Ex Northern Enduro is a Level 3 mountain bike adventurous training expedition to Morzine/Les Gets in the French Alps. The Aim was to allow 18 Officer Cadets (OCdt) from Northumbrian Officer Training Corps (NUOTC) the chance to participate in challenging pursuits. This was to encourage Leadership and development, whilst out of our comfort zone in a controlled environment. The French Alps instantly ticks “out of our comfort zone” with some real harsh terrain and some individuals were introduced to some real AT for the first time. However, our journey had to start with the epic 780 mile drive, giving plenty of time to really appreciate “Brain” Baston’s extensive music collection. Thankfully the journey although starting from Newcastle was broken up with the overnight ferry from Hull to Rotterdam, this provided Ocdt Morrison multiple opportunities to crack 10 courses at the buffet, and some questionable on-board entertainment was enjoyed by all.
We arrived in Morzine at 2230hrs on Saturday 27 July, where we received our safety brief and were shown to our rooms; after refuelling on some much needed pizza ready for our morning awaking and day 1 of our 5 day package. There was a feeling of excitement and anxiety for what was to come. Unfortunately, heavy rain and storms suspended training on the first day, much to our disappointment but the chief instructor “Mark” Middlemiss had to put safety first. He ensured us that the sun would be out for the rest of the week and that we would make the time up. He also suggested that by day four we would be glad for the rest, which no one believed at the time.
Day 2, the sun was out and we were ready to “Les Gets” going. The intermediate and advanced groups hit the slopes and quickly found their feet, launching straight into blue and red runs. This left the beginners group with all the gear, no idea, full of fear, and after completing the first trail in need of a beer! Ocdt Riddell found herself in a vicious cycle of flying over the handlebars on every run, but overall it was a successful day enjoyed by all. Mainly down to the level of instruction from our instructors, who given the opportunity would stop the group to coach us and try and show us the technique required to help us progress. This was definitely a lot harder then we all thought. We could only really compare this to similar expeditions in the UK and I’m not sure what we all had in mind but it was a hundred times harder.
Days 2 and 3, and the confidence of all the OCdts and staff increased. This could be seen by the increase of speed and ability down some of the green and “family” blue trails. Not so family orientated and more technical then some of the red trails that I have ridden in the UK, with lots of root and rock garden sections. However, after day 1 and 2 and the coaching from the instructors, with some screams! Along the way, we all managed to ride over it. Some even attempted a drop off on the trail (no higher than hub height of course), although with varying levels of success. The trails were awesome, with the instructors mixing the technical and fast flowing trails up to increase confidence, which was much appreciated and although sometimes we were completely out of our comfort zone with the nature of the terrain, it’s not surprising that an impressive number of cuts, scrapes and bruises were picked up along the way. However, nothing an ice cream and an energy drink couldn’t fix! We all still returned to the chalet with big smiles taking about our day and looking forward to our evening meal, thanks to Angela the chef, whose food was amazing and really kept us going.
We all hit the slopes for a fourth and final day of biking; the staff rented us full suspension Enduro mountain bikes. This was much to the excitement of the beginners group who had been absorbing the shock of every rock the mountains had to offer, having previously cycled on hard-tail bikes. We headed up the super Morzine ski lift, where we transitioned over to Chatel bike park. Once in Chatel the day started with a very demanding red, the hardest route completed by many on the trip. I think it’s safe to say we Chat-el ourselves the whole way down! The day was hot and challenging, with some incredibly long trails. Arms pumping, legs on fire the trails were a mixture of green and blue leaving us all incredibly tired but grinning from ear to ear. This was by far our best day and to think about coming down that red on day 1, was the unthinkable but we all did it and what a sense of achievement.
Our final day was a chilled one, with lots of hydration, shopping and time in the hot tub to recuperate. We enjoyed a final meal together at a local restaurant, and exchanged gifts with the staff in recognition of their teaching and effort. Although we’ve already said our thank yous, we’d like to again say a special thanks to Mark who makes this trip possible every year. Also to the staff who made it so much fun, and somehow had the patience to survive a week of Ocdt-level chat!
If an insane week of adventurous training in the Alps seems like something you’d be interested in, watch out for Morzine 2020!