Basically you get a map with some dots on it, a compass, and then you walk around the bush looking for these orange and white carboard sheets stapled to trees where the dots on the map are. These dots & cardboard sheets are called ‘controls’ and you want to collect a whole bunch of points by visiting as many as possible.
Here is a small section of our last map:
Route planning involves: highlighters, string, compasses, and lots and lots of guessing. Pens and calculators and paper are also very helpful. First you colour in all the dots that are worth 100, 90, and 80 points. Sometimes more if you have more highlighter colours. You want to get the most number of points you can collect, so knowing where these really valuable spots are is a good thing! And you colour in the Water Drops blue, so you can get a water refill on your route.
Then you spend a little time guessing how fast you can walk and how many hours you want to march around, and estimate your planned distance. For example, you might estimate that you can walk 4km per hour during the day, and you have 6 hours of daylight, and you estimate 2km per hour night and you only want to do 2 hours overnight. So then you work out you can walk a total of 28km. And then you go, “I’m not going to walk that far! Let’s make it 20km.”
Then you use your string and measure your total distance against the map scale distance thing and tie a knot. Then you hold one end of your string on the Hash House symbol Δ and start stringing together the little dots on the map with a return trip to the Hash House, writing down each control number and then adding up the number of points you would collect. Do this repeatedly, until you find one worth heaps of points!
Then look at the route and ask yourself… are there any really big hills? Is there anything in the way, big bodies of water (not likely in WA, but it could happen) or out of bounds areas you would have to walk around? You may want to readjust your route based on these obstacles. Another thing we like to do is plan a few ‘outs’. If things go wrong, where’s the water, where’s the patrolled roads, how easy would it be to get back to the Hash House after 10km for a rest?
And if you have time, we like to plan an “after our rest” route, that is a short route to collect a few extra points if we’re feeling up to it. So far Mat and I have slept through all of these opportunities, but it’s good practice. Ella and I went out for 80 points and came back with 300 once on one of these just-in-case routes, so it can help.
Now join the dots with your pen and straight edge of your compass and then calculate the bearings from each control to the next.
Phiew! That’s hard work. Get a drink, double-check your pack, wonder what you should really be wearing and ask if you really need the gloves or beanie (toque).
There’s a gathering at the Hash House before the siren blasts, and everyone gets their punch card. If you lose everything else, you cannot lose your map, your compass or this punch card! No card, no punch, no points!!
When the siren sounds, it’s a strange and anti-climactic start. Everyone just sort of heads out in random directions, some even head back to their camps. And although you’re travelling with a fairly large group for the first two or three controls, things thin out and you’re out there with your partner, map and compass in hand, hunting for these orange and white sheets! At each control, you have two jobs:
1) fill out the intention sheet – who you are and where you’re going next (so they can hunt you down if you get lost)
2) punch your punch card! No punch, no points!
The rest of it is really just endurance, planning and problem solving. And walking walking walking. Good shoes help!
The event is time limited to 6, 12, or 24 hours, and the time spent ‘out’ is recorded too, so that if two teams came in with equivalent points, the one that collected them quickest would be ranked higher. So when you return to the Hash House, you hand in your punch card, and if you go back out, you sign it back out and these times are recorded. At the end of the event, either 6, 12 or 24 hours after the starting siren, everyone needs to be back in and all punch cards returned. You lose points for every minute you are late. And if you’re half an hour late and they have to go look for you, then you get no points and you are in serious trouble (probably because it means you’re lost!)
Then you EAT AND EAT!! Oh how the eating is such a wonderful treat! The Hash House cooks food! Breakfast food, dinner food, desserts. Bread, rice, eggs, curries, stew, soup, sausages, toast, cake, fruit… You wouldn’t believe the feast they manage to put on for the 20 or so bucks you pay to register for this event! And there’s also the wonderful joy of sleeping!!
Presentations are next, and they read out absolutely every result for every competitor. You sit around the fire and enjoy. Then you can help clean up or pack up, sleep some more if necessary, and then drive home.
It’s a great way to spend a weekend – it’s like camping and hiking, but with better food and a little bit of a challenge! And best of all, it’s something Mat and I enjoy doing together!