Exercise Northern Rocky Mountain Venturer

1 October 2014

During July 2014, 8 adult volunteers and 13 cadets, led by Colonel David Fuller, ACFA Vice Chairman and Colonel Cadets 15 (North East) Brigade, headed for British Columbia, Canada for a 26 day RFCA expedition, supported throughout by the Yorkshire Cadet Trust.

Training prior to the expedition included adventure and first aid training, camp craft, wild animal safety, water purification and trekking.

The expedition itself was in three phases: first, a self-supported seven day trek in the Rainbow Mountains of the Tweedsmuir South Provincial Park, the highlight being the summit of Mount Mackenzie.

Following a steep climb through forest, the team climbed to a small lake, close to Mackenzie Pass. The summit was now in sight; steadily traversing a scree slope, leading to a steep track and finally a ridge walk saw everyone assemble at the summit at 2146 metres. Great relief was felt by all; the summit saw the end of five hours uphill walking. The views in all directions were superb.

During this phase of the expedition the team practiced and carried out navigation skills, route finding, camp and bush craft, mountain walking, river crossings, more bear and wild animal safety, with other health topics. The latter included water treatment, insect avoidance and after-bite treatment, especially useful for the swarms of mosquitoes and horse flies, which were constant throughout the trek.

After a one day replenishment and a quick swim in the Nimpo Lake, the team was flown by float plane to Ptarmigan Lake in the Caribou Mountains, where a base camp for phase two was set up. With the temperature reaching 30°C the itinerary included: a walk to the foot of a glacier, several high camps in the area of Ptarmigan and Molly Lake, a descent to Turner Lake, where some canoeing was carried out and a shorter walk to observe the Hunlen Falls, Canada’s third highest waterfall.

On the final day the team trekked over a descent of 800 metres and distance of 16 km, followed by a light pack walk to the trailhead, of 11.25 km, a challenging end to the expedition. For some the end of the trek was a time to relax.

The final phase involved rest and recuperation at Bella Coola, including a tourist river drift, in the hope of seeing bear which had evaded us for 16 days and a cultural visit to native petroglyphs with a First Nation Guide who kept us enthralled with his tales. During the final two days in Vancouver the team managed to spend up and recuperate.

Throughout the entire expedition the team were enthralled by the scenery, the mountains, the almost permanent blue skies, the views from the peaks, the power of the glaciers and rivers and the multitude of flora and fauna, mostly flora to the chagrin of many. However, the small animals sighted close up and the moose and caribou at a distance, plus the numerous Bald Eagles seen on the river drift almost made up for not sighting bears which remained elusive right until the end.

In conclusion the expedition completed the majority of the aims without incident save for the one minor injury and are extremely grateful for the support they received from their kind and generous sponsors such as the Ulysses Trust, the Yorkshire Cadet Trust and it would be remiss not to thank personally Lieutenant Colonel Jeremy Bleasdale of RFCA for his major efforts in fundraising for the team, together with all the supporting staff from ACF counties, the Sea Cadets and Air Cadets, without whom the team would not have been able to train.

In addition the Team Leader carried a Personal Locator Beacon kindly supplied by ACR Electronics, which gave a degree of comfort knowing that in an emergency it would alert the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency and that help would arrive if necessary, all down to a bit of personal contact with the company and a very kind Jacqui Rowe in the EPIRB Registry of the MCA’s Falmouth Coastguard Station.

Copy: Sophie Whisson