Exercise Knoydart Challenger

St Neots Cadet Staff Sgt Sophie Moule tells us about this exciting and challenging expedition

Exercise Knoydart Challenger

20 June 2022

  • Cambridgeshire ACF

During the May half term, 12 cadets and 16 adult volunteers from all over the country took part in Exercise Knoydart Challenger, a national adventurous training expedition for 5 days in Knoydart in the Scottish Highlands.

Exercise Knoydart Challenger was a mountaineering expedition aimed at older cadets within the ACF, and it gave us the opportunity to complete 3* and 4* adventurous training and navigation, as well as receiving a once in a lifetime experience with some amazing, like-minded people.

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Expedition team with the 'Harry Potter' express.

After a 10-hour journey to CTC Dingwall, just north of Inverness, we had a briefing from the mountain leader and adult in charge, Chris. Shortly after, we broke into our expedition groups and quickly bonded with one another, and were given some free time to socialise with the other cadets on the expedition. Sunday saw us up in good time and was filled with a variety of training, preparation and briefing sessions in our groups, as well as a significant amount of time allocated to pack our bags and personal admin to ensure we were fully prepared for five days of walking in one of the most remote locations in the UK!

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Sophie (2nd left) & friends on the Monday evening.

On Monday, we had our breakfast and packed the van before boarding the coach with a long, but very exciting journey ahead of us. First, we had a four-hour coach journey down to Fort William, where we had almost two hours to explore the town before our train ride on the Harry Potter Jacobite express. Several Uno games later, we arrived in Mallaig where we had time to look around the town, where we went to the beach and built pebble towers, before we had a ferry journey to our destination, Inverie in Knoydart. After a short walk, we arrived at the stunning Inverie campsite, set up camp and cooked our dinner. The evening saw socialising with other cadets and a bonfire before we all headed off to bed for the night.

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On the way to Barrisdale (Sophie 3rd from left)

On Tuesday morning we broke camp at Inverie and completed a 12km walk to Barrisdale, where we learnt about mountain plants, walked through many bogs and saw some highland cows. Whilst the weather for the most part was OK, we did hit a couple of torrential showers on the second half of the day. Once we had set up camp and completed personal admin, a group of us went for a walk to a nearby beach and enjoyed a stone skimming competition and watched the beautiful sunset.

Wednesday was our biggest and longest day with a total of 15 hours walking – the ascent of Ladhar Bheinn, 1020m. We walked around 18km but had perfect conditions for walking: bright sunshine with a light breeze. The day consisted of a very challenging ascent, scrambling, walking along a knife-edge on the descent and catching a superb sunset in the last couple of kilometres, before returning to Barrisdale for personal admin. Overall an amazing day with amazing views!

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Ascent of Ladhar Bheinn on Wednesday

Thursday was another long day, where our group completed the ascent of our second mountain, Luinne Bheinn, 939m. We encountered some harsh conditions, particularly on the descent where we were caught in a rain and hailstorm, before being engulfed by clouds with incredibly poor visibility, making a challenging descent even more difficult.

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Luinne Bheinn Summit (Sophie left) in a hail storm

Nevertheless, we managed to complete the day in a safe and timely manner and arrived back at Inverie campsite at about eight o clock. We spent our last night in Knoydart around the campfire and caught a wonderful sunset before heading to sleep.

On Friday, we broke camp at Inverie and walked over to the Ferry terminal, where we had some time to get a cooked breakfast and a coffee from the café, before we had to bid farewell to Knoydart. After our journey back to CTC Dingwall, our final evening was spent socialising, and packing before bed.

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Sunset at Inverie on Thursday

Our last day was Saturday, where we ate breakfast and said our goodbyes to the CFAVs who had provided monumental support and morale boosts to us throughout the week. We left as a group to the train station, and I said my emotional goodbyes to the other cadets on the course, with whom I have built some amazing friendships throughout the week. Then my parents picked me up and we made an eleven hour drive back home to Cambridgeshire.

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Making Pebble towers in Mallaig (Sophie left)

Overall, Exercise Knoydart Challenger has been the greatest opportunity I have ever had in my life and was a huge privilege to be able to take part. Whilst it was also the most mentally challenging experience I have completed, it has taught me so many valuable lessons, including self reliance, mental resilience and adaptability, which have helped to shape me as a person. This expedition has continued to inspire me to go into the Army as an Officer in the future. I would also like to take this opportunity to say thank you to everyone wo helped to make this happen. First of all, Captain Hyslop, SSI Lester and all the other CFAVs who gave up their time to make this expedition happen. Also, to Cambridgeshire ACF and Kimbolton CCF, in particular SSI Irving and SSI Stagg, for their incredible support throughout the whole process and providing me with all the required kit and information. And finally, to all the cadets who attended for some amazing times and memories which will last a lifetime. Cadet Staff Sgt Moule.

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Sophie and a friend at Inverie Ferry Terminal

SSI Irving said; ‘St Neots Detachment is very proud of this incredible achievement by Sgt Moule. The Knoydart area of Scotland is a very remote region and is not for the faint hearted. Completing this Expedition is not something that should not be underestimated and is certainly good training for her upcoming Gold DofE! Its all worth noting that Sgt Moule found this CCAT Expedition herself via Cadet Portal, there are some fantastic opportunities within the ACF and Cadet Portal helps cadets find them. I would also like to thank the CQM & 2 Coy CAA for issuing her with the exped equipment needed.”