Written by Nick Somes (from Victoria)
The Lead Up
I commenced rogaining in 2018 in Victoria and rapidly fell for the sport in a major way through 2019 when I competed in my first 12 and 24-hour events. The covid years were hard in Victoria, with very little rogaining and no prospect of interstate travel to compete. When we emerged, my regular partner and I were keen to expand our horizons and take on challenges in new terrains. The long hours of lockdown had led me down the internet rabbit hole to the SA Rogaining website where I discovered past courses and maps. I spent many an hour looking at past courses, route planning and thinking about past events.
Too much thinking about SA events, led to a plan to head over for the 2022 State Championships at Wilkatana; it was my first experience of the Flinders Ranges and was a baptism of fire. As my partner said, “We needed to bring our A game and fell well short”. Challenged, rather than disheartened, I vowed to return in 2023. Mission accomplished, I have now competed in SA’s 15-hour roving rogaine and the 2023 State Champs.
Sometimes getting to an event is as much a challenge as competing and my path to Oraparinna required three goes at getting a teammate. My usual teammate was never a starter and at the last minute my planned team fell through, so I rolled the dice and called Derek Morris who I had partnered with twice before in Victoria. Derek immediately said yes, and we were set. I was somewhat nervous as Derek is a living legend of the sport in Victoria, having been involved for over 40 years, winning and setting many major events.
The first look at the map is always a point of mental overload – 54 controls, a couple of hundred square kilometres of space and no idea of where to go. Our route planning started with a reality check of what we could achieve and quickly lead to an elimination of the southwest quadrant to avoid the hilliest part of the course. Our next priorities were where to be through the night and making sure our route took us past water points. The planned route had us heading due south out of the Hash House, working up the eastern side of the course as the sun set and across the top of the map through the night. Sunday morning had plenty of options and loops to allow us different paths to the finish, depending on how the previous 18 hours had faired. On paper it has us ticking off 40ish controls and covering an estimated 70 plus kms, which in hindsight was overly ambitious and reflected the vagaries of measuring distance with a piece of string.
I am used to rogaining with 1:25,000 maps and 5m contours, so one of the big adjustments to South Australian Rogaining is getting used to the 1:40,000 maps and 10m contour intervals. Things take more time to get to and hills are always bigger than they look on the map. We spent the first couple of controls confirming where we were on the map and consistently overestimating progress and coming up short. Three hours in and getting a groove on it was time to start the long trek north along the east side of the course. We were steadily picking up controls and headed into CP 60 on dusk, the words of warning from the pre-start briefing ringing in our ears. Approaching from the south it was clear that there was a mess of deeply incised gullies that would have made approaching from north or east challenge. Coming from the south meant the rogaine gods shone on us and we found the CP without too much trouble. It was then an hour of helter-skelter to try and get what we could before dark.
Our work through the night was generally good with a couple of exceptions where we decided to freelance and move off bearings, leading to relocations to find our way back onto course. We were able to keep landing on our feet and finding the CP’s; the thought of missing a CP and having to relocate was not a welcome one and kept us searching for a couple of CP’s rather than move on.
We arrived at waterpoint 1 at around 10pm, a few hours behind our original plan but happy with progress. The trek across the top of the map was memorable for the weaving course we took among the parallel hills and valleys, winding our way through the controls. We had identified this area as a good area to do at night and so had a few others, as we came across at least four other teams going the opposite way to our traverse. There was some consolation by safety in numbers and I reckon we crossed paths with a couple of hundred years of SA rogaining experience that night. My only regret in travelling through there at night was that we probably missed being able to see some of the most spectacular terrain on the course.
Out of CP63 we were glad to escape the rocky scramble up to the gully and continued west towards CP73. After hitting the track, we had three goes at trying to locate an attack point and got very close to changing our route. We eventually got ourselves located and headed off for the control. Long story short, we missed it and found ourselves on a high point geographically and at a low point motivationally. Rather than keep looking, the bold move was taken to continue west on a bearing to hit the road, relocated and hit our next CP. The trudge over the rolling terrain allowed us to warm up, get some food in and have a mental break from the previous few hours of complex navigation and rocky terrain.
The night had been cold but not unpleasant, however, as the saying goes it’s always coldest before dawn. As we walked down the waterway from 80 to 72, the sky began to lighten, and the temperature felt like it plunged. The morning stayed cold long after the sun came up and we rolled through a modified course back to the Hash House. I think I finally warmed up enough to take my gloves off about 10am. The last two hours were not our best as we both felt like we were walking through wet concrete, and we focussed on getting back in time rather than chasing points. It was a surreal feeling watching the fresher 12-hour teams zoom around us chasing points as we plodded to the finish.
After walking just over 70km and tagging 29 controls, we decided we need to work on our pre-race measurement in future, given our plan was 70km and 40 controls! Fortunately, careful route planning left us with options and routes back to the Hash House in time. We were fortunate to bag 10th overall and 3rd in our category, which was a welcome surprise and reward for the effort.
Reflecting on the event a week later, it was great to have completed a 24-hour event, where I chased CP’s for the whole 24 hours. After three previous goes at 24 hours, with mixed results, this was a first for me and I want to thank Derek for agreeing at the last minute to head over and compete with me. Having his experience on my team was amazing for the whole event and added significantly to our performance.
The biggest thank you goes to SARA. Oraparinna was my third event in SA and I have to say all three are among my favourites for course location, setting and event delivery. I will be singing the praises of your rogaines and encouraging Victorian rogainers to head over and experience your great events.