Our now annual Scottish exploit is in its 12th year and is successfully delivering all five phases of a Cadet’s five year development plan. Our long serving local instructors now have an expectation of great training weather and this year lived up to reputation with rain, wind, snow, sub-zero campsites and a start and finish with blue skies and snowy mountain tops.
Exercise Northern Jacobite Venturer is an ambitious multi-activity week designed to give Cadets from Giggleswick School the opportunity to produce a tangible outcome to the adventure training elements of their Cadet experience by contributing to their DofE Awards. From this experience it is hoped that at least some will go on to satisfy their spirit of adventure in more distant and culturally diverse locations. Expeditioning in March and April in wild areas of Scotland certainly exceeds the requirements of the DofE Awards and Cadet syllabus and is made possible by the use of highly qualified and experienced instructors who can only be afforded through the generosity of The Ulysses Trust.
Cadets follow either a Silver (SMP) or Gold (WMP) training platform. The land cleared area available for these courses covers an area larger than Hong Kong and takes Cadets into areas of Scotland where a sat-phone can be challenged to raise a signal. To our Cadets the initial impact of the environment and the scale of hills surrounding Kinlochleven is quite intimidating and is often met with comments like “Sir, do you think we will make it up there?”
This year’s trip saw a number of changes to our established routines. We were based at Garelochhead, had smaller numbers of Cadets and we accepted a group who had been trained by an outside provider.
Staying at Garelochhead meant that new routes, campsites and self rescue routes needed to be explored and built into our programme. One of the highlights of the week was location at Garelochhead and the opportunity this gave for 3CDO to kindly provide some survival training and a military CQB twist to the week.
The Cadet experience took a different route too. Our most experienced Cadets completed a magnificent 38km day making the very most of blue skies and calm winds. Departing at 0500 from their wild camp below Stob Ban at the end of the Grey Corries to cover ridges and peaks through the Mamores before returning to the same wild camp at 2235, 17.5 hours later. After an easier rest day the group then went on to complete grade 3 winter routes on Aonach Mor and received an ice climbing master class at the indoor Ice Factor to boost their technical skills.
The sixth form expedition training group learned to live out of a minibus. They spent four nights and five days on expedition, the first two nights led and instructed, the second two led by their own endeavour but with no return to comfort between the two. Their very first night was one to remember. They left the minibus at 1630 in beautiful sunshine for a 3 hour walk carrying packs laden with food, tents and winter equipment. They arrived at their planned bothy campsite below Stob Ban in the dark. The ground had begun to freeze, there was snow in the air and a brisk breeze bit through openings in any clothing. The group gained their first view of the campsite as they rounded a corner in the path less than 500m from the bothy. The building was already full of 13 other people and there were tents pitched outside. There was candle and firelight inside, singing and laughing and the clink of plastic cups filled with more than tea. The window was fogged over and smoke rose from the chimney. To have to respond to the implications of so many people with so few hygiene facilities while the open door invited such a remote party, was tough, and more than one of our group felt a trembling of their upper lip. An hour was spent moving away from the bothy and locating a suitable camp isolated from the reveling and then they need to cook their first meal. To say that they developed resilience was a significant understatement. By the end of the week they wild camped beneath the magnificent waterfalls at Steall ruins and then woke to an inch or so of snow near Corrour halt before catching the UK’s most remote train over Rannoch Mor to the minibus at Bridge of Orchy.
The younger groups remained closer to Garelochhead and trained to complete their expedition but with the additional aim of producing fresh, restaurant standard food at their campsites. The supervising staff were certainly delighted by the fresh bread, curry, stir fry and fresh scrambled eggs all produced on traditional Trangias. The group, however much as they enjoyed the product of their efforts, were eventually frustrated by the time taken to produce the provender while their less culinary ambitious groups were fed, watered and watching the show before their meal was ready.
- 2 Cadets completed winter mountaineering journeys and climbs
- 5 Cadets completed a WMF platform for Gold DofE training
- 4 Cadets completed a second DofE expedition practice
- 7 Cadets successfully completed an SMF platform in preparation for their Silver Assessment
- 5 adults successfully gained update and best practice training from MIC’s and our attached Doctor.
Lt Col Darren Richmond