Exercise Northern Alpine 18 was a Mountaineering exercise based in Wertach, Bavaria, and designed to develop the mountaineering skills and experience of 9 officer cadets. The exercise took place in early August and spent 8 days training in the Allgau Alps. Activities included trekking, climbing and klettersteig (an Alpine discipline that is similar to climbing but where steel cables are fixed to the rock-face instead of using climbing ropes).
All of the officer cadets are considering a career as an officer in the Army and so they conduct some leadership and military training whilst at university. Adventurous Training provides part of this training and also gives the officer cadets an idea of what they would be expected to organise for their soldiers if they become junior officers. Indeed, one of the exercise aims was to show the officer cadets the lodge facilities that the Army provides for mountaineering training for this very reason. Competition for the 9 places was very hot and only those who had done some more basic Adventurous Training in the UK and had done well in their military studies were selected to attend.
Each of the officer cadets was stronger at either trekking or climbing and none had experienced klettersteig before. This meant that each day some of the students were more comfortable with the mountaineering activity and others were more stretched, but all found a degree of challenge on an appropriate grade of klettersteig. For the officer cadets to learn to deal with the activities they found challenging was a valuable lesson and they will be better officers for it, whether that was due to a fear of heights, trust in the equipment, technical skills like navigation or the arduous ascents in the Alps.
The exercise included a 2-day trek to an Alpine Hutte where the officer cadets learnt about the Hut system that is used throughout the Alps and what Hut Etiquette entails. A few of the officer cadets had spent nights in the UK’s bothys so were pleasantly surprised to find the Hut to be so well catered and comfortable. The sleeping platform was an object of great mirth and everyone agreed that it was a very continental way to do things. The trek was topped off by some of the group completing a more challenging klettersteig route that gave the exped a notable aim.
From doing this exercise all of the officer cadets are inspired to progress to more courses in either climbing or summer mountaineering, and hopefully some will go on to gain their klettersteig leader award in the longer term. This will allow the unit to conduct more expeditions where others will also gain the individual and leadership development that Adventurous Training uniquely provides.
This impact on the unit was perhaps best captured by Officer Cadet Rupert Wood who said:
“We all learnt some new hard skills such as navigation or climbing knots but it was learning how it feels to be outside of one’s comfort zone, and moreover how to deal with this, that was the true value of the exercise.”