1303 – ‘Venzone Dragon’ – Italian Dolomites

3 ROYAL WELSH were very fortunate in 2012 to have two OTXs; an Ex LION STAR to Cyprus in early August and in September, an Ex ROMAN STAR to Gemona in Friuli, Northern Italy. This latter ex placed the unit at the foot of the Dolomites close to the Slovenian border and again, the opportunity was not missed to conduct quality AT, most of which could be reached by walking or riding (in the case of the mountain bikes) out of our camp in Gemona town.

In all, rock climbing, walking, via ferrata and mountain biking was conducted. Most of these activities came at nil cost though mountain bikes would need to be hired, the cost of which was offset by a generous grant from The Ulysses Trust.

Via ferrata was conducted on the Austrian border on Torri Winkel (2040m) and Torri Clampil (2079m), one of the days being clear and peerless, the next day it being entirely different – grey, wet and clagged-out completely by thick cloud. The route though was ideal as an introduction for novices and it should now ensure that the dedicated ex planned for 2013 will be fully subscribed with ‘ferratists’ eager for longer and more technically challenging routes and itineraries.

Rock climbing was conducted on the local crag in Gemona which proved to be a gem; steep, clean and compact limestone which was not overly polished. All lines were fully bolted and equipped for lower-offs with chains and karabiners. Grades ranged from F4a upward with something for all standards, the quality of the climbing here cannot be overstated.

Walking groups walked out of the camp gates and took on the 1372m Monte Cuarnan which towered over Gemona town. A number of trails and routes were available ensuring for the group leaders anyway, that successive days could be varied to maintain interest. Mountain bikers were also able to ride out of the camp gates and take on any one of five routes described in the local mountain bike guide book. Such a guide book was invaluable for the leaders who were able to follow an itinerary without having to stop continually as they threaded one together. Rain on the second day didn’t dampen spirits though did make some parts of the trail trickier and more challenging.

The AT on Ex ROMAN STAR 2 followed hot on the heels of an intense 8 days tactical ex in the field for the soldiers. To their great credit, they took on the AT with enthusiasm, gusto and made the most of the opportunities on offer. The thanks of the unit and all who took part go to The Ulysses Trust for generous and continuing support to 3 ROYAL WELSH AT activities.

The exercise was a real boon for me as RATO. I had time to get around all the JRs and talk AT stuff. So many of them are keen to do more…in fact some are this week doing their Rock Climbing Foundation course here in Snowdonia and off to do their RLT courses in the Spring. 3RWELSH are the current Army Bouldering and Army Sport Climbing Champions, all down to 4 young but gifted climbers in our D Coy. AT plays a very large part in unit life and undoubtedly recruits, retains and enriches the experience of many of our soldiers. Maj Mike Laing.

With thanks to:

Ulysses Trust

In partnership with:

Nuffield Trust