Early on Sunday 3 June, 41 Sixth Formers boarded a coach in Sevenoaks destined for southern Snowdonia. Two groups in the Upper Sixth were embarking on their Gold qualifying expedition, aware of some of the challenges ahead of them having completed a training expedition in sunshine last year. Five groups in the Lower Sixth joined them, blissfully unaware of the problems that wet, windy Wales would offer them.
Weather is a key factor on DofE. If it is sunny, or cloudy but dry, participants need to remember to drink and apply sun cream but good visibility makes navigation easier and the ground is firm under foot. This year, the wind was so strong, camping felt like sleeping in a crisp packet and the pupils, loaded with four days' worth of food and camping gear, had to walk particularly slowly to avoid knee and ankle injuries on wet ground. This meant they often reached their destination late, and had to cook and put up tents in the rain. Many did this is in good spirits, their enthusiasm keeping group morale high. Earlier in the week the weather was better and two groups reached the summit of Cadair Idris on the first day, and can be very proud of this achievement. By Friday, the wind and rain was so strong that three of the five practice groups had to be re-routed around Cadair Idris, walking additional kilometres back into Barmouth.
The conditions were no kinder on the 12 members of the Upper Sixth, who were dropped in northern Snowdonia for their assessed expedition on our first night. Meeting their assessor only once a day, they navigated across the national park with assurance and remained positive and resilient in the face of the bad weather. All completed their routes successfully and reached the base camp in Dyffryn Ardudwy before the practice groups on the final day. Everyone tucked into fish and chips on the last night with a hearty appetite.
Friday 15 June 2012
by Charlotte Hails