A fortnight ago, I was working with pupils from Oswestry School on their Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award expedition training.
This weekend it was their opportunity to put everything into practice by completing a 2 day expedition with significantly less input from the instructors. It was also their first time carrying expedition rucksacks on their backs for an extended period of time.
We actually started the expedition during Friday afternoon, which meant that the groups had a limited amount of daylight to play with, as they didn’t get to start walking until about 4pm. However, a compromise was found by slightly limiting the distance to be travelled on the first day. I found myself supervising, racing around the countryside on a mountain bike. It’s a great way to get around, but don’t underestimate how hard it can be going uphill off-road for long periods of time.
The group that I had trained two weeks ago, took the longest route but managed to avoid as much height gain as possible. It seemed to work in their favour, as they were the first to arrive at Carrog Station Campsite at about 8pm and set about getting their tents up. The other groups, that had taken slightly shorter but more demanding routes, were not too far behind. One group had made a bit of a navigational error along the way but, to their credit, managed to sort themselves out and get back on track.
As well as getting the tents up and cooking dinner, there was also the task of completing route cards, for the next day, to be done before heading to bed. My group may have been the first to get into the campsite, but it didn’t stop them being the last to finish the route card by quite some way. More efficient use of time and manpower would have made a big difference, but they finally managed to crawl into their sleeping bags at about 11.30pm!
In contrast, they were much more organised in the morning, and were the first group to be ready to leave the campsite and start on the day’s journey. All three groups made good progress, although I sensed that they were that bit happier once they’d finished the main climb for the day! Again, I had a bit of fun across the top of the Berwyns on my mountain bike. It was a bit of a treat to get a lift to the top by van, to then be able to enjoy a very long downhill trail at the end of the day.
The same group that had got themselves a bit disorientated yesterday managed to do the same today. Whilst the rest of us were gazing up at the hillside, where we assumed they would approach from, they arrived from behind us having had a mini adventure on their way down.
Other than sore feet, everyone coped very well with the demands of the last two days. There’s certainly room for more team spirit and organisation, but they should enjoy their assessed expeditions when the time comes. Good luck everyone!