Jo Gibbs from the British Exploring Society gives us the lowdown on the Adventurer Training Week in Scotland as part of the Dangoor Next Generation Programme which Mountain Warehouse is proud to support this year.
The final training and selection phase for Project New Horizons saw our Adventurers travel almost the entire length of the country to spend the week by Loch Tay in Scotland. Thankfully, a long day spent in the confines of a coach seat was met with the rich reward of a stunning vista of the Loch and the towering Mountains. Our travel weary participants soon perked up after a hot meal provided by our volunteer team, and were re-acquainted with their team mates.
Monday 15th July: Training Workshops
Teams spent their first day in training workshops focusing on the dual strands of the Programme; skills for life on an expedition and employability skills for the future. Sessions included briefings on staying safe in a wilderness environment and camp health and hygiene. In the employability sessions, Adventurers received advice on how to write a good C.V, with each participant writing out a template for future use.
Adventurers also received the final instalment of their generous kit donation from Mountain Warehouse. To add to the waterproofs, walking boots and socks received at the South Downs Induction weekend, each participant was given an expedition-sized rucksack and fleece to keep. The evening was spent learning the best method of packing their new bags for carrying comfort, and practicality, and preparing themselves for the mini expedition to come.
Tuesday 16th – Thursday 18th July: Practice Expedition
On Tuesday morning teams broke camp, leaving their Loch side basecamp to head for the mountains. Due to spend the next 3 days hiking and tackling several Munros, this would provide a real test for their new kit and give an insight into the challenges Iceland will bring.
Their first challenge was to cross the Loch! Their new backpacks were safely loaded into a motor boat while Adventurers donned their life jackets and Mountain Warehouse waterproofs, and paired up into Kayaks. As mostly first time kayakers, there was a lot of apprehension at the start; however this soon changed to excited laughter once out on the water. The windy, choppy conditions meant all were thankful for their waterproof outer layers! Especially the Velcro cuffs of the rain jackets which helped keep out splashes from the waves and oar strokes.
After a quick change of clothing and donning of walking boots, the Adventurers loaded up with their new packs and begun the climb up to the Advance Base Camp, at 720 metres. This was a real challenge for everyone, with most Adventurers tackling mountain walking for the first time, let alone walking with a heavy pack on their backs. Adventurers learnt first-hand about the importance of staying hydrated and regulating their body temperature.
As they climbed higher, the Mountain Warehouse fleeces were pulled out at rest stops to keep out the mountain breeze. The view of the now tiny base camp HQ tent on the other side of the Loch helped keep spirits high, as did the realisation that the midges were being left behind as they climbed higher!
By late afternoon/early evening, all teams had arrived at Lochan nan Cat and made their base for the next two nights for some truly wild camping. Dinner involved experiencing their ration pack food for the first time and getting to grips with boil in a bag dehydrated dinners! As most Adventurers opted for an early night, the general mood was a mixture of tiredness, satisfaction and pride at having made it up to the Lochan. The steep craggy mountainsides surrounding the tents inspired a mixture of awe and apprehension of the walking to come.
The following mornings brought stunning views down the valley from the tent doors, and the challenge of getting through a high calorie serving of porridge! Over the next two days the teams of Adventurers tackled three Munros, culminating in the summiting of Ben Lawers, an impressive 1,214 metres above sea level. This tough physical and mental challenge created the perfect opportunity for the Adventurers to focus on their team work and learn how to work together under strain.
There were many ups and downs during the days out on the mountains but our Adventurers demonstrated some fantastic team spirit, encouraging one another on the steep ascents, composing team songs and congratulating one another on the summits. It also gave them an opportunity to reflect on their own capabilities, all having tried and succeeded in something new, from summiting a Munro, eating powdered spaghetti bolognaise or coping with the ‘al fresco’ toilet arrangements!
The nerves had all disappeared for the return kayak journey, and after three hot days of exertion in the mountains, no one minded getting splashed! After re-establishing base camp by the Loch, Adventurers were treated with a refreshing swim and some ‘real’ food in the shape of Fajitas. The portaloo toilets, previously loathed and feared, were also met with relief!
Friday 19th July: Workshops and Reviews
The final day begun with further employability training, with interactive sessions on how to be successful in an interview situation, covering everything from what to wear to what to say. After another swim/fun session in the Loch, it was time to reflect on the week and the Programme so far, with both group and individual reviews led by the leader teams. In the evening, after prize-giving and a de-briefing from the Chief Leader Neil, everyone was rewarded with a fantastic barbeque and campfire on the beach.
Saturday 20th July: Home
Everyone was up early for departure day, keen to get back to home comforts, yet sad to be saying good bye to their team mates and new friends. Each Adventurer packed away their Mountain Warehouse boots, socks, waterproofs and fleeces into their rucksacks, to clean, look after and break in before Iceland. Even though not everyone will be continuing on to the main Expedition, each Adventurer left Loch Tay with new skills, achievements, friendships and lasting memories made during this unique experience.