I first went rogaining in Western Australia in the early 1980s. I worked for YHA – Youth Hostels Association – one evening working back there was a stomping and a puffing up the stairs and there was Paddy Pallin. YHA was one of the organisations he had a hand in founding here in NSW and he was checking us out in Perth. I knew it was him as his caricature featured in the ads for the Paddy Pallin shops that we ran in YHA magazines. After I moved to NSW, I attended the annual Paddy Pallin function and I saw him again. YHA bought a building in Kent Street for its travel centre in 1991 just up the road from the iconic Paddy Pallin shop on the corner of Bathurst Street. That shop, which of course is still there today, lead to the other outdoor stores opening around it on what became known as Sydney’s Adventure Alley

In 1988 NSWRA took responsibility for the event Paddy Pallin had invented with a 3-hour format and which was already 25 years old. Paddy’s event preceded the formal arrival of Orienteering in Australia and the subsequent development of Rogaining. He was ahead of his time. When NSW Rogaining took it over it had been run by Orienteering for a period.

The change from Paddy’s 3-hour to NSW Rogaining’s 6-hour was initiated by Newcastle rogainer Ian Dempsey.  The 1988 event was held on the Putty Road and 188 people took part, up from only 60 the previous year. The Paddy Pallin Rogaine has been held near the winter solstice each year since. This year being the 60th. The only exception was 2020 when the date was affected by Covid and the event held in Willoughby.

Warwick Marsden

The early growth of the event was largely due to Warwick Marsden, who coordinated the Paddy Pallin Rogaines from 1989 until 1994. 

In 1989 the event was at Wingello and it was the first I attended. In 1990 Warwick Marsden and Trevor Gollan put it on at Tianjara up on the scarp not so far from here. I was one of the vetters. 235 brave souls entered. Brave because at 08.45 the temperature fell, a mist blew in and it became dark. At 8.57(according to the newsletter report) it started raining and didn’t stop. Warwick managed to relocate the catering operation to under a large rock overhang. Competitors got very, very cold. Sue Clark said “after we had dried out, thawed out and got our breath back, we realised what a great time we had had.”  My feeling is that at that tough event the modern legend of the Paddy Pallin Rogaine was born.

In 1990 Warwick organised the PP Rogaine at Glenbrook, Lower Blue Mountains. The area had been used for the very first four events 1964-67. I did the admin. 378 took part, we exceeded our limit and 50 had to be turned away. The NSW PP Rogaine was on its way to become consistently one of the biggest rogaines in Australia.

Warwick Marsden

At Glenbrook there was heavy rain on the long weekend prior. The causeway was 4 metres under. No flag hanging possible. The river went down but the access road to the usual campground was closed and in that last week we had to replan and relocate the Hash House to a disused grass airstrip.

Punching control cards

This was the era of no mobile phones, no internet and no website. To organise the event, entry forms went out with the printed newsletter and came back with entry fee cheques by post to the Paddy Pallin shop where data entry was done in the back office. Stickers with team names were printed for the control cards with control numbers in boxes to be punched by unique punches at each control. The start was a washing line with pegs and cards hanging. At the end of the event, a team of volunteers toted up the scores, stuck labels on wooden slats which were hung so that everyone knew their score and place. All being well this was achieved by 3.30pm. The system was not infallible. Towards the end of the event as people got tired there was the temptation for the strongest team member to carry the card whilst others rested somewhat short of the control. Depending on the weather, the thickness of vegetation and the sweat factor some control cards came back unreadable. Nearly everybody came back in the last very busy 15 minutes. People punched the wrong boxes and wanted to explain mix ups in detail to the Admin team.

A few years later and well ahead of the innovation of self-checkout at supermarkets Rogaine President, Peter Watterson, proposed that teams be given pens to add up their own scores. It worked rather well.

At the 29th at Mangrove Mountain in 1992 a relationship began with 1st Waitara Scouts who did the catering as a fundraiser and who set higher and higher standards over the years. This weekend we very much appreciate Stu Warren and all the volunteers of North Sydney Scouts providing the catering service.  At Mangrove Mountain there were over 400 participants. The course was memorable for the pockets of smokable herbs growing. (We have not managed to get access permission to this area again!).

Bush dances

In 1993 at Cataract Scout Camp, Warwick organised a bushdance on the Saturday night.  The Strike A Light bushband also appeared at Bargo in 1997 where we had an appropriate hall.

The 1995 event, just one month before Warwick died very young from cancer, attracted 640 participants to Burralow, near Kurrajong. He was an inspirational and very generous man and I think about him often.

The coldest Paddy Pallin was Hellcat Mountain at Hampden State Forest on the Dividing Range on the road to Jenolan Caves up at 1250 metres. The wettest, besides Tianjara, was the 33rd at Patonga – it was also cold but at least it was near sea level.

At the 34th at Bargo the HH was necessarily a couple of km east of the nearest control and a record number of teams were late back. Bert Van Netten’s partner broke his wrist badly and the team had to flag down a motorist on the Hume Hwy for a ride to hospital.

At the event last year in a quite different location near Bargo a competitor broke her ankle. Faced with prospect of a helicopter rescue she was instead carried more than one kilometre through the bush to the nearest road and transported to hospital – thanks go to John Cameron and others. 

The Paddy Pallin Rogaine as well as providing brand exposure for the outdoor shops became the best attended and surplus making rogaine each year. This allowed NSWRA to get onto a secure financial footing, purchase the first equipment trailers and cross subsidize 24-hour events further afield. In 2006 Alan Mansfield, Mike Hotchkis and a big team of volunteers organised the 7th World Championships at the Warrumbungles 500km from Sydney.

Lost rogainers self-rescued

At the 39th at the old Newnes township in Wolgan Valley one team did not come back at 3pm or 3.30pm or 4pm. There was a brand-new unopened copy of how to go rogaining on the dashboard of the car. The team was a father and adult daughter. Long story. At 11pm after a fruitless search we reported it to the Lithgow police, and lost bushwalkers was on the radio by 6.00am, helicopter went up at first light. Team had ‘done a 180’ (most of us have mixed up the white and red end of the compass but not to the point of walking off the map). After a cold night, they found their own way out to a farm at Glen Davis. Then had to be picked up 100km by road away from Newnes. Last year I attended a Back to Newnes weekend where there was an open mic and told this story in more detail.

At the Paddy Pallin at Rydal the Coxs River was in flood with 15 controls marooned and unreachable on the other side.

The 43rd which was back at Wingello was memorable for me for losing my partner in the throng somewhere before the first control. Later, on the way to a control which wasn’t quite where it should have been, Robert Pallin was spotted with a t-shirt which said:

If a man speaks in the forest

with no woman to hear him

Is he still wrong?

Right to left: background image is Paddy Pallin (founder), Rob Pallin (Paddy’s son and Director), Nancy Pallin (Rob’s wife and Director), Tim Pallin (Rob and Nancy’s son and Managing Director), Melissa Pallin (Tim and Christine’s baby girl), Christine Pallin (Tim’s wife).

I thought that a brave choice because rogaining and the Paddy Pallin event in particular has always had strong female participation with some very determined female and mixed teams.  Rob’s question is of course academic for rogainers as we must always stick together and always be within earshot.

Women winners

A mixed team has won the last three Australian rogaining championships. We will find out if they make it four when NSW hosts the 2023 Championships at Goobang near Parkes in September. The margin between the sexes in rogaining is very fine. Four women have won the Paddy Pallin Rogaine: Alina McMaster, Gill Fowler, Julie Quinn and Sue Clarke.  That’s only looking at results since 1988.  We haven’t found results before NSW Rogaining took the reins. Thanks go to Trevor Gollan for exploring the archives.

Who has won the most – since 1988 that is?  It’s… Andrew Hill, seven-times winner from 1997 to 2014.  Richard Mountstephens is only one behind, with six wins.  And only one behind, with five wins each, are Michael Burton, Robert Preston Jr. and Glenn Horrocks.

Rob preston and Andrew Hill – Winnders of the 2004 PP at Colo

The Paddy Pallin rogaine has not been immune from inflation. At Wingello those years ago 800 points would have got you the lot. Tomorrow you will need 2690!

The PP Rogaine has regularly made a donation on rotation to one of the organisations that Paddy Pallin supported in his lifetime: Scouts, Kosciuszko Huts Association, Search and Rescue, YHA (Small Hostels Fund) and NSW National Parks Association.

By my count, since 1988 we’ve been to five places twice – Wingello, Glenbrook, Coolendel, Upper Colo and Belanglo. We’ve been to one place three times – the Newnes Plateau – albeit different parts.

The PP rogaine has never taken itself too seriously. When Chris Stevenson and myself vetted this event we confirmed one control description as ‘The broad gully’ although considered ‘Broad and very indistinct gully’. When John and Mardi Barnes got back from hanging the flag the description was changed to ‘The middle of nowhere’. Hints for tomorrow – be careful with your bearings, choose a short attack point and do pace counting.

When we were still young, we thought it was a good joke to make the Veterans (over 40) trophy a walking stick. Later that left us less places to go when we needed first Super Veterans (over 55) and then Ultra Veterans (over 65) trophies. Now there is a dignified murmuring in favour of an Immortals category (over 75)

Take away benefits of the sport

So, the Paddy Pallin rogaine attracts a very wide range of people. This weekend we have Chippy le Carpentier, a past winner, now over 80 – will be competitive in the hard-fought Ultra Veterans category. At the other end, there’s Carl from family team Van Huben and Justine de Remy de Courcelles from French family team Les Escargots. These two are already experienced rogainers despite being only aged 10.

In past President Trevor Gollan’s words take-away benefits of the sport include being capable, safe and comfortable in the bush; staying calm; having directional skills, and experiencing a feel for, and appreciation of, the land”. As well people have had a lot of fun. I think Paddy would have been happy with all that.

This has all been possible because of the people who serve on the Rogaine Committee and those who step up each year as volunteer organisers, course setters and vetters, map makers, our experienced admins, caterers and the many helpers on the day. This year lead by Sam Hussein and Stu Warren.

The Paddy Pallin Rogaine is a success. The relationship between the Association and the team at Paddy Pallin including Robert, Tim, and people like Chris Mein and more recently Emma Jessup has been great and the promotional support and prizes much appreciated.  Thanks go to everyone involved in making events like the one tomorrow come about.  

A complete set of past Paddy Pallin Rogaine maps can be found here: Event Archive – NSW Rogaining

An article about the early days of the Paddy Pallin event is here: A Brief History of the Paddy Pallin Event (nswrogaining.org)

6 Responses

  1. Tianjara was my very first rogaine – it’s a wonder I ever came back for a second one, let alone the 56 I’m up to now.

  2. Thank you for the great article Julian. I believe I competed in the 4th Paddy event, at Glenbrook in 1967. In 1991 I started doing Navshields, and only got involved in Rog Association events a few years ago.

  3. After reading the comment about “Chippy le Carpentier, a past winner, now over 80” in Julian’s article above, I checked out the Ultra Veterans results (Chippy and John Anderson came 3rd) and was surprised to discover that there were only 5 teams in the Mens Ultra Vets, 6 teams in the Mixed Ultra Vets, and none in the Womens Ultra Vets! Is the Paddy Pallin too short for old people? Of course, some Ultra Vets were “hiding” in younger teams – Ultra Vet Ted Woodley was in the Mens Veterans with his son (?) Paul Woodley, Peter Farrell who is in his 80s competed with daughter Angela in the Mixed Veterans, and almost 70 year old me competed with my wife Karen in the Mixed Super Veterans. It would be nice to see a list of results for individuals in each age category so us old folk could better assess how we compare. The data is out there – it just needs to be crunched! Anyway, it was an excellent event and many thanks to all the organisers and volunteers!

  4. I think it was back in the late 70s when Paddy came along to our Monday night YHA Sydney Region Outdoor & Social meeting at the old Iron Workers hall down the bottom of George St near The Rocks.
    Paddy spoke about his involvement in getting YHA going in NSW, his beloved bushwalking and great life experiences.
    He was an impressive man to me in my mid 20s. In later years down at the ski tube terminal at Perisher, I was pleased to see his bronze bust standing in pride of place. Pity it got moved from the centre of the building in later years.
    I loved XC Skiing and did it for many years, exploring all the high country using gear I bought from Paddy Pallin of course.
    I made a cassette tape recording of his talk at that YHA Syd Region meeting.. Must find it and convert it.
    Some years later I remember you Julian coming to our meetings and talking about Rogaining. I was impressed with this sport.
    YHA, a strong outdoor activities group, found Rogaining to be very popular option to the heaps of bushwalking we did.

    So great that the Paddy Pallin family is still supporting Rogaining.
    Its such a perfect fit.

  5. Great report Julian. Loved the great – and sometimes not so great – memories it brought back. My first PP was in 1987 with Anne Darvo when we had 3 1/2 hours during which we also had to mark all the controls using grid references

  6. Julian. I don’t know if you were running YHA NSW at the time, but back in the late 70’s /early 80’s, Paddy came along to one of our Sydney Region YHA to talk about his Bushwalking expoits and his work woth YHA.
    I recorded the night on a cassette tape. I mad acopy and gave ac opy to the YHA office.
    I think the Pallin family might be interested if they don’t already have that recording.
    I’ve got the original somewhere if they or you don’t have it.
    Let me know.
    Regards, Peter Tuckwell

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