Inspired by the renowned and record-breaking British Adventurer Mark Beaumont, approximately 200 members from across the RAF Regiment celebrated the Corps’ 75th Anniversary by ‘getting stuck in’ to a series of demanding expeditions that have visited 17 countries, 4 continents, 2 of the world’s greatest mountains and criss-crossed the Atlantic 4 times under the banner of Exercise Diamond Rock. The stats were impressive: the teams cycled well over 10,000km through the Rockies, the Great Divide, Central and Southern America, gaining 127km in altitude on their bikes, climbed to 6,195m and 5,600m in harsh mountain conditions, and sailed 23,000nm. It was an awe-inspiring year of good old-fashioned adventure.
Exercise Diamond Rock’s aim was to mark the RAF Regiment’s anniversary in 2017, by providing a range of ambitious and demanding expeditions and re-enforce adventure through the controlled exposure to risk in a variety of challenging outdoor environments. There were 14 legs to the exercise: 2 mountaineering legs climbing Denali (formerly Mt McKinley) in Alaska and Aconcagua in Argentina; 6 cycling legs, transiting from Canada to southern Chile; and 6 sailing legs, completing a figure of 8 around the Atlantic.
The Ulysses Trust supported the following stages of Exercise Diamond Rock:
Acog Rock 2018
The second mountaineering leg deployed in January 2018 and saw a team of 10 Regular and Reservist personnel make an attempt on Mount Aconcagua in Argentina, which at 6,965m (22,865 feet), is the world’s highest mountain outside of the Himalayas. For many, it was their first experience of extreme high-altitude mountaineering but weather and climatic conditions conspired against the team and they had to dig out of the snow covering their tents each morning. The team waited at a camp at 5,600m (18,372 feet) for a weather window that never appeared and were forced by dwindling food supplies and time and the deep snow affecting routes to make the frustrating but inevitable decision to turn back from the summit. Although a tough call, it was the right one and was whole-heartedly supported by all the team – the few individuals from other mountaineering teams who did attempt the summit went on to suffer frostbite or worse injuries. Nevertheless, it was a fantastic experience, and all the team learned about high-altitude climbing and living, and a lot about themselves.
In sum, as a multi-activity, multi-phase, multi-country expedition, Diamond Rock has proven to be an ambitious, truly adventurous and challenging endeavour that has enhanced the personal resilience that military personnel require on operations, by developing self-reliance, fortitude, rigour, robustness, and initiative. It has re-introduced and highlighted to all RAF Regiment ranks the AT opportunities which the Service provides, after an extended period of commitment to deployed (and concurrent) operations. It has also allowed us to integrate our Whole Force (Regular and Reserves) into cohesive teams, understanding a bit more about each other’s unique skills and strengths. Finally, it has built a lasting legacy of experience and qualifications to ensure there is sufficient human capability to plan and conduct demanding AT pursuits into the future.