Ex Highland Dragon Venture – Staffordshire and West Midlands Army Cadet Force

On the morning of Saturday 26 July 14, 24 Cadets and 6 Adult Instructors from Staffordshire and West Midlands Army Cadets force started the long drive north to Inverness for the start of a seven day adventurous training package.

The aim of the expedition was to expose the cadets to the adventurous opportunities the Highlands of Scotland have to offer and its culture.

Sunday started very steadily with everyone recovering from the previous days ten hour drive, and a short drive into Aviemore to purchase expedition food and some last minute essentials before completing the high ropes course at Inverdruie. This set the theme for the rest of the expedition, hard work, physically and mentally challenging and fun.

Over the next six days on a rotational basis the cadets spend two days mountaineering, one day multipitch rock climbing, one day mountain biking and two days whitewater kayaking.

The two day mountaineering expedition took place in the Cairngorms taking in the summits of Ben Macdui at 1309m, Cairngorm at 1245m and included a wild camp. In true Scottish form the cadets experienced every type of weather condition the Highlands had to offer from high winds and driving rain to sunshine and a light breeze to keep the miggies away.

Ardverikie Wall on Binnein Shuas provided the perfect step up from the usual single pitch climbing our cadets are used to, six pitches of hard severe 4* climbing and as the guide book says “probably the best hard severe route in Scotland”. A fantastic day out despite the sixty minute drive and hour and a half walk in.

Most of our cadets got the opportunity to paddle on flat water but grade two whitewater again was a first for most, after practicing their skills on Loch Oich and a surf session on the weir it was off down the 9kms of grade 1/2 to put all the skills into practice followed by an 11km journey down the grade 2 River Ness the following day.

Arbriachan forest trail centre provided a very quiet and progressive venue, with blue, red and black trails plus a skills course set on the side of the mountain overlooking Loch Ness – Fantastic! The cadets had the opportunity to develop their skills and then with guidance negotiate the trails before returning to what can only be described as probably one of the quirkiest cafes in Scotland for a well-earned hot chocolate and cake.

Many of the cadets were overwhelmed by what Scotland had to offer, the scale of everything in comparison to their usual AT venues of the Peak District and Snowdonia. This tested the participant physical strength and mental stamina. There was definitely a big A in adventure training for everyone at some point during the expedition whether it was the exposure of Ardverikie wall, the 45 mph wind blowing across the Cairngorm plateau or whilst lining up for the first drop on the River Ness.

After an early start to ensure all the admin was completed we set off on the long but uneventful journey back down the A9 to Staffordshire and home.

The whole expedition would like to thank the Ulysses Trust for the very kind donation.

With thanks to:

Ulysses Trust

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