As most of the school community were enjoying a first lie-in of the October holiday, twelve Morrison’s Academy cadets and two officers were already heading to the Cairngorms. The plan was straightforward. Two days of mountain biking in Rothiemurchus were to be followed by three days of mountain walking in the Cairngorms. We would be camping at Badaguish.
However, we were all aware that no plan survives intact after first contact with the enemy. In this case, the ‘enemy’ came in the shape of the tail end of Hurricane Ophelia. As ever, when in the mountains, flexibility would be essential.
On arrival at Badaguish campsite, bike hire arrangements were concluded swiftly by Mike’s Bikes of Aviemore – Major Clayton showing a soft spot for the company’s name! It was then off into the crisp autumn air to the track network around Loch Morlich and Ryvoan. Wind was a key feature of the next day’s route, as was mud. One memorable section between Rothiemurchus Lodge and the Larig Ghru path involved carrying bikes across a surface which resembled sticky toffee pudding. After lunch, it was then on to exploring Inchriach bothy, whose rustic setting challenged the route-finding skills of several of the party.
As the trip progressed, it was very much a case of having the right kit in the right place at the right time. This philosophy was encapsulated in Major Clayton’s reminder to the group that,
“Mum is not here to look after you now.”
Although Sgor Gaoith was the target for the first day of mountain walking, it became obvious in the biting wind and rain that this target would have to be modified. In the end the group performed strongly to reach the slightly lower Carn Ban Mor. Hot chocolate and pizza that evening helped restore the energy levels.
The marginal weather conditions continued the following day. Hurricane-force winds, low cloud and rain combined to test the group’s nerve and micro-navigation on the Meall a’Bhuchaille ridge.
Then the weather relented, a bit. Day five began with sunshine and a cloud inversion on the slopes of Cairngorm, fitting reward for previous endeavours. The summit was reached and then thoughts began to turn to home-cooked meals, described in great detail.
Considering that some of the cadets were relative newcomers to both mountain biking and hillwalking, they acquitted themselves admirably. The more experienced cadets, Rose and Jessica, again proved to be excellent role models for the S2 newcomers. So, what has been learned, besides the specific skills related to the activities? When the going gets difficult, dig in, support your mates and keep going – not a bad lesson for life in general. This idea was summarised by Cdt Sgt Maj Rose Logan who described the trip as being,
“A challenging experience for the younger cadets, which nonetheless proved to be excellent for teamwork and bonding.”
This trip would not have been possible without the generous financial support given by the Ulysses Trust. Their money enable four new tents to be bought which made camping in wet, windy conditions bearable.