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Rising to the Challenge | The Geocaching Junkie

Challenge caches are a bit like marmite: you either love them or hate them. If you read any geocaching forum topics on challenge caches, you will generally see opinions split in to defined groups: those who love them and base most of their geocaching habits around them, those who choose to ignore them and those who feel that many of them are unobtainable and are irritated by the inability to turn those blue question marks in to happy, yellow smiley faces (of course, that’s what the ‘ignore’ button is for).

Personally, I like the challenge caches we have in Ireland but I try not to let them take over my caching habits completely. If I come across one I don’t think is attainable, I will leave it to one side and may reassess at a later date.

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On 21st April 2015, Groundspeak kicked off a one-year moratorium on the publication of new challenge caches. Initially, I was a bit bemused as to why we needed to have this moratorium. We don’t have a huge number of challenge caches in Ireland – 81 according to Fjon‘s bookmark list of Irish Challenge Caches – and the overwhelming majority of them are for things like ‘find a cache in every county in Ireland‘ (there are only 32!), ‘find ten caches that have not been found in over a year‘, or ‘find the 20 multi caches with the most favourite points in Dublin‘. Straightforward enough to get your head around but undoubtedly challenging all the same.

However, when I was researching for my US trip last year, I came across quite a few challenges I consider slightly ‘out there’, so I understood a bit better why a review is needed. For example, I discovered a challenge where you had to have a 7 day caching streak finding caches located in the top 7 cities in the state and they had to be found in each city in the order it appears in population. I’m still confused.

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There are also calls for challenge caches to have their own cache type, which I wholeheartedly endorse, as there is rarely a puzzle element to them and who wouldn’t like a new cache type?! As we wait with bated breath for the outcome, there are still plenty of challenge caches out there to be found.

In October 2015, I completed the logging requirements for The Great Date Puzzle Challenge (GC3GBQJ), a notorious challenge cache in Dublin. The requirements are to find a puzzle cache on the same date for each month of the year. Only caches that involve a puzzle element count, so night caches, bonus caches and challenge caches are all ruled out.

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There are also 31 FTFs up for grabs – the first person to complete the requirements and sign the log on the date they have chosen claims FTF for that date. The 68% favourite points for the cache reflect how much people like torturing themselves all in the name of a challenge!

It’s one of those challenges that requires quite a bit of planning. You need to solve lots of puzzles to make sure you have enough back ups for each month, should something go wrong. You also need to hope you are not sick on your chosen date in any given month, or in a different country where the chances of solving puzzle caches often plummets. If you miss out in say, October, you will have to wait another year to log October again!

I chose the 28th as my date, simply because when I decided to start working on the challenge, I already had three of the months covered by choosing that date and the FTF was still available. I was very lucky in that every puzzle cache I needed for each 28th was in place and I was able to find it. In some instances, when I was short on time, I checked on the cache before the 28th in case it took a while to find or was missing on the day I needed to sign.

Ironically, the logging requirements actually turned out to be the easy part of this challenge. The difficult part was yet to come when I arrived to GZ on the morning of the 28th October and met up with Bohstom, TucKids and Bohsdee.

A quick browse through the gallery images on the cache page and a look at the hint: “9m from GZ or is it?” will tell you all you need to know. Major tree climb alert. And I mean MAJOR. Especially for me, who doesn’t really climb trees, as a general rule.

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“That’s a big tree” (Photo credit: Bohsdee)
It’s so high up, it’s difficult to spot it from the ground. As I said, I’m not a tree climber. It’s not that I’m afraid of heights, it’s just that I never had any interest in climbing when I was a kid (I definitely was not a tomboy) and I therefore lack the skills required to know where the hell to put my feet or hands next.

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Perusing the tree with Bohstom (Photo credit: TucKids)
I brought a ladder, which was meant to get me to the branches where it would be a breeze to go up the rest of the way. Unfortunately, the ladder I brought really wasn’t cutting the mustard and after a few false starts, the climb had to be abandoned.

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Attempts 1 and 2 (Photo credit: Bohsdee)
28th November was a Saturday so the plan was to buy a better ladder and regroup on the day, with whoever was available. I did buy that ladder but unfortunately, life conspired against me and I ended up with the flu that week, so there was no way I was going geocaching, never mind climbing an enormous tree.

28th December was a bank holiday and this time, I had the trojan help of tree-climber extraordinaire njcbailey to assist. I won’t go in to the finer details, but suffice it to say, I wouldn’t have my name in the log without his help 🙂

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njcbailey goes up (sans ladder!)
And so, my many months of puzzle torture are over and it’s on to the next challenge. I wonder what madness I might attempt next? What’s the craziest challenge you’ve ever completed? Let me know in the comments!

Happy caching!

Sarah

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1 thought on “Rising to the Challenge | The Geocaching Junkie

  1. Love the story and sounds like a real adventure ?

    GC8586 – Bridge over troubled water
    Date of find 28-Aug-13

    Aim High and go for it

    The thing about geocaching is that at some point you will start looking at the T5’s and start wondering ‘what if?’ And the problem is that by mistake we (Anne aka the other half of Roan65) got my brother SR510 over in Germany involved firstly with geocaching and then someone mentioned about the extreme side of caching. Apparently it would cost about £200 for the kit to allow for climbing, wow, that was a lot and not really convinced about it as Anne, Steve and myself are revoke land lumbers who hate heights.
    In early 2013, Anne decided to volunteer us for a session of indoor climbing and it was rather intertwining, giving us the idea of climbing and safety. But each time we aim to go and visit Steve, someone comes up with some stupid cache with the idea of ‘wouldn’t that be ace to get’ and Steve spotted GC8586, a cache where you abseil down a bridge and pull your side under the bridge to retrieve the cache.
    So while in the climbing course I asked them how how would we get to this type of cache. Well, they weren’t really sure what is geocaching was and so after we explained it, they started ta
    King about rope access course and kit and I start seeing £ signs. Needless to say this wasn’t sounding positive and I needed to do some extensive research c/o YouTube.
    So in August, while Anne was away with the girls on a spar/camping week, I sneaked over to Germany to see Steve with Choxi as my faithful companion.
    Now Steve is up for a challenge as well and had lined up with some fellow climbers, some really experienced climbs as well to attempt GC8586. The day arrives and off we go, a boot load of kit and Choxi in the back giving moral support
    Well, when we arrived at the location, started to get the kit out of the car and move onto the GZ. This was the point when we looked at the others for advice as to where to start and there was a blank looks. Ok, so the experienced climbers take a step back and Steve and I look at each other, game on mode duly activated.
    The first part was to get a rope under the bridge and in theory it should just have been just a case of tie a string to a plastic bottle, drop it down one side of the bridge and pick it up on the other side with another length of throw line with a large hook on it. But the water level was very very low.
    On the plus side, I saw something and looked at Steve and it was a case of ‘have you seen what I’ve just seen?’ and yep, great minds think alike. We spotted a person in a canoe, so we shout at them and ask as them to help. It worked, so string down one side and up the other. A rope was tied on and we then had the rope fixed in place.
    Step 2, attach the abseil rope and kit up, at this point we looked round for volunteers and it was just amazing as to how many took one pace backwards. So it looks like I was the person to do it. Gulp but we’re here so let’s just get on with it.
    At this point while Choxi was looking after my niece and nephew I start the abseil and swing down so I’m vertical. I attach the harness to the rope going under the bridge and so as I abseil down further I start moving under the bridge. Then it was a case of using stem hand ascenders to pull myself further under the bridge to finally get to the cache location. Yeah, result. So attached the extra rope that was attached to my belt to the cache and it was then pulled up and duly signed, result. Cache then passed back and replaced.
    Well, this is the point where I should have been able to just swing back to the vertical and climb back up. But, the ascender got stuck and I was tired so wasn’t able to release the ascender.
    Luckily Steve had a way to resolve the problem and it worked successfully. He said he was going to cut the rope… and he did!
    Luckily it was the rope that went under the bridge, so when he did that I swung back to vertical and was able to climb back up to the top.
    I didn’t realise until later that we had a few muggles watching us, about 20-30 apparently although I was in the zone so I hadn’t seen them, luckily.
    Oh, since the pictures were take on the GC page, extra side railings had been installed, I’m assuming to put off geocachers from doing what we were going to attempt. Very thoughtful of them, not.
    So the conclusion we gained from this experience is (1) take enough kit with you for all eventualities, (2) trust family, (3) don’t rely on so called experts and (4) do plenty of research c/o YouTube. Or, in other words, Adapt, Adopt, Evolve

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