Tuesday, 6 September 2016

New rogaining terrain

On Saturday the annual rogaining event was hosted out here on my home turf, in the Vredefort Dome. After Forest Run in late May, the map I'd created did a whip around and my orienteering friends decided that the area would be great for the annual rogaine. They came out here in July to check out a property, for which I had permission, and the ball got rolling.

Rogaining is a long-distance, cross-country version of orienteering. Instead of having to follow a defined course from checkpoint 1 to checkpoint 2 and so on, participants can choose which of the many checkpoints to visit within a limited time period. For this event there were 6-hour and 3-hour courses us a 90-minute 'Come-and-Try-It' course to lure locals to give rogaining a bash.

I was in for the six-hour and as I know the general layout of the area, I chose to run unofficially, on my own (rogaining is always in pairs).

Oddly, even though I know the general area, there are many places off the trails where I have never been and I found that navigation on a square of folded map, very often I didn't know where I was. And then I'd cross on to a bit of track that I recognised and I'd be totally surprised.

The map for this worked really well. It was a combination of a section of my Forest Run map, which had excellent contour lines (thank you Steph), tracks and some features plus additional tracks and features added by event organiser Ian Bratt and then with excellent aerial imagery underneath. This gave more than enough detail and definition.

For this event we used a relatively small area. Over time we plan to extend the map, but for now - and with only a short time to plan the event - this area was sufficient. The terrain out here is far more difficult and slower going underfoot than the forests of Lakenvlei, Kaapschehoop and Lydenburg where the events have been held since the first South African rogaining event at Suikerbosrand in 2003.

We've got steep climbs, thousands of rocks and an abundance of grass and thorny trees. Sections are quite vegetated, while others are open and easy going.

In general, courses are usually planned such that it is impossible for participants to get all of the controls. Winning pairs may only have to exclude a few, but on the whole no-one will get them all. With this course, being in a small area, it was quite possible.

Knowing that I've never got them all, I made a decision on which checkpoints (also known as controls in orienteering terminology) I would be most likely to leave out and off I went.

I was very, very surprised to cover ground faster than I expected and within two hours I'd cleaned up the controls in southern section of the area that I'd wanted to get. I'd decided at the start to leave the steeper hills in the north for my 'second half'.

At CP33, I was low on water and wondering whether to get the furtherest controls. I had the time... I decided to leave them, but really, I should have gotten them.

On this second half I bumped into a couple of pairs.

I crossed into the hills and made good time, getting everything that I could and reaching the finish in around 4h20. Of course, I could have stayed out and covered more ground to collect some that I'd missed, but cooking hot and out of water, I cut my losses, returned to the finish and enjoyed catching up with friends.

Nicholas Mulder and Piers Pirow had an excellent run. They got all the checkpoints, covered 21 kilometres - with over 1000m of climb - and got to the finish in 3h40!

Piers and Nic - photo by Craig Ogilvy
Celliers did his first rogaine with the 90-minute 'Come and Try It' event. He located all but one of the checkpoints, winning the course, and proclaiming rogaining to be his favourite orienteering-type discipline.

An excellent outing, superb event and a great area with pleasant hours spent on foot. Just perfect.

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