For many months we had been anticipating this moment, and now the wait was finally over, we had arrived in the Dolomites! On the 7th July 2012 2Lt Bush, Officer Cadets: Phipps, Wylie, Rutter, Lewis, Pettitt, Matthews, Walsh, Nellis, Miceli, Haines and Reid from the Liverpool University OTC arrived in Calalzo di Cadora ready for an action packed ten days of hill walking with 9 of the group hoping to gain their Summer Mountain Foundation Qualification that would take place during Exercise Northern Peak. We knew that the trip was going to be a challenge and we were looking forward to getting stuck into the course.
On our first day the walk was planned to be a gentle circular walk where we would have a gentle rise up to the plateau and then we would walk the circular route before descending to the campsite, an enjoyable but easy route to break in our boots and to get our mountain legs back. However little did we realize that the difference in the gaps between the contours on Italian maps meant that we actually had a long and steep ascent that would test the strength of our calves and as OCdt Lauren Phipps put it we would ‘feel our grit growing’. However, if anything, this walk allowed us to get used to the heat and the sort of walks we could look forward to for the rest of the trip. We saw ourselves climbing up to three peaks on an individual walk, with a mix of wild and valley camping on a night and with some of the routes involving a bit of scrambling that individually tested one member of our group, Bertie Matthews, who suffers from vertigo; he found himself outside of his comfort zone on a number of occasions but was able to soldier on and get up the mountain.
During the ten days in the mountains we found ourselves navigating legs over rather challenging terrain. We also learnt about aspects of slope and more advanced methods of navigation than we had with our military training so far. We also had to sit a written test of our knowledge on safety on the mountain, other weather systems and other related topics, but after the ten days, the whole group successfully (with the help of our advanced Mountain leader and Mountain leader trained instructors) passed their Summer Mountain Foundation course. We rounded off the trip with a fantastic walk through tunnels and cliff-side paths of what I was shocked to discover was a First World War battlefield between the Italians and the Austro-Hungarians in 1916-1918. We also had time to enjoy the fantastic Alpine summer sport of white water rafting to end what had been a challenging but very rewarding ten days in the Dolomite mountains where the whole group got the chance to push both their body’s and minds further than they thought they could. The Exped would not have been possible without the help given by the Ulysses Trust.