Well, that was an epic event!
All easy looking back now and appreciating the event for what it was, it was not so pretty when you were in the thick of it that’s for sure!!!
None of us had a clue about rogaine or the art of rogaining when we first heard about it. It was an event that popped up on my Facebook timeline at one stage and I was suitably intrigued enough to read more. Setanta Orienteers were set about hosting the Irish Rogaine Championships in the Wicklow mountains. There was enough mystery about the proposed area of coverage and starting point to appeal to our collective adventure spirits and in no time at all the 24hr rogaine was to be a backbone navigation ‘training’ event for our Beast preparations.
Once we agreed on the benefits of taking part in the rogaining (24hr session, trek focus, navigational, team bonding) we all entered. Mike, Warren and Kate entered at Team TriHarder whilst Edel & I went in as Team TriHarder II. We were not going to be competitive so all 5 of us would trek together. (As it turned out Edel didn’t come and competed instead at the Channel Cup Swim in Sligo on Sat – 1st place woman and Swinford Triathlon on Sunday – 1st in her AG).
Heading down to Laragh early on Saturday morning I was in plenty of time and ended up helping the guys put up some signs and getting a prime spot for parking the van near the start area. “Intimidating the opposition” is what Mike said – I just didn’t want to have far to walk when we finished on Sunday! 🙂
The crew arrived, Kate sporting a new ‘go-faster’ haircut, Mike was next and he regaled us with stories of rescuing a crashed cyclist and garlic shopping on the way; with Warren rocking up we gathered our kits and debated which stuff to bring, leave, carry, eat etc. Decision was made that we would prepare as if we were out for 24 hours with no option of return to base at any stage. So booted and suited, bags packed and suddenly it was race briefing (there were two timechecks and Mike had a bit of a laugh at my Polar hitting two successive checks in a row, the cheek of him!!) and map marking time as the race started at 2pm on the button. There was a dash for a table and our Harvey’s Wicklow Walker map was laid out while Mike and Warren laid down the Control Points (CPs) and then it was time to plan a route based primarily on where we were likely to be at night and still able to collect the maximum points we possibly could. The time checks in the briefing were to ensure that we were not late arriving back. At a penalty of 100 points per minute over you could very easily lose any points earned in the hills.
#TriharderAR marking up the routes for last weekend’s #SetantaOrienteers #rogaining event in #wicklowmountains. A photo posted by #AskAKW #AKWest (@amphkingwest) on
Strategy agreed we set off down the trail. Quickly discovering that we had set off in the wrong direction! Whoops, we were starting from a different place than we thought we were on the map – not a good start 🙂
Righting our mistake with a quick detour through the woods and back to the trail we sauntered as casually as possible through base camp claiming our warmup was done 😀
Our first controls were quickly nabbed and with a straight line ascent we went up Brockagh to claim the next and shot off across the moors / bracken beds to the next CPs. There were a couple of teams strung out in front of us picking up the early points and we easily slotted into a rhythm of orientating, routing, spotting and checking each CP.
Some of the CP placements were designed to test you with locations being in holes or behind (from expected approach lines) rocks so there was a bit of scrambling around once we were in the vicinity of the CP location.
We tidied up our checking procedure with less time spent lingering at the CP. Once dibbing was done we moved quickly away so as not to act as a beacon to teams following us and started orientating on the fly.
There was plenty of undulating terrain and the going was tough. I am generally pretty sure footed on rough ground but this was tricky as each of us wrenched ankles over tufts of heather and had the legs pulled out of us by the bracken. I tweaked my ankle 3 or 4 times in a row and was in a bit of bother on the downhill from the lake CP at “Love Heart lake” (6) :
I’d no choice but to walk it off but correcting my gait and ‘protecting’ my ankle meant my right knee started to tighten up 🙁
Some of the landscape was quite alien and conscious of stories from my father when I was a child (see Dad I DID listen!! 🙂 ) we kept a wary eye for bog holes which could literally disappear you to the waist in a split second!
Our plan was to get the next few CPs, pick a point and be over Billy Byrne’s Gap (between (15) & (16)) before nightfall. Once over the gap Warren was confident of bringing us to Art’s Cross which we knew would be a long trek stage anyway. The risk of these longer legs was boredom as it just felt like trudgery ‘having’ to whack and highstep your way over the peat bogs and moor. However as we broke through the trees with the gap in sight, the weather turned and the Ronhill rainwear went on. It was not to come off at any stage through the night.
Some surreal terrain in the Wicklow mountains. This was like being on an alien planet with the past bog being scoured away by the winds. The remaining tufts took on a haunting effect later appearing out of the mist and rain. #SetantaOrienteers #TriHarderAR #rogaining #orienteering #wicklowmountains #AkWest #Silva #RonhillUK
Warren filled us in on some of the route from the Art O’Neill challenge and the back-stories on the rebels from the 1500’s that were ensconced in the hills in the area. We had almost 4 hours of no CP’s between (17) and (18). It got to the stage that spotting the little orange and white marker was a celebration of it’s own and Mike rewarded us with Fruit Pastilles every 5 (actually we had a recount at 10, he counted 9 but we went on strike!!)
The conditions were horrendous. Worse than the character building West of Ireland conditions that I’d normally be used to. There was a gale blowing and the rain was coming in sideways in heavy squalls. It was just miserable.
We spend a long time trudging, footsteps lit by our Silva headlamps, following a fence line down, down, down until eventually crossing a river at a deep ravine, we heard sheep and knew we were close to a farm. Skirting around the houses, tempted to knock and see if we’d be greeted by a cuppa realising a shotgun would be more likely, we followed the driveways looking for a road. Time to sit on a low bridge, grab a bite to eat and empty shoes of grit before moving off again as we really we getting chilled by the weather once we stopped.
On the hard surface of the roads it was almost comical how our legs felt so free and light after 10 hours of heavy work. We couldn’t help but fall into a trot on any downhill areas though the exhilaration wore off far too quickly once we made our way back onto the Wicklow Way and towards Art’s Cross.
As we came out from the cover of the woods; spotting some windfall I was wary of trees coming down, we got the full belt of the wind and there was a mention of bunkering down for an hour’s rest. In my opinion I felt that was too risky as we’d quickly get cold as we were all damp through at this stage so we agreed to carry on as getting going again would have been an issue too. Tracking our way alongside the river looking for the next CP we met Paul & Ruairi from Outfront as they were coming down from Art’s. They were flying down, singing songs and in good spirits generally and were happy to trade nav info with Warren. I was conscious of weather and keeping moving to avoid cold.
The route to Art’s Cross is up! The four of us scrambled up the climb clinging to tufts of heather for handholds and using our headlamps to find the next foothold. Topping out, Warren led us in the general direction of the cross where he wanted to take a bearing to get us over and off the mountain to the Southern CPs. Working alongside him I was trying to spot the silhouette outline of the cross in the darkness and mist. Not easy but we found it, safely.
(I later learned that people were rescued off Art’s Cross and that ascent quite regularly and there we were going there at night! *gulp*)
From here it was confusing for a while.
Warren led us South. The peat hags were horrible scrambling up to drop back down to scramble back up again and again and again just sucked the dregs of life from our legs. The wind and rain combined to stress us all and with a sense that we were in the wrong spot and net climbing we as a team made a call to go Westwards, South Westwards and finally South once we got in some lee of the mountain around 3am.
Once we were back on the planned track Warren led us down to Glenmalure where we tracked on the ‘road’ alongside the Avenbeg river just as day started to return and the rain abated to a misty drizzle.
We were done. As a team we were beaten and broken by the terrain, conditions and weather. My feet were well blistered (I made a stupid error with prepping my footwear) and my knee hurting badly, Mike was like something from the Living Dead, Warren was starting to hobble as his ankle was raw, Kate was blistering too but in general kept on trucking.
It was all about getting back in a collective piece. Thoughts of CPs went out of the window. We had to hike back up out of Glenmalure to get into the valley at Glendalough where Warren and I had a last ditch effort to find a 300 (or 400) point CP which was located at a crag. We scrambled up and down the bluff looking for it. When we met a 6 hour team doing the same thing we called it quits and just set about making it back to the village of Laragh.
We nabbed the CP at the Post Office which was at the garage forecourt, possibly one of the easiest yet trickiest ones to find as it was not that obvious. Whilst there we sat down for some warm tea, breakfast rolls and sausage rolls.
Race anyone?! 🙂
We had a few hours in hand so we enjoyed the morning sunshine and the chance to get off our feet for a bit before rambling back up to base camp and checking in to check out just under 20 hours and 4550 points.
Not quite the event that we’d hoped to do, images of 23:56 on the clock and 10,000 points in the bag and a race to the line. But, we learned a lot and that is what we set out to do.
Every single one of these events is teaching us stuff about racing, about preparation, about ourselves. That is what Adventuring is all about!
Until the next time when we #TriHarder!! 🙂