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Students and staff weather snowstorms in Silver Duke of Edinburgh practice expedition

Students and staff weather snowstorms in Silver Duke of Edinburgh practice expedition

The April Silver Duke of Edinburgh practice expedition saw an unusually large group of 52 students and 12 staff battle against the elements in a trip that would prepare them for any final expedition.

They left school on 29 March and arrived at Hawes Youth Hostel in Wensleydale in time for a late lunch before spending the afternoon on short orientation walks close to the hostel and practicing their navigation skills. After a comfortable night in the hostel, they departed.

Each group was accompanied by an adult for this first day to build on their navigation work. The weather had deteriorated, and they had to struggle through frequent sleet showers, which turned to snow later in the day. By the evening they could set up camp at Stable Fell campsite, remotely situated at the far end of Semerwater, and, after a cold night (temperatures well below 0), they woke to a thin covering of snow.

Mrs Shercliff said,

‘Everyone was cooking breakfast and I thought all would be fine for the day, but then a blizzard struck. We had to retreat into our tents, and it snowed heavily for an hour. We emerged to a white world.’

They had fun building snowmen while they decided how best to proceed. Some staff had spent the night at the hostel and their minibus was unable to reach the campsite, but they heroically walked in to help with the group pack up.

It was not safe to leave the campsite by their planned routes through the hills, so all the groups walked out along the road, and then followed an easy footpath by the river to reach the main road through Wensleydale, which had been cleared of snow. They then took the shortest route to the next campsite at Askrigg. ‘It was cold and they were still walking through flurries of snow’, Mrs Shercliff described, ‘but the students were amazingly resilient, uncomplaining and remained cheerful, despite the difficult conditions.’

After clearing some snow to pitch their tents – with time for more snowmen –the sun finally came out. The groups were able to walk to a nearby waterfall and were delighted not to have to carry their packs! Clear skies led to an even colder night, during which lambs were being born on their working farm campsite. On their final day, the groups were able to walk independently and navigate their planned routes to the finish at Castle Bolton.

Mrs Shercliff said,

‘This was the most challenging D of E expedition I have been involved with since my time at St Mary’s. Students and staff were fantastic – coping with the extreme weather and being able to adapt and adjust as the circumstances changed. (The amount of snow had not been forecast and even the locals were taken by surprise). In a recent communication with the Askrigg Campsite owner, she commended our girls as being “hardy”!’

We would like to thank all the staff who made this particularly adventurous and challenging trip a success.

In the words of one parent,

‘Experiences like this are so fantastic for building resilience, self-confidence, a sense of adventure and an appreciation of how fortunate we are living in the comfort of everyday life in Cambridge. Without the dedication of you and your team, none of this would be able to happen.’

We are sure that the students will be ready to face anything during their assessed expedition now!