On Saturday 19 September 2015, members of HMS Neptune PT Department hosted the first ever Exercise Rothiemurchus Challenge (RC), which is an Adventure Training (AT) challenge for Tri-service personnel at Rothiemurchus Lodge (RL). The event consisted of Mountain Walking, Mountain Biking and Open Boating elements and was open to all Service personnel who were medically fit to attend.

Rothiemurchus Lodge (RL) is an all-year-round, affordable, self-catering accommodation facility in the heart of the stunning Cairngorm Mountains for the exclusive use of regulars and ex-regulars of the Armed Forces in addition to Reserves, MoD Civilians and Cadet Forces. Families of these groups are also welcome.

The event began on Friday 18 September 15 at 1930 (just before the Rugby World Cup match), by me giving all eight Team Captains a brief on the event as a whole. They in turn had to brief the rest of their team on completion. The key was for them to choose their Team Captains wisely and not ping the duty sprog of the group – the job requires being constantly switched on! After being briefed and hydrating whilst watching the game of rugby, all teams settled down for the evening in order to get some rest before the big race.

The next morning, all competitors were up and raring to go. They completed their final kit preps and the first teams were at the start line for 0855. However, after they had worked all night on their map study of the route, it was a surprise to me when I asked one of the teams whether they were happy with which way they were heading and, to my amusement, they pointed in the totally wrong direction. I had a feeling it was going to be a long day!

0900 and the teams were set off by WO1 Willetts, PDev Officer Northern Region.  One team would go the 15km on the Mountain Bike and Canoe section whilst the other would take to the hills south of the lodge and conduct a 13km route. By the end of the day all teams had been pushed to their physical limits, in the 20 degree heat no less – but there was also a mental challenge: Each team had to remember the 10 shapes and colours on Kim's board on the Canoe section; if they didn’t, they would get a penalty of 30 seconds for each one missed. There was only one team which achieved this, so clearly it wasn’t as easy as it looked.

The time to beat was that of 43 CDO R SQN, who had entered the event at short notice a few weeks earlier – no cough too tough for a Royal! Second and third place was a close race with just 3 seconds splitting both teams, and, believe it or not, it all came down to the Kim's board for second place, which was won by members of HQ 51 BDE. Once all teams crossed safely over the finish line, all HMS Neptune PT Staff collapsed their marshal locations and closed in for the prize giving. 

The prizes for first, second and third place were awarded by Captain Smith, the chairman of Rothiemurchus Lodge. Each of the 32 competitors received a t-shirt memento for their courageous efforts in getting around the challenge; these were provided courtesy of RNRM Sport Lottery. All Teams then enjoyed a curry and a sociable drink at the lodge.

I would personally like to thank all the competitors and staff who made the first ever Rothie Challenge a safe, enjoyable and unforgettable experience. Long may the event continue and I hope to see you all next year.