Exercise Toulouse Tiger was a 9-day adventurous training expedition to the Pyrenees Mountains in Spain, undertaken by 6 members of Bristol University Officers Training Corps (BUOTC) 12 Apr – 20 Apr 12.
The expedition was focused on introducing and teaching ski touring skills to BUOTC officer cadets, with the aim of pushing BUOTC Officer Cadets to their physical limits in an arduous mountain environment. The challenge helped to develop their physical robustness, leadership abilities and teamwork skills, in addition to teaching winter mountaineering and survival skills.
Excluding transit to and from the exercise area the Officer cadets completed a 5-day ski touring program. The initial two days were spent in the local area, skiing in the Baquiera-Beret resort. This included a ski assessment day on piste, introduction to ski touring techniques, basic navigation tips and avalanche awareness and transceiver training. Unfortunately, due to poor visibility and snow conditions both days were reduced to shorter tours, returning to the hostel after lunch.
The following three days were spent in the Benasque and Cerler Resort area; a piste, off-piste and esqui de fondo area in the Benasque valley. Following a three-hour drive to the area, the party proceeded to local accommodation on skis, carrying all kit and equipment. With heavy snowfall (30-40cms in the previous few days and high winds), unsafe weather conditions limited the original touring plans. However, all members managed to ascend safely before resting in the refuge.
With much improved weather conditions (blue skies and significantly lighter winds) in subsequent days, the party was able to complete arduous local tours in the Renclusa area. The challenging ascent required Officer Cadets to practice kick turns, use of skins and construct snow profiles to analyse the local conditions and avalanche risks. A series of steep descents enabled Officer Cadets to practice off-piste skiing techniques, with the good powder on the upper slopes requiring an aggressive technique. Further avalanche training was conducted by constructing snow shelters.
After some fantastic day tours in the area the party descended back to the vehicle. With much warmer conditions at lower altitudes, the snow was very heavy, proving extremely challenging for the Officer Cadets, especially as full bergens amplified technical errors and balance. However, following a slow ascent all Cadets returned to the vehicle safely.
Exercise Toulouse Tiger was a tough, but rewarding adventurous training expedition, which enhanced the Officer Cadet’s strength, endurance fitness and mental robustness, whilst training in a beautiful, yet formidable environment. All members of the party benefited hugely from not only the challenging skiing experience, but also from increased understanding of avalanche risks and safety measures.
The team members would like to thank the Ulysses Trust for their generous financial support. We hope that this challenging and thoroughly enjoyable ski touring expedition can continue for BUOTC officer cadets in the future.