After close to a year of planning August and September 2018 saw 28 participants from Oxford UOTC headed out to Norway on an unforgettable hiking expedition.
Phase One flew out to Bergen on the 13th of August and spent eleven days battling against the elements in the Hardangervidda region. Due to the high risk of landslides across Norway, the initial plan of wild camping was deemed unsafe. The decision was made to create a base location and figure out new routes in a more centralised area.
Morale rose and, despite the weather, the views of Norway did not disappoint. Snow peaked mountains, jagged rock races, blue lakes and waterfalls dotted across the region made for some incredible days out. The team endured and embraced the opportunity to wear full gortex all day in order to take in some of the beautiful scenes that surrounded us. In any rare blue-sky opportunity, visibility would rise, and cameras were whipped out to catch the moment.
In the latter stages of the trip the weather improved, and we seized the opportunity to take on the iconic Trolltunga. Despite the 03:00 alarms it turned out to be best day of the expedition. After a three-and half-hour drive, we set foot on the base of mountain and 07.30, eventually summiting the global attraction at about midday. The views of the glacial mountains and dog-leg lakes were astonishing. In a 28km round trip, the team achieved their pre-Vidda dreams of standing on the edge of the world, with the pride of knowing they had made it there together.
Undeterred by strong winds and rain faced by the Phase 1 team, Phase 2 arrived mid-August with bundles of energy and excitement. The team covered steep, arduous terrain in several one-day treks in the surrounding mountains. Working in pairs, the Officers and Cadets took responsibility for guiding the group to pre-determined checkpoints, challenging their navigational skills and leadership in challenging conditions.
With an upcoming two-day window in the poor weather, rucksacks were packed and the Officers and Cadets set off for a ten-hour hike to their lakeside campsite. Navigating through thin mountain passes and avoiding attacks from surprisingly ferocious sheep, their horseshoe route led them up the hills of Norheimsund to a glacial plateau, finally reaching a hydroelectric dam and the pick-up point. Phase 2’s short expedition brought them closer together as a team, and allowed all to greater appreciate the vast natural beauty that surrounded them.
Exercise Blue Vidda challenged each member in different ways. Some worked on their navigation, others their fitness and team-working skills. As 2Lt. Ben Liew described:
“Vidda showed me the value of good leadership in tough weather and terrain, and the importance of morale and motivation to keep people going when you’ve covered 10km and have 10km more to go.”
Overall, the experience of such a challenging expedition benefited every team member greatly, showing them how much they could achieve through perseverance and team-work.
This expedition was a physically and mentally demanding expedition, truly testing everyone’s ability to adapt and overcome! The experience and SMF qualification gained has enabled all involved to progress towards their Summer Mountain Leader qualification. This experience has also allowed the OCdts to gain the skills to run their own AT Expeditions for OUOTC or their future units. Whilst allowing us the opportunity to discover a magnificent part of the world.
Words and photos by 2Lt Ali and OCdt Newman