Team Stories – Bog People

April 19, 2002

Bog People (R.Hughes, A.Whaley)
4500 points
7/12 teams in PC-24

Alex and I came into this event having previously competed in two rogaines, but no experience in this specific region. We also came in moderately unfit. We x-c skiied quite a bit over winter. This is not necessarily the best preparation, although maybe better than nothing. Our goals were to navigate successfully, and to maximise our score while remaining in good shape mentally. In the last rogaine we pushed too long in the night without a break, and got over-tired, hungry, and mentally burned out, a state we never really recovered from on the second day.

Looking at the map suggested to us that the best strategy was to go south. The high pointers to the north required more bushwhacking and the state of the woods was unknown, so we assumed the worst. We did not want to be stuck out on that margin of the map at night. We calculated we could sweep the south going clockwise, and be at the camp fire stop around 11 pm. The point total in the southern sector was equal to that further north. We would then see how many of the high point northern controls we could attack before heading back in. The plan worked quite well, but as ever, some unforeseeable factors came in too.

We started off fast to get to 190 ahead of the pack. Some confusion at the control, as many teams hesitated to enter the woods. We circled in, found the control early, quietly punched and headed off.

191, no problem. Compass work to get 192, and starting to get a feel for the map and its limitations. We knew we were generally close, and emerged from some scrub to spot the control, across the water from where we were. The feature did not seem to make entire sense with the map, but there was the control flag, anyway. We headed off down the stream towards 196. This was a major stream! Fairly easy going. Conditions were good, not too wet. We were gaining confidence. The stream crossed the trail in a deep channel, meriting at least 10 contour lines, but the map only showed 2! Easy control point. Had a bite to eat and a 10 minute break.

The rest of the controls in the southern zone were quite simple to find but required a lot of hard “distance walking” on trails to get to them and out again. This route would have favoured anyone who had the stamina to run, and they could have made excellent time. We just proceeded at a steady hiking pace. We noted a number of newer logging roads not shown on the map.

Considered going in and out along the power line to 229, but decided to leave it for later and get it from the western side. A mistake, as it turned out. We ended up leaving it out.

224: to confirm our position on the western trail, we crossed to the lake and shot a bearing on an island, this showed that we were at the correct stream, which we followed in to the control. Boggy, with soft mossy underfloor.

220, lake cove control, we aimed off south of the location to follow the shore back up to the control, which worked according to plan. We were running into one or two other teams as we went in and out of these controls.

To get out from 220 was awkward. We decided to follow a bearing over the S side of the hill to intersect the trail which lead S to 204. We lost time and spent more energy here than we would have liked, as after thick bushwhacking, boulders etc, we ran in to a nasty cut section which was very hard and slow going. Finally emerged on to a good trail and continued to 204. In retrospect it may have been better to contour round the hill close to the lake shore then follow a bearing NW to intersect the other trail.

Fast trail walking to 204 and 202. The control locations were all easy to find. Opted to scramble along the lake shore to get 201. Left our packs behind in the woods for the in and out route to 200. Realised we could have dropped them about 4 km earlier!

Took a rest for more eats and drinks after getting 200. The last 3 controls totalled 1000 points, but there was now a 6-7 km walk before getting any additional score. Some light rain and snow showers fell. We were in good shape, the afternoon had been a pleasant temperature for hiking, with mild sunny breaks. The sky was gradually clearing, promising good conditions when the moon came up.

Fast hike north, stopped at the “man in van” emergency location and filled up our water containers, which we had drunk down almost dry. Cut in to 209 for 500 points. Mixture of thick prickly spruce, boulders, holes, and bog. Slow going, but this was an important control. We came in south of the cove and followed the shoreline to the control point. Back out, on a slightly different line, but more stumps, bog holes etc.

On the trail we had to decide whether to try for 215, “south end of lake”. The light was showing signs of fading. Alex was not too keen, but in we went. Somehow we went in too far south, realised we were not hitting the lake when we expected to. Heard a great horned owl hooting. Cut north. We were just a short way S of the control. Boggy and scrubby. Had to cross a peaty watercourse to get to the punch, surrounded by scrub. Wet feet time. Mixture of thick bushwhack and open bog on the way out. Back at the trail, the light was all but gone. Good to get this last one in the last of the daylight.

Trail hike north, met a couple of other teams taking a breather and looking at the planetary line-up appearing in the sky. Next, 225, the 400 point lakeshore control, our first in the dark. To select our cut-in point we went by time hiking on the trail from our emergence on the track from 215, as there was no clear attack point. The lake shore was a much better handrail to go for than the stream, which could be minor. Put on our headlamps. The first night control is always a bit of a test, and brings some apprehension. We entered the woods not knowing what conditions to expect, but it turned out to be good going. Slow careful progress to the lake shore, then headed north. We were confident of our location and arrived at the control just as another team we had seen several times before came in from the other direction. Back out, the moon was just rising,light winds, clear skies. No lights needed on the open trail. We made a decision at this point to head directly to the camp site and fire to eat and rest. This would mean bypassing a couple of lake shore controls we had planned on getting, but we felt we needed the break if we were to continue effectively. So we put our heads down and hiked hard to 185 and the venturer’s camp. Too hard, as it turned out, for we completely missed control 181, right on the trail! We didn’t even register that it was on our route. The cost of tuning out! We had to step out of the way of a couple of convoys of ATVs, which went roaring past. Also met the S&R patrol vehicle en route, which stopped to check we were OK as we headed north towards the camp.

Arrived at the fire about 11.30 pm, which seemed a long time in coming. We carried a billy pot, in which we quickly boiled up some noodles, and added our piece de resistance, a bag of shrimp! Ate two pots of that, followed by two billys of black tea. I changed my inner socks, immediately freezing my feet, which I then had to thaw out by the fire. Alex didn’t want to touch his. Sat recuperating around the fire while other teams came in for a break. The temperature was falling quickly, as evidenced by people’s water lines freezing up. Most of those who had already been north reported surprisingly good conditions in the woods.

Headed off at 3 am back towards 199. Felt really good. Narrow track, rocky, muddy and icy. Slow but careful progress lead to the control without problems, though it seemed further in than expected. Back out again, and north towards 236. Good moonlight. After about 40 minutes of walking we were hot again. Hardly needed our headlamps. Alex then announced his feet had become badly blistered. It soon became apparent that we would not be able to be ambitious for the rest of the event. Blisters are a killer. We slowly felt our way down a nasty narrow wet track looking for 236, and not finding it. We realised after coming out that we were probably on a track parallel to the correct one, but we did not want to go in again. Continued on towards 187. Before we got there, daylight returned. At 187 took some time to find the control, which seemed to be better hidden than it needed to be! Slow progress on towards 198. Map and heights of land made this a bit confusing and we had to check one potential track ahead of the “right” one, to be sure. Punched in at the hilltop, and continued. Puddles and mud on tracks hard frozen.

Punched 198, nothing more now but to head in, way ahead of our expected schedule. Alex’s feet were killing him but he trugged along without complaint. Arrived at the finish about 8.30 am, a sunny but cold morning. 300 bonus points, for a total of 4500. My back was sore and my feet felt quite punished but at least I was blister-free.

Overall we were satisfied with our plan, which basically worked. If the blister gremlin had not struck, we think we could have picked up an additional 1000 points within the available time, and maybe more, but speculation is futile in this game! We learned a few more things and with luck we’ll do even better next time.