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Durham Air Cadets Reach New Heights

Published: 29 Sep 2015


Air cadets and staff from 234 (City of Durham) Sqn put in a peak performance on a trekking expedition to the French Pyrenees.

The 12 cadets plus three staff spent 15 months planning and fund-raising for the trip, helped by a grant of £2,210 from the RAF Charitable Trust, and the preparations paid off, with all the team reaching the summit of the Pic du Canigou, at 2,786m.

Based at Sahorre in southern France, the party spent the first days getting used to the rocky terrain, and a system of metal wires and walkways which kept them attached to the rock face, then moved on to the 2,505m peak, Roc Colom. There was time to celebrate GCSE results and a 17th birthday before the journey by road and on foot to Refuge De Mariailles, the start point for the mountain.

After an early start, five-and-a-half hours of climbing saw the team reach the final challenge of the 'chimney', the vertical stretch leading to the summit of Canigou.

"Danger was in front of us. Rocks could fall at any minute but no one seemed worried. Excitement and adrenaline was all that was going through our minds, and we made it!" said 16 year-old Cpl Charlotte Mole. "The views were breath-taking. We were all overwhelmed and so happy to have made it to the top."

Team leader Flight Lieutenant Will Close-Ash said: "Having worked already with the team on their training expeditions, I knew that they were fit, but I was very impressed with how they applied themselves during the whole expedition, not just with the mountaineering aspect. They worked solidly together as a team, especially on the summit day which was very demanding. They were a credit to their squadron."

After their success, the cadets enjoyed a day of recovery, with a visit to the town of Perpignan before a final team barbeque. 

"The Pyrenees expedition was an amazing opportunity with breath-taking experiences! I can now say I've climbed the most spectacular mountain in the Pyrenees with the best group of friends I could have asked for. It was mentally as well as physically challenging but a fantastic, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Cpl Sarah Rowell, 16.

"From the Pyrenees experience I found I was capable of a lot more than I thought," added Cpl Mole. "The trip has given us all an experience we won't forget. This experience has shown me that all you need is determination and you can do anything."

Caption: City of Durham cadets gearing up to tackle the Pic du Canigou.

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