A significant part of the trip to Whyalla was discussing our general plan for this event. Having done a couple of Orienteering events in the Middleback Range meant that we had some idea of the terrain. Also knowing that the moon phase was not suited to night rogaining also influenced our thoughts on the event and how we would approach it.
So even before seeing the map we had decided that we would do an initial loop hoping to be back at the HH by 8 or 9pm. We could have some HH food, get 3 or 4 hours sleep and head out again just before the moon rose at about 2am in the morning. While coming back into the Hash House has inherent drawbacks, such extra kilometres to travel without visiting controls and the difficulty in getting started again (especially once the legs have started to seize up), we thought minimizing our time during the darkest part of the night together with being able to do our first loop travelling very light was worth trying. There were also a number of other factors influencing our decision not to do the full 24 hours.
Once we had our maps finding the best route options (for two loops) took some time. I was favouring doing a first loop around the controls in the northern part of the map then for the second loop doing a bee line down to the SW cnr and working our way up the ridge line and then angle diagonally down to the SE corner of the map. However Evelyn came up with a better option of doing all the western side of the map first then working on the flatter eastern side of the map. This plan also gave us numerous bail out options (back to the HH) in the NE section of the map as well as possibilities of getting to the high pointers in the northern area (including the REDBACK Spider 94 control) which were spaced 2 to 3km apart.
With lots of interruptions with our preparation, 12 noon came and went and we were soon heading west to the hills chasing a large number of teams. Slowly we seemed to catch and pass the teams ahead of us (as they changed directions or slowed down) until we were on our own by control 86. However as we left control 64 on the ridge line Nicole & Kate caught up to us and we had a pleasant hike with them up to the Summit. The views from here were definitely worth the big climb and we were very happy that we did this section during the daylight to be able to take it all in. Unfortunately we were on a mission with a time schedule and dallying to admire the views was not recommended if we wanted to get back for a HH feed (and we were slowly dropping behind our planned time schedule).
Heading into C65 (the Spur) we could see team 11 just in front of us and another team on the spur looking for the control. As we were coming off the saddle to the NW of the spur, I thought I could see the control close to where one of the other team members was and I called out to Evelyn that I could see the Control. I think this caused some confusion to the other teams as they couldn’t find it on the spur. Evelyn fortunately had read the clue description (SE side of spur) and lead us straight to the control (which was completely out of sight on the other side of the spur), ignoring my erroneous control sighting.
The next leg (C65 to C85) had two completely different route choices, we chose to go east down to the flatter terrain and work our way around the hills. All was going well until Evelyn starting diverting away from the way I wanted to go. She felt that we should be heading back up into the hills to the control but I was sure that we still had to go further south. Fortunately I managed to convince her that I was right so we continued southwards and I ticked off the various features as we went. A short while later we were surprised to hit the narrow north-south track to the east of 85 & 91 and then saw that this track was going over a saddle ahead. The only place we could see this happening on the map was adjacent C91. Still I was convinced that I knew where we were (tracks aren’t always in the right place), however Evelyn suggested (very politely) that if C91 was just around the spur ahead we could avoid some time wasting effort looking for C85 in the wrong place. As it turned out we did 91 before doubling back to find C85. It will be a long time before I’m allowed to forget that incident (and it appears that I am more convincing when I’m wrong than when I’m right).
Obviously after that debacle I followed all Evelyn’s suggestions without a murmur and we returned to the Hash House incident free at about 10pm. There were some difficulties between C80 & C70 in the dark as we contoured around (it took forever and so many gullies) and Evelyn’s hand held torch getting stuck in strobe mode about 9pm (no spare with us as we were travelling light), plus it got really cold towards the end especially on our bare hands.
However using the barking dogs to guide us in, we got into the HH and changed into some warm clothes and then gorged ourselves on all the great pre-cooked stews and soups (this is something we quite often miss out on by staying out the full 24hr period). At 11pm Evelyn dragged me away from the warm fire and we hit our beds with slightly sore calves and thigh muscles knowing that the alarm clock was set for 1.45am.
The hardest thing to do in the event was get out of the warm comfortable bed when the alarm went and head out into the cold and lonely night. The sliver of moon when it rose did very little to illuminate the surrounding country side, but was a pretty sight as it came up over Whyalla. Heading south we gradually ticked off the controls in the centre of the map until about 6am when we were looking for C77 (travelling from C83). We found the subtle creek line, but as it petered out we got off line and hit the track to the SE of the control. Fortunately for us as we were searching for the Control, Team 11 rolled in from the NW and went straight to the control which led us in.
Dawn saw us down at Control 90 near the tower and from then on we were heading back to the HH. We were saved again at C93, this time by Steve & Wes Dose (Evelyn was expecting the control to be on a spur and I was looking for a watercourse, which made for some interesting discussions on where to start looking).
During this event I was recording the time we arrived at each Control (I wrote the time on the punch card, which probably made it hard for the admin team to see the punch, sorry about that). From that data I was able to fairly accurately calculate our rate of travel and the time needed to finish the slightly revised loop back to the HH. With about 1hr 35min left we wanted to get the loop comprising 72, 45, 54, 62, 36, 22 & 73, but I calculated that we needed about 1hr 45mins. Normally we would try and speed up to pick up the extra time, but with weary legs and sore backs (plus remembering our recent late finish at Erskine Valley) we decided to drop 73 and play safe. In hindsight probably not the best choice, but at the time it seemed the right decision.
In the end we did approx two 10 hour loops for 3010 points (our highest ever score) travelling approx 79km.