On Saturday the 29th of July, tri-service mountaineers from across the UK started their journey to Saas-Grund, Switzerland, where they spent two weeks completing alpine mountain training. The reason for this training was to prepare regular and reserve members of all three armed forces for the British Services Mountaineering Expedition 2020 (BSME20), an expedition to Pakistan with the aim of summitting Broad Peak in 2020 – the 12th highest mountain in the world.
The experience levels ranged from complete novices, who were required to pass their alpine mountain foundation training, supported by a pool of experienced military instructors, to those who were consolidating previously learned skills.
The first day for everyone was glacier drills and crevasse rescue, these integral skills are potentially life saving when out in the harsh alpine environment and it was essential that the leaders were happy that everyone, including the novices were competent.
For the rest of the trip groups of three organised their own mini expeditions within the surrounding area, usually staying up in mountain huts for a couple of nights before returning to our base campsite.
Sleeping in the mountain huts helped with the altitude acclimatisation process and individuals could really feel the difference as the weeks went on. The huts were usually basic, but comfortable. Every evening a four course meal was provided, to help fuel the mountaineers for their next days adventures. Due to the difficulties in accessing these huts food and drink is often helicoptered in, making buying water quite pricey!
The peaks we were aiming to summit were mostly around or above 4000m and included names such as the Bishorn and the Allalinhorn. Often glacier travel was required to reach these areas and as such the majority of time could be spent spaced evenly apart on a rope. The views at the top of the mountains were breath-taking, even more so with the effects of altitude! We were mostly lucky with the weather during our expedition and as such could see snow covered peaks for miles around.
The other aspect of alpine training is rocky ridges, this provided a change of scenery from the persistent plods along glacier terrain and allowed the team to practise their climbing skills in a multi-pitch environment.
At the end of the fortnight 19 students successfully completed their alpine mountain foundation qualification, a great achievemnt and means all these individuals are in with a chance of making the team for for Pakistan next year!
Of course we had last night celebrations before packing up our campsite and saying our goodbyes. We all left with aching muscles but with new and closer friendships and everyone is looking forward to the weekend training sessions the team will be doing throughout the year in the UK in preparation for next years BSME20 to Broad Peak, Pakistan.
“Ex ALPINE CONCORDIA was one of the most challenging adventurous training expeditions I have ever done, but what a rewarding two weeks learning new skills and accomplishing new goals, I can’t wait to continue with more alpine mountaineering in the future”
For more insight into what we have got up to and to follow our future progress, follow us on social media by searching for BSME20.