A teenager from Otley is preparing to follow in the footsteps of famous Scottish explorer Sir Alexander Mackenzie’s pioneering trail in the heights of the Rocky Mountains as part of a special expedition by the Yorkshire and Humberside Cadet Forces.
Helen Winpenny, 16, a cadet at Otley Army Cadet Force, is one of just 15 cadets and nine adult instructors from across the region who have been specially chosen after a rigorous assessment process to take part in the challenging expedition.
Departing at the end of July, Helen will take four weeks trekking across the stunning West Coast Mountains of British Columbia, Canada, following the final section of the Mackenzie trail – a trail rarely used because of its challenging nature. Pitching and striking camp, cooking meals, purifying water and all other essential camp tasks will be undertaken by the team of cadets as they make their way across mountains, rivers, lakes, stream crossings, bogs, unspoiled forest, alpine meadows, scree slopes and even bears.
Helen needs to raise £1,200 to pay for the trip, which is subsidised by the Yorkshire Cadet Trust, and around £600 for her own kit and equipment, which she is doing through a range of fundraising activities such as sponsored events, bag packing and weekend working in local businesses.
The cadets have been undergoing a 12-month training programme, which started last year, in preparation for the extreme conditions they will face.
Helen said: “It’s hard to believe that in two months I’m going to be trekking across the wilderness of the Rockies. It’s going to be an incredible experience – a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It’s also going to be a big challenge. We’ve been told that the trail we’re going on is not often used as it’s considered too tough for most trekkers. But we’ve been training well and have another couple of months to go to ensure we’re as prepared as we can be. With the help of our instructors, I’m confident we’ll be ready for anything the expedition may throw at us. I can’t wait!”
Colonel David Fuller OBE, Colonel Cadets at Headquarters 15 (North East) Brigade, based in York, who has been training the cadets for the trip, said: “This is the first time we’ve mounted an expedition such as this to the Rockies, and we’re delighted to be able to take our cadets on this adventure.
“An expedition like this offers skills and challenges that they would otherwise never get to experience. It is also a great occasion for the cadet movement, which continues to offer fantastic opportunities, such as this expedition, not only to young people but also the adult volunteers we rely on to keep the cadet movement running.”
Anyone who would like to help raise money for Helen can email Colonel Fuller at firstname.lastname@example.org.