Sunday 10 April 2011

D of E Gold, practice expedition, The Lake District. Sunday 3rd - Wednesday 6th April 2011.

After the previous weekend's Lake District multi-activity weekend, Iain had been asked to work with one of a number of groups from London's prestigious Harrow School, who, as part of a great many other things that they do, offer their pupils the opportunity to gain the various awards unde the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme. Harrow School brought some 12 groups to The Lake District and Iain was one of a number of instructors contracted in to work with them. The Gold expedition is the longest and hardest of the expeditions with some 80 km or 50 miles needing to be covered over three days including overnight camps. Here, in the first shot, after a long day's walk all the way from Ambleside Youth Hostel, the team of lads were almost at their first campsite. Glad we were to be there too! Shot two shows the location of our one & only wild camp during this expedition before the weather broke. The photo was taken in the hanging valley of Sticks Gill (East) on the Helvellyn range of The Lake District. The walk from Ambleside YHA to here had been over 20km and it was a tired party that assembled their tents and ate before crashing out for the night. There was not a sound from the lads by 8pm! The third photo was taken well over 36 hours later outside of the Stonethwaite YHA in Borrowdale as we prepared to set off for our 3rd day on the fells. Shortly after leaving our campsite the previous day, the weather had broken big style with strong winds and torrential rain. The team's route had taken them over Sticks Pass & down to Legburthwaite in the Thirlmere valley. We then walked around the northern end of Thirlmere to Armboth and then over High Tove and down to Watendlath. During this leg, we passed five parties walking the other way all looking similarly drenched and miserable and by the time we got to Watendlath (to find no cafe open) it was clear to Iain that a second night of camping out in wet equipment was not acceptable. We were fortunate that there was room at Stonethwaite and we were there in the company of another Harrow group who had been driven indoors by the weather as well as another large party from a different Senior Independant School who, fortunately for them, had all just finished; and passed, their silver expedition.
The final photo shows the group near Stockley Bridge in upper Borrowdale. Whilst it appeared to have been dry overnight, shortly after setting off from Stonethwaite it began raining heavily again. The plan for the previous night had been to camp above Honister and then descend to Buttermere village and then go to Styhead via Buttermere, Haystacks and Brandreth - an ambitious plan cut short by the foul weather.

Instead, after a night in Stonethwaite, we headed straight up Borrowdale and up Grains Gill to rejoin the route near Esk Hause. By this time we were again soaked, the cloud was down and the wind was gusting strongly. The plan for the third night's camp was to stay in Mickleden at the head of Langdale, but conditions here were no different from higher up and once again, everything & everyone was soaked. Iain felt we had no option but to call up the school staff at Ambleside YHA and have the lads returned there - something which the staff were only too willing to do.

Wednesday saw a return to reasonable conditions as high pressure moved in again. This Harrow School D of E gold expedition had been severely compromised by the conditions experienced but Iain's team had remained positive and committed to achieving the goal throughout and despite three overnight camps not being undertaken and the route shortened it was felt that the lads had shown considerable perseverance and endeavour, had successfully navigated the whole route and had shown a competent approach to campcraft on the one night we managed it!

Iain is pleased to say they all passed. At Kendal Mountaineering Services we are pleased to be able to offer our services to groups undertaking Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme expeditions. Iain has worked on some half dozen similar such expeditions and knows the Lake District extremely well having completed the Wainwrights (as the tops here are known) by the age of 19 and has continued to return to these fells ever since. Our Mountaincraft courses are similar to the type of expedition undertaken by the Harrow boys and encompass such skills as mountain navigation and campcraft so if you fancy a wilderness experience in The Lake District - contact us.

The rest of the photos from the Harrow School are here - enjoy!

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