It seems such a long time since I have been able to write up an expedition report – however, we finally got back out on the hills again in fine form and successfully completed a qualifying expedition after a gap of nearly two years.
This was always going to be a tough trip. Training had been completed completed over a year ago and the team was all set to practice in Easter 2020 – and then covid-19 came along and upset everyone’s plans. It was decided that doing a “proper” wild country expedition would be more worthwhile, challenging and meaningful, than staying local and coming back to school each night. So, in the end, they had to wait about fourteen months before getting out on the ground down in the Beacons National Park, straight after the conclusion of their A Level exams. Under the DofE with a difference changes to the usual conditions, the group combined their practice and qualifying ventures to make for a punishing six-day expedition – a challenge which they rose to with great fortitude and enthusiasm.
During the practice phase on the Black Mountain their navigation was strong, especially when they learnt to slow down a little, think, and always check the ground against the map. To start with the supervisors stayed with them, challenging them on navigation decisions and brushing up their skills. We stayed in a most comfortable campsite at the National show caves and were soon back on form after a couple of days’ fine tuning. During the expedition, as well as traversing the whole of the National Park, everyone was able to complete the Silver NNAS award as an additional purpose and a useful qualification.
We moved onto the Beacons proper for Assessment. The team made a strong start heading off from the Storey Arms in hot sunny conditions, making it down to a wild camp for the night with time to spare for a welcome splash under a waterfall – a highlight of the trip for many of them.
The next day proved a little more taxing as navigational overconfidence resulted in an extra 15km, under scorching conditions, being added to what should have been a gentler day. There is no doubt that those also getting their Silver qualifying ventures signed off had certainly put the time in! However, despite this they remained positive and surprisingly cheerful, working very impressively as a team, encouraging each other along and helping with things like sore feet.
The final two days saw them back on form, having learnt from their mistake and making all their check points on time as they continued from Crickhowell over the Black Mountains (pleural) (not to be confused with the Black Mountain (singular) where we started). Another great wild camp up by a reservoir once again showed them working as an efficient team. Finally, an early start and a steady bimble up over to Hay Bluff and down Offa’s Dyke brought them back to the welcome site of the minibus, after a very long six days.
There was a real and deserved sense of success, as well as relief, when they finally made it into Llanthony Priory. Many congratulations on a genuine achievement. I am sure that once the sore feet and the many midgie bites have faded some enduring memories will have been forged. A heart felt “well done”.
Thanks also to Mr Money for joining us in Wales and helping supervise the team