Winter Wildcat Rogaine, Summit Bechtel Family Scout Reservation, West Virginia, 18th place. Actual distance covered is a little over 39 km. This will be too long a read for most people, but you can skip to the last paragraph for the summary.
This was hosted by people who I think are more on the adventure race side of things, and I took that into account as far as my expectations. I was told that the property was donated to the Scouts by a mining company as a way around having to do reclamation work. Very extensive scouting facilities, among other things, this place hosted 45000 people for the World Scout Jamboree last summer.
The woods were mostly quite open, and fairly steep (as expected). At least three kinds of thorny plants, but they weren't too widespread, only a couple of places where I detoured around a little bit. Some rhododendron or mountain laurel thickets in a few low-lying areas. The mining presented bigger obstacles. If there was a dirt road contouring around a hillside, there would typically be a berm on the uphill side, behind that a trench that might be filled with water,and behind that a 10 meter cliff, extending for hundreds of meters. When descending a hillside, this could be problematic as you might get trapped above such a cliff (none of them were indicated on the map in any way). Below any mapped trail there might be two or three smaller parallel trails, some overgrown. In some areas, the mapping of trails was completely unreliable, other areas had a number of smaller trails shown. Contours were USGS quality (that's being a bit charitable). Around the main scout camp area where the start/finish was, a lot of buildings were shown, but not reliably, and the mapping of open areas was completely random. Meet info said that the whole course might be 35-40 km, plus a 5 km O course, but the route I plotted out looked like 32 km, plus an O course that was 3.8 km. I made a plan to try and clean the course.
16 F when I woke up, so I wore a warm LS shirt, a synthetic SS shirt, a fleece vest, and my hooded wind-resistant jacket. 3/4 length tights, knee socks, O-pants, and roomy shoes, plus a thin beanie and the hood, and BHT gloves. The gloves and hat eventually came off, as did the vest, and I thought about taking off the tights but never did. The shoes were a good plan, the only downside being that I occasionally got sticks or little rocks in them that I'd have to remove.
74 (11:34 - 0:11:34): Simple enough, a couple of teams right behind me
55 (11:18 - 0:22:52): First one there, as this was one of the controls with a wildcat tail, and I got it. I removed it from the control, and as I was walking away, trying to figure out what pocket to put it in, I realized that I didn't have my map. I looked back and saw that I had dropped it in the stream, and the map case was full of water. I dumped it out, and it seemed to be mostly okay. The main map was on waterproof paper, and the O map was on regular paper that was now like wet tissue, but stuck to the back of the main map. There seemed to be a bit of ink bleeding, but not too bad -- looking at the map two days later, it's seriously faded. I took the punchcard out of the map case and carried it in my pocket the rest of the day. The remaining water in the map case froze, and I carried the map case with one end open for a while in hopes of some sublimation happening. It was pretty crunchy for most of the morning whenever I folded it.
33 (20:10 - 0:43:03): Up and over, no real problem except that I hesitated slightly because the contours didn't seem right to me. Another team was coming up as I was leaving.
92 (9:10 - 0:52:12): Encountered another guy here.
42 (20:33 - 1:12:45): First mistake. I had planned on drawing my intended route on the map in pencil, but the pencil that I brought wouldn't write on the waterproof paper, so I wrote the control sequence on the back of the map. I had already changed my mind about when to get 72 (waiting until later just before the water stop), but after 92 I had planned on 82 and 85 before 42. I failed to look at the sequence, though, and missed 82 completely. No trouble finding 42.
85 (15:16 - 1:28:01): Slight navigation error, I got to the bottom of the slope, went the right way, then second-guessed myself and headed upstream a bit before realizing that I had been going the right way in the first place.
95 (41:13 - 2:09:14): The main problem here was that on the northbound approach to the control, I got on a smaller unmapped parallel trail that became overgrown and petered out. I saved myself some climb at the expense of going through some thick stuff with poor footing. In the circle, the map failed to show that the trail kept going down the spur, but I correctly surmised where I was and went looking for the (actually very small) cliff, which I found with no problem. I could imagine people losing a lot of time here.
81 (15:14 - 2:24:28): At the start, the race director had said, "Go! And I'm sorry about #81!". Yeah, kind of in a thorny thicket.
64 (22:54 - 2:47:22): Kind of sloppy navigation on the first part of this leg, but it resulted in a pretty good attack point on what could have been a tricky control. Another team was coming down out of this as I arrived, moving a lot faster than I was.
(43): Well... WTF? A low point control, so you'd expect it to be easy. It seemed like I was attacking from a pretty solid point, and it wasn't far from the trail. I went after it a couple of times, searched the area pretty thoroughly, but came up with nothing. There was a lot more going on topographically than the map showed, and I finally gave up, coming to the realization that clearing the course wasn't going to happen anyway. The GPS track provided by the organizers shows that I went right through the middle of the circle. Wasted way too much time (~20 minutes) hunting for this.
94 (42:58 - 3:30:20): This was one of those places where there was a long cliff separating the road I was on from the ridge where the control was. I found a spot where I could scramble up, and went along the ridge to the saddle.I fortunately found another one to get back down.
83 (21:20 - 3:51:40): I crossed the reentrant, then after a bit I dropped my food/clothing bag to do an out and back to the control. I was carrying my own GPS tracker, and this is where the track stops. I suspect that when I was fiddling with things in my pack, the power button got bumped and turned it off, because the batteries should have lasted longer than this. At this point the time was 3:50, and the track shows 11.5 km as compared with 9 km straight-line distance.
72 (36:10 - 4:27:50): Mostly trail, then up through the saddle, a little more trail, and up the reentrant.
W: A long slog up the reentrant to the ice stop: there were a couple of gatorade containers of water that were okay, plus a bunch of frozen gallon jugs. A guy with a QOC shirt overtook me just as we were getting to the table, he said he had done 17 miles at that point, which is almost as much as I did all day. Looking at the splits, it makes sense for this to have been Joseph Barrett, the eventual winner. Somebody else was coming in as we left.
63 (29:27 - 4:57:16): Almost got busted here. I didn't read the control description in advance, and figured I'd go down the spur to the control. But the control was "foot of cliff, north of pond" (the English version -- the IOF was "Cliff-Pond-Foot"), and as I got close, I saw that the spur was tall cliffs all around, and I was trapped above them. I got lucky and found one place where a dicey descent was possible, the alternative would have been backing out a long way. The control was a little hard to reach, out over the water. Should have just gone down to the big trail.
34 (22:56 - 5:20:13): I started by almost doing a 180, but I snapped out of it. Thick and thorny coming off the road, I had to hunt a little to find a path through, and this one one of the places where there were lots of false trails before the mapped one.
44 (10:49 - 5:31:02): Down to the stream and upstream to the junction, which I fortunately found without anny trouble.
73 (31:58 - 6:03:00): Okay, problem. I had glanced at this and thought that it was just up the strean to the control, but it was actually up on one of a number of similar spurs. And going up the stream was a dense laurel jungle. I worked my way diagonally up to the trail above the control by using overgrown trails, but then I had absolutely no idea where I was in an E-W sense, and the map wasn't good enough for me to figure that out by reading the contours (there was all kinds of mining stuff going on). I took one shot at where I thought the trail might be bending and picked a spur, but I went down it and found no control. I decided I'd have to bail on this one, as I couldn't just go searching spurs, but as I continued along the trail I saw a team coming up off of a spur, so I went down that one and got the control.
52 (24:13 - 6:27:13): I had another team ahead of me, they were walking at least as fast as I was, though I gained on them some by cutting off a switchback.
62 (15:54 - 6:43:07): This plateau was entirely open, all mowed grass, and I could picture a zillion scouts up there in tents.
91 (26:42 - 7:09:48): Small error when I got down to the saddle and misread the roads, but corrected by reading the contours. Strange area just before the climb to the control, a storage depot for thousands of disassembled picnic tables, with the tops in big stacks and the legs in wire cage boxes. Left my food/clothing bag there to go up the hill.
45 (24:49 - 7:34:38): A little picnic before I continued. I forced myself to eat some tortellini (and threw the rest out) and a few dried apricots, and put a couple more cookies in my pocket (I had successfully been nibbling on those). I took a couple of Excedrin here, and that made me feel better (for a little bit). All trails to the control.
65 (17:40 - 7:52:17): All trails again.
(93): Trails north to the road, then trails toward the control. When I hit the power line, I suspected that the trail heading NW was not going to end as the map showed, so following that would yield no attack point. The trail down the power line seemed like a better bet, but it bore no resemblance to what was on the ground. I ended up following the power line to where the reentrant started, and then tried following the top of the slope to look for the reentrant in question. This was not a good attack, but I didn't see any better approach (although pace counting from the power line would have been a smart move). There were a bunch of unmapped trails in here, and a lot more going on with contours than the map showed. One reentrant looked promising, but when I tried following it down, it turned into a laurel thicket, and I gave up on that. I continued for a bit, looking for the place where the slope changed direction to the NE so I could work my way back from there, lower on the slope. I did that, but again turned up nothing, eventually giving up around the time when I got to laurel again. At some point during this I looked at the control description and saw that it was "Lower shallow reentrant" (or in IOF, "reentrant, shallow, lower part"). In my opinion, you really shouldn't use rogaine control locations that need the "shallow" modifier. I hated to give up on a high-value control like this, but I didn't think that further searching would be fruitful. The GPS tracker shows that I was very close to the control twice, and it appears that it was in the laurel. (Note that the map shown on the GPS tracker has different contours than the race map, and the GPS map doesn't even show a reentrant there.)
(61): Taking a large unmapped trail down, I got far enough around the eastern reentrant that I figured I might as well climb up and get 61. But I had been on my feet for a while and my brain had gotten soft. I got up on the ridge, saw the fence above me, and went out onto the low knoll (covered with laurel), but couldn't find a control. The knoll ended with cliffs, and the description was "spur", so I backed out and went around to the base of the cliffs -- nothing. If I had bothered to look at my map or compass, I would have realized that I was actually on the south-pointing spur 500 m E of the control, and it would have been a very easy traverse from there. But instead I gave up.
54 (1:25:57 - 9:18:14): Worked my way down to the stream, and there was all kinds of unmapped scout stuff and more trails down there. I eventually got on the trail heading north, and Jason Poole caught up and said hi (he recognized me, but I wouldn't have been able to recognize him). When I got to the circle, the trails were... not really mapped right, there was a large building/pavilion there not shown, and the control was on... a pit. Since there were some pretty enormous mining features that didn't make the map, it was a reasonable guess that this pit would have to be huge to be worth mapping. There was nothing obvious, and I went a little way into the woods looking around, and encountered a couple of guys coming up, saying that it wasn't down there. So we headed back up to the trail bend, and I think they were about to give up, but I looked around one more place, and found the control down in a pit that was maybe big enough for a grave for a medium-sized dog. So I yelled, "PIT! It's over here!", and they came over, as did Jason.
84 (12:38 - 9:30:51): Those guys all headed for the finish, but I still had a couple of controls to get in the remaining time. Before the start I had heard some people asking each other why there was a high value control so close to the start, and they guessed "because it's a bitch to find". Not actually hard to find, but a bit of a chore to get to, down a steep slope in a rhododendron thicket.
31 (10:18 - 9:41:09): One last easy one. I took an overgrown trail up the reentrant, where it merged with a bigger trail that crossed the stream on a bridge in the middle of the circle. The description was "top of bridge", so I glanced down at that just in case, but suspected (correctly) that the bridge in question was the giant metal suspension bridge directly overhead. I climbed up to that and dropped my pack. The description and map were not adequate to know where the control was going to be, but it was visible once I was up there, at the top of the west tower. I was at the east end of the bridge, and took the cable the whole way because it wasn't obvious until I was on it that there were some places where you could switch between the cable and the deck. On the way back I got onto the deck at the first opportunity.
Finish (5:43 - 9:46:52)
In terms of clothing, everything worked out quite well. I brought a lot more food than I needed, and probably ate less than I should have. I ate a few tortellini and threw away most of them, ate a few dried apricots, never touched the crackers, ate maybe half of the cookies, and drank about a pint and a half of Ethan-All. And I sipped at my water bladder (once I got the hose unfrozen by tucking it inside my clothes), but carried more water around than I needed. My GPS tracker stopped after about 4 hours, and I can see the track in Google Earth (using my own program to translate the NMEA to KML), but I tried using GPS Babel to translate it a couple of different ways so that I could upload it to Attackpoint, but it just gives me a Data Import box that says "Loading..." and hangs there. But we were issued GPS gizmos for live tracking, so I've got a link to that track.
There was a point-to-point orienteering course available as part of this, worth 200 points (as compared with the controls that were each 30-90 points). It was way up in the NW corner of the map, not near a lot of other valuable stuff, I figured it would cost close to an hour, and the course really didn't look like much fun (steep and mostly green), so I opted to save it for near the end and as a result I never got to it.
Two heads being better than one, I might have had a little more success with a suitable partner, but I don't feel too bad about how I did. I would have been a few places higher if I had found the controls that I got very close to. Not too bad for an old man, and most importantly, I succeeded in the main objective of orienteering in West Virginia, so that makes 40 states. And that wildcat tail that I picked up at control 55 was a bonus, worth a $20 cash prize.event GPS tracking
We were emailed results, but I don't see them on the event website
North line spacing is 1000 m. There's one control (#75) just off the top of the map, directly north of #32. The circle in the upper left is #200, the start/finish of the O course.