On the 16th August 2017 nineteen cadets from Oakham School CCF set out on their journey to Norway to undertake their Gold DofE Expedition. After arrival at Oslo Airport they were collected by the advance party and then set course for the Telemark region of southern Norway, some three hours away. After arrival at the main expedition base in Rjukan they put up their tents and rested before the acclimatisation day.
The first priority was shopping for expedition food and once done, the cadets then undertook an acclimatisation walk. This followed the steep, zig-zagging path under the cable car to the edge of the Hardangervidda – the same route followed by the escaping ‘Heroes of Telemark’ in 1943 after they had successfully damaged the heavy water plant further up the valley at Vermork. The route the saboteurs took towards the valley was the inspiration for their journey over the coming days, although in summer conditions with no snow!
Expedition day 1 saw good weather with sunshine and decent temperatures as the cadets were bused to their three respective start points. Accompanied by staff for the first few hours of walking they worked well as the navigation skills were dusted off and by lunchtime they were alone as the staff dropped back. All groups made it to their first camp locations after a long day and the inevitable aches and pains associated with carrying large rucksacks.
The weather on day 2 was far more mixed and the groups walked through a range of temperatures as well as rain and sunshine. The groups had all chosen the middle night of the expedition to have their ‘hut night’ where they were allowed to spend the night in a mountain hut, although they still were required to cook their own meals! Two groups stayed at Märbu Hut idyllically overlooking the north end of Mär lake whilst the third group rested at Kalhovd Hut to the south.
Day 3 dawned cool and breezy with the occasional shower as the teams once again set out southwards towards the end point at the Krossobahnan (cable car) above Rjukan. With another 25km day across undulating ground and along paths, the teams coped well and were in good spirits with staff meeting them at various points of the day.
The last day was good weather-wise with teams starting early for the final push towards the finish point. The teams finished mid-afternoon and after a quick rest and the obligatory photographs were treated to the ride down to the valley floor on the cable car to save their knees!
The following days saw them do some community work for the local museum before a day of R&R in Oslo before finally returning home.
The expedition was highly successful and it will prove a source of fantastic memories for those involved for years to come.
In the words of the Head of Army Section:
“The expedition was a real challenge; it pushed me beyond what I thought my limits were and really brought us together as a team.”
It also served to develop their teamwork and leadership skills and general resilience before they assumed their contingent command positions in September 2017. The mixed weather and long distance made it a real challenge with all three teams covering in the order of 90-100km over the four days. Our thanks go to the Ulysses Trust for their support which is invaluable in making the expedition more accessible for a wide range of cadets than it would otherwise be and for enabling them to have this great opportunity to develop themselves.