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Welcome to the DrongO website. We are an orienteering club for past members of Cambridge University Orienteering Club. Join DrongO online here.

DrongOs on Orkney

16-Jun-19

Various DrongOs ended up on Orkney during the first part of June. Helen P is there for 3 months doing a placement as part of her master's with the RSPB, so it was a good excuse for various people to visit.

John O got there via a quick 2-day stop off on Shetland with his bike so that he could ride 60k, get to the highest point on Shetland, and ride back. Ben W, Matthew V and Fiona P all arrived at about the same time, just before John left. James H joined for the last couple of days so that he could taper for his 10k race. Then everybody left together, leaving Helen with only a pineapple for a friend. Despite there being no orienteering, various activities went on such as camping, cycling, walking, running, swimming, cooking, eating, sleeping, trespassing, decorating, escaping vicious birds, hide and seek, sandcastles, cricket with rock-bats, seeing ancient monuments, as well as more of most of the activities already mentioned in this list. Helen "hosted" us by staying in a hostel during the week whilst she was working and we were camping, but did store/drive our stuff around in her car to make our bikes lighter! It was windy and cold for a while, then windy and slightly less cold for a while, but it didn't rain much - an excellent time to be there whilst England was getting flooded.

DrongOs on the Isle of Wight

26-May-19

Some DrongOs were recently spotted on the Isle of Wight sporting the whole range of upper body cover stash. They tried their best to fly but pathetically failed like flattened pansies.

Cambridge Beer Festival 2019

22-May-19

Cambridge beer festival was on for a week in May. John O thought it was worth making the trip from the Lakes to Cambridge just to attend this event, and was also joined by Ben W and DrongO offer holders Rowan Lee and Jeremy Knott - Jeremy lives right next to Jesus Green - ideal accommodation for the festival. On Tuesday evening the four of them queued for half an hour, and once at the front of the queue John moved to the non-existent queue for CAMRA members. Jeremy in his CU Gliding Club hoodie was told something about being useful for the Luftwaffe.

Once inside, many beers and some meads and ciders were sampled, as well as some fresh, warm, cinnamon-sugar-coated doughnuts. John's favourite was wobbly ass, which he got more of than he'd bargained for. Ben and John decided that they should go for a pre-work run on Wednesday morning, which turned out not to be very enjoyable (but still worth it) and was also about 5k longer than expected because Ben had remembered the distance if you start and finish at West Cambridge, rather than if you start at Jeremy's house and finish in Spoons.

Breakfast was eaten in Spoons, where Jeremy and Helen Ockenden also joined, because Ben had offered for John to buy Helen breakfast. The breakfast was very tasty and gladly not accompanied by further beer. At lunchtime a brief return to the beer festival was made for a picnic on the grass, and John decided that whilst he was here he might as well sample a couple more flavours of beverage. Because we hadn't had enough of meeting Helen and Jeremy for meals, we also attended CUOC orienteering training in the evening in North Cambridge. It was a great sprint session planned by Tessa Strain, and followed by pizza, although sadly the conversation topics during pizza were rather less exciting/stupid than average.

On Thursday morning John went back to Lancaster whilst "working", and Ben worked in Jeremy's house for the day (discovering Jeremy's engineering project was actually quite similar to what Ben was doing) and Ben returned for a shorter beer festival session in the evening with ex-colleagues from Cambridge.

Another Lake District Weekend 2019

19-May-19

On 18th and 19th May a small DrongO trip was convened to attend a weekend of orienteering in the Lake District, organised by LOC. On Saturday morning Ben S again got up very very early to catch the train from Cambridge, joined by Ben W and Zuzka S in London. John O and DrongO-sibling Annie picked them up in Lancaster and they went to a race on Caw, quite a vague open area. Matthew V also joined us from the Far Side of the Lakes. On the Black course, DrongO got 4 out of the top 10 spots (yes, there were more than 10 people on the black course), with Ben W winning and Matthew V a few minutes behind in 4th.

After the race Zuzka tried her best to persuade everybody to use the time in the Lakes well and climb a mountain whilst we were there, but was compromised down to climbing a pathetic mound of earth. However, there were some nice views from the top of Sellafield and Matthew told us what all the chimneys were for. Matthew also talked to Fiona on the phone whilst on the hill, and lay in his "sexy and I know it" pose - which Fiona said the first part was true but couldn't comment on the second part.

In the evening we went to Spoons in Whitehaven, because why not? John soon discovered why not when he was hit on the cheek with a rubber penis whilst trying to order drinks at the bar. We also found out that ordering food via the Wetherspoon app is good, but ordering drinks only is better done at the bar.

We stayed at Matthew's house and then returned to the same assembly area on Sunday for a technical middle distance race on the adjacent Stickle Pike, again open fell. The walk to the start and back was longer than some people's courses. Again DrongO managed 4 of the top 10 on Black, with Ben W just taking the win again by 13s despite Matthew's best efforts to cut off circulation to his foot by gaffer taping his shoe back together, and Matthew took joint 3rd, with John O and Ben S in 7th and 9th. Zuzka finished in the middle of the field on Brown. Zuzka made another failed attempt to make people climb a mountain, so we walked up Stickle Pike instead and got a good aerial view of control collection. Then we headed off to end another short but fun orienteering trip!

British Sprint Relay, Long, and Relay Champs 2019

06-May-19

The bank holiday weekend at the start of May saw the British sprint relay, long, and forest relay championships held near Leeds.

DrongO's attempt at a mixed sprint relay team (running order woman, man, man, woman) didn't quite go to plan and Ben W decided Ben S would go well in the women's mass start. He came back 4th just over a minute down on leader Fiona Bunn, and handed over to Ben W. Ben W came in just at the back of the leading group of 3, and Matthew V had another good leg to put us into non-competitive 2nd. Zuzka completed the team and we finished 9th overall.

We then headed back to Ben S's parents' house who had not only offered to have 8 people staying, but also cooked large volumes of veggie chilli and shepherd's pie which were both excellent! We played some games and Ben's dad made up some diseases which the disinfectant foot bath tomorrow on the way to the start was there to kill. Then we were off to bed. Ben W and Zuzka's bed attempted to collapse during the night but didn't quite manage it, and was easily restored to original state in the morning.

Sunday was the slightly shorter than long distance race on very runnable open moorland. A well planned long leg was included in many courses with a choice between crossing a valley with 100+ metres of climb, or contouring round. A lot of people contoured, but taking the climb was a couple of minutes quicker. On the 16km M21E course, Ben W finished 5th a little under 4 minutes down on the winner, with a close one between Ben S and Matthew V, finishing 28s apart in 23rd and 24th, and similarly Tom D just beat John O by 29s to take 29th place.

After the race we waited until we were almost the last ones in the assembly field, then failed to initiate a pile on to Fiona, then moved the cars 300m to the pub. We then had a gentle walk part way up the hill opposite the race area, where we good some good views of where we'd just run from above, and also had some deep debate over whether the distance from assembly to pub was exactly 300m or not. Matthew found a hat and a sock and decorated a signpost with them, while Ben W failed to initiate a race back down the hill. The pub was where DrongO Adam Leaf had stayed on Saturday night, but since he wasn't staying for the relays he wasn't there on Sunday, so our plan to have a meal with him didn't work but we decided to go to the same pub anyway. Ben S's parents' 1 star verbal review of it based on their experience 15 years ago fortunately turned out not to be true any more. Jonny, a friend of Ben W's from secondary school, also joined at the pub after the coincidence of him also spending a day in the Yorkshire dales. By the time we wanted dessert the kitchen had closed so we discussed stopping at another pub for dessert, and Matthew vetoed Fiona's idea of eating his chocolate bunny. We settled for getting dessert in coop, although there was no custard which was sad. Fiona was happy having decided that a pint of custard was the thing she would least like to down, but later she decided beer would be worse.

Bank holiday Monday saw the relay with a some stronger than usual DrongO teams - SquaDRON GOld of Ben S, Matthew V and Ben W, and second team HyDRONGOnated oil of John O, Mark B and Zuzka S. It was at Middleton Park on the edge of Leeds, with a great assembly area at an athletics track with a large grandstand to spectate from. Contrary to Matthew's grandma's description of the area, there didn't seem to be many dumped fridges around. Ben S enjoyed starting in his correct gendered mass start, and the team finished 5th overall - the area was technical for a relay, and Matthew navigated well to only drop a couple of minutes on fastest 2nd leg times. Our second team beat all the teams who mispunched.

JK 2019

22-Apr-19

DrongO's previous contributions to global warming by attending races around Europe finally paid off, providing the warmest, sunniest Easter weekend ever for the JK.

On Thursday night Ben W selected one of four detailed transport options, ordered by price, provided by Tom D, of how to get from central London to the M25, and met Tom there. Most other people joined on Friday morning at the sprint race, which was around Aldershot Garrison. Running was fast and most route choices were just about which side of the buildings to go. Top DrongO male was Ben W in 17th place, but beaten by two DrongO offer holders Paul Pruzina (4s ahead) and Aidan Rigby exactly one minute ahead in an impressive 6th place. Best woman was Helen P in 47th, with future DrongOs Helen Ockenden and Pippa Dakin up in 15th and 18th.

Once everybody had finished running we relaxed in the sun for quite a long time, whilst a few people went for QueueO interspersed with the occasional bit of TempO. One car then went supermarket shopping for the weekend, but massively failed to buy barbecue stuff because clearly the entire country had had the same idea about suitable food for this weather.

We were all staying at Zuzka's parents' empty house near Reading, a fairly small house, but 10 of us filled out the floorspace nicely. We cooked veggie chilli in the evening, Rona expertly grated quite a large volume of cheese with a very tiny grater, and Matthew expertly broke both a wooden spoon and the doorstep.

Saturday was middle distance day and we organised ourselves into cars according to start time, allowing Matthew and Phil maximal lie-in time. On the way to the race, a car stopped at Asda in an attempt to get barbecue food before it sold out - supplies were low but the mission was successful, and included two large bags of ice to keep things cool since it wouldn't get put in the fridge until evening. The area was Windmill Hill, which was generally very runnable and had plenty of undulating contours. Top DrongO man was again Ben W in 15th, a minute behind DrongO offer holder Aidan Rigby in 12th. Paul P wasn't as fast as usual because his delicate skin had spent too long in the sun before his race. In the women Zuzka S and Helen P finished 52 seconds apart in 39th and 40th place. There was more TrailO happening after the race, but most of us spent the afternoon sitting in the assembly field in the sun again. By the time we'd finished doing nothing, it was time to go home to get 12 people through the shower before walking down to a local pub for dinner. The Varsity shower queueing system was not enforced as time wasn't quite as tight, and we only got to the pub a few minutes late. We ordered Indian food - 12 Peshwari naans and one garlic naan later (there had to be one, Ben W's uncle Simon), we were very full. We walked back home for bed, and Matthew V nipped off to Reading to pick Fiona up from the station.

The long distance race was on Sunday, and we awoke to equally blue skies and predictions of heat as the last two days. The race was at Cold Ash, a very long thin forest, and generally pretty nice to run through. The 17.8k men's course was tough in the heat, with only one drinks point about 2/3 of the way around. This time Ben S was top DrongO man in 27th place, with Matthew V 3 places and 7 minutes behind. Ben W whacked his foot on something and retired, but it turned out to just be a bruise, with the handy side-effect of avoiding a long run in the heat. Zuzka S again beat Helen P by one place, them finishing 3 minutes apart in 31st and 32nd, a little over 40 minutes down on winner Meg Carter-Davies. We did some more sitting around in the sun (or shade), as well as observing some picnic blanket competition between Matthew V (who had the Lake District) and Mark Bown (who had the whole of the UK).

We then headed back to the house to get the barbecue going, which went well because we bought charcoal which was flammable. The halloumi was very popular, so perhaps more halloumi, less burger next time! We ate and played group games outside until it got dark, then continued these inside. One game involved miming random words from Harry Potter picked by Matthew, which included "Gregorovich", "Confringo", and "Quibbler".

The final day of the JK was the relay at Minley. SquaDRON GOld surprisingly came back in the lead after first leg, with Ben W leading the way. Due to a map issue queue Richard W hadn't quite made it into the box, but luckily the handover happened before Murray Strain caught up. Phil Slingsby completed the team - CUOC captain and GB representative in the late 80s who has recently rekindled his orienteering after a 30 year break! Meanwhile, PokeDRON GO was made up of Helen P, Zuzka S and Simon W, who replaced Fiona who had an injured foot. We again sat in the sun for a while, and then went to a very touristy "beach" by the side of a lake for some afternoon swimming before heading home. Sadly Matthew's car missed out on swimming due to it being the wrong way and Matthew having a "long way" to drive home.

Thanks to everyone for coming, and what a great weekend of sunshine!

Lake District Weekend 2019

25-Mar-19

Day 1 - Middle Distance at Haverthwaite

Ben S got up at 4.40am to catch a train from Cambridge, and Ben W and Zuzka joined him on the train from London, getting up at a relatively civilised 6.30am. Ben S was at least 30 minutes early for the train, and it's debateable whethen Ben W and Zuzka were at least 3 minutes early or not. John O picked them up at Lancaster and we went to the race.

The forest was very technical and very not like The South, and John O did well to finish in 8th on the 4.3km "Black", just breaking the 40 minute barrier - but still 10 minutes down on winner Will Gardner who must have had a blazing run. David Maliphant was also spotted in the assembly area, we believe he came because he had his family with him so he could actually turn up to a Lake District race without being a lone driver.

Afterwards we sat in the hazy sunshine for a while and ate chilli and cakes and analysed whether paying four times as much for a cake from Podium catering instead of the junior squad stall was worth it. It appears to largely depend on what sort of cake you like.

On Whitbarrow ScarThere was still time to enjoy the good weather so we went for a walk up Whitbarrow to see some views, including (just) the Blackpool Tower in the distance. Then it was back to John's house to make some food - we decided that John has greatly improvied at turning into his driveway.

We made chilli and Czech blueberry dumplings, but accidentally on purpose forgot to pour melted butter over them. We were also joined by Claire, who had been bouldering, and Joe, who had been for a very long run, not quite long enough to make him hungry to finish the 5 people's worth of chilli which remained though.

Day 2 - Long Distance at Hampsfell

In a repeat of last year's Lakes weekend, we offered to help with the race today, except this time Ben W managed it without breaking his arm. We all started around 10am to make it back in time for second shift start helping. The area was half complex, steep, and rocky woodland, and half open fell, which was easier both technically and physically. There was also a tricky couple of controls towards the end in an area with limestone pavement, rough open, wooded patches and squiggly contours all mingled together. On the (Short) Black, Ben W finished 5th, just over 3 minutes down on the winner, with John O in 12th having caught Ben S by four minutes during the tricky forest section.

Helping on the start was busy, especially for Ben S who had to run around about 10 map boxes every minute putting a map under the box before the next minute started. After this we had lunch and then went to collect controls. It was extremely satisfying that it started raining quite heavily just after we'd got into the car having finished control collection!

Meanwhile Zuzka was standing in the rain in assembly waiting for her lift back to London to pick her up, sacrificing her own dryness to keep her laptop dry. She even refused the offer to sit in the car until they arrived! We dropped Ben S at Lancaster station. The previous evening Claire had told Ben W and John they could come to Phil W's house this evening (without his knowledge of course) but it turned out to be fine and we enjoyed some very tasty takeaway pizza. The amount purchased roughly abided by the CUOC pizza algorithm, however the pizzas were somewhat larger than Aldi ones so pizzas defeated humans by a margin of around one pizza.

Varsity 2019, Isle of Wight

07-Mar-19

Day 0 - Arrival

All of CUOC, most of DrongO, and exactly 1/3 of JOK (just Ed Catmur) came over all on one ferry on Friday night with optimal car efficiency of 5 cars and 24 people (one car didn't have a middle seat). A rendezvous point was found to meet organiser Ben where orienteering equipment brought from Cambridge could be exchanged for large volumes of food brought from Tesco. The very very nice on offer peanut butter was very very popular.

Day 1 - Individual and Social

Saturday morning was quite a relaxing start for everybody already there, with the first start not until 11am, and all the controls were already out the night before after a successful dash-before-dark control hanging session by Ben, Zuzka, and Zuzka's dad. For those travelling in the morning it was a less relaxed start, but still OUOC turned up with an impressively large team, partially helped by having some recent good cross country recruits.

The prediction was for OUOC to win the Men's and CUOC to win the Women's, but especially in the men's it wasn't totally clear that OUOC would win, as both sides were fielding strong teams at the top.

It was quite windy at the start but also sunny with lovely views over the sea.

The first half of the course was very fast, runnable, and fairly flat, unless you went wrong and got stuck in the brambles. There were some technical sections of gorse bushes to navigate around, and also some longer open legs where you could see the control from quite a way off - unfortunately, as some competitors found, it wasn't always their control. The second part of the course went onto the steep southern slope of the area, where there were more brambles if you weren't careful about which way you went. There were two route choice legs initiating lots of discussion - a choice between running along a very steep slope with not much climb, or running along paths but having to climb 40-50m. The second was an over-or-round the valley route, with the straight route involving around 75m climb but the round route being about twice as long.

Once everybody had safely finished, it turned out OUOC had indeed won the Men's and CUOC had won the Women's, and CUOC's men's captain Jeremy had won the prize for worst team selection by (a) not selecting himself for the team and then being the fourth best runner and (b) possibly being the first time (ever?) that the captain hasn't been in the Varsity team!

Among the alumni it was tough going. All of JOK's one-man team mispunched, and JOK's two-women team were beaten by DrongO's many-women team.

Well done to John O and Helen P who won the best men's and women's alumni trophies, Jamie Parkinson (OUOC) who won the student men's, and Fiona Bunn (CUOC) who won the student women's.

In the afternoon there was a bit of time for some tourism, which included Ben Stevens going swimming in the sea, some people visiting a cafe, and some people visiting the garlic farm. Some unlucky people (thanks John and James) got to take Ben to Tesco to buy more food and boat race beer. Luckily John's car park fears didn't come true.

At the accommodation the showering situation was very non-optimal (very unlike Oxbridge) until near the end when the queueing system was optimised, ensuring maximum use of the showers by making sure there were at least four naked people in the changing/showering room at any one time.

The showers only delayed the boat race by half an hour, which took place very appropriately in a children's playground. Despite an impressive effort by Rowan from CUOC taking the place of 3 people in the team, OUOC still took the victory. Unfortunately Paul is silly and left the trophy in Cambridge, but at least there was a bottle of Cava to spray as a prize.

We then headed immediately across to the pub opposite for the social. This was buffet style, and we think there was enough food relievingly. There was also beer/cider included, but but 53 people did a poor job of drinking the 100 pints or so available, and there was still quite a bit left at the end! The prizegiving also happened, during which prizes were given, and then a band played for a while and some people danced.

DrongO won the party again by having the most people left shortly after midnight when we all went back over to the community hall to go to sleep.

Sunday morning was the relays - with 9 control hangers the controls were out in no time (good work team!). It was extremely windy, and Ben S decided not to hang a kite at one particularly windy control on the cliff tops because he decided it wouldn't be there for much longer. Luckily we avoided the rain, and a suitably sheltered location just below the start was found to put up the tent.

The relays were mixed teams to try to make them fair, and the one with Paul in it one because he's fast like Paul. Ben was presented with a very tasty easter egg for his organising (thanks Jeremy!) followed by an extremely efficient control collection, and we were all packed away before the rain arrived!

We believe Varsity 2020 will be abroad somewhere, to be announced a week or two beforehand, unless it's in Stockholm in which case it will be announced very soon ;)

Day 2 - Relay

Sunday morning was the relays - with 9 control hangers the controls were out in no time (good work team!). It was extremely windy, and Ben S decided not to hang a kite at one particularly windy control on the cliff tops because he decided it wouldn't be there for much longer. Luckily we avoided the rain, and a suitably sheltered location just below the start was found to put up the tent.

The relays were mixed teams to try to make them fair, and the one with Paul in it one because he's fast like Paul. Ben was presented with a very tasty easter egg for his organising (thanks Jeremy!) followed by an extremely efficient control collection, and we were all packed away before the rain arrived!

We believe Varsity 2020 will be abroad somewhere, to be announced a week or two beforehand, unless it's in Stockholm in which case it will be announced very soon ;)

Cross Country Skiing, Czech Republic

16-Jan-19

Day 0 - Arrival

In what turned out to be DrongO's largest trip for a long time, or possibly ever, 19 people made it to a remote hut in the Jizera mountains in the north of Czech Republic.

Everybody flew out on Thursday afternoon/evening which no wheelie bags in sight, and we then split between Dan+Bára's flat and Mark+Blanka's flat in Prague. We enjoyed buying 50 transport tickets from the ticket machine at the airport, and those staying at Mark+Blanka's only started working out exactly where their flat was after we'd left the airport, thereby going by a mildly non-optimal route.

Although this was unusually a non-orienteering trip, James, Dan, and Mark went to a night race on Thursday evening. James got into Dan's office by cunning use of LinkedIn and then came 4th in the race, leading one of Dan's friends to ask whether James' surname was actually Bond (only two letters difference) - this would also explain why James has free airport lounge access.

Day 1 - To the Mountains

We had an early-ish start on Friday to catch an 8.30am bus to Jablonec. We split between us the 60kg or so of food supplies which Mark had bought. Sadly the bus wasn't one of the ones with free drinks and TV screens, but it was good for sleeping on. As we got nearer the mountains the snow got deeper and the trees whiter, and Miranda in particular marvelled out of the window as she'd never been somewhere this snowy before. We then switched to a train which cost about £10 for 15 of us to go for half an hour, and we got to the end of civilisation at Josefuv Dul.

We hired skis from a shop just next to the station, although Andrea had her own shoes which didn't fit their skis, so went for a 4k walk to another shop (it also turned out there was a station very near to that shop, but the train didn't go for an hour so it was ok). Once everybody had experimented with different shoe sizes until something vaguely fitted we discovered that they only take cash and there was no cash machine in this town/village. So we clumped together the money we had for lunches, and Mark (who was coming in the evening) saved us by bringing as much as the cash point would give him! Zuzka also decided we needed to hire a sledge because some people had never been sledging, which is not ok.

It felt like a very long 3k up the hill to our accommodation because the snow was knee-deep and hadn't been ploughed. Just as we were nearing the top a plough came through made the last tiny bit a lot lot easier to walk. As a result Andrea, who met the plough much nearer the bottom, only arrived just after us (although it also helped that she knows how to ski so she skiied up).

The hut has no running water (just a nearby well), no mains electricity, and a dry toilet - back to basics! We got the fires going as much as possible as it was freezing inside, while Matthew really really enjoyed digging a path through the snow to make it easier to reach the well. Just as he was completing said path, the snow plough came through in the other direction, nullifying some of his efforts. We had lunch and then got our for our first bit of cross country skiing!

Most people had never tried it before, so there was a lot of falling over, but in general people did pick it up impressively quickly. The main issue tended to be slowing down on downhill slopes. It was about 2 hours until it got dark so we had some practice on a nearby track with Zuzka and Andrea as coaches! James appeared not to need much practice and just sped off as if he was going for a run, except with skis instead of trainers.

Once it was dark the hut had a collection of oil lamps, candles, and various other things which emitted light if you put a match to them. With these lit it was very cozy inside, although still quite cold - the fire was gradually doing its job though. The first meal was curry and cous cous, with water boiling made easier by a gas cooker which we weren't expecting to be there. After a public transport nightmare, Dan, Bára, Mark and Blanka arrived through the darkness, with Dan bringing 8kg of bread for us. We chatted and played games and went to bed relatively early to make the most of the light the next day.

Day 2

Saturday was our first full day of skiing - we set off along a track and agreed to regroup at the junction about 5km away. However, we spread out a little more than expected so it was quite cold for people waiting at the junction. There was plenty of falling over but everybody managed it very well. The next stop was lunch at Smědava, a mountain hut/pub. The first group to arrive got food, but then there was a power cut as the second group came along, meaning that they could only get soup and bread. Nobody seemed phased by the power cut as if it was fairly normal in these parts. We split into groups in the afternoon and met back at the hut. The evening was spent with more fire, eating halušky (a traditional Slovakian dish which is vaguely similar to Gnocchi), and playing more games, including a new acting one where you have to "bet" against the other team how quickly you can act out a word. Fire master James and his helpers had done a very good job of warming up the bedroom and it was too warm for the first part of the night!

Day 3

On Sunday we did a loop to the west of the hut - this meant that everybody had to do about 27km to get to the lunch place at Nová Louka and back. The weather was a bit worse today, it had been cloudy until now but there was more snow falling. We were pretty hungry by the time we reached lunch, and then had to wait for a table at the restaurant. There was a very moody waitress and a quite friendly waiter. It became clear yesterday that Blueberry Dumplings were becoming a favourite dish - they are a main course, but consist of sweet dumplings filled with blueberries, topped with icing sugar, tvaroh (a creamy cheesy thing) and molten butter. On our table of 7 we all had a normal meal, then 4 plates of the dumplings between us on top of that. We were quite full at the end but that's a good thing. Then there was a long uphill for about 6km, which seemed to go surprisingly quickly, and then another 6km or so with not much uphill to get back to the hut. It was quite dark by the time the last people arrived, and skiing down the final slopes whilst not really being able to see the snow led to more falling over.

The people who had got back sooner had got the fires going, and James and Andrea and managed to convince themselves to go for a quick snow bath outside the hut when they got back. The final meal was pasta with various ingredients which didn't require chopping/cooking, and more games were played for the rest of the evening. Helen P and Claire also left us this evening, and both made it down the hill safely.

Day 4

Dan and Bára got up very early on the final morning to go to work. James got up with them for about 5 minutes before realising it was still very very early and nobody else was moving. When we did get up we packed our stuff, before having half a day to get some skiing in before leaving. It was a beautiful day, the first time we'd seen the sun and the snow covered landscape looked really impressive under its light. It was also pretty windy, and quite bitter when gaps in the trees allowed the wind through. The "fast" group consisting of Andrea, James and Ben originally planned to go to Smědava again for lunch but got there at about 10am. However, James hadn't had any blueberry dumplings yet, so had a large plate of them and was very full afterwards, but later on was glad he'd eaten them as it was a while until actual lunch! We then carried on to explore some tracks which we hadn't been on yet. The wind, combined with the weight of the snow, had felled quite a few trees and this made going quite slow to get around them, especially if you had to take your skis off beause you'd then sink knee deep (or more) into the snow. There was also a "shortcut" along an unploughed footpath which was very slow going and too steep uphill really for skis. Other groups of people did various other loops/lines, and even Miranda, who had really terrible blisters, went for a short while - this did mean that the final carrot never got used for the nose of a snowman though.

As Andrea, James and Ben got back, everybody else was just leaving to get back down to the valley for the train. The small amount of remaining food was also packed up, but we managed to scavenge dried apricots, peanuts and cereal bars for lunch! Half an hour or so later we (along with Zuzka and Jeremy) also set off thinking we'd easily catch up if we skiied down, but the track hadn't been ploughed and there were several fallen trees across it. This led to us all regularly falling over, and even Zuzka, who was rather impressively skiing whilst towing the sledge) had her first fall over of the trip! The most efficient way of getting down ended up being Ben running whilst towing the sledge with his skis tied to it, and the other three skiing as the track became less uneven lower down.

There was just enough time to return the skis and make the train which the others were waiting for. We had about an hour to change train to bus in Jablonec, so some people went to a pub, some went to a sweet shop, some went to a bakery, and some went to multiple of the aforementioned. John had fun in the pub working out that his beer wasn't in fact 13% alcohol. Some people went straight to the airport to fly home, and the rest of us went to a pub for dinner (fried cheese was becoming another favourite) before having a bit of time to walk around Prague and sample Trdelník and sausages.

Going home

We slept at Mark and Blanka's flat and got up early to fly home and go back to work! James had a later flight so went for a run before leaving home, making the difficult choice to go for a run in the centre rather than running to the airport.

And so came the end of one of the largest, most remote, and most enjoyable DrongO trips, which ironically didn't involve any orienteering (although we did spot some kites in the forest). There's been a suggestion of next year combining our visit with the Jizerska 50 for a challenge! Thanks to everyone who came!

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