Leonardo team takes on Cateran Yomp 2024 in aid of Army Benevolent Fund

25 June 2024

Each year in early June, hardy souls from across the UK take on the infamous Cateran Yomp. The event is run by, and in aid of, the Army Benevolent Fund (ABF) who Leonardo support as corporate members. As part of Armed Forces Week 2024, Leonardo colleagues Stephen and Yvonne recount their efforts as they took on this year’s Yomp, traversing the most remote and wild parts of Scotland to raise money for ABF.

The Leonardo team consisted of Stephen Connor, Yvonne Sykes, Scott Seefeldt, Fionnlagh Mackenzie Dover, Albin Carmel, Rhys Kirkpatrick, Andrew MacGregor and Thomas Denbigh. They were aided by a support team of two colleagues, Andrew Jack and Andrew Willis.


Having spent a long time in the Army avoiding the Cateran Yomp event because it sounded horrible, why would I suddenly think it was a good idea to enter now that I’m a veteran? It sounded like a good idea around seven months ago, when I decided to try to get a Leonardo team together for the event. My brain was also telling me that it was only a walk - so how hard could it really be? Fast forward to around 03:00 on 9 June at the 50-mile mark, 20 hours into the walk, and I could then tell you that it’s hard. Really hard.

When I decided to enter into the event, I had grand plans to start training. I created a Strava group, but did not do any specific walking training at all apart from one walk about two weeks before the event. On that training walk, the weather was honking but I dragged myself out and learned some valuable lessons. The upshot was that I needed new walking boots that were waterproof! Then, after ten days of wearing walking boots to work, I was ready to go. 

So, standing on the starting line on 8 June with seven teammates and two support crew we were ready to go. The Yomp is split into three challenge categories: Bronze at 22 miles, Silver at 36 Miles and Gold at 54 miles. We all set off together but quickly broke into smaller groups due to the differing speeds of individuals. We did catch up again together at the first checkpoint 14 miles in. Everyone was still feeling pretty good and no blisters at that point!

The next target was the Bronze checkpoint at 22 miles. Once there, the team were rejoicing that we’d made it, but this joy lasted only momentarily as we realised that we still had 32 miles to go! Regrettably, one team member, Andrew, was retired due to an injury that was beginning to flare up. In addition, one of the team, Yvonne, slipped and fell into a stream shortly before the Bronze checkpoint and got completely soaked. Yvonne bravely made it to the Bronze Checkpoint and the support team were on hand to help. She battled to continue and made it past the Silver checkpoint, but 44 miles in she was advised to the retire here by the medical team; she was showing signs of hypothermia, and with 10 miles to go in darkness it was probably the right call.

Albin stopped at the Silver Checkpoint, and Scott was forced to retire at mile 50.5 due to injury. Four of the original team made it to the Gold finish. I was fortunate enough to be one of them, but I can honestly say the last few miles took every sinew of effort I could possibly muster. My colleagues and support crew deserve an extra medal for putting up with my complaining for whole time from mile 44 to the finish! I can honestly say that if it were not for the kind generosity of everyone who donated to my fundraising account I may have been tempted to call it a day sooner than the 54 mile point. A huge thanks to everyone who took part; it was a real team effort with everyone supporting each other throughout.


I returned to The Cateran Yomp for a second time this year, with the same aim: to hike 54 miles within a 24-hour window through the Cairngorm Mountains in aid of ABF The Soldiers Charity.

I met up with the team on Friday afternoon, when we discussed our plan for the following day over pasta. I returned to my accommodation and before I knew it, I was back on the start line. You don’t get eased into the Yomp; not long after leaving the start line in Bogles Field, you’re hit with your first challenging hill. 

As a team, we hadn’t had the opportunity to train together so we didn’t know how things would pan out as a collective. After a little while we all found our individual pace and we broke off into a couple of different groups.

I was enjoying the familiarity of being back on the trail surrounded by the gorgeous scenery.  We sailed through the first checkpoint and enjoyed an ice cream half way up to Enochdhu. I set off towards The Spittal of Glenshee, which is the biggest peak of the challenge, with optimism.  This is a similar distance and gradient to Pan Y Fan, which I had undertaken a few weeks earlier during a training walk, so I wasn’t fazed. Little did I know this optimism would be short-lived, as not long after embarking, I ended up having an involuntary swim! I misjudged my footing, fell backwards and was partially submerged. I eventually managed to get to my feet and found a big boulder on the bank where I spent a little while feeling sorry for myself. Lots of people stopped to ask if I was OK, which was very kind, but I just had to get on with it.  A quick phone call to my husband, a little cry and a change of socks and I was on my way again.

An hour later, I made it to the major Bronze checkpoint, where I was met by our brilliant support crew who looked after me. After a full kit change, and belly full of minced beef n tattys, I set off on my way. 

I pushed on for four to five hours to the Silver checkpoint at Glenisla, which marks the 36 mile point.  I’d been on my feet for over 14 hours, and it was getting dark. For safety reasons, you’re not allowed to leave this checkpoint on your own in the dark, so I had to be paired up. I waited for a short while, before being paired with Nathan. We went through Kilry without any issues, but at New Bamff - the 44 mile point - I popped to see the medics to see if they had any electrolytes to help replace the salts I had lost throughout the day. Whilst we were chatting, they took my temperature and said that it was low even though I felt warm from walking. I was soon wrapped in a couple of blankets and a heater was placed next to me. I removed my boots, as I had been sat for a while, to discover that my feet were now like ice blocks and by now my lips had turned blue. Another heater appeared. The medics pulled out all the stops to get me warm, but were reluctant to consent for me to carry on, so the tough decision was made to retire. I was obviously devastated to cut my challenge short as I only had ten miles to go to the finish line, but I do understand it was the right decision to make.

When asked if I would return to do The Yomp again next year my initial response was a definite ‘No’ however… I’m already mulling the idea over. 

Learn more about the Army Benevolent Fund and the fantastic work they do for our soldiers, veterans and their families, or make a donation.

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