28 June 2011

Team Blog - Rogaine Event - Dorothy




The Rogaine Event held in the Wicklow Mountains and organized by Setanta Orienteers, caught my eye about 3 years ago when I got into orienteering in Cork. But it looked pretty serious stuff on the navigation side of things and I thought maybe sometime I could rope a friend or two into teaming up for it.

After doing a lot more on the navigation skills in the past year with Nathan’s excellent instructors (completed MS2 in February), I thought maybe I’d look at the 6hr event. Of my two friends who would have been up for it, one was going to be on honeymoon and the other had a family holiday booked, but this year they opened up the 6hr event to individuals as well. So on a day when I’m not sure I was thinking straight, I signed up.

To take from the organizers website (www.setantaorienteers.org/rogaine), “Rogaining is a sport of long distance navigation on foot for teams of two or more over a twenty four hour period. The object of the sport is to score points by finding checkpoints located within a specially mapped area within the allowed time period. As checkpoints can be visited in any order, strategy and teamwork are important features of the sport as well as endurance, stamina and navigational skills, with night navigation a key element. The team members must stay together at all times.”

From my own observation, the event caters for the casual hillwalker to the hard core orienteers (some of those on the 24hr would sleep out overnight in bivvy bags, or continue straight through the night, instead of coming back to base for a few hours sleep).

Feeling pretty nervous arriving for registration, our mandatory kit was checked and there was a chance to talk to a few fellow competitors. At 12noon, we received an envelope with a list of control points (CPs) and their grid references, and the clock started ticking… The first 20mins (depending how fast you were!) was spent transferring the CPs to the map, noting their scoring, and planning the route. I quickly struck off CPs that were way off at a distance, as I knew I wouldn’t be the fastest mover, so Plan A was to follow the blue route I’ve marked on the map as this could be followed in a relatively good sequence, however, noting the two rivers to be crossed.

More about Plan A in a bit. My other option was the red route taking in CP15 as the first control. Plan A went very quickly down the drain when I made a very basic error of misjudging our starting point and thinking a road above where we were was the one I wanted, it wasn’t…

Onto Plan B. However, this is where local knowledge came into play. I thought I could possibly take one of the forest rides through to hit about 500m below CP15, but the landscape had changed significantly since the map was published and local knowledge knew to turn left and take a more straightforward route, which in hindsight should have been my only route choice.

Realising there was no easy way through the forest, I discounted it and headed straight for an easy pickup of CP17…tick tock… nearly 50mins down already. From there I headed up a very sparse forest ride for CP6, again a rookie mistake with a 1:30000 map, I had the control marked at the wrong junction but quickly corrected it and with a few of us a little confused as to where it was due to disappeared trees, it was found. From there, I took a forest ride NE to hit the hills for CP7, a 400pointer.

This is where the REAL fun started - with the rain that had been pouring the past few days, the forest was just bog and I was really happy with my new (now filthy) Salomon trail runners and choice of very light running socks. Neither held the water or got sucked off me in the boggy ground. I’d lost any hope of keeping the feet dry for the 6 hours. Eventually reaching the forest edge, found a river crossing point, and onto the heather following a bearing to circle the hill and hit the path that ran from Pt718 to Pt 611.

With a long tiring climb through heather and peat bogs, I was cursing myself for my silly mistake at the start as I’d really have loved to follow my other route. Anyway…reaching the path, took a bearing, and getting excited thinking I’d be hitting CP7 soon…mmmmm. A boulder…so, I reached the contour where this elusive boulder should be, no kite to be seen (I did see a deer!), saw a boulder in the distance way below the pacing, and thought “no way, can’t be that one, maybe I should check..no! don’t, you know it’s not it! otherwise I’ll be checking every boulder I see!” I must have wasted 30mins trying to figure out what had happened, and where I was.

Finally I decided I’d head up to the steep contour where the boulder should be and circle around to head for the next CP (had done my usual veering left off course). Rounded a corner, and what’s this? A big BIG boulder… and yes it was the one I’d wasted so much time looking for. I just had to take some more time to take a photo! Heading away from there, I felt quite happy as I knew the next one would be OK, headed straight up to the path, took a bearing to hit the river gully above CP10 and tracked down (remembered a discussion from MS2 about ‘bearing off’). Down to the road, have a Mars bar while considering my next option. I considered a trek along the road and take a track to CP9 for the last one, but with 1hr30 left, 4k round trip to get it, with 4k from current position back to base, and points docked for each min late, I decided my weary legs had had enough. By the time I’d get back it would be around 13k covered, 1250 points collected, but compare that to one of the mixed teams who collected 3000+points, I’ve a lot of work to get near that standard!

Getting back to base to a cup of coffee and sit down with the midges, I reflected on the afternoon, the mistakes I’d made, what I’d do different next time, thought of how quickly 6hrs passes and how much I’d really enjoyed it. Will I be signing up again next year? Absolutely. Will I do the 24hr? I seriously doubt it, I think I’ll stick with the 6hr for the moment! Well done to Setanta Orienteers for a great event and thanks to Nathan & the two Daves whose voices popped into my head during the day.

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