Longbenton Air Cadets swapped their parade shoes for walking boots to trek through the Swiss Alps, this summer.
The team of seven cadets and two RAF Air Cadets adult volunteers successfully trekked their way through the Swiss Valleys, spending their nights in mountain huts.
The youngsters had to undertake a rigorous selection process, which involved completing a series of exercises aimed at testing their map reading skills, campcraft skills, first aid, fitness and leadership skills. They all showed great determination in being successful to be part of the team. The team then undertook further training and fundraising initiatives together in order to prepare for the expedition of a lifetime.
The young people trekked a total of 100km in five days, from Arolla to Zermatt, taking in the magnificent sights of Lac Bleu, 2090m above sea level, sleeping above the Moiry Glacier (2825m), and climbing the Unterrothorn at 3103m above sea level. The team also enjoyed some downtime in Geneva and Zermatt.
Gavin Davies, 17, said:
“It was an epic experience and an unbelievable challenge; I never thought I would have the opportunity to see such incredible views and to navigate in the Alps.”
“It was just absolutely awesome” added Robert Hodgson, 17, “We knew it wouldn’t be an easy task but it was literally breath-taking; climbing the Unterrothorn and sleeping above a glacier is not something you do every day.”
For the youngest team member, Will McDonald, 15, it was an unforgettable experience. He said:
“We had great weather, on the whole, which meant we could even see the Matterhorn, which looked majestic and colossal; even though we were over 3000m above sea level at times, the Matterhorn still towered over us.”
International Mountain Leader, Will Close-Ash, of Mountain Energy, acted as the groups guide. He said:
“I’ve been tremendously impressed with the group, who worked well together as a team and showed great humour, determination and resilience, especially on Day 4 when trekking in persistent rain to Gruben.”
The six-day trek culminated in some downtime in Zermatt and Geneva, before the youngsters flew home.
“We are all so lucky to have opportunities like this and are all very thankful for our adult volunteers,”
Expedition Leader and Squadron Officer Commanding, Flight Lieutenant Gary Richardson, was delighted with the expedition:
“The young people showed grit, determination and ambition through the initial selection and planning stages and I was absolutely delighted that their hard work and effort led them to enjoy the experience. They have developed many life skills and we are all very proud of them for their achievement.
“I sincerely thank The Ulysses Trust and the North of England Cadet Forces Trust for supporting our young people to enjoy this life-changing opportunity.”
This article was written on behalf of 2344 (Longbenton) Squadron by Flight Lieutenant Gary Richardson RAFAC. Please feel free to email [email protected] if you require any further information.
Photographs taken by 2344 (Longbenton) Squadron. All photographs © Crown Copyright/MOD. Other photographs are available on request. [email protected]
The Ulysses Trust also wish to thank the generosity of the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust for supporting this expedition. www.rafct.com