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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 🙂
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!
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