NAVY NEWS, SEPTEMBER 2010
Get your kicks from 1000 clicks
kilometres on skis in 20 days. A 13-strong team, drawn from across the Corps, responded to a rallying cry from Lt Col Gary Green, CO of RM Stonehouse: to hike, ski and climb across central Norway, and some of the most rugged, demanding terrain anywhere in Europe.
roughly half-way between Oslo and Bergen – a team of Royal Marines aim to cover 1,000
TRUDGING up the forbidding slopes of the Hallingskarvet –
the mountains of the Douvrefjel then ski through the high peaks in the Joutenheimen, fi nishing with a ski across the Hardangervidda mountain plateau, one of Europe’s most inhospitable regions. There was a weekend in Wales for the team to bond and for elite conditioning coach, ex-RM corporal Bernie Shrosbree, to assess the men and draw up regimes which would help the commandos cover the required 50km every day.
As well as the incentive of team building and AT, Exercise Tusen Takk (Norwegian for ‘a thousand thanks’) sought to raise thousands of pounds for two cancer charities (Macmillan and CLIC Sargent), plus the Royal Marines Charitable Trust Fund. Maj Jon Clare was given the task of planning the 1,000km (620-mile) route with only one instruction: finish at Rjukan (allowing the Royals to ski in the tracks of the heroes of Telemark). The route devised began in the Olympic resort of Lillehammer, skiing north through the Rondane, crossing
And so to Norway with hopes of two weeks of good weather – hopes quickly dashed, says Lt Col Green. “The weather and ski conditions
were, put simply, awful,” he adds. “The fi rst few days through the Rondane which, in terms of terrain is comparable with Snowdonia, weren’t too bad – the weather held, the wax worked and we were able to crank out the miles.
This bleak area of wilderness in central-southern Norway where very few Norwegians tend to go was a considerable hurdle. “We found out why very early on when a couple of elderly Norwegian
locals came racing down the mountain warning us that our route through a high mountain pass had been blocked by avalanche.” And so it proved. At the top of said mountain the team found the debris from the avalanche – and no safe passage, a phenomenon repeated a few days later. The skiers turned south into the high mountains of the Jotunheimen National Park where it proved impossible to maintain the daily kilometre quota, despite the exhortations of the group’s mountain leader who proclaimed: “Another quality mountain day chaps!”
“That all changed when we hit the
to refl ect. After a 20km ski across a trance-inducing Lake Tyin, there was a service of remembrance for all the Royal Marines that have lost their lives in Norway and for friends and family of team members.
In the midst of the trek, a moment
losses or cancer to close family members,” said Lt Col Green. “It really brought home the
heavy water plant at Vermork 70 years ago.
signifi cance of what we were trying to achieve.”
Next to the Hallingskarvet, an awesome monolith barring the skiiers’ path culminating in a massive wall of snow rising 600 feet. Once conquered, the skiers could make for the vast and daunting Hardangervidda plateau It lived up to expectations. “The clouds lifted to reveal a vast
barren featureless landscape – a whiteness in every direction,” said Lt Col Green.
After Col Jim Hutton (CTCRM) read out the names of the fallen, each team member placed a cross in the snow which was followed by a minute’s silence.
“This was a poignant moment for all of us, not least myself, Jim and Maj Willie Hannah who had all suffered
“It became clear to all of us why Amundsen chose to train here for his race to the South Pole against Scott.” That was in the depths of winter; rain and temperatures of 3˚C dogged the Royals’ progress – and scuppered those plans to retrace the route of the Telemark heroes (officially Operation Gunnerside).
The team did, however, ski to the parachute drop zone at Skrykken and pay homage to their predecessors. They also dropped in on an elderly Norwegian woman who described her encounter with the saboteurs of the
And that all but brought the curtain down on Tusen Takk. “We had hoped for 20 days of brilliant sunshine. We got two,” said Lt Col Green. “Blizzards, cloud, hail, sleet, rain and fi erce winds, coupled with avalanches and awful snow conditions all conspired against us. The offi cer continued: “We never made the 1,000km, but we all benefi ted immensely from the experience. “It was a splendid journey, marked by the cheerfulness shown by all in the face of awful snow and weather conditions, the sheer dogged determination to crack on and overcome the odds, the distinctive bootneck sense of humour; and the inspiration the veterans took from the youngsters.” And then there was the fundraising: in excess of £19K collected so far. You can read fuller accounts of the
trek and see more images at www. tusentakk.co.uk
On the fi nal day, the sun shone in all its glory and the Royals made good speed to the foot of the Gausta near the town Rjukan – an area known well to many Royal Marines military ski instructors.
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