1245 – ‘Ironpath Finn’ – Germany, Austria

152 Transport Regiment deployed on Exercise Ironpath Finn, the annual Adventurous Training expedition to Germany and Austria. When we arrived at Drei Mulhen lodge in the picturesque village of Wertach the troops quickly realised that the mountains of the Allgau Alps were a lot higher than those found in Northern Ireland. A busy 10 day programme was planned involving alpine trekking, open canoeing, Klettersteig climbing and mountain biking.

Klettersteig (German for “climbing path” is the German/Austrian equivalent of Via Ferrata (Iron Road). It originated in the Italian mountains to enable the Alpine troops to move and fight during WW 1. In the modern era, mountaineering clubs maintain the routes to enable the sport of climbing to be enjoyed. It is a protected climbing route that is equipped with fixed cables and ladders etc. This allows otherwise dangerous routes to be accessible to people with a wide range of climbing abilities.

The first Klettersteige climb kicked off in Austria with the Stuibenfall near Umhausen, which is the highest waterfall in the Tyrol. The second group completed the harder climb on the Kanzelwand (2059 m) the following day. As the climbing confidence increased the group were able to tackle the demanding mountain routes of the Hindelanger Klettersteig on the Nebelhorn (2224m) and the Tegelberg Klettersteig (1881 m) near Schwangau. Later in the week the Salewa Klettersteig on the Iseler (1876m) near Oberjoch and was also conquered.

Mountain biking initially took place in the local area with some cross country riding on the Oy-Mittelberg route. The mountain bike instructor, WO2 Shore ensured everyone was drilled in modern biking techniques as most of the troops had not been on a bike since childhood. By the end of the week some of the group were up to more challenging routes on the Hornbahn mountain bike park near Hindelang.

The Canadian or open canoe is usually handled with relative ease when paddled tandem but during the two days open canoeing on the River Iller, some of the group spent more time in the water than in the boat.

SSgt Samuels led the trekking, with the groups walking the classic Bavarian route of The Nagelfluchkette from Immenstadt Mittagberg to Stuiben (1749m). Other routes walked during the week were the Rubihorn (1957 m) and the Sollereck to Fellhorn (2037m) ridge. Unlike most mountains in the UK, the pleasure of reaching the top and seeing a mountain top café pleased the troops no end. Then seeing the cable car that they were not able to ride back to the bottom soon took the pleasure out of that though.

To rest and recuperate a white water rafting trip was organised on the River Inn, Austria. Two runs of the grade 4 river were planned. The first in 8 man rafts and the second in 2 man rafts. Then to rest up the legs, a day on the high ropes course at Kletterwald Barenfalle, near Rathloz worked well.

As well as experiencing the outdoor adventures of the Allgau and Tyrol Alps, the troops were able to experience some local culture as the exercise coincided with the Viescheid festival in Wertach. Viescheid or “the sorting of the cows”, is the annual herding of the cows from the mountain pastures back the sheds in preparation for winter. It also involves each village taking turns to have a mini beer fest with the locals dancing on tables and lots of lederhosen.

A visit to Dachau concentration camp was a real education for some of the younger members of the group and during the visit to Neuschwanstien Castle the same soldiers were heard asking “What is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?”

The aims of adventurous training were well and truly achieved during a challenging and demanding 10 days. The expedition members also gratefully acknowledge the financial contribution of the Ulysses Trust. Without this, many members would not have been able to attend, and missed this challenging and valuable experience.

WO II Troy Klewchuk

With thanks to:

Ulysses Trust

In partnership with:

Nuffield Trust