Cadets complete gruelling Norwegian cross-country skiing adventure

Posted on March 14, 2018

A Welcome Lunchbreak

Twenty cadets from Canford School CCF and eleven cadets from Wellington College CCF have completed a gruelling Norwegian cross-country skiing expedition.

Setting off on Saturday 10 February, the cadets plus four staff and six instructors arrived in Hovden, just southwest of the Hardangervidda,  known for the wartime tales of the Telemark Heroes, ready to test themselves to the limit.

There, the cadets were split into random groups and spent the next three days learning about the technicalities of waxing skis, using skins on the steep uphill sections and perfecting the glide of cross-country skiing, whilst developing an awareness of the risks and threats faced in a freezing environment.

By Wednesday 14 February, with a mixture of excitement and trepidation, the cadets were ready to take on the three-day expedition and set off into the Norwegian outback.

Only a day into the expedition, the cadets were faced with deteriorating weather conditions as heavy snow began to fall and visibility dropped.

One cadet commented: “The hardest thing I did was definitely the first day of the expedition when we skied hard uphill for 15 km. For the last 2 km we had no visibility and trouble finding the hut. On top of this, the skins kept falling off and we were really cold and tired. However, as a team with our instructors we completed the ski and learned so much.”

The plan was to build snow holes for shelter, but quickly it became physically impossible to build them and the cadets were forced to retire to the adjacent Norwegian National Trust Hut. 

Another group were able to construct a snow hole. One of the cadets tells the story: “After a tough ski into the hills through new deep snow dragging our pulk we constructed our quincy, an igloo built by making a huge mound of snow and hollowing it out from the inside. For me this was my favourite day because everyone took part and we really felt like we accomplished something.  After building our huge snow hole, we settled down for the night in our sleeping bags: but not before cooking and enjoying our rations which were basically no more than sloppy cardboard. 

“The night was surprisingly warm and quiet in the snow hole and after a comfortable sleep we packed up. On looking outside next morning however, we were confronted by a crazy blizzard and could barely scramble the fifty metres to the cabin where we took refuge for the morning.”

Sadly, due to the weather conditions day two of the expedition was spent predominantly in the hut, with a few outdoor exercises where the cadets were able to practice first aid and avalanche training, before making the downhill ski back to complete day three of their challenge.   

Lt Col Dan Culley, Expedition Leader and Contingent Commander at Canford School, said: “The challenge of working as a team in poor visibility, with a severe wind chill, and in winds that were difficult to stand up in let alone achieve various tasks was fantastic and saw the cadets rising to the occasion and learning key skills in a team environment trying to rescue dummy victims and lost equipment in the snow. The wind continued to blow into the second night but died the next day offering all of us a superb ski out in soft snow, mostly downhill and back to a huge and very welcome bowl of soup.

“Despite the loss of effectively half of the expedition due to the adverse weather conditions, the cadets still took a huge amount away from the trip as an experience and importantly as an education. It was undoubtedly a huge success and the cadets and staff would like to take this opportunity to offer our thanks and appreciation to the MOD for their support together with both the Ulysses and Connaught Trusts whose continued support has been magnificent.”