Nav-X High Sierra Rogaine
2016 North American Rogaining Championships
First Annual Western N.A. Rogaine
Date: Aug. 27 - 28, 2016
Location: Sierra National Forest near Shaver Lake, CA
Event Directors: - 650.941.4184, - 510.681.6181
Course Setter: Dennis Wilkinson
Type: Rogaine; 4-, 8-, and 24-hour options; North American Rogaining Championships
Course Setter's Notes
By Dennis Wilkinson
Late August is a pleasant time of year in the Sierra mountains. Temperatures are moderate, chance of precipitation is typically minimal, water is present but not an obstacle in streams and marshes, and the bug population is lower than in early summer.
Bill Cusworth has done amazing work in producing a five-color Rogaine map of a roughly 45 square mile area, in only a few months. It is important to realize that he worked from satellite photos only—we could not justify field work for this event at this time (perhaps for future events!). Nevertheless, he did a superb job tracing in colors, and especially roads.
Much of the event area is conifer forest. White is the predominant color, and these areas are typically runnable with low to moderate undergrowth and deadfall. There are thicker areas of white forest with closely spaced trees, especially near roads and marshes, which can be slower. There are also isolated areas of relatively heavy deadfall, fallen branches, and very occasionally thicker undergrowth.
Besides the white color, treed areas may be spotted yellow (yellow with white dots), spotted gray (gray with white dots), or light/medium green. Spotted yellow indicates open with scattered trees where the soil is dirt. These areas are typically fast. Spotted gray also has scattered trees, but the ground is grayish sand or bare rock. Spotted gray may be fast, especially on the south part of the map, and anywhere that the steepness is moderate. Spotted gray with more severe steepness, especially in the north and east of the map, can indicate hillsides of broken rock that might be trickier to negotiate. Finally, green areas have denser stands of young trees, and are a bit slower than white, although often not too slow.
It is important to realize that the boundaries between white, green, spotted yellow and spotted gray are almost always diffuse. We did not use these boundaries for control placement (with one exception, sort of). They can be used for route choice, but are not recommended for fine navigation. That is, for example, you will probably know and appreciate when you are in the middle of a spotted yellow, but probably not be able to identify exactly where that spotted yellow transitions to, say, white.
Some white, spotted yellow, and spotted gray can have undergrowth. However, on this map, much of the manzanita is only ankle high and presents no real obstacle to movement. There are areas of knee- to waist-high brush, including manzanita, huckleberry oak, chinquapin, and a spiny plant whose name I don't know—but these tend to be rather narrow and/or have passages through them. You may have to bash though in some places. The brush tends to be most prevalent in more sloped areas.
Larger areas of heavier undergrowth are usually, but not always, mapped with the green slash symbol (vertical green lines, more closely spaced for dense brush). I did not encounter many of these areas while setting. The far west of the map probably has the most unmapped brush, although there are isolated areas in all quadrants.
There is a relatively high road density in the race area. Bill did an amazing job tracing in most of these roads very accurately. As I scouted and set, I encountered only a few unmapped roads (yes, there are some). Most of the roads are pretty clearly visible "on the ground", although some are old and less distinct. There are many abandoned road grades that are not mapped and usually overgrown, as well as random vehicle tracks that are not roads.
The paved roads are mapped as such, but have isolated areas where the pavement is completely or mostly gone. A solid black line indicates a major dirt road. The dotted black symbol is used for smaller roads. Most of the dotted black roads are relatively obvious, but you still might run into trouble if your plan is to navigate into a road end on a parallel approach (as opposed to trying to cross a road perpendicularly or obliquely). The roads often have names and are signed, although this information is not on your map.
The southern part of the map is an off-highway vehicle zone. There are vehicle tracks all over the place in this area. You may hear or encounter vehicles during the race. They mostly go pretty slowly (you'll see why), but can be rather loud.
There are no mapped trails, and very few trails at all in the event area. I stumbled on one or two trails near the Hash House that may have been a human trail or the vestige of an old road, as well as a number of cattle trails in other places. The cattle seem to mostly stay in the flat, marshy areas.
Marshes and Clearings
These are very accurately mapped, and are therefore used for many controls. The marshes are still pretty wet, and you will see the green grass, hear the bugs buzzing, and may feel the mosquitoes biting if you stand around. The marshes seem to act like sponges and still contain pools of water, and in the higher elevations even running streams. There are cows and calves in the marshes, but I saw no bulls. Hopefully the cattle did not attempt to eat or otherwise displace any controls (not really joking).
A few of the marshes have trees in them that make their shape and boundary a bit less obvious. This is mentioned in the control descriptions for affected controls.
Clearings may be wet or dry. Dry clearings are a bit harder to identify than marshes, mostly because of the lack of green grass. However, some clearings do have green grass and/or damp ground.
One nice feature of this map is areas of bare granite domes and slab, mapped as dark gray. In some places, bare rock might be a bit difficult to distinguish from surrounding spotted gray—think big. Smaller bare rock areas are not mapped as such.
Some cliffs are mapped, but not nearly all. Use caution when planning your routes around the granite domes, because they can be steep. That said, traction on granite is amazing and you can walk up surprisingly steep granite slopes. Unsafe approaches are indicated for some controls, in their description. Bonus feature: Find the blue road reflectors that the off-highway vehicle people have glued down on one (or more) of the granite domes along their choice route!
Talus, the scourge of trekking in the Sierras, is large areas of boulder fields. These are mapped as spotted black (gray with black dots). Travel on talus is slow and physical in the best of places, and can be really tough when there is brush and chaparral mixed in (which is often the case). Luckily there are few areas of talus in the race area, and they are well-mapped.
Many of the streams mapped with blue lines have gone dry. Even some of the major streams are dry in places. Crossing them is easy.
The lakes still have water and are well mapped.
The location of the Start/Finish/Hash House with respect to the rest of the course is central in the north/south direction, but near the western edge. It will be a bit difficult, but not out of the question, for 24-hour teams planning to reach all areas of the course to return to the Hash House during the race. (There are some potentially fast road approaches.) Plan your food and gear accordingly! Of course, any team may return to the Hash House, if they desire, for rest and food during the race. We will be serving hot food according to the schedule.
There are 71 controls on the course. All of these are hanging from small trees or deadfall, and have a nighttime reflector that should flash from all directions. That said, small trees can be a bit bushy, and you might not see the bag or the flash if you approach from directly behind the tree. I tried to use relatively visible, waist- to head-high branches to hang the bags. The location of all the controls but one have been human- or GPS-verified. (There was no GPS signal at the one, but later I checked on a satellite photo, and I am confident in the location.)
The course might be clearable for the fastest teams, but this should be a good challenge. Total distance is a bit lower than for some courses, but the altitude and elevation gain will add to the difficulty. There are areas where the controls are relatively close together, and other areas where they are more spread out.
Water has been addressed in the other information bulletin. You will be required to find and purify most, if not all, of your water.
Wildlife and Hazards
Among mammals, while setting I observed many deer and chipmunks, grazing cows and calves, several marmots, and one bear. The bear was rather small, for a bear, and ran away (very fast) when I raised my arms over my head. Beware of a mother bear guarding her cubs—try not to get between them. As mentioned above, insects are not that numerous, but there are mosquitoes. There seem to be yellow jackets active in the marshes, although their nests are holes in dry ground. Run away quickly if you disturb a nest.
Terrain hazards include unstable and steep terrain, some tricky footing from holes in soft ground, and cars on Highway 168. The forest roads are poor enough that vehicles should be moving pretty slowly on them.