C4I Sqn Exercise Alpine Eagle 2019
“Adventure and Fear” (Abenteuer und Angst)
Exercise Alpine Eagle is an Adventure Training (AT) expedition ran by the RAF at the Robson Resilience Centre based in Bad Hindelang, Germany, in the heart of the Alps. This stunning location is perfect for the activities on offer with Alpine Eagle, Snow Eagle, and Klettersteig Eagle, all run through different periods of the year to coincide with the weather conditions.
In July 2019, a team of 12 C4I Squadron personnel departed for Exercise Alpine Eagle, a 7-day expedition, including travel with 5 days of activities.
Four of these days are AT based and the fifth day is a staff ride element. Dependent on the week you go, the weather and the instructors available, the activities available range from Klettersteig, mountain biking, canoeing, walking, canyoning, climbing and abseiling to list but a few. The staff ride element consists of two options. A trip to Munich for a Third Reich Tour, where you’ll learn about the Nazi history in Munich and see some of the physical scars of war. The second option is a trip to Dachau, a concentration camp memorial site, where you will learn about Germany’s first concentration camp, the role it played, and harrowing stories of the atrocities carried out by the Nazi regime there.
There is a knowledgeable guide for both staff ride options.
Our first day involved everybody making their way to Stansted Airport for the flight to Memmingen, which is about an hour coach journey from the Robson Resilience Centre. Arriving in good time, we were able to enjoy a Weatherspoon’s breakfast and some duty-free shopping before boarding the aircraft! Upon arrival in Germany we were greeted with sizzling temperatures as well as the stunning views the mountainous location has to offer. When arriving in Bad Hindelang at the Robson Resilience Centre, we met with the duty ATI and were shown to our rooms, before heading to the dining area for a brief on the weeks planned activities. We were split into three groups and given our timetables for the week ahead. Finally, it was dinner time and we enjoyed the first of many fantastic meals with as much as you can eat and cooked for us by our German hosts. The food was a mix of British and German cuisine, with three meals a day provided.
Each group had the same four activities on their week’s calendar, spread over different days. The activities we were lucky enough to enjoy consisted of Climbing, Canyoning, Klettersteig and Canoeing. The first morning we were kitted out for the week and were joined by our instructors for the day to make their way by minibus to the various locations around the region.
This activity was a rock face in Oberstdorf we were again subjected to amazing views and weather. Thankfully, the rock face was shaded and provided us with various grades of climb. The area was popular with local climbers and could get quite busy, but the groups were able to get through each climb whilst it was still quiet. After receiving guidance from the instructors and a bit of practice knot tying, we started climbing! Everybody enjoyed the climbing experience and improved throughout the day as they progressed up the grades, with some groups even able to test themselves with a bit of abseiling (which would come in handy as the week progressed). This activity tested your nerve, especially those with who demonstrate their hidden fear of heights, allowing individuals to trust the equipment and the people you are climbing with. Communication was key throughout and the instructors were always on hand to provide reassurance and any help when required. In the event of bad weather or the rock face being too crowded, groups can make use of an indoor climbing facility in the same town.
An activity that most of us had never done before, the Alps is probably one of the best locations in the world to experience canyoning! With no prior knowledge, I can safely say this activity surpassed all of our expectations and was brilliant from start to finish.
Venturing on an hour’s drive into Austria, with a short but grueling uphill walk, we got into our wetsuits and proceeded to the first short abseil into the canyon and the water. We all got used to the equipment and found the boots and wetsuits were very buoyant, which settled any nerves of the weaker swimmers.
The first big test was just a short swim/walk away. A 20m abseil into a large deep pool of water. Thankfully a few of the groups had experienced abseiling whilst climbing earlier in the week, so were a lot more comfortable with it than they may have been otherwise.
Those normally loud characters soon went quiet when clearly out of their comfort zone and this really was a true test of nerve and mental strength. Everybody managed to abseil down and once in the pool at the bottom, could jump off rocks into the water. There was a clear sense of relief and happiness with everyone being proud of the achievement. Along the route there were numerous places to jump/dive/flip into the water, enjoying both the activity and scenery.
A new experience for most, Klettersteig, also known as Via Ferrata, is basically a high-level protected climbing route. Klettersteig is German for “climbing path” and it comes in categories from A to E with E being the most difficult. This form of climbing has been around for centuries but in the past 20 years it has been greatly improved with hundreds of routes added as a way of attracting tourism to the region.
With nerves and sweaty palms aplenty, we made our way to the bottom of our climb, the very aptly named “Fingersteig”, and once we were fully kitted up with our equipment, started the ascent. The climb usually takes around 2 hours for an experienced group but took us a little closer to 3 hours. It took us a little bit of time to get into a rhythm using the equipment and the movements involved with this activity, but everyone progressed up the climb. Teamwork was vital with this activity, helping each other completing various difficult parts of the climb.
Upon reaching the top there was a massive sense of achievement along with relief from a few. It is something people rarely get to experience and will be remembered for the rest of our lives. You are treated to some incredible views along the way, as well as a well earnt drink in the café at the top of the mountain (if you have time). This activity expended a lot of energy and had arms and legs aching for days afterwards. It was physically and mentally demanding but led to a great accomplishment.
Klettersteig Eagle is run from the Robson Resilience Centre, and is an adventure training expedition where you can experience this activity over 5 days.
For those with a fear of heights canoeing came as some welcome relief! With it being so warm and sunny in Germany, canoeing was the perfect activity, and was thoroughly enjoyed by all. Once arriving at River Iller, we pumped up the canoes, given some instruction before having some practice on the lake. This involved getting wet, practicing turns and having a few little races. When the instructor felt we were ready, we crossed a path to the river to embark on our journey downstream. The water on the river was a lot colder as it had come from high up in the mountains, and was relatively fast flowing, which meant none of us wanted to fall in! With the flowing water we learnt some techniques for river canoeing and were given an idea of lines we should follow. Soon enough everyone was getting the hang of it and enjoying the day. We canoed for a couple of hours down river and were tested when going through fast moving rapids. It was at this point most of us capsized (including the instructor) but the ice-cold water was actually a relief in the heat. After completing the canoe down river to our destination, we loaded the equipment into the minibus and spent an hour beside a lake. The lake had watersports activities, a few café’s and beach volleyball court. After a drink and some competitive beach volleyball, we travelled back to our accommodation and handed in all the kit we had been given for the week.
On Friday we headed to Munich to complete a guided Third Reich walking tour. This was our staff ride element of the week and involved us gaining an insight into Nazi history in Munich, from the Nazi’s beginnings in the Bavarian capital, through to their downfall at the end of World War 2 in 1945. We saw former Nazi buildings, heard about the German resistance movement, and saw memorials to the Nazi’s victims.
On arrival we had a short walk to meet our guide and expert German historian. The tour lasted approximately 4 hours inclusive of the stop for lunch. Munich was Hitler’s favourite city and it was here that the Nazi ideology took hold of him and he joined the party. He rose through the ranks to become the Party’s leader and tried to overthrow the Bavarian government in 1923. It was fascinating to hear how about Hitler and the Nazi party’s journey through time to what it became, and to associate it with the visible scars still left behind at various locations across Munich. The guide painted a picture of Germany itself during that period and gave great insight into Hitler’s personality. We were also able to visit locations that were of significant importance before and during World War 2.
The previous night each group had delivered a presentation on a different question, closely associated with the tour of Munich, and therefore had given us a base understanding of the era and the place.
Upon completion of the tour, we were given an hour to look around Munich and do some shopping if necessary, before the coach journey back to the Robson Resilience Centre. Funnily enough, most people used this time to make their way directly to McDonald’s, and have something different to the packed lunch we’d been eating each day.
The local town, close to the Robson Resilience Centre had a few shops and pubs within a short walk. Most evening’s the groups ventured out and enjoyed a few beers at the local pub where we became regulars. At the end of a long, hot, strenuous day, the sight of a stein of larger brings a smile to the face. There was also a 4G football pitch, a group of us ventured most evenings for a little kick about.
The facilities and equipment all week were fantastic and the instructors were brilliant throughout. Everybody on this expedition had a great time and got something out of the experience, whether it’s overcoming fears, working as part of a team, or just and most importantly, having an enjoyable week away from the usual day to day work back in the UK.
Exercise Alpine Eagle is designed for group applications and C4i Sqn have identified this scheme as a pivotal squadron activity to enhance team work, communication, leadership and have subsequently been able to secure a second week of activities to develop additional squadron personnel.
Exercise Alpine Eagle is a brilliant scheme and I would thoroughly recommend it.
Cpl Andrew Sutton