June 1st 2017

Northampton reservists hit new heights in Peru

20170426 104REME Machu Piccu Unit.jpg

104 Battalion Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers at Machu Picchu.

Northampton based reservists have been following in the footsteps of the Incas as part of a memorable trip to Peru.

For two weeks, 12 members of 104 Battalion Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers swapped the Clare Street barracks for the height and humidity of the South American country.

They visited some of the over 600-year-old ruins built by the ancient Inca civilization, including former cities like Machu Picchu.

Craftsman Aimee Morris and Corporal Elliot Ross put their experiences from their Exercise Castle Adventure into words.

Aimee, who works as a rail engineer, said: “When we arrived in the city of Cuzco which sits at an already impressive height of 3600m, we grabbed our backpacks and headed up the steep incline to the hostel that would host us first up.

“Each of us was a little surprised by the immediate effects of the altitude on our bodies as we breathlessly made our way.

“Thankfully, a couple of days acclimatising with short walks, an overnight camp and cultural visits to ancient Inca sites such as the amazing ruins of Sacsayhuaman and Huchuy Qosqo meant we were ready for the big one – The Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu! A 70km kilometre trail with a total ascent of 2800m.”

20170426 104REME Humantay Lagoon

Humantay Lagoon

Elliot, who works as a mechanic, said: “We were all twitching with anticipation and raring to go. Kit prepped and bags packed, we left the hostel in the dark of the early morning.

“Crammed into the minibus, we wound our way around the mountain tracks, jumping in and out of the bus in order for it to make its way up some super steep inclines and avoiding parts of the tracks made narrow by recent mudslides. It is the rainy season after all.

“After a fun and beautiful journey we arrived at the town of Mollepata for a big breakfast before being dropped just up the road for the beginning the trek.”

Aimee: “The first leg finished a few kilometres short of the Salkantay Pass. The scenery ranged from snow-capped mountains to bright green hills occupied by wild flowers, donkeys and mules, who just so happened to carry the majority of people’s kit or even themselves over the undulating landscape.

“There were no donkeys for us though. We had meticulously sorted and packed our kit and were carrying ours. This promised to be a challenge.

“After pitching our tents eating we climbed a short steep track to a stunning turquoise lake formed just below the snow line in the imposing shadow of Salkantay mountain at 4200m, Laguna Humantay. Some of the brave (or crazy) members of the group even dared a quick dip in the ice cold water. It was followed by an early and cold night under the stars at 4000m.

Elliot: “The next morning held what we had all been waiting for – the ascent up to Salkantay Pass at 4600m.

20170426 104REME Surfing Pacific

Surfing in the Pacific

“The team worked together to help each other monitor the effects of the altitude with many suffering headaches. However the Salkantay Pass did not disappoint providing stunning views of the mountains and down to the valleys.

“Throughout the expedition mountain leaders and senior team members took every opportunity to pass on their skills and teach the rest of the team everything from predicting forthcoming weather through cloud formations to foot care, river negotiations and navigation techniques. The awkward 1:60,000 maps missed details like entire lakes and major mountain features.”

Aimee: “The journey continued through what seemed like every season, hail stones, torrential rain and blazing sunshine. We were prepared for everything. From high passes just short of the snow line to deep gorges and humid jungle terrain.

“The icing on the cake was hiking the famous Peru Railway line up to Machu Picchu town, Aguas Caliente for our first luxury night in a hostel since Cuzco.

“The next morning was spent on an informative tour of Machu Picchu (Old Mountain) by our brilliant guide Gerson, learning about Inca history, values, beliefs and religion. There was then nerve testing ascent and descent of Huayna Picchu (Young Mountain) which overlooks Machu Picchu and a climb of the 600-year-old Stairs of Death over a steep cliff for those who dared!”

Elliot: “The expedition was full of challenges for our team, logistically due to landslides and last minute changes, and mentally because we were overcoming personal challenges and fears way beyond our comfort zones.

“All team members have now gained their summer mountain proficiency and many are now inspired to develop their leadership skills and physical fitness further to gain their own Mountain leader proficiencies and other military and adventurous training qualifications.

“The hard work and determination of the leadership and the junior members of the reservist team had paid off.  Exercise Castle Adventure was a complete success.”


"Exercise Castle Adventure was a complete success.”