Six Cadets, aged 15 to 17, and two Instructors attended a winter exercise centered around the Cairngorms National Park during February 2018 with the aim of introducing some to the challenges of travelling in the winter mountain environment for the first time and others to extend their existing experience to include graded winter climbing.
The first few days involved the group using the hills around the Drumochter area to wake up winter legs and get used to moving around in the very snowy conditions with and without crampons. Snow conditions were very stable throughout the exercise and the group enjoyed a full winter’s day on each outing with only one dreich day where we tested snow anchors to destruction in Corrie a Sneachda in the Cairngorms.
The highlight for four of the youngsters was the opportunity to engage in winter climbing involving twin axes, ropes and crampons and saw a pair of boys ascend a variation of Twin Ribs in the Cairngorms and the pair of girls to ascend the scenic and long Jacobs Edge in Corrie Sneachda. The girls in particular had a fantastic day out in cold, windless, sunny conditions and found themselves in steep snowy terrain surrounded by other groups of climbers. Made even better by the warmth (vaguely) of the sunshine they emerged into at the top of the 250m route which also gave a breathtaking panorama of the vastness of the Scottish winter mountain landscape.
The expedition tested and developed our young cadets physically and mentally through coping with and learning the skills needed to operate in snow covered mountains as well as gelling as a team off the hill with the requirements needed to keep us fed, watered and organised through staying in lodge type accommodation. Our thanks to the Ulysses Trust for supporting this expedition which will be a stand out moment that will stick with the participants for the rest of their lives.