Reading Week Adventure in Guatemalan Highlands
The following account is a self-financed adventure by RMC Expedition Club members OCdts (II) Raakesh Bharathi and (II) Mitch Binding to the summits of Central America’s tallest volcanoes.
By 25919 OCdt (II) Raakesh Bharathi
Myself (photo below right) and OCdt Mitch Binding (photo below left) spent Reading Break travelling through Guatemala. From the dirt biking around the villages of Antigua, to exploring the beautiful Lago de Atitlán and blitzing through the volcanoes in the western highlands, it was a whirlwind tour.
While Mitch set off to climb and spend the night on Volcán San Pedro (9900ft) overlooking the entire Lagoon, I headed west towards the highlands; here is my story.
I arrived in Quetzaltenango (Xela), in the San Marcos region near the Mexican border, having had my first experience on a chicken bus speeding through winding turns on the Pan American highway with passes over 10,000ft. I arrived knowing I wanted an adventure and I quickly found a local guide who was willing to take me to the roof of Central America: Volcán Tajumulco (13845 ft). After a bit of wandering the streets exploring the colonial architecture, I headed back to my room to prepare for the day ahead.
My journey started at 0400. Getting to the volcano takes an ‘exciting’ 3 hour chicken bus ride from Quetzaltenango, through winding mountain roads where the drivers do not slow down around corners.
The chicken bus drops you off at a nearby town called San Marcos, from there you have a transfer on to a little mini bus the locals call ‘Micro’. The ‘Micro’ crams 12+ people in a 8 seater minivan. The ‘Micro’ winds through the picturesque back country roads of the highlands, on its way to the village of Tajumulco nestled away in the Guatemalan highlands.
The ‘Micro’ drops you off near the village of Tajumulco. My guide and I decide to stop by the corner store to stock up on snacks before hitting the trail.
Usually climbers trek Volcán Tajumulco over 2 days to take full advantage of the spectacular scenery, sunset and sunrise; but due to the my limited time, I decided to ascend and descend in one day. The climb begins at ~8800ft.
The climb is gradual at the beginning, but with almost 5000ft to ascend the trail has several steep sections. Despite the high altitude, the temperature warms up quickly. I was perfectly comfortable with just 2 layers.
Throughout the climb the views are spectacular. You can see all the little villages dotted throughout the country side; ou can also see Mexico which is just across the clouds.
On a short break right before the summit we met a few local villagers doing the climb in traditional clothes, with sandals and kids on their backs. They were kind enough to offer us some snacks before they set off.
The final 200 meters of the climb is the hardest and takes almost 45 minutes. With some parts near vertical, you are on all fours trying to get up. However, the excitement of being so close to the summit makes it endurable.
The views from the summit are completely worth the effort. You can see Volcán Tacana in the background where the Mexican/Guatemalan border divides the volcano in half. On really clear days you can see all the way to the pacific ocean out west.
Despite spending more time than expected on the summit, we managed to run down the volcano just in time to catch the last bus back.
I spent the last day in Guatemala relaxing at the hot springs, before getting a 4 hour cab ride to the airport. Despite a landslide blocking the road, I arrived at the airport with just enough time to catch the flight.
There is a quote by Saint Augustine that sums up my philosophy towards travel, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”
Guatemala was everything we thought it would be and more; it was an incredible week and we are looking forward to the next adventure, wherever it may be.
Rugy photo following the final game: Back row L-R: Davies, Young, Black, Moore, Kim, Pratt, Taylor. Front Row L-R: Carswell, Spiller, Lee, Saliken, McLeod.
Men’s Rugby Team Represents College & CF in Victoria
Article by 25914 OCdt (III) Lee
This past weekend (March 2nd- 3rd), the RMC “Red Men” travelled to Victoria, British Columbia, to attend the 2012 National Invitational University Rugby 7s Championships. 12 members from the RMC men’s varsity rugby team were selected to travel and represent the college in a tournament that included strong sides, such as: University of British Columbia, McMaster University, University of Western Ontario, and the defending champions, University of Victoria. The 12 selected players were: 25344 OCdt (IV) Moore, 25459 OCdt (IV) Pratt, 25816 OCdt (III) Spiller, 25741 OCdt (III) Carswell, 26178 OCdt (III) Saliken, 25914 OCdt (III) Lee, 26017 OCdt (II) Davies, 25970 OCdt (II) Young, 26336 OCdt (I) Kim, 26329 OCdt (I) Taylor, Private McLeod, and Ordinary Seaman Black.
7s rugby is a variation of the regular 15s rugby. However, this game consists of 7 minute halves, and 7 players playing the full length of a regular rugby pitch. Not only is this variation fast paced, it is also very physically demanding. Some of the players of the RMC squad had never been exposed to this variation of play; nevertheless, the high level of physical fitness these players held helped the cause of inexperience. Because of the lack of time to train for this tournament, the Red Men had to put something together quickly in order to compete at a high level against their opponents, such as UVIC, who had National 7s players.
The Red Men were in a pool with Mount Royal University, University of British Columbia Okanagan, and University of Victoria. In their opening match up against Mt. Royal, the Red Men fell short by 2 points, due to a mistake made in the final seconds of the game. The final score was 17-15 for Mt. Royal. Only 2 hours after their first match, they played UBC O, who had some skilled and quick players. Unfortunately, the Red Men fell short again. The final score was 27-12 for UBC O. However, it was evident that the team was quickly progressing and improving, as the commentators recognized that “RMC’s defense and structure was outstanding”. The third and final game of the day was against UVIC. With years of experience and National rugby 7s players in their squad, UVIC took the win over the Red Men. However, once again, the opposing team had to work very hard in offence to score against the “very physical and strong side of RMC”. The final score was 40-0 for UVIC.
Since the Red Men placed last in their pool, the two games they were to play the next day were for seeding for next year’s championships. The Red Men played University of Regina in their opening game the next day. It was evident that the Red Men had adjusted quickly to the 7s variation, as they played with good defence once again, but also with good offence. The Red Men took the win over Regina, as the final score was 24-5. The next game was against UBC O once again. Since UBC O had beaten the Red Men the previous day, the Red Men had to come into the game focused and ready to win. Dominating the game were the Red Men, as they once again played with great defence, and pieced together some great scoring opportunities. At the end of the day, the Red Men took the win over UBC O 17-12, and placed 10th in the championships.
It was a great experience for the 12 Red Men in Victoria, as they were exposed to western Canada rugby culture, and 7s rugby. The Red Men are looking forward to attending the next year’s championships. Many teams and spectators had the utmost respect for the 12 players as they represented the college and the CF in a very professional and respective manner. The commentator had described the Red Men as “brave men serving our country, and real specimens of men”.
Second Report on the Rugby Trip
25344 OCdt (IV) Kellan Moore
On Wednesday, February 29, 2012, twelve members of the Men’s Rugby Team at the Royal Military College of Canada left for the University Rugby Sevens National Championship held in Langford, British Columbia. (IV) OCdt Chris Pratt, 25459; (IV) OCdt Kellan Moore, 25344; (III) OCdt Colin Carswell, 25741; (III) OCdt Rick Spiller, 25816; (III) OCdt Riley Saliken, 26178; (III) OCdt Jaemok Lee, 25914; O.S. Brandon Black; Pvt. Spencer McLeod; (II) OCdt Eric Young, 25970; (II) OCdt Rhys Davies, 26017; (I) OCdt Matt Taylor, 26329; and (I) OCdt Joshua Kim, 26336, were led by coaches Sean McDonaugh and David Harries. Having only been able to practice indoors throughout the winter, the RMC team had to face opponents who had just recently returned from the Las Vegas Sevens Outdoor Tournament.
The team landed in Victoria, BC late Wednesday night and within no time were on their way to CFB Esquimalt, which is where the team stayed for the duration of the trip. While most other teams were sleeping, RMC had already eaten breakfast and were on the way to their first outdoor practice in months. The first practice was at Oak Bay High School. It was a crisp, calm and sunny Thursday morning. It was a very refreshing change to the regular winter practice field; the Fieldhouse at the Kingston Military Community Sports Centre. After a short practice, the team headed back to Esquimalt to eat and recharge, as two additional practices were planned that afternoon. The first was against the Western Mustangs, coached by former RMC graduate Matthew McLeod (23785). During this practice, the team scrimmaged against Western and had a chance to run through various plays as well as practice their defense. The practice was short, but it was high intensity, much like the game of Rugby Sevens. The final practice for the day was scheduled at the Velox Rugby Club. This provided the team with a last chance to run through their systems before the tournament begun the next morning.
The next morning, the team awoke with the realization that they had three difficult games to play that day. Anxious, but more importantly excited, the team departed Esquimalt for Bear Mountain Stadium in Langford, BC. The first game was against Mount Royal. Many of the members on the RMC team had never played Sevens before this point, however, that did not show. RMC lost by only 2 points on the last play of the game. The final was 17- 15 for Mount Royal. After a quick lunch, RMC took to the field again to take on the University of British Columbia Okanagan. In this game, RMC displayed its aggressiveness and toughness as they grinded the UBCO team down. Gareth Rees, a former Team Canada Rugby player stated the RMC team were composed of “Real specimens of men serving our country.” However, the small and fast players of UBCO managed to capitalize on the mistakes of the RMC team and took the game 29-14. The last game of the day was against the University of Victoria. The UVIC team is one of the best in the country. However, it took multiple phases of offensive before they could finally put points on the board. Even though the final score was 40-0 for UVIC, the RMC team was commended for its tough defensive play against the tournament favourites.
The physical demands of the rugby tournament were taking a toll on the entire team after the first day of playing. That night, players improvised their own ice baths using garbage cans and ice from the Mess on base. The team went to bed with a better understanding of Sevens Rugby and awoke the next morning eager to play again.
The first game on the second day was against the University of Regina. From the initial kick-off it was evident that the RMC players had learned from mistakes made on the previous day. The team kept their aggressive style of play and matched it with their mental and physical toughness in order to punish Regina throughout the entire game. The final score was 24-5 for RMC. The last and final game of the tournament was against UBC Okanagan. After playing them the day before and losing by only 2 points, it left players determined for revenge. The game started with big hits and tough play. It was evident that their smaller opponents did not like running into contact with any one of the RMC players. Even with some costly mistakes in the game, RMC still came out on top with a 17-12 victory. That was RMC’s final game of the tournament. Former RMC Graduate Matt McLeod (23785) led his Western Mustangs to the finals and came out victorious against the University of British Columbia.
Although rugby was done, the fun was not. The team made its way to the Pratt family home where they had great food, drinks, and shared a lot of laughs. Members of the Saliken, Davies and Spiller families were also there and made the event even more enjoyable.
Before the tournament, a lot of teams and players were unaware of the rugby program at RMC. Coming out of the tournament, RMC Rugby made a name for itself on a national level. RMC is seen as a team who is fearless, tough and hard hitting. This notion is not by chance, however, it is through years of hard work and dedication from past and present players and coaches McDonaugh, Harries and Reiffenstein that have shaped this program into what it is today. Overall, the tournament was a great success.
On behalf of the RMC Rugby Team and coaching staff, I would like to thank the Saliken, Lee, Spiller, Davies, Pratt and Young families for their support during the tournament last week. Furthermore, sincere gratitude and appreciation is extended to all other family members, Training Wing members and Ex-Cadets who have, throughout the years, supported the RMC Rugby Team.