1213 – ‘Northern Jacobite Venturer’ – Cairngorms

High winds, high plateaus, high water and high adventure are the nature of Ex Northern Jacobite Venturer. Our now annual Scottish exploit is in it’s 5th year and is now delivering all five phases of the five year development plan.

This is a multi activity week designed to give cadets from Giggleswick School the opportunity to produce a tangible outcome to the adventure training elements of their cadet experience. Expeditioning in March and April in such wild areas of Scotland certainly exceeds the requirements of the DofE Awards but is made achievable by exploiting the additional leadership and determination that comes from non DofE training in the cadets such as leading close target recces or organising teams of junior cadets during summer camps. In addition, Giggleswick’s location in the Yorkshire Dales means that most students will have been over Ingleborough, Whernside and Pen-y-Ghent, not to mention their day to day exposure to weather, giving them a greater exposure to inclement conditions than most and lays the foundation for the challenge Ex NJV offers.

Cadets enter the Ex NJV programme aged 15 as direct entrants to the Silver Duke of Edinburgh Award and in their first year complete a Summer Mountain Proficiency (SMP) based course, subsequently remotely supervised and assessed in the summer in the Lake District. In year two cadets return aged 16 to use a Winter Mountain Proficiency (WMP) platform which allows them to return in April the following year to complete their Gold DofE Assessment in the wildest areas of Scotland. On successful completion of the Gold expedition cadets are invited back to move up a level and try some graded routes and true Scottish mountaineering, guided by practicing MIC’s and fuelled by their own previous experience. In addition, cadets working towards their professional standard 4* or even 5* kayak qualification can gain valuable log book experience with conditions that other UK areas struggle to provide.

Second only to logistics are the challenges imposed by the weather. We have had 14″ of snow and whiteouts at the valley floors, and days of blazing sunshine where one was overdressed in shorts. This year was no different with winds at times exceeding 70mph, but a shortage of snow to do anything other than the necessary introduction to ice axe, crampons and movement across snow did not remove any of the sense of adventure. Low rivers and dry bogs allowed travel in new areas and difficult navigation while “no impact camping” and the need to carry out everything you take in (and produce) was the challenge for others.

A risk with remotely supervised expeditions is that of cadet choices. All cadets are trained and approved by current, practicing and professional staff before progressing to remotely supervised assessment. The minute to minute management of the group during a remotely supervised expedition is left to the integrity of the cadets to apply their training and I am very pleased to report that any choices to renege on this responsibility are a rarity and it is a joy to watch groups discussing decisions and exercising very mature judgement.

The development of paddlesports is proving highly successful with 5* training this year and hopefully reaching it’s zenith of 5* assessment in two years time. The credit for this certainly lies with Capt Pugh whose inspiring ability and dedication is producing very capable young paddlers with more experience than many adults.

To run all of these activities concurrently with cadet and adult males and females requires flexible accommodation unavailable through the military system and we are very grateful to the Ulysses Trust for awarding a grant that allowed us to pay for rooms at the local youth hostel. It also requires the full contribution that being a cadet brings. Physical ability, leadership and the desire to succeed are all intangible elements of the cadet experience that in some way can be illustrated to a future employer by having a qualification such as the DofE Award. Without a curriculum vitae that stands out from the crowd, a cadet may not get to an interview. It is only when in front of the interviewer that their soft skills and confidence often place cadets head and shoulders above the rest.

My hope is that at some point in the future this progressive training programme will generate a group of students who would wish to journey into more even more adventure. Greenland crossings or alpine ascents seem an achievable aspiration for the most able cadets whilst it is recognised that the challenge to merely wild camp for two nights is of equal demand for many.

5 cadets and adults successfully completed elements of their 5* kayak training3 cadets successfully completed elements of their 3* kayak training7 cadets completed a WMP platform for Gold DofE training17 cadets successfully completed an SMP platform in preparation for their Silver Assessment10 cadets (2 groups) completed their Gold DofE expedition including a wildlife photography master class, 1 group passed.2 cadets successfully completed a mountaineering development week6 adults successfully gained update and best practice training working with MICs and L5 Coaches.

With thanks to:

Ulysses Trust

In partnership with:

Berlin