Guidelines for setting a hash
Safety and fun. The Grenada kennel of the Hash House Harriers is a family hash. We have small children attending and our most senior hasher to date was a lady of 86. Our hashes must therefore cater for all ages, sizes, and sexes. They must be interesting enough for those who run the trail and also for those who walk it. A hash is not an SAS survival course, but should be sufficiently challenging for the fitter individuals who want to run the course.
The key requirements for a successful hash are:
Ideally 2 hares should be involved in setting the hash – there can be a fair amount of effort involved and it is much easier to have some help. One hare is usually the lead hare who is normally more experienced and should already have set a number of trails previously. Ideally the other hare may not have set a hash before but is learning the art so they will be able to be the lead hare on future hashes (there is always a need to introduce new hares into the warren). The hash master will normally organize the schedule and decide who is setting the hash on each particular date.
A good hash requires planning and preparation. Hares who set good hashes normally plan the hash at least a month before the actual hash date. It is unwise to leave the planning until the weekend before – if there is any sort of problem with the hash (such as rum shop/ quality of trail) there is too little time to make adequate alternative plans. The first recce would normally take place a good month before the hash date, unless the hare is already very familiar with the terrain.
Selection of the trail
Grenada offers an almost limitless variety of trail from beach to high forest and the choice of where to set the hash is really the most important decision the hare will make. The hare should consult with the hashmaster and inform well ahead of time the intended location of the hash in case there may be a clash/ other factor involved affecting the potential location. Factors to be considered when selecting an area:
Trail potential. Is there a good circular route of about an hours duration (at walking pace, not running!) that would serve as a trail? When considering an area if the answer to this question is a probable “yes” then this is good enough up until the recce stage – see below.
Walkers and runners trails. With the numbers of hashers and the substantial difference between the fittest and slowest individuals every hash should have both a walkers and a runners trail. It is not appropriate to have the slowest hasher struggle through the dark to complete a hash in 3 hours which a runner will complete in 45 minutes! Hares must cater for both abilities and set trails accordingly. The hash is meant to be enjoyable and for a lot of people this does not mean an endurance test. The fastest runner should do the trail in around 30 minutes, and the slowest hasher about 90 minutes. It requires a lot of extra effort to set two trails but is very worthwhile. Runners trails can be made much more challenging too – steep slopes, extra distance, river walking etc. Runners trails are usually an extension of the walkers trail and branch off at some point before re-joining later.
Terrain. Consider the terrain and if it will be suitable for all hashers. It’s no good planning a hash up Mt St. Katherine – half the hashers won’t make it and you will end up having to rescue them off the side of the mountain. Also avoid sending hashers over precipices and the like. Post Ivan much of the rain forest and higher ground is still very hard to penetrate due to fallen trees – a hash should not end up as an assault course of climbing over dead trees 10 ft from the ground (and 2 years on a lot of these trees are well rotten and dangerous to climb over) If your chosen area does not appear suitable for all hashers for any of these reasons and the obstacle cannot be avoided – choose again!
Starting point. It is important to arrange the hash to start from a rum shop/ restaurant/ some kind of venue where drinks and socializing can take place after the hash. This does not mean that a hash can never start from a venue where no bar is available (e.g. some old estate lands are ideal for hashes but have no facilities nearby) but the hare then needs to make sure drinks and food are organized for after the hash (there are people willing to cater for thirsty hashers – check with the hashmaster). It is also possible to ask hashers to bring their own refreshments – this is uncommon in Grenada but much more so in other countries. If this is done then hashers need to be given a lot of notice (minimum 5 days) and reminded at least once.
Previous hashes in area. Variety is important for hashing. Too many hashes in the same area/ on familiar ground makes the hash very stale and uninteresting. Grenada is a big enough island that this can easily be avoided. Over the past few years there have been too many hashes in areas like True Blue/ Lance Epines/ St. Paul’s and Laborie/ Golf Course. Try to choose an area that has not been hashed in for a while and which is interesting – old estates/ waterfalls/ views/ beaches etc.
Moonlit hashes. At various points during the year the time of full moon coincides with a Saturday and it gives the potential to set a moonlit hash. In fact moonlit hashes are best when the date of full moon is 1 or 2 days after the day of the hash since this times moonrise at about dusk rather than at 8 pm on the actual full moon night. The hash should not start before moon rise – or it could be dark before the moon is lighting any part of the trail. The best option is where moonrise occurs before it gets dark so the hash can start in daylight and finish after dark. Moonlit hashes should be set (mainly) on larger trails without too much tree cover i.e. not in the middle of the rain forest. The south coast has some excellent areas to set moonlit hashes.
Familiarisation with the trail
This is generally called “Recce-ing” a trail – doing a reconnaissance of the trail before the hash. It is essential and needs to be done well ahead of time – see point on timing above. Don’t leave yourself too little time to set the hash – it’s meant to be (and really is) a fun thing to do not a stressful last minute nightmare. Depending on the area you will need to do 1 or more recce trips prior to the hash. Some tips:
Local assistance. If you are not familiar with the area finding a local guide can make life infinitely easier, quicker and much more fun. Ask around in the area of the rum shop/ local village where you are planning to start the hash. Do not go for the first body who staggers out of the rum shop – the best guides are the local farmers or hunters and are normally armed with a cutlass (do not be alarmed!). Be very firm in your instructions and directions – tell them you are looking for an interesting walk of about an hours length and see what happens. When you’re thrashing through the bush you can always ask where that trail goes/ is there a way through here/ this area looks interesting can we go there. Warning: using a local guide always involves money or beer or normally both. There is no fixed fee of what to pay a guide but if he’s good I want to keep him happy as he will be very useful later when you are setting the hash. It is important that you walk all of the potential trail yourself so you are familiar with it and consider it safe.
Length of the trail. It can be hard to estimate how long the hash will be when you are investigating the trail. Roughly it might take the same time as you do to go round for the first time but this will very much depend on the terrain, the time spent investigating other routes or false trails, time spent clearing trails (sometimes necessary to clear a route through bush) etc. As a rough guide if it takes you more than 2 hours to get round what you think might be a good trail then it’s too long! If in doubt do it again at a reasonable pace (steady walk) – at most it should not take more than an hour and 15 minutes. Remember the hash only starts at 4 p.m. and in the winter months it is dark by 6 p.m. This does not give you much of a window if you set a long hash and believe me you do not want problems! A runners trail could take up to two hours to walk round – making it too long is less of a worry here provided you have a good walkers trail set.
If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it! Any doubts over length, terrain, difficult sections (which dramatically slow hashers down) – change it! Hazards (like slippery paths on narrow ledges) must be avoided or specifically pointed out and a detour route provided for hashers who elect not to tackle them. There is nothing wrong with steep hill climbs or descents – it is dangerous climbs and descents that are unacceptable. Safety is paramount in setting a hash. When in doubt, choose an alternative route. We have enjoyed over twenty years of (almost) injury-free hashing. Let’s keep it that way.
Look at possible vehicle access to the hash trail and escape routes. Might sound like overkill but in situations where hashes have gone on too long this has been extremely valuable. In hill or mountain areas this is especially important. Know where you can get a vehicle to if possible (4WD) and the route to get there.
Be careful about setting the trail through agricultural land where crops may be damaged by loads of hashers stomping through. Where a hash may pass through private property permission should be obtained from the owner to lay the trail through the property. If in doubt – ask!
Setting the trail
Preparation and planning are the most important factors here. By the previous weekend before the hash date you should have:
Done all the recce work and established exactly where your trails are going to be set – both walkers and runners trails
Selected and briefed the rum shop/ venue for the hash start and finish. They need to be well organized to be able to cater for sometimes well over 100 thirsty, hungry hashers! Make sure they’ll have enough beer, water, soft drinks on ice or in the fridge. Ask them to have more bar staff to cater for the rush – nothing more frustrating than a long queue. The food needs to be prepared well ahead of time – if it’s oildown ask them to start cooking it at least a couple of hours before the hash starts – there are many occasions when the oildown has not been ready before half the hashers have gone home.
Obtain the hash paper. There are various sources of hash paper – mainly the banks and St George’s University but again it needs to be gathered well ahead of time as the banks dispose of it on a regular basis and may not have any when you go to pick it up. Shredded paper comes in varying quality the best being the finest which can be hard to find – currently RBTT bank at Grand Anse is the best source for this. You will need around 3 – 4 large bags, if you get more no problem as any not used can be passed to the next hares. On the other hand running out of paper is a nightmare!
Pick up the hash signs – normally the hashmaster or other elder of the hash will pass these to you, or be in contact where to pick them up. They need to be prominently displayed so hashers driving to the hash can easily find their way. Don’t forget to take them down afterwards! They can then be passed on to the hashmaster for distribution to the next hares.
Give instructions to the hashmaster or other person who is handling the announcement and notices for the next hash. The instructions should be precise as to how to get to the hash. Include any other special info. – e.g. wearing long pants to protect against razor grass etc.
On the day of setting the trail get to the hash site early! i.e. by around 9 or 10 in the morning. It can take a surprisingly long time to set a hash and there may be unforeseen problems. Make sure your local guide (if you’re using one) knows to turn up at the right time to assist (this can be one of the unforeseen problems!).
Carrying the paper around to set the trail can be hard work – it’s bulky and not very light. Different methods can work here, the best being driving around to accessible parts of the trail and leaving bags of paper to pick up on the way round. Dividing the paper into smaller bags makes it easier to carry. Plastic bags rip very easily so double lining them is good. Alternatively the local “market bags” can work very well and they have a shoulder strap too.
Laying the trail. Blobs should be big enough to be visible – this will depend on what surface the paper is being laid on i.e. concrete/ mud/ grass/ thick bush. If it’s windy try to lay the paper where it won’t get blown away. Rain can also wash the paper away very quickly – so if it’s raining or likely to before the hash starts make sure the paper is put in a place where it won’t get washed away. The most important thing to remember is to put enough blobs down so hashers don’t get lost. A rule of thumb is that the next blob should be visible from the one before. If the trail is following a road/ well defined path they can be spread further; if crossing rough ground with no defined path then the blobs must be much closer together. You can’t really put too many blobs down – so if you’re not sure put more paper! Remember to lay blobs regularly – it’s easy to forget and then you’ve moved 100 yards and there’s no blobs laid. If the trail makes turns or alterations of course then more blobs will be needed to indicate the route. When turning off a road or larger trail onto a smaller it is a good idea to lay a continuous line of paper indicating the turn off.
False trails. False trails are a lot of fun to set and aim to try to keep the hash group more bunched together. There are no hard and fast rules to setting false trails but here are some guidelines:
Always try to have at least a couple of false trails on your hash to add to the interest.
False trails begin from “checkpoints”. These are designated by a circle of paper laid at the point where the false trail starts.
From the checkpoint or circle of paper there will be one correct route and one or more false trails. Having more than one false trail will slow the hashers down even more.
At the end of the false trail you put a large cross so that hashers know it’s the wrong route and have to turn back. Make it obvious. There is no hard and fast rule about how many blobs have to be put down before the cross – hashers demand to know this at the start of every hash but there’s no law that you have to tell them or stick to a standard length of false trail, that’s entirely up to you. If you’re feeling particularly malicious then go ahead and set a false trail for half a mile up the steepest hill you can find. Be warned it may not improve the attitude of hashers towards you at the end of the hash.
Runners and walkers trails need to be clearly marked so that the hashers are able to identify the trail they want to do when the routes diverge. The trails can be marked in a variety of ways – with a large W or R and arrows using shredded paper on the ground, making signs to put up on a tree etc. The best way to have the trails marked is to have one of the hares at the junction indicating the trails to follow.
It’s finally the time to see all the hard work come together and send the hashers out into the bush. Unfortunately the hare’s work is not over yet, in fact this one of the most important jobs – to make sure that every hare who sets out on the trail actually comes back again! The single most important duty at this stage is to make sure there is a back marker on each trail, both runners and walkers to follow the last hasher and ensure their safe return. The back marker must not leave or lose the last hasher! The marker can be one of the hares or otherwise the local trail finder who will be happy to do the job – of course for more money or beers. Keeping in contact with the back marker by cell phone is a very good idea. Some other ideas:
At the start of the hash the hashmaster or deputy will say a few words, explain the principle of hashing to the virgins and then hand over to the hare to say a few words about today’s hash. Describe very briefly any relevant details of the hash – if there are false trails, where the runners trail splits from the walkers, technical difficulty of either trail, scenery and points of interest, food and drink available at the end of the hash.
Due to background noise (dogs/ cars etc) and hashers not paying attention there is a guarantee that at least 50% of the hashers present will not hear the above announcement! This makes it even more important that the walkers and runners trail are clearly marked and hashers will not make mistakes. You will create a potentially big problem for yourself if hashers get the instructions wrong, there are insufficient signs and the slowest of all hashers end up tackling a very long and technical runners trail. It is very strongly recommended that one of the hares should be in position at the start of the runners trail – in this way hashers can be assessed as to their ability to complete the runners trail and gently directed to the walkers trail if there is any doubt. There must also be a cut off time beyond which no hare should be allowed onto the runners trail as clearly they will not complete the trail before dark.
Be prepared to assist in finding any errant hashers that may need guidance back home. As in the familarisation section above you should be aware of escape routes and ways of accessing the trails by vehicle should it be required.
Once the last hasher is back and safe it’s time to relax and enjoy the feeling of a hash well set. Oh – and don’t forget to collect the hash signs on the way home!