though nowadays many names in both O and rogaining join the party, less the straight road-running crowd.

TW: You have set and done longer rogaines in the past. How can participation in summer-series events complement one’s performance in longer rogaines?

RB: Ron Junghans and I set the Paddy at Long Swamp (2001 – same location as the more recent “Pagoda Palooza”), and we were both pretty keen then. I’d always go out hard, Ron trailing back, but he always perked up at the 4-5 hour mark, often finishing the stronger. My rogaines with Ian McKenzie (both of us walking at fast pace) have been highlights also. The key link across the two map-sports is distance estimation, and the need for late plan adjustments as one tires. Both sports are defined by these features.

SH: NSS events are like mini-rogaines; controls have differing point values and you try to get the most points you can within the 45-min time limit. This is great to hone time-management skills, navigation under pressure and route planning to maximise points.

TW: How do Summer Series events contrast to other conventional orienteering events, and what makes them particularly ideal for rogainers?

RB: SSS are ’score’ courses, where you can (normally) study the map and course. The biggest difference to classic bush and sprint orienteering is that these are ‘line’ courses with no prior study. The key to good O setting is route choice and making decisions in very short time order. Orienteering in that sense is a more charged and athletic activity, where decisions on the run are often so critical and such a key aspect. Orienteering’s event times (being shorter) are a major contrast to rogaining, so SSS is perhaps a good cross over.

SH: NSS are ‘score’ courses (like rogaines) instead of traditional ‘line’ courses and are set in suburban areas with some reserves and occasional bush sections. Most competitors don’t use a compass as it’s more time consuming and they just keep track mentally. These events can be enjoyed at any speed by all ages and abilities, just like rogaines. NSS also has a walking-only category and a pram category (running with pram allowed) and you can compete by yourself or in a group. Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult for safety.

TW: Do you have any particular favourite courses/maps/locations or events over the years

RB: No real favourites. The location variety is one of our best features, ranging from the bush of Lane Cove, Curl Curl, Tania Park and Kissing Point. So many – and three new maps this season! I suppose I’m a little bit keen on the inner West having mapped Pyrmont, Glebe, Annandale etc. They also hint at Sprint O to a degree, something I’m very very keen on.

SH: I too like the variation within the series – some maps are flat and some very hilly, some are grid-like (where you can easily make parallel errors) and others are curvy mazes. I prefer maps with lots of complexity and not too many steep hills. We have so many maps that we usually don’t repeat a map for three years.

Course prep for the NSS

TW: What is going to be different this series to reflect the Covid era?

RB: The Covid protocols mean we will pre-publish the courses (night before) to assist in minimising people mingling at assembly to study the route. Sadly, this was always one of the best aspects of our weekly ‘hit’ … getting to catch up with your mates, now pre-done, or back in your car. So, minimal people at rego. No results display etc. It will make the SSS Facebook page all the more important as a forum for athletes to spend hours comparing their routes to that of their mates!

SH: MapRun should help with faster times as there are no longer questions to answer at a control. Because it will now be GPS, we will be able to easily check a competitor’s route if a control doesn’t ‘beep’ and amend their score. Also, all competitors will have to physically pass through each control instead of turning around early (if they had good eyesight at a distance) and they will not be able to cheat by guessing answers or taking shortcuts through Out-of-bounds areas.

NSS route planning

TW: What in particular is there to look forward to this season?

RB: This year’s programme begins with the two cancelled events from Season 29 including my ‘Gone Trotting’ at Harold Park, Glebe. Both with new material. I mentioned the new maps (Auburn – dead flat, Earlwood, the full Northbridge which I’ve called ‘Remembering Bob Hawke’! and one behind Warringah Mall). Your (Tristan’s, held on December 2nd) one in North Wahroonga will be a cracker, as will Richard Pattison at ’The Cascades’ which hasn’t been used for over 25 years. Also Ian Jessup at Long Reef, another oldie getting a rerun in the sun. And don’t forget the 30th anniversary event – back with special permission at Balls Head where it all began.

A 1997 map from another favourite location, Balls Head in North Sydney
Ross’s own Fox Valley (South Wahroonga) course was one of my personal favourites, as it was for many other rogaine regulars.

TW: Thanks Sam & Ross for the info and obvious enthusiasm you have for the Summer Series. And for our readers, here’s links to other Score Orienteering comps in NSW & ACT.

Here’s one of the maps from Newcastle Summer Series 2019-20

Get Into Gear Part 7 – Packing in a Section on Bags

by Tristan White

Unless you have arms like an octopus, the single most important piece of equipment to have for a rogaine is a good backpack, because without one, it is near impossible to carry the bounty of other essential gear to keep you dry, fed, warm or cool for many hours.

Just like almost every other piece of equipment used in a rogaine, there are no bags specifically manufactured for rogaining, and people have different views about what works best. I have my own two cents to add, but have enlisted the help of several rogaining long-timers. Thanks to Andrew Duerden, Gill Fowler and Pierre Francois for sharing their views and experiences.

Let’s start with me, Tristan White: I have used almost exclusively two backpacks for rogaines over the past seven or so years, both of which happened to be acquired at the (now defunct) Highland Fling MTB race. The CamelBak 2011 HAWG (Holds A lotta Water and Gear) was one of the prizes for a category win, and has probably joined me for more adventures than any other of my possessions. With two zip-up side pouches, and a bounty of pockets, it has worked for up to 24-hours of bashing around the bush without feeling too uncomfortable. Primarily made for cycling, it has also been my main bag for commuting as the pouch for the bladder perfectly fits in a small laptop.

Tristan’s CamelBak HAWG

The greatest tragedy of this item is that it’s no longer manufactured and whilst I have searched far and wide, I cannot find a replacement, leading to me rather desperately stitch together more broken seams than I can count, and also making me the subject of much ridicule as I brazenly carry the dirty and torn-up contraption around shops, airports and conference centres.

More recently, I jumped on the 50% discounted CamelBak Ultra 10 at the CamelBak display stand for the 2015 Highland Fling. It is predominately made for ultramarathons, and I’d describe it as somewhere between a vest and a backpack, something that works very well for a long rogaine where I do a combination of walking and running. It’s been great, as it’s light enough to not feel bulky when I’ve used it for a 3-hr event owing to its elasticity, but I’ve used it for almost every 24-hr event since I got it. The catch is that it usually doesn’t fit my raincoat and I generally cable tie it to the outside of the pack. Whilst Gill advises against this below, it’s worked very well for me and saved me the additional expense of a new pack.

It too has got its fair share of tears which have required some stitchwork, but is mostly still going strong from a couple dozen rogaines, trail runs and epic mountain bike rides over the years. I highly recommend something similar to relatively serious rogainers.

Tristan’s Camelback Ultra 10

Andrew Duerden: I use the Salomon 12L ultra race vest for all rogaines and have done so for the past 5-6 years. In addition to a few ultramarathons, I have used the pack for 50+ events and numerous training runs and there is nothing wrong with it except for a small tear on the rear. I find it very comfortable in all conditions, very light, and not constrictive when running, climbing or bashing through bush. I got it at Pace in North Sydney for about $250.

Andrew’s Salomon

Gill Fowler: I’ve used several backpacks for rogaining. The type and size of backpack depends on the event. The size is just big enough to hold the gear I need and robust enough to withstand scrub bashing (very important!). Also it is better to have a pack that has slightly more capacity, rather than try to stuff it all in, as you want to be able to easily access your gear, and an overstuffed pack is not as comfortable. It also needs to fit your body – so trying before use is good. I tend towards a women’s specific pack, as it fits my frame better – if the harness is too big it moves around too much when I run and the outcome is chafing.

Gill’s backpacks

Pierre Francois: Over my eight years in rogaining I have been able to try multiple packs in terms of brand (Quechua, Salomon, Lafuma, Ultimate Direction), capacity (5L to 35L), shape (from classic hiking to racing vest), and colour (I tried them all!) I’m currently racing with an Ultimate Direction Fastpack 35 (vest style).

Pierre’s Ultimate Direction Fastpack 35

I went to the “vest” because I wanted to have a pack which doesn’t bounce while I run and I found vests are greatly designed for that. The second criteria for my choice was the number of pockets, as I like to have everything accessible while I run, so I don’t have to stop to open the pack and grab what I need. I counted that one has six compartments on the front and four at the back/side (that is on top of the main compartment!) In terms of capacity, I use the 35L one which is a bit of overkill for rogaining, but since I also use it for adventure racing where races go for longer and the mandatory gear is more extensive than in rogaining, they fit the purpose. I have recently purchased a 16L version which I used for the recent Nightgaine and it worked very well.

It has 11 pockets and you need to be organised to like them. I bought them from an online retail shop –

Pierre’s 16 Litre Ultimate Direction

Tristan White: What are the pros and cons between a ultramarathon vest, a conventional daypack and light overnight hiking pack?

AD: I have never worn a normal pack so can’t compare.

GF: An ultramarathon vest style pack is my pick for a shorter rogaine, when you don’t need to carry much gear and you are not doing much off-track navigation – i.e. metrogaine, socialgaine and minigaine. These vests are often not as robust as other packs, so I don’t often use them for the 12 and 24-hr bush events, in which case I’m looking for a reasonably lightweight, robust and well-fitting pack, which is usually a more heavy duty running pack, adventure race style pack. But if you predominantly hike most of your rogaine events a day pack/hiking pack is fine – an overnight pack is likely too big.  

PF: In my view the rule is simple: a conventional backpack will work well for hiking but won’t be great if you want to run. However, a vest will work both styles. I also find the vests are lightweight and have numerous pockets which make it very easy to grab food or gear on the go.  The Ultimate Direction vests have big mesh pockets at the back which I use for almost everything.

TW: How do you fit your pack to best distribute the weight over your body, and what are common mistakes about misfitting a pack?

AD: All heavy gear (including the bladder) is placed in the rear centre compartment and in the centre of the large lower stretch pocket. This ensures there is no sideways movement. All other gear is then distributed evenly on the lower rear stretch pockets and in the front pouches. I also carry two 500ml bottles in the front two pockets. I vary the rear bladder size between 1.5L and 2L (and vary the amount in the bladder) depending on weather conditions and length of event. For shorter events (6-hr or less) I will only carry the front two 500ml bottles as these are easier to drink from when running and quicker to refill.

PF:  I start first by the bladder as I found it hard to put the bladder properly while other gear is already in the back. That said, when I do refill the bladder during a course I don’t unload everything in my pack to put the bladder first 🙂 Once I have the bladder in, I will stash first the safety kit as they are the least likely to be needed (fingers crossed, although we did use it in the Nightgaine after a stick had perforated my mate’s hand) and everything else up to the top. First in means less likely needed.

TW: What is the approximate weight of your pack at the start of a 24hr event

AD: Weight is about 6.5kg and consists of:

  • Race vest (300gm)
  • 2L bladder full (2kg)
  • 2 x 500ml soft flasks (1kg)
  • Food (1.5kg)
  • Head torch & batteries (350gm)
  • First aid kit (200gm)
  • Raincoat (300gm) and/or thermal top (200gm) – only if it is going to rain and be very cold (below 5) would I carry both
  • Trekking poles (400gm)
  • Phone (300gm)

GF: As light as I can make it! My best guess is less than 4kg.

PF: I am not too sure but certainly too heavy because I often start with a 3L bladder full where I could (should) have less water, presuming I could refill on the course. That’s probably an area of improvement for me.

TW: Have you made any modifications to your backpack to better fit what you carry?

AD: No modifications made to race vest.

GF: No.

PF: Not on the Ultimate Direction packs but I did repair the first few ones I had to keep them alive for years. Also on my previous one, which was a Lafuma, I did purchase small pockets, and another one which I used as a “bin” which I sewed on so I could then expand my compartment space. This is probably what triggered my wish to get a new pack with that many small pockets.

Pierre shows one of his “bins”

TW: How do you pack your backpack to make it as straightforward to get what you need?

AD: Food which I plan to eat during sunset/sunrise stops (for changing head torches and clothing,) along with other larger item reserve food, first aid kit, and head torch/battery are in the larger rear zip pouch and lower rear stretch pocket. Quick access food (gels/bars) is in front pouches and race belt. Trekking poles are in a special holder on rear of pack. Extra clothing in rainproof zip lock bag in reach stretch pocket.

GF: There’s lots of pockets these days on packs, but for rogaines of more than 6 hours I always have a water bladder on my back (not water flasks on the front) my gear is in back, on small dry bag with my warm clothes, another with my torch and spare battery for night. Food is in the small pockets with excess in the main bag.

PF: I try to think of what I will need while I race and will dispatch it in all the various pockets. Things like snacks will be all over my front pockets and other food or warm gear (such as arm warmers) will be in the side pocket or big mesh at the back. You need a good teammate to grab stuff for you from the mesh 🙂   

TW: Do you have any strategies for waterproofing warm clothes/other items you carry?

AD: Quality zip lock bags are adequate (single or doubled up) – if it will rain then I am usually wearing a rain jacket and if forecast is for heavy rain then phone goes in a waterproof pouch.

GF: Dry bags.

PF: For emergency clothes and kit, I use small waterproof bags that you can find everywhere. For food, I will stick to traditional zip-lock bags.

Final note from Gill: Keep an eye out at the next event, and check out what bags others are using – quiz people at the HH, they may even let you try their pack on (best done at the start, before it gets caked with sweat!)


What a great event was the Woronora Pipe Dreams Rogaine. Excellent map, fine conditions and some refined control placement. Today, comparing the 1:20,000 map with the 1:25,000 Socialgaine map of the same area from 2013 shows a huge amount of additional detail to help the night-time navigator. Congratulations and thanks to course setters Nicole and Brooner, vetter Mike, administrator Anita and organiser, President Trev. Especially for the opportunity to get off track and search out tricky controls with hazards for the unwary. The organising team’s work was rewarded by big numbers and a friendly atmosphere. This weekend was to have been the world championships at Lake Tahoe, California now postponed to 2021. I was happy to settle for pipe dreams instead.

Having just reached the milestone of becoming an Ultravet and having stepped down from the inconvenience of work I thought I was a good prospect to join an Ultravet rogaining team. Ted ‘the technician’ Woodley and John ‘no mistakes’ Anderson were welcoming but it turned out that team membership required participation in training and a series of tests in July.

The first was a march around the local government area of Willoughby. This is a ‘thing’ supported by the Council and is broken down into eight walks. We did it all in one go – about 32 km in just under nine hours and 750 metres of ascent and descent. Highlights included Stringybark Creek, the inlets of Middle Harbour, mangroves, historical interludes and no shortage of fancy houses.

The second was a rerun of the Lane Cove Rivergaine from 2015 set by Ted and taking in a quest to find the source of the Lane Cove River, the headwater creeks of the valley, a little known dam on Avondale Creek and even a volcanic diatreme. We started at 6.30am, walked 35km, climbed over 1000 metres and ‘recorded’ 2200 points.

Sometime during June Chris Stevenson had the idea that we should try a walk down into the Kedumba Valley below Leura Falls returning via Kings Tableland. It was a long day returning after dark with over 30km walked and 1400 metres of ascent. Having survived that we tackled the relatively new Great West Walk, a track which runs from Parramatta to Penrith. We took a break at Rooty Hill and used the train to return. It was two 30km plus days of relatively flat walking and took in some bushland new to us. When we reached the Nepean River I imagined I was Watkin Tench (Governor Phillip’s lieutenant) who, having hiked across the Cumberland Plain, then tried to work out if the river he had reached was the same river as the Hawkesbury.

Surviving this training was combined with pace counting tests. I do it if I really have to but tend to be lazy and, later, regret not being more careful. This team was more committed. Question was how many double paces to 100 metres. Was it 60, 65 or 70. What about gradient, thickness of bush, tiredness. It all depends and I need to practice. Ted with Suunto watch on one wrist and new Apple watch on the other was finding during our training that Apple claimed more distance overall than Suunto, and my Garmin was closer to Apple.

For navigation and route choice I learnt that the teamrule was ‘if in doubt, slow down, discuss and all agree’.

The third training was doing all 30 controls at the Terry’s Creek Moonlight Madness event plus walking there from home. Thanks to Bennelong Orienteers for being patient with my late return about three times the usual 45-minute time limit. The lateness wiped out the whole of my score. We were going to walk home but wisdom took over and we combined walking with train. In total 38 kms over ten hours! Highlights: the amount of water around after recent downpours, the middle reaches of the Lane Cove valley, and pizza on the hoof.

So it was that we arrived at the Pipe Dream battle-hardened and with a little recent night-time navigation under our belts. John and I gently suggested that the absence of other UltraVeteran teams meant we could take it easy. However, Ted ‘victory or doom’ Woodley was having none of it. Overall route choice was not too hard although inevitably our flight-plan proved ambitious and return route missed 150 points, enticingly close but out of reach. All agreeing on every navigational choice proved tricky and a democratic process evolved whereby two votes out of three usually won the day. We were cautious and knew where we were the whole time; lost a few minutes on a few occasions but nothing too serious. Overall result very satisfying. Especially when that old adage is taken into account: ‘it doesn’t matter if you are second last as long as you beat the Webmaster Chris Stevenson’. By the way great Blog post, Chris.

Now the ultra veteran team is entering the NSW Championships at Gundabooka National Park near Bourke, first weekend of September – an adventure in some very different country.

My wrap of the “Woronora Pipe Dream” event.

I greatly enjoyed last night’s rogaine and thanks to everyone involved in making it happen. I have done over 90 NSW rogaines and this one certainly rates in my top 5. A number of factors contributed to this enjoyment:

The course was really good, there were a lot of bush controls. It certainly was a “navigator’s rogaine”. A lot of the controls were set on subtle features and the small flags were used, mostly hung against the trees. This meant that if you were off your game you could easily walk past a control. Additionally, in some parts of the course there were tracks everywhere so you could not just rely on the tracks for navigation.

The bush was good for rogaining. You could get off track and still move through the bush pretty quickly. Often in rogaines close to Sydney you are confined to tracks by National Parks policy  or if you are not encumbered by these rules then you have to contend with a lot of fight scrub. The only difficult scrub we found last night was upstream of 71. I tried to bag this control by “aiming off”. I intended to join the creek slightly below the control and then walk up the creek. What actually happened was that despite careful navigation and pace counting, we started upstream of the control and kept moving upstream through some pretty thick stuff. We ventured upstream for 9 minutes before retreating to the nearby fire trail to re-think and then bagged it 3 minutes later.

The weather last night was perfect for rogaining. It was nice and cool but not so cold that you thought you were going to die of exposure if you stopped moving. I often find my performance in rogaines hampered by varying degrees of heat stress and last night’s temperature was perfect to get the best out of me.

The hills were hard but not so big that you regretted your own existence half way up. Often in Blue Mountains’ rogaines you plan your rogaine around how many times you can physically manage to climb from the creeks to the hill tops. Last night was certainly hilly but most were under 80m and you could plan your course without being scared of inserting too many climbs.

I really, really enjoy bagging a difficult control in the dark with my headlight off and, once bagged, melting into the bush while others stumble around in circles. A good example last night was control 70 which was a ‘broad gully” with no  easy “handrail” to help you get there. Team mate John Clancy and I walked straight onto the control having done a pace count from the creek to the west of the control. There were a few other teams in the vicinity looking for the control at the time but I don’t think any of them saw us punch the control in complete darkness and move quickly on.

Despite my enjoyment of the course, the great weather and open bash last night my team mate, John Clancy, and I did not do very well. We were badly let down by our route choice. We had planned an unrealistically big route and, once we realised we were not going to achieve that route, we made a “Plan B” route which was rubbish. I hate stopping mid rogaine, but in hindsight a few minutes spent doing a proper replan would have been a good investment.

The other thing I didn’t enjoy last night was being beaten by ex-team mate Julian Ledger. Julian is now an ultra-veteran and sought the company of other ultra veterans last night in the form of Ted Woodley and John Anderson. Not only did Julian, Ted and John beat us soundly by 110 points, they also won the Men’s Ultra Veterans’ category. They also won my category, the Men’s Super Veterans. Julian, Ted and John also came a creditable 2nd in the Men’s Veterans. I hate to say it but, “Nice job guys!” My revenge at being jilted will have to wait until the NSW Championships.

Get Into Gear Part 6 – Shedding Light on Headtorches and Night Navigation

by Tristan White

I am grateful that I’ve had the chance to go on several night rogaines with seasoned competitors in earlier years. In addition to allowing me to do night rogaines comfortably on my own accord, it has given me the confidence to do night-time hiking, trail running, orienteering and cycling; something that many of my friends think I’m crazy doing, but is second nature to me. I really love rogaines that have a mix of day and night in them, as it feels like two separate events. And needless to say, it forces one to be very careful with navigation as being lost in the pitch black can be a very “dark” experience!

The main addition to the kit list for a night rogaine is, of course, a good headtorch, and with several night rogaines coming up, I thought it would be a bright idea to get a handful of seasoned rogainers to share their own experience on which one(s) they use, how they use it and why. Long-time rogainers Martin Dearnley, Graham Field, Mike Hotchkis, Marg Cook and John Havranek helped me out. Let’s start with Martin:

Martin Dearnley: I have used the same Ay Up LED head torch for over ten years.  Made in QLD, it has a 400 lumen setting for general use and an 800 lumen setting for spotting controls.  I still use the original batteries.  One is 6-hour and the other is 12-hour and both are taken in a 24-hour rogaine.

The Ay Up torch shines twin beams so that one can be set further ahead of the other.  The twin beams also seem to make it easier to see trip hazards while walking on rough ground.   The original cost of around $350 is much the same today.   The current Ay Up head torch advertised today looks very similar to mine from 2009.

While the Ay Up torch has been reliable, I take a small Petzel Tikkina head torch as a spare.

Marg Cook: Back when we started rogaining in 2008, we had normal AA-battery camping head-torches, which allowed you so see about 10 metres in front of you! Not very effective, but we didn’t know any better. At a rogaine around 2010 we were amazed how far some people could see. We discovered Ay-Up then, and have never looked back. They give a fantastic light.

The new batteries have three settings: low, medium and high power. The lower power settings are good for travelling along tracks or through reasonable bush. We use the high-power setting when navigation is challenging and when casting around for the control flag. It picks up the reflectors on the flag, and also the orange and white glows in their light. Always a welcome sight.

The current price for a “Run” system is around $235. We still have the original lights and have recently purchased our first replacement set of rechargeable batteries – which are quite expensive at $121 each. We considered changing to a different head-light system, but decided that what we were using was so good, it was worth the outlay.

The Run system has both the light and the battery on a head-harness, isn’t too heavy and is reasonably balanced. I often wear a beanie with the head-light over the top.

Graham Field: I have a Spikelight which I purchased in 2012 when I started doing night rogaines. It’s a V2 Spikelight and I think that they have now have got up to V5. It was expensive (>$300), but well worth it for several reasons:

•        It had a fantastic beam, both focussed and spread.

•        It was being built by a small, Australian start-up company in WA and looked like a well-engineered product. The founder is a rogainer, he knows the requirements for night events, and he was responsive and happy to talk to me about the product.

It’s still working as well as when I bought it – it’s had a new set of batteries (commonly available) and a new headband, provided free by the manufacturer after about four years!

It is programmable, but not overly complex – it has a single button that you click in various sequences to get different functions, like beam type, intensity, locking etc.  I deliberately keep it simple so that it’s easy to flick between narrow beam and five intensities of spread.

I also have a couple of Petzls, one of which I carry as a backup, but rarely use.

Graham’s Spikelight V2

John Havranek: My main running and rogaining torch over the past year is a Fenix HL60R 950 lumen rechargeable LED headlamp which was $120. It has five settings from dim to super bright and is rechargeable via USB.

I also have a Petal Tikka xp2 that I now take along as a spare – it runs on AAAs.

Mike Hotchkis: I’ve been using a Petzl NAO for the past five years, bought on the recommendation of rogaine partner Neil Hawthorne.  Not cheap then, and only got pricier.  Current price about $370, plus $150 for a spare battery. It has ‘reactive’ lighting – so you don’t get blinded when you look down at the map – which works well.

Tristan White: I too have had the NAO since 2013 and it’s still going strong. In the following picture you’ll see the batteries are numbered – that’s because I’ve dropped them both too many times to count when I’m trying to change them!

A big selling feature for the Petzl Nao for me is the ability to affix to my handlebars or helmet using reusable cable ties and a camera case, avoiding the need for another specialist cycling light

TristanW: How do you find navigating in the dark different to during the day and how do you use the different settings on your torch for different parts of the course?

MartinD: Navigation at night is quite different from during the day. Most mistakes have been made in the first two hours after sunset, usually because we have still been moving at daylight speeds and terrain features have become much less visible. Night navigation relies on compass bearings and step counting and these must be done carefully because it is much harder to get back on track after getting lost at night than during the day.

GrahamF: 95% of the time I use the spread on the 3/5 or 4/5 setting; the lower settings give better battery life. I generally use 3 for just following the map on good terrain, 4 for more difficult terrain and 5 if I really need to watch where I’m going. When within range of a control, I’ll flick on the spot for an intense, narrow beam that will pick things out for up to 300m – pretty much as far away as you can see. It does chew the battery in this mode though, so selective use is the key. It’s also not great for just walking with, which is a good way to remember to use the spread mode. I’ve learnt that the better your nav, the more battery life that you get!

Night navigation is a whole new game – and topic for discussion. For me, the biggest difference is the need to slow things down a bit and take more care with everything – route selections need to be more conservative, catching features are essential, less reliance on topography and more on map metrics – accurate bearings, distances etc. along with accurate pacing and vigilance checking bearings across team members. Add this to the fact that you’re probably a bit tired (physically and mentally) from already doing 6 hours or so in the light and the possibility of a mistake is heightened.

Depending on the terrain, moonlight and vegetation cover, it’s sometimes advantageous to turn the light off or right down and look into the distance to re-establish your perception of the surrounding landform. You can often better pick out an indistinct track at night by looking at the tree cover on the immediate horizon.

The consequences of a mistake at night are amplified considerably, although in my experience few mistakes are directly attributed to the night or a head-light.  Heavy mist one evening made us totally lose position and orientation (in this circumstance, a bright light was a distinct disadvantage). I find that most mistakes at night are the result of fatigue and losing (mental) focus.

JohnH: I tend to mainly use the second lowest or middle setting while on tracks or navigating which is enough and will run for the night on a single charge. Occasionally I’ll go the higher levels but find it’s not really required too often – maybe when around a control that we can’t seem to find. There is also a low red-light option that I sometimes use when reading a map to avoid too much glare and impacting my night vision (or around the hash house to avoid blinding others).

John at the Catherine Hill Bay MapRun

MikeH: My Nao has multiple intensity settings. I use it on 25–50 % settings most of the time and only turn it up to full power if we don’t strike the flag on first approach.

When I first got it, I missed not having focus control, which I’d had on previous torches.  I see the latest Nao has this feature.  But these days, torches are so bright you hardly need it.

My advice for night nav – be conservative. No shortcuts. Aim off wider than in daylight, just to be sure. Go a little extra distance, find good attack points. Compass is always in my hand.

Mike Hotchkis (at left) with teammate Glenn Horrocks – 2019 NSW Champs – note Mike has Nao on head and compass on wrist

TristanW: For a day/night rogaine, do you specifically choose to attempt/avoid finding any particular controls at night?

MartinD: At night, we prefer controls that are accessible from tracks and ridgelines so we are less likely to get lost if we make a mistake.

GrahamF: It’s really just common sense, but in general, I opt for the straightforward controls at night – good attack points, good catching features, close to tracks etc. I avoid difficult terrain and long (>500m) traverses, especially where there is a route change along the way. Maybe this is why I’m just an average rogainer…

MargC: Night time is different. You lose the visual cues that help you know where you are. Our usual mistake is to overestimate how far we have travelled, then get misplaced by not going far enough. We learned that lesson so well that in one rogaine we walked right off the map trying to compensate for our coming up short. We also move more slowly at night, with less confidence. We check the map more often. Our aim is to not be lost at 11pm. Unfortunately, we don’t always achieve this.

Rob & Marg Cook at Mt Werong, NSW Champs 2017

MikeH: For me, control selection is not a foremost consideration in route planning.  If the course is well set, and you navigate with care, you can find everything.

TristanW: How do you conserve your batteries and what spares do you take?

MartinD: I take a spare battery and I keep my light level low until I need to spot for a control.

MargC: Our batteries run for 12 hours on half power, so we expect to do the full rogaine on the one battery. We take a spare battery and also a spare head-torch between us. Another useful thing is to actually take the Ay-up with you. At one Rogaine, one of our Ay-Up’s was left safely sitting in the back of the car!

Our torches are also useful for bicycling, and actually show up the road ahead. We tend to fit them to the helmet. We also use them attached to the front of the kayak to light up the river banks during the Hawkesbury Canoe Classic. The idea of running close to the river bank is to use the back eddy when paddling against the tide. It has gained us many minutes during the race, and given us that rosy glow as we pass people who are paddling further out in the incoming current.

GrahamF: As mentioned previously, limiting the use of the spot and flicking to a lower spread mode works best for preserving battery life. The Spikelight uses 2x 18650 Lithium cells – under normal operation, these give me about 8-10 hours of operation. I carry two spare batteries generally, four for a big event where I’m anticipating needing the spot for a longer time.

I also carry a spare headlight that will allow me to continue for several hours with adequate light. Sometimes I take two! Without tempting fate, the Spikelight hasn’t let me down since I’ve had it.

JohnH: I take a second headlamp as spare – rather than a battery – in case my (or my partner’s) main one is lost or damaged in some way.

MikeH: Petzl Nao battery lasts about 7-8 hours the way I use it.  Need a spare to get through the night.  It would last longer if used for longer on lower settings, but I don’t need to, so I don’t.

Martin Dearnley (left) and Graham Field

TristanW: Aside from rogaining, how else do you use your headtorch?

MartinD: My Ay Up head torch is occasionally used for spotting wildlife at night.

GrahamF: It’s my main light for any night activity… night orienteering events, helping out with multi-day or early morning trail running events, doing anything around the house at night (like looking for possums in the roof) and as an emergency light when the power goes off.  Despite having several other cheaper headlights, I always pick up the Spikelight as it has such a powerful beam. Why use something with less light?

Unfortunately, you can’t buy them anymore, but if you have a look at the Spikelight’s website, the door has been left open for a come-back.  Maybe they were engineered too well and never broke, maybe cheaper imported lights made the business uneconomic – either way, I reckon it’s a great Aussie product designed specifically for our sport.

JohnH: Trail running and mountain biking.  The high beam is great for mountain biking but only lasts about an hour at best.

MikeH: Camping – but Petzl Nao is overkill for that, I use something cheap instead to conserve the battery.

Final comment: torches are now so bright that night nav is losing its challenge, and most rogainers are guilty of causing light pollution. Perhaps we need a torchlight intensity limit.  Many sports limit technology, should we do the same? I’d like to see a special category for rogainers prepared to go out only with hurricane lamps. Could suit the ultra-vets, at least they might know what I’m talking about! You have to carry a supply of paraffin.

Get Into Gear Part 5 – How Cool is Rogaining? (Warm Clothing & Dealing with the Cold)

by Tristan White

Perhaps it’s because I’m a reasonably warm-blooded creature myself, but I’m convinced that Sydney-siders are a bunch of cold-weather whingers. As soon as the temperature drops below 18°C, it’s inevitable that I’ll be hearing groans from others about how freezing it is outside as people walk exactly fifty metres between their air conditioned car and their air conditioned building in a warm jacket and scarf.

If they have done any rogaining event (or overnight hike or early morning bike ride!) in winter, most rogainers will have a different perspective on what real cold is. I will never forget last year’s Navshield, which was -5°C and it snowed, and vividly recall walking past odd-looking puddles on the track, realising that they were frozen. Also, deep-seated in my memory is a night rogaine in the hills south of Canberra where, although it was probably a few degrees above zero, the howling wind made it one of the coldest events I’ve ever done.

As we continue our series on rogaining gear, I again recruit mixed veteran guns Antoniya Bachvarova and Andrew Smith, who completed six 24-hour rogaines last year, about what they wear and their experience dealing with the cold weather that many of these events have inevitably been in.

Alex Allchin, Andrew Smith, Toni Bachvarova and Vivien de Remy de Courcelles at the conclusion of Navshield 2019

Tristan White: Give us a rundown of what you would wear in a rogaine where very cold weather is forecast.

Toni Bachvarova: For cold weather I’ve worn any combination of the following:

  • Head: Bandana, merino or polypro beanie or fleece hood
  • Top: 100% Merino top (mine are Kathmandu), thinner fleece (Kathmandu) or thicker fleece (again Kathmandu but they don’t sell it anymore), Kathmandu XT Exmoor jacket (a synthetic down-replacement insulation), lightweight rain jacket (Arcteryx Beta, Patagonia Torrentshell)
  • Legs: Polypro leggings – cut to just below the knees, orienteering pants, knee-length rain pants – custom design – easy to put on without taking your shoes off and protect upper legs while allowing freedom of movement.
  • Lower legs, feet: Shin gaiters – Moxie gear, ankle gaiters – Rab scree gaiter (very tough and durable), midweight merino socks (see last month’s “Rogaining Fashion Parade” article for more detail)

TW: Tell us about some of the coldest rogaines you’ve done, and how you managed (or didn’t manage) to get through.

TB: Navshield last year was the lowest temperature I’ve experienced in a rogaine. The temperature never got above 5°C on Saturday, then dropped to -4°C overnight, until it started snowing in the early morning on Sunday when it warmed up to around -2°C. Basically, after the sun set on Saturday I wore all clothes I had with me, four layers on top and three on the bottom. The best piece of equipment for this event were the cut-off rain pants. We came up with them after the NZ Rogaining Championships in Dunedin the year before.

The event in Dunedin was the coldest rogaine I’ve done! Even if the temperatures didn’t get below 4°C, the persistent rain throughout meant that we were wet from the very beginning and never managed to warm up. On top of that, the ground was super slippery which made faster movement impossible. The fact that some of the controls were located in the middle of freezing knee-deep marshes didn’t help either. That was an event where we couldn’t afford stopping. Any accident out on the course could have been life threatening since there was no way to keep warm. It was also the only event I was happy to finish with an hour to spare despite losing the category victory because of that.

Another year in Navshield the temperature dropped to -7°C overnight. After a couple of creek crossings in the middle of the night, my feet went numb and we had to stop and change into dry socks and warm them up before we could continue.

Andrew Smith: The coldest for me was the NZ Champs in 2018 near Dunedin. The weather in the hills was bitterly cold, windy and wet. We were wading thigh deep through freshwater marshes searching for controls. It’s the first time I’ve been really worried about hypothermia. We had everything on but couldn’t get warm. All we could do was keep moving. We improved our cold weather rogaining kit after that experience.

TW: What issues have you had or seen from rogainers who have suffered because they are too cold?

TB: I get cold quite easily and that’s why I am usually conscious of managing the risk of hypothermia. First signs of hypothermia are shivering, my extremities get numb beyond pain, I can get clumsy, can’t think as fast as usual.

The risks with hypothermia are with the inability to think clearly and make decisions, also you lose focus and are more prone to tripping or falling over.

AS: I haven’t experienced or seen any particularly serious incidents from the cold. The worst is finishing early because the cold has knocked all motivation out of you (which is pretty serious for your average hard core rogainer).

TW: Can you give me a run-down of what warm gear that you carry with you in a typical rogaine dipping to the low single digits. What else will get added the temperature dips even lower?

TB: In dry weather with temperatures in the lower single digits and not much wind, an extra merino top or a fleece is usually enough. If the wind picks up, a rain jacket or other wind shell can help.

AS: I take an extra polypro top, polypro gloves (the best thing that we’ve added to our cold weather kit after Dunedin) and a pair of cut off nylon over pants. Cutting them off below the knee means they’re lighter and you can pull them on and off without taking your shoes off. I find them an excellent complement to your rain shell for reducing heat loss in cold windy and/or wet conditions. On the move, it’s usually wind and/or rain cooling me down so it’s usually the shell that goes on first. If that’s not enough then it’s the polypro base layer next which means stripping off but it needs to be done.

TW: Do you generally carry more warm gear than you actually expect to use?

TB: Usually I’d like to know I’ve got an extra layer in case it gets colder than expected. In reality in the coldest or wettest events I’d end up wearing all clothes I carry.

AS: Usually I carry one more layer (like a polypro top) than is needed. However there’s been a few where everything has been on and it’s still uncontrollable shaking after a water stop.

TW: Aside from putting on warm clothing, can you suggest any other ways to regulate your body temperature in cold conditions?

TB: Changing into dry clothes helps warm up a lot, if you can afford it. Moving faster helps too 🙂

AS: Keep moving. When we’re falling asleep on our feet we sometimes stop for a short nap somewhere sheltered knowing that 20 minutes later we’ll be too cold and have to get moving again. It’s an excellent alarm clock.

TW: Most people tend to be okay with the cold, provided that they can keep moving and stay dry. However, there is an inherent risk to rogaining that an incident will occur that prevents you from moving. What should one carry to be prepared for such an event, and how do they use it?

TB: Emergency blanket is an essential piece of equipment that can help keeping warm if you can’t move. In coldest conditions I have managed to squeeze an hour of sleep in an emergency blanket.

If the conditions are extreme, be wise to use the biggest advantages of Rogaining – the fact that you are part of a team. Other body’s warmth can make a huge difference in freezing conditions.

AS: A good space blanket. It makes a huge difference to your heat loss. We take an emergency bivvy bag that is basically a space blanket sewn into a bag for 2. The bag combined with my partner’s warmth, while still being uncomfortable, will get us through the night. We used it for the first time in last year’s NavShield (one of the coldest but they’re all the coldest really) and we were able to sleep for 1.5 hours surprisingly comfortably with only occasional shivering.

TW: An issue with a lot of warm clothing is it is very bulky and hard to fit in a pack. What are items that are small and light, but have a big impact on warming someone up?

TB: Pair of dry socks (providing they can stay dry). If it’s dry and cold wind shell – they can be pretty light, bandana for the head. Second layer of lightweight top instead of a heavier fleece too.

AS: Polypro! It’s a wonder material!

TW: I have found that often my body temperature fluctuates at night when I’m going up and down steep hills, meaning that I’ll take a jacket (or something else) off, and when I put it back on again it’s sweaty. Do you have any suggestions for preventing having to put back on a damp, sweaty jacket?

TB: I get quite annoyed having to put layers on and take them off many times, too! I generally find my XT Surna fleece perfect for chilly conditions. Even when it gets sweaty it keeps me warm, so I don’t have to take it off. I don’t tend to sweat too much when it’s cold though…

AS: I just get used to being wet. Wicking materials like polypro make it more comfortable. But I just end up being more wet at the top of the hill and a little less wet at the bottom of the next. On colder rogaines I quite often end up leaving my shell on and just opening and closing the zips as the temperature changes.

TW: As discussed in the heat article, your partner may not be as adaptive to the cold as you. What are the warning signs that your teammate is struggling and what should you do if they get chilled?

TB: They start slowing down even if it’s cold. Shivering and slurred speech are signs too. Check if they have enough warm clothes and offer some of your gear if they need it. Don’t hesitate to stop and seek a sheltered place where they can warm up – avoiding hypothermia early can save trouble later.

AS: I know from first aid courses to look out for stumbling, jumbled speech, etc. but I’ve never witnessed or experienced it. If it did happen it would be a judgement call between keeping warm by keeping moving or to stop and put every scrap of clothing on, get in the bivvy bag and use my body heat to try and keep my partner warm. It’s serious stuff and we have cut it a bit fine on some occasions.

Thank you, once again, Toni & Smiffy for sharing your experiences.

And I’d greatly appreciate comments from our readership about their choice of clothing, both good and bad experiences.

Navigation in Low-Relief Terrain

by Michael Watts

Sections of Gundabooka National Park are flat so I thought it timely, prior to this year’s NSW Championships, to prepare some thoughts about navigation in such country.

The map we’re using is a custom prepared map at 1:25,000 scale with 5m contour intervals. (The base map is 1:100,000, 20m contours.) It is not unusual in sections of the map for this course for there to be a kilometre between contour lines.  Bear in mind too, that the ground does not necessarily uniformly slope between contours and it is very difficult to tell whether you are generally ascending or descending. In 100 metres, going over even 0.3m rise and dip makes it difficult to tell whether one is 100mm lower or higher than where one started.

Terrain features are very indistinct in places and are quite difficult to identify. Watercourses are typically marked as thin blue lines on a map, but on the ground may well be swathes more than 100 metres in width. Unless the watercourse is an erosion trench, following one up or downstream can be futile. Even finding quite large point features such as tanks (dams) is often not a matter of taking a quick bearing and walking straight to it.

So, how do you navigate in such terrain?

The first step is to precisely know your starting point and to give yourself a time budget in which to find the control. If (when?) the time budget runs out, then one needs to navigate the team to a highly identifiable feature and then either:

  • start again – not forgetting to reset your time budget, or
  • quit this one and try another control, hopefully a better identifiable one

In any case, it’s vital that you relocate to a known starting point.

Essential skills are being able to take and travel along accurate bearings, and to keep a good account of the distance you’re travelling along that bearing.

Visibility in mulga scrub is often not good (20-50m). But there are taller trees that are often visible above the scrub and these can be sighted to maintain a pretty good course. At night you can hopefully use stars or moon. The mulga scrub also means walking in a straight line is often impossible, so accounting for the distance one has travelled must consider the inevitable detours.

The most practical method we have in rogaining to measure distance is our steps. It’s important to know your own pace – to count the number of steps you take to travel a certain distance. You ought to know how many steps you take to travel 100m or 1km in open terrain. You’ll have to modify your count to allow for thicker bush and up/downhill interference.

For me, I count double paces – each left foot striking the ground. On open relatively flat ground 100m takes me 65 double paces. In light scrub I allow 70 paces per 100m and in denser scrub 75. There can also be corrections to be made for “map flat” distances when travelling up and down slopes but this is not going to be an issue on this map.

It is important to keep track of step counts or distances. I use two methods – one is to fold down a finger on my left hand for each 100m; 500m intervals I track in my head. The other method I use, when I know I’m going to have to do this a lot, is to carry a length of string with a knot in it every cm or so. For every 100m, move fingers to hold the next knot. Methods that I’ve heard another method is to pick up a stick or leaf for each 100m or 100 steps, or a green twig and make a partial break in it every 100m or 100 steps.

Measuring time can be a useful tool, especially if you have good visibility, but it’s not as accurate as pace counting.

While direction and distance are the primary navigation tools, map reading is also important. Wiggles in adjacent contours can help one determine the size of any undulations present and whether you should be walking up or down. Water always runs down, so keep track of mini erosion arcs (small horseshoe shapes from water erosion) which will always point to the local downhill. Integrating these visually across an area can give a good general indication of the direction of “downhill”. Leaf litter dams are another way of telling down and leaf litter flow-lines can also indicate the edges of very broad, shallow watercourses.

It is crucial to understand what one’s likely cumulative errors are. Over a kilometre I can normally maintain my course within 5° of the set bearing – or about 80m either side of my intended track. For 2km I can be 200m either side of my intended track. For distance, I can normally maintain about 5% accuracy, or ± 50m per km.

For example, let’s say I’m at a control going for another one that’s 1km away. I know my start point within a few metres. When I set the bearing to the next control, I know it is 1km, so I set the bearing and intend to walk to be approximately 100m either left or right of the control. This is called “aiming off” and the idea is that when I’ve walked my kilometre, I am (almost) certain which side of me is the direction to the control, but it may still be ahead of me or behind me by around 50m.

At this stage, I turn the appropriate direction and at exactly 90° to my original bearing, walk that line for 300m (the 200m max I might be out, plus 100m to be damn sure). With any luck I spot the control on this traverse. If not, then I walk 100m back on my original bearing, turn 90° towards my original track and then walk around 20m (depending on visibility). Another 90° turn (so now parallel to my original bearing) and walk 200m on that bearing. Turn, walk the offset, turn again, and again walk parallel to the original bearing, this time back towards the start.

For me, finding a point by this method works well up to about 1.5km and I can manage it up to around 2 to 2.5km. Past that, my errors are too large to stay reasonably oriented in what has become a rather large search area and grid. Your distance may vary.

Remember that every time one changes bearing and walks distances, errors are accumulating. This is mostly why, at the end of the grid search, one needs to re-establish a known accurate position, rather than try to re-search the initial grid area. There are techniques to make these kinds of searches more accurate – for example, placing a recognisable marker at the first location one walks to. Then, one can place additional markers at the start and end of each grid traverse. One can then sight the grid markers at each the conclusion of each grid traverse, and hopefully also come across the initial position marker. The disadvantages are that this is time consuming and then having to clean up one’s markers afterwards.

I recommend going out to a relatively flat area and practise walking a bearing and keeping track of distance travelled to work out your own error margins which will be different to mine. The time spent looking for a control is highly dependent on the size of the initial “uncertain box” and the larger “it really should be in here” box.

Taking a GPS while doing this testing can be handy. Way mark your start point, then walk your bearing and distance using compass and step count. After, say 300-500m, use the GPS to find distance and direction from your current location back to your start point. This will tell you your direction and distance errors. Done a few times, this will give you an indication of your error range. Repeat for a couple of different locations, directions, slopes and scrub thicknesses. Don’t be surprised to find you have a “set” left or right, or uphill or downhill. Write down these numbers!

For Gundabooka, most of the map is relatively high relief – at least three contours per km, which is enough to give one a definite sense of up and down (and with some bigger hills up to 250m to keep the climbers like Mike Hotchkis content.) There are several low-relief controls to provide some skill testing and entertainment value, not a large percentage of the total number of controls but hopefully they’ll encourage you to have a go.

All these techniques obviously become more difficult and more important at night but the skills are applicable every time you need to find a flag in the bush.

A University Degree in Rogaining?

by Tristan White

A 24-hour rogaine looks a lot like a semester of university. The pace at the beginning is fast, but it doesn’t take long for motivation to drop off and slogging away becomes a test of willpower. And just like the final hours of an assignment, or final minutes of an exam, the adrenaline kicks in and a rogainer will fight tooth and nail to collect whatever points they can before the deadline, which is inevitably reached in a panic with minutes to spare, if at all. Both cases also include having to push through all-nighters and having to deal with the highs and lows of team dynamics with frank exchanges between individuals who may have very different philosophies on how to solve the problem.

Despite these parallels, I was amazed at how few university students in NSW were into rogaining during my own days at uni between 2012 and 2016. In multiple years I contacted various outdoors-related clubs trying to get some poor sucker into the Invervarsity Champs with me, to no avail (they told me it was “too serious” for their members).

Let us fast forward to 2020, and I introduce Salomé Hussein, who in recent months has hit up the University of Technology Sydney Outdoor Adventure Club and gotten many of them into rogaining in a big way. She takes this chance to share some of her experiences in the club and share her insights on the sport.

Tristan White: Where have you previously lived and what do you do with your life when not rogaining?

Salomé Hussein: I was born in Eugene, Oregon (USA), then moved to Tijeras, New Mexico and Palm Beach, Florida, before settling in Eagle River, Alaska for 8 years. At age 21, I moved to Auckland to get my PhD in physics, designing spray systems for agricultural robotics. I moved to Sydney in late 2018 for a job modelling natural catastrophes with Risk Frontiers as a data scientist. I use languages like Python and R to process climate data. (We don’t model pandemics, yet, at least!)

I also play flute in North Shore Wind Symphony, rock-climb and dabble in most other long-distance sports including cycling and swimming. That tends to not leave me with much free time, but enough to go to an adoptive family’s art studio and pretend I can draw, and I hack apart hobbyist electronics when the urge hits me.

TW: Tell us your story about getting into rogaining and the UTS Outdoor Adventure Club, given you’re not even a UTS student.

SH: I joined UTS OAC for rock-climbing partners I could trust as I hadn’t been having great luck. A former UTS OAC president was the Australian School of Mountaineering instructor that first taught me how to climb outdoors, and he suggested I join his old club. The then webmaster posted about a rogaine – the 2019 Springwood Metrogaine. I had just agreed to take on the webmaster role and saw the event as a chance to have a good chat to him without even properly understanding what the sport was about!

“The Spring Balance” Metrogaine Trip Leaders (from left) Marta Khomyn, Angelo Rossi, and soon-to-be trip leader Salomé

When we were first handed the map, I was immediately overwhelmed and confused. Although the notes had a suggested novice route, just trying to locate the control circles on the map felt like information overload. I  felt like a sheep and wandered to the first few controls with the starting swarm. Once we’d gotten a few controls, I started to really enjoy myself, particularly the rapid decision-making we had to make towards the end as to whether we’d go for extra controls or make it back without penalty. I even enjoyed that we had to spontaneously break into a trail run despite still ending up with a late deduction.

I loved that the attendees ranged from young families, to ultra-marathoners to old retired couples, to awkward young women like me. The activity has a little something for everyone; it can be just a fun family outing or the pinnacle of an entire season’s training after many years of practice. I also enjoy that the courses themselves take me places I wouldn’t have normally gone.

TW: What is the UTS OAC and what does it do?

SH: The club is entirely volunteer based, and has about 400-450 members of which a small proportion are extremely engaged and ultimately become trip leaders and/or committee members. The leadership is older than an average uni club, so there’s far more emphasis on safety. Trip leaders go through a documented vetting process and get one-on-one mentoring by more experienced trip leaders. We have a database of which students have taken certain skills courses, so that leaders only accept people with a knowledge base they’re comfortable being responsible for.

Every Monday, a group of members climbs at The Ledge, the climbing gym at the USyd fitness centre, which functions as our club house, as it does for the other university outdoor/climbing clubs as well. Being without family and moving to a new country, I’ve benefitted tremendously from dropping in and finding a group of caring, welcoming people that have been keen to teach me and trust me. I’ve quickly felt right at home in Australia with my family of explorers.

Rogaining has always in the periphery of the club. However, Nicole Mealing still champions the activity with us and in recent times we have seen an increased interest and participation from our members.

TW: What is your role in UTS OAC?

SH: I have a couple of roles. I’m their webmaster, and I’m also one of their trip leaders, which fundamentally means I’m willing to post and organise trips for other members, and I take some responsibility for their safety, education, and enjoyment. I’m one of the main faces posting navigation related trips at the moment, but my team-mates have stepped up to the plate and are relieving me on that front. I also teach basic rope-skills, like abseiling and introduction to outdoor climbing.

James Carr, Adam Black, Salomé and Susan So at Navshield 2019

Many of the people you get on those introductory outings are either international students or students who don’t actually self-identify as “outdoorsy.” Indeed, that moniker is a product of environment, upbringing, and socio-economic status. Something I personally factor into my leadership is to stay conscious of an opportunity to show people what they’re capable of and change how they see themselves. I’ve been in dark places mentally, and certain people made a world of difference to me and my mindset. I try to do the same for others.

TW: How did the OAC get into rogaines in the first instance, and what rogaines have they gotten teams together for in the past few years?

SH: The OAC’s first rogaine is probably lost to history, but I suspect the founders would’ve been drawn to it. One I’ve met recently is a fellow geeky athlete; the classic rogaining type.

Since I’ve joined in 2019, we’ve done the Springwood Metrogaine, Navshield, Nyctophobia Buster, NSW Champs, Oz Champs in Tasmania, and this year’s Narrabeen Minigaine. Some members did the Sydney Summer Series, though I only managed three before injury took me out. On this year’s Queen’s Birthday weekend, we tested out the MapRunF Nyctophobia course.

Climbfit’s Claire Ayling (dressed as a cupcake for her 30th birthday) and Salomé at the 2019 Nyctophobia Buster

TW: What sort of experiences have OAC members had at rogaines during your time and what have you learned?

SH: My major high has been the crew I got together for Navshield. I talked a few ClimbFit buddies into it. I was the only one in the team who’d done a past rogaine. I reassured them it was a newbie friendly sport and they really didn’t need much experience. Then club president, Susan, also joined up, partly for moral support. I named us the Godwits because they migrate from Alaska to New Zealand, like I did – longest known non-stop journey by any bird.

These folks were and are still the best team-mates I could ask for in terms of learning, attitude, and cooperation. They took everything that event threw at us in stride, including the frigid conditions. I surprised teammate Adam with a birthday cake by the fire, and we had fun cooking absurd meals in the firepit itself. The next morning was -5°C and the first time I’d seen snow since leaving Alaska and I almost wept.

The next highlight I recall was turning off our headlamps and strolling by moonlight back to the HH at the Oz champs in Tasmania.

Eirik Hidle, Guillaume Laudou, Susan So, Carlos Vega Vallejo, Salomé Hussein, and Adam Black: 2019 Aus Champs at St Helens, Tasmania

But it’s not been all that straightforward. I recruited a whopping four teams to the NSW Champs in Yengo. While one novice team won in their category, another leader and I took a different team of younger novices. One member coaxed the others into choosing the harder of suggested routes. The other three were chatty and inattentive, and blazed by obvious turnoff points. They ended up being the sort who needed guidance on how to behave in the outdoors. They didn’t have enough water, know what sort of shoes are appropriate, and would drop fruit peels on the ground. Nonetheless, they still had a good time, which was a key goal for the trip.

A UTSOAC team were disqualified at the Oz champs for separating. That was a clash of personalities I just didn’t anticipate. Two members were fitter and more determined but didn’t heed the needs of the other two and ultimately abandoned their slower teammates! The slower pair flagged down a patrol for a lift back to camp!

TW: You’ve taking some OAC students out on course from previous rogaines for training exercises. Tell us about that.

SH: I wanted people to get a feel for things before they were out on course at Tasmania. We’re normally dealing with international students, so an interstate trip like that is a big deal financially. I knew they’d have a better experience if they knew each other better and had more of an idea what to expect, so we went out on the 2018 Berowra Socialgaine course, the Lane Cove/Marsfield (River Rumble?) course, and the permanent orienteering courses at Centennial and Olympic Parks.

Jarvis Mumford-Day, Jessica Sanders, Lou Ayling, and James Millern the “Berowra Bewilderness” course for a “Mockgaine” navigation workshop

I intend to do those again, especially at the start of semesters. I think people who aren’t accustomed to being in a “competition” for the fun of it get put off a bit by the notion of entering a race or game, and still others aren’t necessarily keen to put down money for something they assume they’re bad at. It feels safer and less committing or embarrassing to just turn up to one of my trips with a few other people and talk over a map for a few hours.

My approach with them varies wildly depending on the expertise of who comes. I’m good at adjusting on the fly though. Some people are experienced outdoorsmen and independent personalities. I explain basics, offer pointers, then let them plan a route themselves. If anything, I only intervene at that point if somebody has gone quiet to make sure that person is staying engaged. I’m also still learning, so once we’re out and searching for control locations I try to behave more like they’re my team-mates, which usually encourages more independence from them.

Novice team and leader team ( Salomé and Marta) at “Step Up” NSW Champs, Yengo NP

TW: Tell us about the workshops that you’re running for the students, and how have they been received so far? What other topics are to come?

SH: Normally, our skills courses have defined curriculum and progression, including rockclimbing, abseiling and hiking.

Over the lockdown period, I prepared a series of four navigation skills workshops. The first two pieces were foundational, reading maps, and compass work. In terms of delivery of material, I enjoyed getting creative and using images and maps from all over the world. I ended up showing maps onto my computer monitor, then using a tablet on the same Zoom call, to video me using the compass on the monitor. The attendees said that worked fine!

Claire Ayling and Salomé at Paddlegaine, 2019

The last two workshops discussed the differences between the different types of competitive navigation, and the final one was a more nuanced look into rogaining – or more generally, longer duration adventure events.

TW: I enjoyed helping you with that too. Do you have any tips for uni students who are struggling to get a similar program off the ground at their campus?

SH: Having started clubs on my own, for different things, I found it’s both more rewarding and practical to build your initial group of members first, before you worry about the bureaucratic nonsense. If you have 3-5 keen, reliable people, a couple more drifters, and you build up your collective experience and psyche, it’s impossible for the relevant bodies at your school to shrug you off. Institutions tend to provide more barriers, in terms of formalities (i.e. paperwork/restrictions), rather than support you, at least initially. Later on, as you start to need official means to manage it, then their support and protection becomes useful.

TW: Thanks Sam for your story, advice and exuberance.