Night Navigation

[Due to a server failure in Aug-2019 we have restored this historic post]

Posted on 27/02/2018 by Chris Stevenson

With the Navigation Workshop coming up in April, I thought I would write some of my thoughts and experiences about night navigation.

My first experience of night navigation was during my first event, which was the 1994 Australian Championships at Bethungra (near Cootamundra). Prior to entering this event I had never used a compass at night, but that still made me the team expert, because my two companions had never used a compass at all.

I was really pleased with my control finding ability until the wheels fell off about 2 in the morning. We found a tricky control about midnight and then proceeded to the next control about a kilometre away. We never found it.

By 2am I had to admit that not only did we not find the control, but I had absolutely no idea where we were. We could see teams moving by headlight in the distance, but pride prevented me from trying to find them and ask for assistance. So rather than move around and get more lost (if that was possible) we slept on the ground until dawn. Once the sun rose the surrounding mountains made it pretty clear where we were and we headed back to the hash house.

From that night on I was hooked on rogaining and rogaining at night still has a special place in my heart. Rogaining at night is an interesting emotional roller coaster. With many emotions playing out as the night unfolds.

The first phase is panic as you rush to get as many controls as possible by the failing light.

The second phase is melancholy. Being at home just after dark usually means food, company and TV (or Youtube these days). Home, just after dark, is a very hospitable place. The bush, just after dark, is quite an inhospitable place and demons tend to lurk in your brain. More than once, just after it has gone dark on a rogaine, I have asked myself “What the hell am I doing here?”

The third phase of this emotional roller coaster is acceptance. Acceptance of the fact that it is dark and you need to shift mentally into night mode. Night mode means pace counting and careful navigation using the lesser number of clues that are available at night.

The fourth phase of night navigation is confidence. Confidence comes at the time you have bagged a couple of controls in the dark and you have your pace counting distance down pat and you are starting to score serious points despite the handicap of the darkness. It’s a great feeling, but it never lasts.

The fifth phase of night navigation is “the fog”. No, not a literal fog, it is the fog that enters your brain from fatigue and being awake when your body is screaming for sleep. This fog has caused me (and my rogaining colleagues) to make some horrible navigation decisions. I distinctly recall my partner, Julian Ledger, and me walking up the wrong valley for 45 mins, at the Garland valley rogaine, and then looking for a control that wasn’t there before realising we had made an appalling mistake. That is what the “fog” does to you. Human beings just weren’t meant to be awake between 2 and 5 in the morning. My sister is a long term nurse on night shift and she gets my respect.

Assuming you don’t walk off a cliff while enduring “the fog” the next phase of night navigation is optimism. This is the optimism brought on by more points under your belt and an emerging dawn. There is something special about the optimism combined with the inevitable fatigue of rogaining into morning’s first light.

Night navigation also brings funny moments. I can’t remember which rogaine it was, but it had been raining and we had to ford the upper reaches of Cox’s river. It was a very cloudy night so it was pitch black. I had no idea how deep the river was going to be at the the ford so, pushed for time, I proceeded straight in. My rogaining partner baulked when the water reached chest deep, but I told him he was being precious and we proceeded across the river. Halfway across the river, chest deep in water, I could hear some people crossing the river next to us. I turned my light to look and see another team crossing the barely ankle deep river at the ford which was only about 3 metres away.

That partner never did another rogaine. I am not sure if it was the “ford incident” or the fact that it rained most of the night or the fact that one of our headlights failed and we had to share a headlight for the rest of the night (when I say share, he wore it all night).

In conclusion, I love night navigation. At the risk of being a bigot, the best rogaining is done at night and the best rogainers barely slow down as they trot uphill and down dale finding control after control regardless of what challenges stand in their way.

Rather than learning night navigation the hard way, like I did, come along to Navigation Workshop in April. Imbued by the skills learnt at the Navigation Workshop your nights in the bush will be full of confidence until “the fog” gets you.

6 Responses to Night Navigation

  1. Bert says: 27/02/2018 at 6:34 pm

Very good, I know all this all too well, thanks.

  • Carolyn Rigby says: 27/02/2018 at 6:35 pm

Chris Stevenson – you absolute legend. What a wonderful picture you paint of night rogaining and rogaining in general! Fantastic… and to everyone else – go to the Nav workshop! It will be great.

  • Reddall Leslie says: 27/02/2018 at 8:43 pm

Brings back memories of similar experiences plus the elation after being extremely lost at night and stumbling on a control.

  • Julian Ledger says: 27/02/2018 at 10:52 pm

It’s all lies
I was never there
It was just someone who looked like me

  • Andy Macqueen says: 28/02/2018 at 7:56 am

Spot on analysis Chris. I would add that – in my experience – some of the worst mistakes are made after dawn. The period of optimism you rightly describe is further heightened by the rising sun. This gives rise to over-confidence which, combined with fatigue, results in silly mistakes and crazy errors of judgement.

  • Pierre says: 10/04/2018 at 12:35 pm

Well explained Chris ! Everyone who read this should be tempted by the workshop.

I will add that I found my night navigation going significantly better when I have been on the same type of landscape before dark, because somehow I do understand the landscape and I have experienced it in daylight for the first part of the rogaine. However I found it much more challenging when you start to navigate in an area without trying it in daylight. This happens often in Adventure Racing.
In QLD, they have a special rogaine they called “Upside down” and this rogaine starts at midnight or something … Interesting concept that I’d like to try.

Outcomes from our 2017 Survey

[Due to a server failure in Aug-2019 we have restored this historic post]

Posted on 14/03/2018 by Trevor Gollan

We were most pleased with the number of people who participated in our survey over the summer. Thanks again to all who took the time and effort.  Further comments are always welcome – that’s what this Forum is for…


Tristan White, our Publicity Officer, collated the results and produced the following summary.

NSWRA 2017 Strategic & Planning Survey

We have received 75 responses from our 9-question survey which showed some trends though a lot of variation, which reflects the vast array of people who have competed in the sport.

1. Favourite Events

Analysis

The noted favourite events varied across the board so won’t go into detail describing them. Several noted the ARC as a great event (I concur), and most that flag the 24h events note them to be very memorable, the defining feature of a traditional rogaine in my opinion. Many also flagged the “Karst Irony” event as great in light of the numerous views that rarely exist in our off-track events.

Limitations

This only considered events from the past calendar year, and was limited to the events that respondents entered (which averaged at 2), so doesn’t give a great judgment deciding which events were best. (btw SC=State Champs)

2. Bad Experiences

Analysis

Of 76 respondents, only 12 claimed to have had some form of negative experiences (dismissing two complaints about ACT events) so I don’t think that’s too bad a record. It’s worth noting what these were, and my thoughts to them:

  • As it was our first event, very little connection with the organisers, (ie welcome new participants). Also, so many people (teams) got multiple awards… why? Enter one event and spread the love. We finished in the top 3 in the novice section, but our award was not announced, so we had to follow-up and about 3 months later we had to go and collect our “mugs”, no attempt to get them to us. A poor experience for newbies.

This is disappointing to read that a newcomer feels that way. It’s a pity they did not specify which event. Obviously it’s a reminder that we need to continue to ensure to provide instruction, welcome and inclusion to all newcomers to the sport. This should be reminded to long timers such as ourselves to greet visitors rather than stick in our “rogaine bubbles.” That said, I think it’s usually done well.

  • Insufficient food. (Three people mentioned this and from looking at the events they entered they were all referring to the Cronulla minigaine where I remember the watermelon disappearing as abruptly as Harold Holt. People do notice food quality & quantity and we need to ensure it remains high.)
  • Some rogaines are too long. (#suckitupprincess That’s the nature of the sport.)
  • All rogaines were good although some were a bit far away – it would be good to take that into consideration when planning timing for event. Events that are 1hr + drive from the city would be better on Saturdays with a camping option that night. (It is New South Wales Rogaining Association, not Newcastle, Sydney & Wollongong Rogaining association and the open areas that can be freely accessed are often a while away. I’m assuming that they were referring to PP and something of that distance should have a camping option – though personally think that Saturday arrival/campout works fine.)
  • Good camping spots are always a challenge – but I know you guys are limited as to what can be arranged.
  • The Lake Macquarie Rogaine encouraged kids to come along but I found that the easier course was still a bit too hard and checkpoints were a long distance between each other. Good for adults but a bit too hard for younger kids that are too big to carry. (Important to be realistic about what events can have young children. The fact that the Metrogaine, Minigaine, Paddy Pallin and Socialgaine usually are should be an asset, even if others can’t.)
  • No bad experiences!! But some rogaines I do wish there was another water drop or two (on the long events). I do understand that’s part of route strategy/choice though. (Usually this is done well IMO though I have similar observations. In principle, a refill every 4-5hrs would be good (longer apart at night), meaning we’d want 2 in a 12h and at least 4 in a 24)
  • Nothing that I particularly recall, although I don’t believe that rogaines where it is necessary to regularly/constantly fight the vegetation adds anything to the experience. If anything, my guess is that those types of experiences put people off doing bush / off-track rogaines. (That’s true and it can be an issue in the LM. We’ve tried to avoid this and we need to continue to ensure that a navigational challenge doesn’t become a fight against lawyer vine and the like)
  • Rogaine near Goulburn-Marulan on University Station was good but didn’t like the checkpoints being out in the open. Getting accommodation nearby the night before wasn’t easy. Don’t like the checkpoints being in open paddocks where everyone can see so there is no map reading skill needed. (Not having done the event I can’t judge but it’s a fair criticism.)
  • There was no camping at the Paddy Pallin Rogaine (This seems to be a sore spot – 4 of our 12 criticisms mentioned it.)
  • The heat on the socialgaine was a struggle – much more exposed than last years more bush focussed event. But calling it a “bad” experience is a bit of a stretch. (As someone who has a personal animus against the heat I wholeheartedly agree. With these events (SG and the MG) taking in the heat of the day from 9-3 on the fringes of summer is not a good idea.)
  • The rogaining itself is always good between all 3 associations. The entry fees between each association varies significantly though and this year became a contributing factor for me in terms of which events I went to or whether I even did them at all, eg: NSWRA charged the same price for the 6 hr as the 12hr and same again with the 8hr being charged the same as the 24hr. $100 for an 8 hr event was a massive turnoff. VRA charged $45 for their 24hr event compared to $100 by NSWRA. (We generally aim to minimize the cost, but it does seem to vary from event to event. Perhaps we should standardize these across the year? $100 for an 8h event is excessive, but I also recognize that providing for a 6/12h entrant is usually the same wrt catering, equipment use, HH access etc.)
  • I really don’t like when setters set with loops in mind, or use roads and tracks to ease their job. As a setter I know it’s tempting but as a competitor I think it kills the sport. Unmarked thick scrub near controls (Mt Werong NE corner) or too much elevation just for the sake of difficulty doesn’t appeal to me. Same with too many tracks. In that sense, the ACT champs was a bit of nightmare since it had both (walking along the beach at night was magical, though). (A matter of preference IMO. But for sanctioned bush events, focus should be made to ensure competitors access the CPs through good navigation rather than speed, whether it be following spurs and gullies, or pacing along a track to an attack point for the CP 100m away (out of sight), particularly where the scrub is thicker. Some people (myself included) like climbing. Not sure what they mean by “loops” – whether they mean one big course route or small obvious loops within a bigger course.)
  • The LM course could have been designed better – having the winners clear the course with an hour to spare indicates it should be longer. And the fact that top two teams did exactly the same route (albeit in the opposite direction) indicates that there should have been greater effort to remove obvious route choices. I found the SG too hot and dull – the warm conditions were exacerbated by the sun shining off the bitumen (which 75% of the course was on). It too closely resembled an orienteering event, where I believe a SG should be 75% bush with a few streets to link it up.

Limitations

Only takes the concerns from a sample of the competitors (who actually completed the survey). Presumably, those with extremely negative experiences would be unlikely to be in the FB group, to read the website or newsletters.

3. Reasons for absence

Analysis

The single most cited answer was that our events clashed with other activities, with only a few noting that they are too expensive (and none that said they didn’t enjoy it at all!) and that they only enjoy certain types of events. Clashes will be a reality, and there isn’t any way around it, but we can make an effort not to put them the same time as other notable events (C2S, adventure races and other ARA events), as well as days such as Mother’s/Father’s Day.

It’s hard to read the graph; here’s the categories:

  • I did them all
  • Clash with other activities
  • Events too far away
  • Too expensive
  • Don’t enjoy other types (of rogaines)
  • Too much toll on my body
  • Can’t find team mates
  • Let me be frank, …
  • Other

Limitations

Those who are more frequently unable to make the events are less likely to have done the survey (and more likely to not enjoy the sport at all, or find it too expensive for what they get out of it)

4. Preferred Type of Event

Analysis

As expected there’s a wide variety of preferences for type of event, though an obvious number flagged 6-8h off track events, and more people than not preferenced off-track events – rogaining in its most traditional form!

It’s hard to read the graph; here’s the categories:

  • 3-4hr urban
  • 6-8hr urban
  • 6-8hr bush (on track)
  • 6-8hr bush (off track)
  • 12hr bush (on track)
  • 12hr bush (off track)
  • 24hr bush (off track)
  • Other

“Other” preferences or notes included:

  1. Events between 12 & 24h, including 15 in 24
  2. 3-4hr bush events
  3. Urban event must have a significant bushland component.
  4. Night only event
  5. Options to do on or off track depending on whether kids have had enough bush bashing

5. Additional events

Analysis

Over three quarters of respondents would try to attend additional events (which doesn’t mean they will in reality).

6. Event Variants

Analysis

Three quarters of respondents would be happy to see a variant of some form enter the calendar, with the primary suggestions being more novelty events, and a cyclegaine, the way ACTRA and VRA have. Over a third of respondents would also be keen to see an adventuregaine.

It’s hard to read the graph; here’s the categories:

  • Cyclegaine
  • Paddlegaine
  • Adventure race
  • Novelty style
  • No
  • Other

Other suggestions/comments included:

  1. Snowgaine
  2. I like all these ideas. Although I would ensure the core nav discipline is retained
  3. Cyclegaine would need to be on road or track (not bush tracks that are single track)
  4. Would like to see nav skills workshops. (Good news for you!)
  5. Other companies offer these things. Stick to high quality bush rogaines (this is true in some cases and we should check this each time a variant is held.)
  6. They all sound good BUT, NOT at the expense of the usual program of events
  7. Climbgaines! (How would that work?)
  8. Teams event? Something like the 16hr in 24hr, but with 2 teams. Say a max/min split on team time of 10hr/6hr etc. I like the idea of including puzzles/problem solving to “flatten” the fitness advantage – test run at an urban event? (Don’t really understand this.)
  9. Family or kid-friendly events… I plan on doing many (but not all) of my future rogaines with my kids and they love it. It would be great to make the events more kid friendly… or even just add awards for kids who reach certain milestones.

7. Volunteering

“I don’t have time” is the most common response, or “I don’t compete in enough to justify,” and with the average respondent entering 2/year that’s understandable.

It’s hard to read the graph; here’s the categories:

  • I already volunteer
  • I don’t compete in enough rogaines
  • I don’t have time
  • I can’t find a role that suits
  • I volunteer to other sports

A selection of the comments includes:

  1. Not sure how if it’s possible, but if I could volunteer for a couple of hours only I would be more available for volunteering. I do so few events, because of clashes with family commitments. However, the commitments often just make me unavailable from the entire Rogaine. I could still help out for a few hours. The only other problem is the long distance to travel.
  2. Provide more information about specific jobs and their expected time frame especially jobs with the least amount of time commitment. I’d really like to help more and have collected CPs after races but when travelling significant distances to get to events and with family commitments it helps to understand what you may be signing up for as a volunteer. Jobs that are able to be done by participants in the event would be great.
  3. Offer a more formalised or written guide to volunteers. Past volunteer experience felt like left on our own to sort out what and how to do it, and cop any flack if it’s not what was expected.
  4. If I was aware of small ways I could volunteer then I think I would. (There’s a good chance this is written by someone somewhere and I just haven’t seen it!)
  5. Describe some of the roles that are needed and whether they conflict with competing in that Rogaine
  6. Maybe a discount on other events (Yes, well this is done, but perhaps we could consider a discounted entry if they don’t qualify for a free entry.)
  7. Volunteer social nights to get to know the other people we’ll be working with (Volunteer weekend away?)

8. Other Suggestions

The “other suggestions” section, predictably, had a whole range of ideas, including the following. It was encouraging to see many suggestions that we are already doing, such as nav workshop, and planning to do.

  • Better promotion, both online & in print – seems to be a hotspot, 10 people said this.
  • Consider a way to respond to the increased spate of extreme heat which could be present in November/February.
  • Cheaper Entries
  • The photos of people having fun at the events are great. Especially including people of all ages and abilities to show how inclusive it is
  • Wish you would offer solo entries for 6-hr events.
  • Perhaps offer a 2 hour beginners course, where an experienced rogainer could take a group out for a couple hours and teach the skills of rogaining (Nav Workshop)
  • Cross-pollinate with adventure racing / trail running people and maybe consider a ‘multisport’ weekend with some of these groups
  • It would be great to have more details earlier – including the cost
  • Love the improvements you are making. Continue to promote bring your own cups, plates etc to be environmentally aware – don’t provide plastic plates!
  • Consider changing the sports name. Most people think it is a hair growth product. (Sorry guys, we didn’t name it, maybe have a word with the founders)
  • About 3 hours, solo entry, in a natural environment, would be perfect for me personally…. (Bring on the Scheyville Minigaine!)
  • Do more intro to newbies, and support. I find the experienced people chat and give each other advice on ways to select routes, and things like that, where newbies get ignored, and have to fend for themselves. (Same in Orienteering circles too). Tips for becoming better, (route choices, distance expectations, etc). 1 x 3 hr Minigaine every 6-8 weeks would be great. As mentioned. Why should a team be 2nd in 1 division and 1st in other… maybe too many divisions. Why not a handicap system, as well, so fairer to all competitors, like golf. Scratch and net scores if you know what I mean. More refreshments at the end for those who return late. I probably have more, but can only think of these now. Good luck and thanks for letting us provide feedback.
  • I think you focus too much on serious competitors. Outsiders and people in it for fun can find it hard to work out what the events might be like.
  • It would be nice to have a saved profile for a team or for individuals. We always enter the same team and it is pretty tedious having to type in all the details every time.

2 Responses to Outcomes from our 2017 Survey

  1. Anonymous (or Chris pretending to be anonymous) says: 17/03/2018 at 10:58 am

I am disappointed with the choice of the tag #suckitupprincess for several reasons.

Firstly, as someone who identifies as intersex on occasion I find the choice of princess distasteful. Why couldn’t it have been prince? Additionally, I find the term prince or princess offensive as it suggests not ready or fit to rule. Also this is ageist since prince and princesses are normally young, I think #suckituproyalfamilymember would have been more appropriate.

Having said this, I am a republican so I decry the use of regal terms and symbols and would have preferred #suckitupcitizen. Thinking on this though, we can’t count illegal immigrants as citizens so perhaps #suckituppeople would have been better.

I also feel that it is unfair to use the term “suck” when “blow” gets such a bad rap. So rather than use the term suck or blow I think the tag should have been #relocateusingpressuredifferentialpeople.

Having now had a chance to reflect on the whole discourse if I really wanted to affront people who find rogaining too hard I would suggest the tag #orienteer.

  • Ronnie says: on 18/03/2018 at 2:41 pm

Thanks for analysing and publishing the results of the survey!
I would suggest reacting as a committee with more objective viewpoints than the view of just one (with all due respect to the president), hence avoiding judgmental input like in the infamous hashtag affair.
I feel explaining the reasoning behind some decisions, e.g. pricing, will probably help people understand that the association is trying hard to do the right thing, but is limited by external constraints. Then a constructive discussion can ensue.
Thanks again!

My Wrap of the Navigation Workshop at Rydal, 14-15 Apr 2018

[Due to a server failure in Aug-2019 we have restored this historic post]

Posted on 16/04/2018 by Chris Stevenson

Gertrude and Wind

The navigation workshop was just great fun. Many newbies and some experienced rogainers learned how to improve their skill of bush navigation from some of our sport’s pros. For my part I was one of the coaches and despite 24 years of rogaining I also learned a few things from the sport’s real pros.

My wife, Dianne, and good friend John Clancy volunteered to do the catering and we arrived late on Friday night and started unloading food from the car into the kitchen at the Rydal Showground. As soon as the kitchen door was opened, in popped Gertrude, the campground’s pet sheep. Apparently no one told Gertrude that we had hired the Campground for the weekend, because according to Gertrude if the kitchen door is open it was her right to be in there. We must have ejected Gertrude from the kitchen about a dozen times. Gertrude was also trying to make friends with our dog Maple. Maple is a cavoodle and about 1/20th the size of Gertrude and was quite wary of this huge woolly thing that was trying to make friends.

Gertrude checking out the intruders in her kitchen

We eventually unloaded all of our food and ejected Gertrude one more time and went to bed. The next exciting thing that happened was that a huge wind followed by a brief rain storm thundered across the campground. Thankfully, Di, Sophie, my 11 year old daughter, and I had decided to camp inside the hall and were not out in the wind storm in a tent. I am sure those who stayed in a tent on Friday night were very concerned about being blown to Mudgee while still in their tent. The wind raged all night and I am sure those in a tent probably got little sleep.

Saturday

Saturday morning broke and the 50+ participants and 15 coaches arrived at the Campground and coaches and teams were matched up. The first exercise was held east of the showground in a mix of natural bush and pine forest. After a brief chat about compasses and navigation basics we set off hunting for controls. The path to the first control we selected was made unusually difficult by a mess of fallen pine trees in the gully. I have been rogaining at Rydal several times and it is lovely open forest which is almost perfect for rogaining but navigating this mess of fallen pine trees was not what I had planned for the day. It seems I should not have worried since once we had bagged the first control we moved away from pine tree hell and into some lovely open forest.

Joel Mackay showing what he carries in his pack for a 24 hour rogaine

My team of coachees were very fast learners and after the first couple of controls they were taking compass bearings and heading off into the wilderness like seasoned pros. After a couple of hours of this we returned to the hash house to be lectured by a couple of our sport’s elite athletes. Gill Fowler spoke on the theory and practice of navigation and Joel Mackay spoke about what food and equipment to take on a rogaine.

I am sure everyone found these talks fascinating. I was reminded by Gill about “aiming off”. This is something I plan to put in practice in future rogaines. I was also fascinated by Joel’s talk on what to eat and what to carry. Until Joel’s talk I was a keen advocate of carrying sports drink in my hydration bladder. Having learned that it probably makes no difference, I will, in future, be content just carrying water.

Read more about aiming off here…

Night Navigation and Nine Nightmares

After Joel’s talk the participants were all invited to measure their stride length in preparation for a night navigation exercise and after dinner we set off. Navigating at night time can be quite daunting for newbies, so I was keen to make the experience a good one.

We found the first control with relative ease and heading towards control number “9”. When arrived at where I thought control 9 should have been, we found other teams but no control. My team had navigated straight for the control so we had to eliminate the possibility of it being further up or down the gully. Once we had eliminated both of these possibilities, I doubted my own navigation skills and we headed to the next gully to check if we had pulled up short. I was thinking “Great coach I am, I cannot find a control only 300 metres from the last one in a reasonably well defined gully”.

We still didn’t find the control and at this stage, I knew it was my mistake and we headed for a known feature, a fire trail and track junction, to try again. This time I was making sure that our bearing and pace counting was perfect and a few minutes later we arrived at the exact same spot with no control in sight. By this stage I had to face up to the fact that I was rubbish at night navigation or the flag was not where it should be. There were other teams about, so I left my team standing in the dark while I sought out the other coaches to ask them if they had found the control. Having spoken to Ted Woodley and Joel Mackay both of whom could also not find the control we determined that the control was indeed not where it should be and we headed off to try a different control.

In hindsight, this was probably a really good lesson in what to do when you cannot find a control and it even occurred to me that perhaps this was some sort of sadistic test Gill had set for us. The reality was a little more mundane because the control has simply been hung in the wrong gully. I was very pleased by my team’s quick learning and after the fiasco with control number 9 they quickly found a couple of difficult controls in the pitch black and everyone’s confidence, including mine, was restored.

My Scary Experience

I am not often scared rogaining at night, but this night proved to be an exception. When we got near one of the controls I thought I could see movement behind one of the trees. Normally, I would just pass this off as an animal, but the movement was human height and seemed to be staying behind the tree. I am over 6 foot tall, male and almost 100kg, so I am not usually the timid type, but having someone watching you from behind a tree late at night, in the middle of the bush, has got to ring some alarm bells. I was wondering whether Ivan Milat had been let out early, when all of a sudden Mike Hotchkis popped out from behind the tree and scared several precious years from my remaining life.

It seems that Mike had set his team the task of finding this particular control unaided and was going to surprise them when they eventually found the control. Mike is a fine athlete and an outstanding rogainer. In real life Mike is lovely and not a very scary person at all, but what would you think when someone is clearly hiding and watching you from behind a tree, in the forest, in the pitch black?

Falnash Forest

The next morning we headed out for another practice session in Falnash Forest near Wallerawang. I hadn’t been walking in Falnash Forest before and it was a really lovely experience. It is gently undulating, open forest, perfect for rogaining. My team were now behaving like rogaining pros and we bagged control after control with no navigational missteps. I was quite proud of my coachees when they found a control on a poorly defined broad ridge about 400m away from the nearest well defined point.

Here is our well deserved selfie having bagged a difficult control

After Falnash Forest we headed back for lunch and a three hour minigaine starting from the hash house. We were all tired by this stage and we were more interested in navigation than point scoring for this event. Our navigation for this event was good but we were let down by our route choice and ended up getting only 60 points and then lost 30 of these by being 3 minutes late back. At the end of the day the point of the weekend was learning navigation and I sensed that my team were now pretty confident of their abilities.

Capable People

  • Rogainers, as a general rule, are capable and intelligent people and I am continually impressed by their willingness to help and to solve problems. A lot of people put a lot of time and effort into a weekend like this to make it a success, and we come to expect this, but I am still continually surprised by how people just pitch in and get the job done. Some examples were:
  • Andrew Duerden, who had also volunteered as coach, listened to me ranting about how much I hate barbequing at close to midnight and volunteered to get up a 5:30am to take the task off my hands. Andrew cooked bacon and eggs for 70 people with a great deal of skill and good humour.
  • Ronnie Taib, also there as a coach, spent every spare moment he had washing up and otherwise helping in the kitchen.
  • I also must acknowledge the efforts of my wife, Di, and good friend John Clancy who spent the whole weekend doing nothing but feeding 70 hungry rogainers. The food was fabulous and more closely resembled a restaurant than a rogaine.
  • Mike Hotchkis, Toni, Smiffy and Phil Titterton who, after a long and tiring weekend of walking, happily disappeared into the bush, once more, to pick up controls by themselves for a few hours.
  • Thanks also to Richard Sage for bringing the catering trailer to the event. Not only did he have to drive across the mountains towing a heavy trailer, which is an unpleasant task, but towing the trailer means that he has to be one of the first to arrive and one of the last to leave.
  • I don’t know all the names of the people that helped. Some women I didn’t recognise cut veggies for 70 with the speed and skill of a Michelin chef. Gary Roberts was also a regular presence in the kitchen doing what he could, including the unpleasant task of taking home bags of rubbish for disposal.
  • I also need to acknowledge the 15 coaches who willingly gave up their weekend to share their skills with others.
Ronnie, Gary and Andrew helping out in the kitchen

The final thanks must go to Gill. Without Gill’s efforts the event simply would not have taken place. I am continually impressed by the generosity and capability of the rogaining community.


3 Responses to My Wrap of the Navigation Workshop at Rydal

  1. Michael Watts says: 16/04/2018 at 5:56 pm

That was some wind – we were in tents. The travails of course-setting … on Friday night we thought we’d be lucky not to wash down the creek in the rain. On Saturday night we thought that we were lucky we were already in Oz.
Plenty of trees down along the fire trail on the way out, and one near miss for a setter as a branch gave up the fight to stay attached to the rest of its tree.

  • Andrew Duerden says: 17/04/2018 at 8:26 am

I have competed in a lot of rogaines over the past few years but had two events this last weekend that I won’t forget in a hurry. Firstly, whilst coaching a team we had a very large gum tree explode, break in two and crash down a few meters in front of us. Thank god the wind was blowing from behind us else the weekend would have been less five rogainers for sure. Secondly, whilst collecting flags by myself I came upon a beautiful brumby mare. Having learnt from my daughter to sit down in a submissive posture, I did so and after 10 minutes she came within a few meters of me. Amazing!

  • Carolyn Rigby says: 19/04/2018 at 11:27 am

Sounds like a fantastic and very productive weekend – and the epitome of rogaining and rogainers. It is truly a privilege to be on the periphery of the sport. Great initiative.

My Wrap of the Wingello Wingaine, 12 May 2018

Posted on 13/05/2018 by Chris Stevenson

On Saturday I competed in the Wingello Wingaine and I was very glad I did.

I have competed at Wingello before and I like the area. The bush varies from pine tree plantations to open forest and fight scrub. My partner Julian and I elected to do the 12 hour event, I was very much looking forward to putting my night navigation skills to the test and, wow, were they tested.

Having picked up our maps on Saturday morning, the first thing we noticed was that there were no 90 or 100 pointers on the course and there was only one really easy control on the entire course (Control 21 on a road junction). I think course setter Mike Hotchkis must have been channelling his Scottish heritage because he wasn’t giving any points away. In fact I think Mike had set a couple of the most difficult 20 pointers in rogaining history. There was control 22 which was only 400 meters from the hash house but was in a huge section of pine forest but with no helping features for at least 300 metres. The average time taken to bag control 22 was 18 minutes and 20 secs. I am not sure how many people found this control at night time but they deserve real kudos (and a mental health check for even attempting it). The map also included control number 24 which was only about 80 metres from a fire trail on a supposed knoll. This “knoll”, it turned out, was only about 3mm higher than the surrounding ground. Julian and I forgot to take our micrometre and theodolite and found the control in the dark through sheer luck.

Mike Hotchkis – Course Setter

Soon after the event started so did the rain, in fact it rained for three hours. I had a token raincoat on but it made no difference – I was wet and cold the entire event (and loving it). In fact the warmest I was at anytime during the event was when I fell, waist deep, into the creek between controls 82 and 63.

Julian and I had a very good start. Despite walking at a leisurely pace we were the first team to control 64, via 35 and 46. The wheels fell off a bit when we tried an open country traverse from controls 74 to 83. We spent too long in fight-scrub, travelling about 1 km per hour. We both decided that we were not having fun fighting through this dense scrub so we turned and headed north looking for easier going. Fortunately, we found the going easier once we crossed over the watershed of the ridge and the detour through the thick stuff didn’t end up costing us much. It is interesting that the average time taken for the traverse from 74 to 83 was 1:00:56. That is a long time just to gain 80 points. Once again evidence that Mike wasn’t giving anything away.

I confess I am a pine forest junkie. I like rogaining through pine forest at night. There is something about pine forest navigation that draws me in and I am not really sure why. Perhaps it is the fact that pine forests are usually on relatively flat, featureless ground and it can take real navigational skill to find a control in the middle of a section of pine forest. I was pretty happy with Julian and my navigation skills during this event. We found everything we looked for, which many good teams didn’t, and we scored 40% of our points after dark. Admittedly, things were not perfect. It took us two attempts to bag controls 32 and 31 and as mentioned before we found control 24 by pure luck as we were on our way back to the road to try again. The other thing to note about the event is how lonely it was out on the course. We saw a bunch of people on the creek traverse from control 82 to 63 but other than that we spent most of the day and night alone. Mind you I am not complaining. I like finding the controls with my team mate and not being distracted by other teams. The problem with following other teams is that the “herd” mentality gets to you and you tend to follow rather than rely on your own skills. Julian and I have about 160 events under our belts between us and we really should know better than to try and follow someone else. Having said this I was very grateful to follow another team into control 41 because we got there about 7pm and were both pretty knackered at that stage (we both perked up a bit when we got into the pine forest).

While wandering around last night trying to squeeze points out of Mike’s course, my thoughts turned to the Novices. This was not an easy event for the novices, but I noted that a novice 12 hour team, the Migrating Wombats, scored 850 points. Great job guys. The other thing to note about the course is that it was a great leveller. I think a few of the teams that usually score really well might have found their navigation skills fully tested by Mike’s course.

Mike Hotchkis was ably assisted in the course setting by David Griffith, Ian Almond and Chris Waring. Thanks to all. Julian and I had a really good time testing our navigation skills against this course, in the light and in the dark. If you didn’t take up the 12 hour option at yesterday’s event you missed a great opportunity to test your skills against quite a challenging course.

I can’t wait until the next Wingello rogaine.


One Response to My Wrap of the Wingello Wingaine

  1. Trevor Gollan says: 14/05/2018 at 6:47 pm

Thanks for the interesting report, Chris.

We should clarify that micrometers and theodolytes are not acceptable navigational aids. The official rules stipulate that the “only navigational aids that may be carried on the course are magnetic compasses, watches and copies of the competition map.”

Of course none of those are as important as your brain and senses – especially eyes, ears & common sense.

Partially agree about pine. It’s pleasant walking on the floor of a pine forest, but the navigation tends to be easy due to the road network.

Sorry I missed the event. Having done the previous four Wingello rogaines, I’d have liked to see the area again. There’s always new places to discover, no matter how many times you’ve been there, and different coursesetters provide different perspectives.