This August 2012 saw Sea Cadets, Royal Marines Cadets and their staff from London Area travel to Bavaria in Southern Germany to take part in Exercise Alpine Rock. The aim of the exercise was to give cadets and staff the chance to take part in a multi activity adventurous training package outside of the normal operating environment of the UK and to experience the local culture of this part of Germany. It also gave a chance to complete the residential part of the Duke of Edinburgh gold award.
Travelling by unit minibus the usual travel time for this journey is 13 hours from Calais but due to autobahn traffic and two accidents this ended being an epic 21 hours: finally we arrived in Bavaria. Slightly later than planned, the group had a very well earned relaxation in the Vonnemar swimming complex in Sonthoffen.
The first day of activity consisted of climbing and abseiling at a local crag where the cadets were introduced by their own staff to the skills required to safely manage the ropes and each other, enjoying a day in the blistering sunshine, a complete change from the wet summer weather back in Blighty.
Day two used local guides who took us to their favourite canyon, where although the water level was quite low, it still allowed us to abseil into the canyon and use the water shoots and the plunge pools, a welcome dip in the hot weather. The canyon finished with a zip wire for those that still had the energy.
Day three took us into Austria and Area 47. This is waterpark with a difference, where you can ski or ride a bicycle off of a 15 meter ramp into the water: both of these were out of bounds to cadets and staff, can you imagine the insurance claim! Amongst the other activities were a high ropes course situated under the motorway and the highest climbing wall I have ever seen.
Day four started with a short drive to a ski lift station where we left our minibuses in favour of our boots and a walk to a mountain hut called the Schwarzwasser Hutte (see photo) where we would spend the night. Stopping along the way for a photo opportunity, cadets climbed onto a large boulder and paid homage to the UK’s recent success in the Olympics with the ‘Mobot’ (see photo). The reason for the expedition to the mountain hut was to give the cadets an experience that is not available in the British mountains, to interact with their peers, the people of this mountain area and have an experience they wouldn’t forget. They certainly got that with an impressive electric thunder storm that night where you could see the lightening bolts hitting the floor in the distance. The following day we said thank you to the hut guardian for his hospitality and walked out. There was then an option for the party to take part in Kletterstieg, where you are connected via a harness to a wire that is bolted to the rock face, allowing you to go on steep rock which is usually accessible only to high level rock climbers.(see photo)
The sixth and last day of the activities saw us travel once again into Austria for white water rafting (this is where the BIG water is). After the brief from our raft guides and a short coach journey to the put-in point, we started our raft journey. It had been raining for two days prior to our raft trip and in the words of our guide, the river was ‘awesome’. The journey down the river was exhilarating to say the least with no less than seven sets of rapids. The cadets also got the chance to show their boarding party skills, attempting to get the other rafters overboard.(see photo) This last activity certainly was the one to finish a fantastic week.
That evening we said goodbye and thank you to our hosts at the accommodation and started the sorely anticipated journey home through the night. Thankfully, this time it took the expected time, arriving in Calais for an early morning crossing the next day.
For me a great expedition is always marked by the comments you receive from cadets asking when the next adventure will be and the thank you received from parents, who ask what we have done to see the improvement in their young people in just under a week.
On behalf of the cadets and staff of London Area Sea Cadets who took part in Exercise Alpine Rock 2012, I would like to say a very big thank you to the Ulysses Trust for donating the funding which allowed this expedition to happen. I know that without this kind donation many of the participants would not have been able to attend.
The personal skill and leadership development opportunities and the memories of this expedition will indeed help these young people in their futures.
Your generosity is very much appreciated.
CPO P. SYMES, ASO at LONDON