On Sunday we travelled to Chesham once more to complete the Chiltern Hundred. Back in January we set out, not only to find all 110 caches in the series, but also to maintain them as we went. To catch up on the story so far check out our Chiltern Hundred Adventures.
This was our ninth visit to the Chiltern hundred and we only had numbers 90 to 98 to find and a replacement to make at 37 which despite two visits and maintaining the cache on watch for a couple of months was almost definitely no longer there. For the sake of brevity , I’ll summarise the finds on the day as being all along the same footpath in a straight line which we tackled by searching for every other cache in one direction before turning tail and looking for the others on the way back. Of the 9, we found 6 and based on our own experience and past logs, elected to replace the other three which we felt confident had gone missing.
After we had done this, we had a bite to eat and then parked close to number 37 and spent a while choosing a new hide for the replacement cache we had brought for that too. That done, there was only one thing left to do… head for the Chiltern Hundred golden bonus (GC1F4NV).
The Chiltern Hundred is basically a one hundred stage multi cache. Each cache contains a code and when you have collected all the codes, you visit a website, enter them all in and it spits out the coordinates for the bonus cache. As anyone who has done trails that contain bonus numbers essential for finding the big bonus knows… things can go wrong. Codes can go missing, caches can go missing. To make the whole thing a little more fool proof, drsolly did a couple of things. First he put out 109 caches thus meaning that even if one or two had gone walkies, or you couldn’t find some of them, you should be able to collect enough to get 100 and therefore qualify for the bonus. The second thing he did was to apply a threshold of caches required in order to have the website spit out the coordinates, and enable himself to alter that threshold. In the early days the minimum required number of codes needed to get the coordinates was set at 90. On the basis that there were 109 chances to acquire codes, this gave you a margin of 19. So that he didn’t have to be out maintaining caches all the time, over the years if codes have gone missing, he has reduced the threshold meaning that fewer codes were required to get the final cords. I think at the time we started doing the Chiltern hundred the number was as low as 65.
Now that we have found, or replaced if missing, all the caches and placed a custom laminated bonus code card in all the caches, the series is back to its optimal state of repair again and, although I don’t know if he has done so, drsolly could increase that required threshold back nearer to its original number if he wanted to.
The upshot of all this was that we had the coordinates for the bonus cache and so we drove over to a parking spot that we had been to on one of our previous visits whilst doing the Ashridge loop in order to head back into the woods to try and find it. Aside from being the culmination of 6 months of caching and the most massive cherry on the cake, the cache also had a couple of other things going for it. First, it promised to be an ammo can, and who doesn’t love finding an ammo can? Secondly because of the difficulty in finding all the required caches, coupled with the varying types of terrain you encounter including tree climbs, the bonus has a difficulty and terrain rating of 5 / 5! This would not only be our first 5/5 but it would qualify us for the extreme caching souvenir on offer from Groundspeak during the summer months which requires you to find a cache with either a difficulty 5 or a terrain 5 rating.
When we arrived in the woods with the intention of locating a fallen tree we didn’t expect to find almost nothing but fallen trees. All shapes and sizes. The forest floor was littered with them. There were however sufficient trees still standing to provide cover from the necessary satellites required to get a decent fix so the phones were only useful to a point. There was nothing else for it but to get on and start searching. We all split up and did just that. My approach was to walk carefully until I fell over a fallen tree and then to follow it to its end and search all around for the cache. It was a good system that only suffered from a couple of drawbacks. I think I kept searching the same three trees over and over, and my shins were getting pretty bruised.
After about 10 minutes I stopped and listened. I could hear Sam in one direction and Shar in the other both searching without success. I checked the iPhone for something to do while I took a breather and it said I was 5 metres to the right of the hide. Yeah right, it had been saying that for the last 10 minutes and I had been moving all the time. Regardless, I made my way a few metres to the right and “found” a tree with my shin. OK, here we go again. I felt my way to the end and discovered the roots and a bunch of moss and undergrowth. Hmm, don’t remember this one before. A bit more feeling around and… hang on… that’s metal! I don’t know what you do when you make a really special find in your own space, away from everyone else. What I do, is to just take a moment. I ran my hands over the ammo can and just grinned for a bit, confirming its existence, its ammo can-ness. Then I counted to 5 and listened to the others searching and then I shouted “Hurrah” at the top of my voice!. This was instantly met with relieved and jubilant responses from both as they made their way over to me to inspect the cache. It was a lovely find, one that feels truly proportionate to the hard work that has gone into finding it. After 109 caches, the majority of which were just standard beakers, tubes and tubs (pleasingly not many micro containers), it felt even better to haul out the heavy and sturdy military hand me down. There was much smiling, metaphorical back slapping and the obligatory photo session.
We have had a fantastic time doing the Chiltern Hundred over the last 6 months. The scenery is stunning and the walks have never been dull. The sense of achievement at completing this renowned series is enough to put a smile on my smileies… and look at this for a before and after map of the caches… you have got to love that!
Here are a few stats…
Happy Days indeed!
This Geocaching adventure took place on 19th July and took our total cache count to 1193.