Sunday 4 April 2010

Australian Rogaining Championships: 24hr rogaine in the snowys

"Are we doing this? Yes we are", and so it went, a friend and I entered the 2010 Australian Rogaining Championships just two days before the event. We crammed in a few days of training by going to work and sitting in front of computers, and then we were ready to mix it with Australia's best in the beautiful Snowy Mountains.

For those who don't know, Rogaining is a sport where crazy people dress up in lycra and gaiters, and crash around in the bush finding orange markers with a map and compass for anywhere from 6 to 24 hours.

We caught the bus down to the site, which was incredibly frustrating as it was late getting out of Sydney, and with a break for the driver we ended up leaving about 7:30, when we had expected to leave at 5:00pm. At least we could avoid the deadly drive home after being awake for 24 hours. We finally arrived at about 10pm, set up camp, and woke up the next morning to register and plan our route.

The organisers had set up a giant marquee for all the bus travellers, which was great. We all got busy trying to plan which bits we wanted to do at night, deciding which controls were worth getting, and colour-coding controls. Our (rather ambitious) flight plan is shown in green.

The race began at noon on Saturday; and the first thing we did was cross the Eucumbene river, which came up to mid-calf, soaking shoes and socks and paving the way for bad blisters later.

We started well, then had an embarrassing nav fail (got a bit cocky because the first few were really easy). After that we got our confidence back a bit, although we struggled with 83, and got to 31 at twilight, far short of where we wanted to be by that time (ie. around 37). We joined a number of other groups that were really struggling to find 31, and eventually found it. 62 then caused us heaps of problems, and the tone was set for the rest of the night.

We came down off 93 over what was practically a cliff, holding onto bits of scrub at about 2 in the morning, then had to rock-hop across an extremely fast-flowing Eucumbene river. We came very close to the all-night-cafe at 88 around 4am, but decided we couldn't be bothered walking the 2km round-trip for hot food. Instead we began the long slog back to the hash house down a fire trail. At this point I found out my friend had a lot more stamina than me, since he still had his mind on the race, whereas all I could think about was having a lie-down so I could stop feeling nauseous. He managed to convince me to pick up a few of the controls on the way back, and we retired early at about 8am.

Wish I had: better nav skills :) one of those thumb-compasses to help keep you on your bearing, a dry pair of socks, something to pad blisters that will stick to wet skin, and possibly a brighter headtorch - although the combo led-and-halogen was quite handy. I would also consider not wearing my goretex trail runners next time, since they are good at keeping water out, but once it is in (from a river crossing) they don't dry out quickly.

Despite the lack of training, both bodies held up reasonably well, apart from blisters due to damp, and our clothing was right - we were comfortable even though it dropped to about 2 degrees overnight. The weather was beautiful and clear, a light dew, and a very heavy fog early in the morning in the valley around 77.

I had a great time, although I've decided a 12-hour rogaine is much more my style :) Our score? Respectable, we came about middle of the pack.


Garth said...

Awesome, dude! Glad to see you back out on a rogaine. Gotta love night nav, certainly requires some humility :). I recommend carrying one of those big 6V Dolphin torches, or a fancy bike light. Makes the biggest difference, being able to scan the are with a spotlight.

G said...

Yeah I took a dolphin last time, and it didn't feel worth it for the weight. I'd definitely consider a powerful bike light though, and has some good cheap ones. I also went looking for tips and tricks, and found this which is pretty good. Nav secrets seem pretty closely guarded. I like the idea of writing your first few bearings onto the map, saves a few minutes early on.

Garth said...

Hey yeah, that's got some good tips. I like the one about dividing the map into night and day sections. Completely different challenges.

As for nav secrets, I'm not sure there are too many simple tips. I reckon experienced navigators are better because they can look at a map and visualise what the terrain will be, and so make the best decisions (such as: "that looks like a slope or creek that will be full of scrub. I'm going around.").

My guidelines are: complex nav during the day, stick to straight-lines at night. And learn to pace count, so you can get distances right. Go orienteering if you want to exercise your nav skills.

G said...

I bought a Silva 'thumb' compass ($74) from and I can't wait to use it on the next rogaine. Should be heaps quicker to grab a bearing (no bezel swiveling), and looking at your map and compass is a one-hand operation. Downside is you don't get a number, so you can't check your bearing with your partner.