by David Hogg
May 2019 is the 50th anniversary of the first official intervarsity competition in the sport that is now known as rogaining. The origins of this competition, and indeed of the sport of rogaining itself, can be traced back to a weekend in 1947 when the five members of the Melbourne University Mountaineering Club (MUMC) embarked on a competitive 24 hour walk through the hills east of Melbourne. Despite the low numbers, the competition proved popular and was repeated the following year, this time attracting about two dozen competitors in teams of two or more.
The 24 Hour Walk continued to grow in popularity and remained a highlight of the MUMC event program for over 40 years, also attracting participants from the equivalent clubs in Melbourne’s other universities, Monash and Latrobe. The idea was also exported to Adelaide, when an MUMC member moved there and became active with the Adelaide University Mountain Club.
In the early 1960s, MUMC was the only club belonging to the Melbourne University Sports Union that did not participate in an intervarsity competition. The Club therefore initiated a move to establish an intervarsity 24 Hour Walk, with the support of its counterparts at Monash and Adelaide Universities. Unofficial competitions were conducted from 1964, while the Club endeavoured to gain approval from the Australian Universities Sports Association (AUSA) for conducting the event on an official basis.
A major early stumbling block was that the AUSA did not see the 24 Hour Walk as a ‘real’ sport, as there was no national sporting organisation with formal rules for conducting such events. A breakthrough came in 1968 with the discovery of the official rules of the English Orienteering Association, which had been formed when orienteering became formally established in England in the early 1960s. While occasional orienteering events had been conducted in several parts of Australia prior to that time, these were informal events with no standard rules or established organisational structure. (The current orienteering movement began in August 1969, with the Orienteering Federation of Australia established in April 1970 and its first official rules adopted later that year).