Skyler Kaplanchuk has participated in many expeditions during his days with the Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps, but none as rewarding as when he summited the mountain in Torres Del Paine in Chile.
Kaplanchuk, a cadet from 2483 Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps in Victoria, was one of 18 cadets across Canada (and one of two in the province) selected to take part in a one-in-a-lifetime international expedition to Chile last month.
As part of the 10-day expedition, designed to teach leadership and promote physical fitness, cadets trekked, kayaked and rode horses through the Patagonias.
“When I went down there, I expected just another expedition — get together, hike a bit, have an okay time,” said the 19-year-old.
“It was really good. The culture was amazing, the views were great, everything about it was very peaceful. It brought all your thoughts together.”
The training cadets received throughout the expedition led them to their final challenge — summitting the mountain in the Torres Del Paine National Park.
Kaplanchuk, who joined the cadets in 2011, has completed all levels of expeditions. He’s also hiked mountains in the Rockies and summited Mount Albert Edward near Campbell River, however, Torres Del Paine, proved to be the hardest journey of the cadet’s career.
On the day of the climb, cadets started at the base camp, but as they trekked on, the changing environment and conditions proved to be their biggest challenge.
Kaplanchuk battled winds of up to 100 to 120 kilometres an hour, along with a host of different landscapes that transformed from flat and dusty shrubs to forest to mountains.
After several hours, the group managed to reach the summit and a breathtaking view of the landscape below.
“When we got to the top it was great, but even on the way up, everything about it was great,” Kaplanchuk said, adding the hike was his favourite part of the expedition.
The hike was also his last as a cadet, since the program only allows participants to be a maximum of 19 years old.
The expedition taught him to have a goal in mind for any task, he added.
“Push for what you want. I told myself when I was a cadet at the beginning, exactly what I wanted to do and that I wanted to strive for something big like that. Have a goal in mind or else you won’t push for it,” he said.
Capt. Brandon McAuley, training officer expedition for the regional cadet support unit (pacific), has known Kaplanchuk for the past three years.
“He’s a very mature young man, he’s very dedicated to the program and is always looking to coach and mentor the younger cadets ,” said McAuley, adding there were 40 cadets who also applied for the expedition.
“Based on his experience and overall dedication and commitment he was selected as one of the two cadets to go from B.C.”