Robert Ellison
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Robert Ellison - Loch Eil, Scottish Highlands, 1982

This was January 1982 and if you remember one of the coldest winters on record.

The train from Glasgow to Fortwilliam, which was an evening journey on a Sunday I think, that was to commence my experience , stopped midway due to frozen diesel, in the engine, and we took our clothes from our suitcases and put them on as it was so cold. After sometime the engine got sorted and we arrived into Fortwilliam early hours of the next day, to a Winter wonderland, and minus 20 degrees. (We were later told that it was estimated to be minus 28 degrees on the train) When we arrived at Acdalieu House all the pipes were frozen , so no water for the first few days, but being 16 year olds we all managed !!.

We met our staff and instructors and were introduced to each other in clans, I think mine was the Mc Farlane clan.Some particiapants didnt actually arrive until the wednesday three days late due to the severe weather. There were so many memories of climbing a great pine tree in the front garden, all roped together, climbing frozen waterfalls with ice axes and crampons, going on expeditions and sleeping in bothies , climbing Ben Nevis , having races down frozen hills in Bivouac Bags(not designed for this but great craic) and a canoe expedition. The capsize training for the canoe expedition was the coldest feeling I have ever had in my life, running straight back to the house and into the hot showers fully clad in my wetsuit. Thankfully on the expedition I didnt capsize once!!

We experienced Burns night at the centre and from memory this was after our three day solo, in the wilderness. For any one who doenst know, it is when you are given minimal items , food and supplies, which you pick out of a store for building a shelter and living in it for three days , and you must have no communication or contact with any other participant. This was a really rewarding experience and a time to reflect . I still try to get timeouts like this if I can.

The experience was truely character building and I would recommend it to anyone to have a go. Oh by the way I was a Police cadet from the Royal Ulster Constabulary at that time , I went on to complete 31 years police service , finished up as an Inspector and was awarded the Queens Police Medal by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in 2010 for Services to Community Policing, in East Belfast . I am now retired and volunteering in a youth training organisation. I think that my early experiences, on those three and a half weeks in the winter wonderland on Outward Bound in Scotland , in 1982 certainly shaped and moulded who I am now . Carpe Diem !