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Adventure Training

26 Feb 2019

On 16th February 2019 five cadets and two staff from Barnard Castle School CCF embarked on the CCF’s biennial Adventure Training. The aim of Adventure Training within Barnard Castle School CCF is to give cadets the opportunity to try new things, have fun and give them the chance to push themselves mentally and physically.

This year the training took place in Cairngorm National Park in Scotland. The cadets stayed in self-catering accommodation in Newtonmore so had planned their menu ahead of time. On arrival they labelled, organised and put away the mountain of food before getting fitted for their winter mountaineering equipment (B2/3 boots, ice axes, crampons and helmets). Once dinner was made, devoured and cleared away the group had a planning session to help prepare for the next day. The cadets were told they were departing at 8:30 so they planned their morning in reverse; 1 person in each room would be in charge of waking up, then they set themselves a target time to be in the kitchen to make breakfast, another target to be finished breakfast and have cleaned up then a target time to finish making their lunch. They also planned what they would need to put in their bags for the morning.

On day 2 the team were up and raring to go according to the deadlines they set themselves the previous day; up, breakfast eaten, bags packed and lunches made, the team started the day with a lesson on crampons, safety equipment and navigational tools. The group headed to the town of Aviemore and then turned south, heading up into the mountains and parked at the local ski resort. From the resort they hiked South to Corre an t-Sneachda where they found plenty of snow and had some sessions on ice axes, how to ascend, descend and traverse snowy ground and what to do if they fall over. Lastly, they learned how to control themselves and stop if they began to slide down a snowy slope using their ice axes (ice axe arrests). The wind was starting to get very strong by midday, gusting at 60-70 mph which caused a few of the team to get blown off their feet so the group decided to head to the North East side of the corrie to get some shelter. When they arrived, it was sheltered but still a bit windy and it started to rain so the cadets were shown how to dig individual ‘snow holes’ that they could shelter and eat their lunch. Digging the shelters was fun but very hard work and gloves were soon drenched and fingers cold, this highlighted to the cadets how important it was to pack correctly and bring spare gloves. After lunch the group headed to the South end of the Corrie to a large patch of ice where they practised putting on their crampons (a tough task with cold/wet hands and/or gloves on) and had a potter about on the ice. The wind was getting even stronger by now and the rain was coming at them horizontally, with most of the group on their last pair of gloves they decided to call it a day and head for home. The drying room at the accommodation was a busy place in the evening, the cadets began drying all their stuff and met for hot chocolate and flapjack at 4 pm to debrief our day and plan the next. There was unanimous agreement that each cadet wished they’d taken more food and a 3rd pair of gloves so would do so tomorrow.

On day 3 everyone got up on time again.  All cadets packed ‘double lunches’ most opting for a whole loaf of Soreen. On looking at the weather forecast it was apparent that conditions would be much worse than yesterday, so the cadets were given a few options, they decided on the most challenging option which was a hike in the Glen Feshie valley, navigate along the River Feshie to a Bothy called Ruigh Aiteachain. None of the cadets had done map and compass work before so it was a steep learning curve for them to navigate the route at first but they soon got the hang of it and were able to accurately navigate to the Bothy. The cadets lit one of the log burning stoves and made some soup. They waited out the weather, played some games and planned the route back. There were a couple of river/stream crossings on the way back and some places where the path had been washed away which meant the cadets had to do some problem-solving.

On day 4 double lunches and triple gloves were packed. The cadets had been set homework: to check the weather, snow conditions, avalanche warnings and weather warnings. All their research suggested this would be the best (weather) day of the expedition. Setting off from the ski resort again, but this time headed East, the cadets walking up hundreds of stone steps to reach the top of Ptarmigan mountain. They were walking on snow all the time once they got past 800m which was very fun and challenging. From there they turned North East to Cnap Corie na Spreidhe which was a sheltered bowl where lots of snow had accumulated. Someone had dug a group snow hole, so they all got into it and ate lunch, it was a “really cool experience”. After lunch the team practised some more ice axe arrests from different positions; sitting, head-first on our fronts and backs and feet-first on our fronts and backs, this was great fun. Next, they set off to climb the 200 remaining meters of Cairngorm (1245m) visibility was cut dramatically as they went into the clouds so the cadets had to rely on the navigations skills they picked up the day before. They summitted Cairngorm at 14:07, took some photos and polished off the last of the Soreen to celebrate. The cadets planned and navigated a different route back to the bus; the whole group were in fine spirits all the way home. The next day the group packed up and set off back for County Durham.

All aspects of the expedition provided challenges and new experiences for the cadets. For a few it was packing the correct equipment, making their own meals and packing their bag for the following day. For all it was learning how to navigate, how to travel on difficult terrain in difficult conditions. All were pushed either physically or mentally at some point during the expedition. All cadets have indicated they would like to attend similar training in the future.

Thanks must go to the RFCA and the Ulysses Trust for giving us grants towards the expedition.