Seventeen Royal Canadian Army Cadets and three Cadet Instructor Cadre Officers from across Canada participated in a rigorous International Expedition in Iceland from Aug. 24 to Sept. 6, which tested their physical and mental limitations.
The itinerary included a self-sufficient and gruelling 10-day hiking and mountain climbing expedition through Iceland’s south-western region, followed by three days of equally challenging mountain biking.
Participants ascended 1,000 metres of altitude and higher, through technical terrain, rivers, and mountains, each one carrying a rucksack of 50 lbs.
“The itinerary was very challenging, even for an experienced adventure enthusiast to attempt,” said mountain guide Vidar. “When I first heard that I was to do this with a group of teenagers, I thought this is crazy.”
On day seven of the expedition, the group’s mountain guides were alerted to an approaching storm that could bring dangerously high winds and subzero temperatures.
“It was really tough,” recalls cadet Matthew Wickwire, 18, from Halifax, N.S., a member of 2501 1st Halifax-Dartmouth Field Regiment Army Cadet Corps. “After seven days of hiking and climbing through all types of weather and nearing the end of the expedition, the guides told us that we were going to have a long day tomorrow, a really long day.”
Due to the potential of a heavy storm, they couldn’t take the chance of being caught in high altitude, so they had no choice but to get out of there fast.
On day eight of their expedition, cadets, staff, and guides woke at 4 a.m. to the daunting task of crossing the Skeioararjokull glacier, the third largest glacier in the world, which would lead them to safety at the Skaftafell National Park. After 13.5 hours winding across glacial crevices and ice, the group finally arrived at their objective in a total hiking time of 17 hours.
“Crossing the glacier was so challenging but we did it,” rejoiced cadet Shawn McEachern, 18, from Nanaimo, B.C., a member of 2422 Canadian Scottish Regiment (Nanaimo) Army Cadet Corps. “I was so tired during one of the breaks, but Captain Gale and the other staff started handing out chocolate bars and I just started to smile.”
After experiencing the adversities of high altitude, frigid cold river crossings, subzero temperatures and living in tents for 10 days, the group went on to traverse approximately 200 kilometres on mountain bike trails before enjoying a cultural day in the capital city of Reykjavik.
“International expeditions like these are held to reward exemplary, senior cadets from across Canada, and to test the years of preparation and survival skills they’ve been taught throughout the program,” says Captain Adam Gale, the Officer In Charge of the Regional Cadet Land Training School and this year’s International Expedition. “Selected candidates must prove their ability in a number of qualifiers prior to being considered to undertake an International Expedition. This was one of the toughest and most capable groups we’ve ever had, and I’m so proud of them.”
Capt Tyrone Grande, RCSU (Atlantic) PA
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