Shrewsbury School

CCF: Heroes of Telemark Expedition 2012, in the words of the boys

Saturday 14 April 2012

Early in the morning of Saturday the 24th March four cadets and an officer from Shrewsbury School CCF set out on an expedition to Norway. Will Heys, Ed Chapman, Henry Young and Ollie Pattison-Appleton were lead by Col. Paul Rothwell (Wycliffe College) and Lt. Simper on the weeklong Nordic ski-touring trip to the Hardangervidd, which is the largest mountain plateau in Europe.

We were based in the small village of Finse and stayed in a large hostel called Fynsehyta. Over the next four days we spent all of our time learning the Nordic skiing techniques that we would need to employ on the four-day expedition that we were working towards. All members of the group made excellent progress and picked up techniques such as herringbone and parallel gait very quickly.

On day three the weather had changed and gale force winds made the visibility and skiing very difficult. By Thursday when we were due to set off on the first and longest day of the expedition the weather had not improved and we were forced to change our plans. The start of the expedition was put back a day and an alternative route was chosen.

Thankfully there was a slight improvement in the weather on Friday so we set off on a 16km ski to Geiterygghyta situated to the north of Finse. The wind was still very strong and much colder conditions meant that much of the skiing was over hard frozen snow and sheet ice. This meant progress was very slow but after six hours’ hard work we arrived at the hut.

The next morning the weather was stunning and we made excellent progress. After having skied 15km back in the direction of Finse following a different route we found a huge snowdrift and set about digging a large snow hole in which the seven of us could spend the night (Jerry Edmonds had joined the group on Tuesday). With the boys’ JCB-like digging skills the hole was finished after just two and a half hours so we settled into our bivi-bags, cooked our rations and tried to get some sleep.  We woke up in the morning to find that the sides of the snow hole had started to collapse! Rather than cooking breakfast we packed our rucksacks and left the hole as quickly and calmly as possible.  On digging out of the snow hole we found that the weather had deteriorated dramatically, heavy snow and strong winds were creating very nasty whiteout conditions. As we could not shelter in the collapsing snow hole we had to ski the remaining five kilometers back to Finse.

All agreed that we had had a tremendous experience. The boys said that it was the best CCF trip that they had ever been on and would all be very keen to return.

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