During the first week of the half-term holidays, two Duke of Edinburgh Gold groups set off to Bala, Wales to attend the first 5-day training session. These two groups divided themselves into kayakers and walkers, who were each going to practise vital expedition skills and develop their current orientation knowledge. Luckily, each group had a set of 3 kind, enthusiastic and very helpful expedition leaders, who supported the group and gave useful advice from their experience.
After arriving at a cosy hostel, we all enjoyed a welcoming meal and started to gather ideas on what we expected the following days to be like. Then the next day, the walking group set off, rested and motivated, to an area of rather flat land. Here, we carried out our first day of training, where we mainly focused on establishing a team spirit and evolving a sense for a reasonable walking pace. When improving our orientation skills, I personally was astonished to recognise how technical the process was and how much thought it involved. Following that day, we also went through several emergency scenarios, to freshen up our ideas on First Aid. Soon, we all returned to the hostel, slightly tired, and shared our experiences with the other group over dinner. Near bedtime, the walking group spent some time planning the route for the next day and preparing the packed lunches.
After an energising breakfast consisting of egg and bacon bread rolls, the walking group set off on their long, hilly day travel. For this, we started our track on a steep hill near the Bala Lake and steadily worked ourselves up several steep slopes, hoping to eventually reach the top of an enormous mountain, where we planned to set up tents and camp for the night. This would be our first night camping out in the wild landscapes of Wales. Throughout the course of the day we developed a good standard of teamwork and practised sending out individuals into the mist and fog for certain distances, in order to ensure that we followed the bearings of our route. Occasionally, the odd plunge into small hidden pools of icy water (known as “bogs”) occurred, as members of the group underestimated the weight capacity of the thick moss mats that covered the ground. Yet this simply added to the excitement of the event and provided us with the small laughs along our trail.
Later that day, we arrived at our planned camp area, feeling exhausted and hungry. We all quickly had dinner and soon fell into a deep sleep, knowing what challenges we would encounter the next day. As we finally reached the hostel again in the afternoon of the following day, we treated ourselves to a delicious cup of silky hot chocolate. We were happy to say that we could proudly look back at our successful expedition trial and conclude that even though we faced some difficulties with regards to the weather, we had managed to overcome small obstacles well.
Finally, we spent the last day climbing up and down a 900m mountain in 5.5 hours, merely “for fun”. Yet, as we all sat in the minibus on our way back to school, the group was happy and thankful for this trip. This training included the most challenging terrain that we would encounter on our Gold DofE expedition scheme. Therefore it was a wonderful, inspiring trip that certainly left a mark in our minds. I reckon that we shall be very grateful for all the tips and tricks we learned from the coaching team, when we go and carry out our real expedition in Summer. A big thank you to all, who participated and helped us train adequately for this upcoming extraordinary expedition!
Vicky Horbach (EDH LVI)