45 Commando tackle toughest mountaineering challenge in UK

Royal Marines from 45 Commando have not only completed the gruelling Cuillin Ridge on the Isle of Skye, but shaved nearly one third off the time it normally takes expert climbers.

Nine out of ten people fail the toughest mountaineering challenge in the UK, but then nine out of ten people aren’t Royal Marines.

The men of 45 Commando’s Recce Troop are the elite of the elite when it comes to fighting at altitude – experts in Arctic and mountain warfare, reconnaissance and surveillance – bolstered by a team of snipers.

It’s the troop’s task to scout ahead of the main body of Royal Marines operating unseen and unsupported, far in advance of their comrades.

It took three weeks of training in the Highlands for the Arbroath-based green berets to get ready for the assault on the ridge which runs for 12 kilometres down the spine of western Skye.

There is no other force that can deliver this – 45 Commando's Recce Troop remains at the forefront of expeditionary capability

Captain Arron Broughton Royal Marines, Officer Commanding Recce Troop

Handbooks for climbers warn it’s “the most challenging mountaineering expedition in the British Isles”, akin to tackling parts of the Alps: 30 gnarled peaks twisting and twining, rising and falling some 4,000 metres along their length.

Those same guidebooks reckon it takes most experienced climbers – this is not a route for walkers – around 30 hours to finish… although ninety percent of civilians fail to complete the full 12-kilometre route

So Recce Troop are understandably proud with their time of 21 hours 45 minutes. They’re also the only unit to have completed the entire ridge in decades.

Not that it was easy. And it was all completed in military fatigues using military kit.

“The way is exposed and gruelling with continuous climbing, abseiling, challenging route finding and all the logistical hassles of a real expedition, including a mountaintop encampment,” explained mountain leader and Officer Commanding Recce Troop Capt Arron Broughton.

“There is no other force that can deliver this – 45 Commando's Recce Troop remains at the forefront of expeditionary capability.”