Leg 1 summited Denali; not one but 6 of the team made it to the summit (photo 1), an awesome feat in anyone’s book as the mountain is a weather and snow condition challenge at the best of times. Supported by the RAF Charitable Trust, Flt Lt Andy England and his Leg 1 team, part of the RAF Regiments Diamond Rock year long 75th Anniversary global challenge, battled harsh and extreme temperatures and environments. On approaching the final camp before summiting they came apon 10 ghurkas who had been in their tents a number of days and were down to single daily rations. A testimony to England’s leadership the summit bid was made in 2 waves early morning. Andy stated on descent:
‘I had to make some harsh decisions after camp 3, this is not a forgiving mountain and my summit team had to be strong with reserves of energy for a definite summit bid’
An amazing start to one of the biggest single service adventurous training challenges ever undertaken.
Leg 2 arrived in the Canadian Rockies (photo 2) and over a series of 4 weeks rotated 25 RAF Regiment reservists and 22 regular gunner through a crawl, walk, run training system of mountain biking aided by support from The Ulysses Trust, specifically set up to assist cadets, reservists and CCFs in exposure to arduous adventurous training. Sqn Ldr ‘Geordie’ Graham oversaw the training and admin of the leg whilst also taking part. All qualified with Mountain Bike Foundation pass which specifically sets them up for Mountain Bike Instructors qualifications in the future. Sqn Ldr Graham stated:
‘This experience is priceless for many of the RAF Regiments reservists. They come from all walks of life and for a small personal contribution and The Ulysses Trust grant, have been exposed to legacy teambuilding skills we couldn’t replicate in the UK”
SAC Scott Magee stated:
“We have seen some truly amazing sights and gone through some tough times but its all about team work and I am delighted to be part of the RAF Regiment’s 75th expedition”.
The weeks brought reservists into close proximity with 800lb bears and route diversions to avoid the huge beasts. Teamwork was primary and the many different skill sets from multiple reserve units conjoined to make Leg 2 a lifelong experience.
Leg 3 left at the beginning of July to cycle The Great Divide, all 2774 miles with some early issues getting the bikes through airport customs (Photo 3). A team of rank ranged individuals led by FS Ian Jones started the first ‘long haul’ leg of the 5 mountain bike journeys as the RAF Regiment head towards the South of the globe. Currently approaching the Grand Teton National Park the team have 740 miles under their belts. The aim of Diamond Rock is ‘old fashioned adventuring’ to teach and lay a legacy for our future gunners and commanders. FS Jones stated:
‘We have sore bums and our mission is mileage and finding fresh water every day but the team are strong and determined. This is unsupported adventuring at its best and we are loving every minute despite harsh temperatures, clouds of flies and mozzies. We all play to our strengths whether its bike maintenance, lead cycling or finding a decent breakfast on our CILOR!’
Leg 3 have camped under bridges, dealt with bears, navigating around collapsed bridges and utterly stunning trails. Averaging 60 miles a day the months of pre training in the UK has coming to the fore. Due back in mid September, updates can be seen on Instagram: regt75diamondrock, Twitter:@diamondrock75 and the Facebook page: RAF Regiment 75
Next up is Leg 4 departing from Northolt mid August. This leg is sponsored by The Central Fund and transits through Belize, Guatamala, Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama. Led by Wg Cdr Andy Jones, the Leg’s challenges will be temperature and an assortment of nasty insects and wildlife. Again unsupported the team will rely on wild camping and good route judgment to make their way steadily through the stunning National Parks of Central America.
Expedition Director Gp Capt Lee Taylor stated:
“The RAF Regiment Diamond Rock 75 Expedition could not have had a better start with 6 of Leg 1 summiting Denali in Alaska. This expedition has and is an exercise in empowering our leadership at all levels to ensure a legacy of competency and strong leadership for the future. Leg 2 in the Canadian Rockies reinforced this with our RAF Regiment reserves cadre. With Leg 3 currently on the Great Divide and Leg 4 about to depart for Central America, as Expedition Director I couldn’t be more proud”
The next update will be on Leg 3 & 4’s conclusion, the start of Leg 5 and the beginning of the global sailing legs which will run concurrently with the mountain bike legs.