On the 1st of July 2012 eight intrepid Air Cadets from Kent Wing, supported by two members of Adult Staff boarded the aircraft to take them on an experience of a lifetime – Exercise Venture Alaska 2012 had begun. The expedition was the latest in a series of ventures worldwide aimed at providing senior air cadets with the motivation and skills set to become effective young leaders.
The expedition was only possible due to the generous sponsorship of the Ulysses Trust, RAF Charitable Trust, HQ Air Cadets Singleton Trust and SERFCA.
This expedition consisted of a five day unsupported sea-kayaking trip in the Prince William Sound area made famous by the Trawlerman Series on TV. The weather conditions were challenging to say the least, raining solidly for the first four days, meaning the cadets had to work hard to maintain motivation in cold and wet conditions and clothing. The trip covered some 70 miles including a return trip of 20 miles on Day 3 to the base of the glacier, the first group to make the return trip in a single day in the guiding companies history. The team had to navigate throughout in testing conditions of poor visibility and lots of ice in the water, whilst carrying all the supplies required for five days, meaning spare kit was at a premium. However the regular sight of seals and sea-otters as companions, plus the views of glaciers with seracs cascading into the water as we watched, made the effort and discomfort worthwhile.
Having returned safely the team made their way straight on to the trekking phase, transferring to the Talkeetna Mountains. Here the team carried all they needed for a four day unsupported trek deep into the mountains on un-marked trails with the ever present threat of bears. The trek included two passes at over 3500ft and camping at 3000ft throughout meaning night time temperatures plummeted below freezing. The first and last days saw a lot of trekking on steep ice fields which was a new experience for the cadets and the weather on Day 4 improved to give magnificent views of Mt McKinley (Denali) some 100 miles away. In between some technical navigation using only land features tested the physical and mental limits of the cadets, who now have a healthy hatred of Alder Bush having spent two days fighting through it.
The last couple of days were spent on the Mantuska Glacier and River trying ice-climbing and white-water rafting respectively. Both activities were very enjoyable and a great opportunity for an adrenaline dump at the end of a hugely successful expedition.