Canadian Exchange 2018 - The 2018 Rocky Mountain Leadership and Challenge Course

Every year 12 Army cadets from the ACF and CCF are selected to represent the UK on the six week Leadership and Challenge course held every summer at the Royal Canadian Army Cadet (RCAC) Rocky Mountain Cadet Training Centre, ninety minutes' drive from Calgary.  For the 200 Canadian participants this course is ‘the tip of the sword’ in the cadet career. Cadet Corporal Charlie Mackintosh from King’s School, Worcester CCF, tells us about his experience.


Climbing

In 2018 I was one of the lucky 12 cadets to pass the national selection weekend and represent the UK, the Mercian Regiment, and King’s School Worcester CCF on the course.  It certainly lived up to my expectations. 

I got the opportunity to test myself and my leadership capabilities in new ways and have fun and incredible experiences in the Rocky Mountains whilst doing so. These cycles were led by professional civilian instructors, many of whom are famous in their own fields for kayaking notoriously difficult rapids, or summiting Everest.  Working with these guides in groups as small as three was a unique learning experience.  The majority of this training took place in the Canadian Rocky national parks, especially Banff, Yoho and Jasper, so scenery was stunning.

My platoon started with the Alpine Trek cycle during which my group completed the Banff Highline Trail, camping out for three nights and qualifying as my D of E Gold practice expedition.  Next was horse riding and a wilderness 1st Aid course.  Rock climbing followed with the final day spent on a five pitch, 250m, four hour climb.  In the fourth week I had glacier cycle in which the five fittest in my platoon were selected to climb the Des Poilus glacier. On summit day we awoke at 0200 to begin climbing with ice axes, crampons and head torches before the ice became too soft.  This was the most physically demanding thing I had ever done but despite the 11 hour ascent, it was worth it for the incredible feeling of accomplishment I felt when I reached the top! 

In my penultimate week I had bike cycle which was nearly as physically challenging, although in a different way. It finished with a three hour assent followed by a very fast 30 minute decent!  The uphill journey by mountain bike was very tough, but worth it for the exhilarating downhill. The final week was the water cycle and I chose to kayak.   This was, alongside climbing, my favourite activity.  I learnt the basics of rolling and paddled a number of grade 3 rapids.

At change over weekends all the cadets had the opportunity to take part in a variety of cultural and ceremonial activities including a visit to the Calgary Stampede and a parade to exercise the Freedom of Banff.  The British party also got to visit the BATUS AT Centre for an open day.  In camp we had various inter platoon competitions.  During the course cadets were rewarded for their performance on the various cycles and I was awarded ‘Best Cadet on the Alpine Trek Cycle’ for my platoon.  The inspecting officer for the final battalion parade was the Vice Chief of the Canadian Defence Force, Lieutenant General Wynnyk, and I was lucky enough to be appointed as the Cadet RSM for the parade.

I have had an amazing experience and done things that very few 16 year olds have the opportunity to undertake.  I have also made friends for life from all over Canada and the UK.  My course was one of four annual exchanges with the RCAC, each of six weeks.  To any cadets reading this my advice would be to put your name forward for a chance of selection.  The Rocky Mountain course is estimated to cost over £35 000 per UK cadet to run, but is free for participants. What more of an incentive could you want?!