Cadet Mountaineers


CWO Ajvir Sandhu and Sgt Alex Dutch attended a Mountain Leadet Training Course at the Armed Forces Outdoor Training Unit at Llanwrust in North Wales at the end of August.

CWO Sandhu reports “Between 22nd-28th August, myself and Sgt Alex Dutch went to the JSATI (Joint Service Adventure Training Instruction) Facility in Llanrwst, North Wales to complete our Mountain Leader Training. Any over 18 in the Air Cadets is eligible for this course, free of charge, providing that they have 20 Quality Mountain Days defined as 6 hour plus day in any UK mountainous region, and a practical interest in mountaineering. This meant that I, as a member of the Alps Team and Alex, who finished her Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s award the previous year, were suitable candidates.

We travelled up on Saturday and thanks to British Rail network’s usual reliability, missed one train because the other was late and then had to get a bus to complete our journey. Upon arrival we greeted the other members on our 12-strong course and enjoyed dinner; which was always of a high quality, there is no faulting an RAF chef! On Sunday we met our instructors in the morning and were briefed on what to expect during the week. Strangely I recognised my Instructor, Karen, an RAF Sgt Adventure Training Instructor. Although I couldn’t place her face at first, I soon realised that Karen was the winner of the Armed Forces Special of the TV programme, Gladiators. Knowing I was in safe hands we set out for a day of navigation training. Navigation is what most people who go for ML assessment struggle on, so it was good to lay a solid foundation early in the week. It was even more comforting to know that my group got rained on for 15 mins, whereas Alex’s group got fully soaked through, but spirits were still high.

Monday followed a similar pattern as did the others days. Breakfast at a respectable 0730, weather brief at 0820 and in the buses by 0900. The weather on Monday was very un-Welsh, the sun was out and it was enjoyable doing a full QMD while discussing group management and watching the Hawks from RAF Valley zipping around the mountains. In the evening we met up with Fg Off Nick Harvey, the Sqn 2IC, who was undergoing his Mountain Instructor Award (MIA-a few levels above ML) at Plas-y-Brenin.

Tuesday was quite enjoyable, the main focus point was security on steep ground. From my time with the Alps team I had grown quite accustomed to rope work but for some it was very new and ultimately, we all learnt something. The day introduced us to scenarios in which because of a mistake, or because of an unconfident student, we as leaders would have to get our ropes out and assist our team. This varied from putting them onto a system which was similar to a dog-lead and had the same name, to making a full scale body harness for lowering people down vertical faces.

Wednesday and Thursday were our expedition days. Here we consolidated our navigational techniques while undergoing the physical demands of carrying all our amenities in our rucksacks. In true expedition spirit, the rain hammered it down on Wednesday morning but by the evening it had dried up. Thursday was quite an easy day for my group and I had a bit of a challenge adapting to using a 1:25,000 map rather than my usual 1:50,000. With everything in more detail on the 1:25k map it was sometimes hard to put things into perspective but after I while I found it far more useful then than the 1:50,000. We arrived back at the centre at around 1500hrs after a quick cafe lunch and were surprised when the other group trudged in around 3 hours later! They claimed to have a harder route, but that didn’t stop us accusing them of being biffs! (a military term for those with poor admin/fitness skills)

Friday was a short day as it was also the day we all headed home. This however, didn’t stop it being jam packed. The mornings learning was centred around river crossings which ended up with us all getting at least waist height depending on height, into a raging freezing torrent which was surprisingly more fun than we thought! Then after returning to the centre we packed up, handed our kit in and had our debreifs. I was pleased to find that my instructor supported my aim of being a qualified ML before 20, but we both agreed it would be a long shot! So watch this space…”

The photos show the two cadets during the week