Students took part in the first DofE outing since the world turned upside down last year!
Our team were in early on Friday the 11th June, keen to get back out to the hills for their Gold practice
expedition - the first DofE outing since the world turned upside down last year with the outbreak of the pandemic.
Their route was through some of the more remote parts of the Lake District, starting right over on the west coast
at the head of Ennerdale Water. Ennerdale is the most remote of the Lakeland valleys as is the only one with no
road, so it is a quiet, lonely and unspoilt place. Day one was a traverse of the mountain passes from Ennerdale
over into the much more popular, but equally beautiful Buttermere - a high and wild journey between the peaks
and past idyllic tarns. The weather played its part too, warm and sunny - perfect for a wander in the hills.
After a noisy night at Buttermere (sadly not all campers at the moment are as respectful as they could be), the team set off again, over the mountains and back into Ennerdale - this time to the extremely remote eastern end and to the Black Sail hut. After a lunch stop, they began the steep ascent of the Black Sail Pass and over into Wasdale which is probably the most spectacular of the Lakeland valleys, surrounded on all sides by England's highest mountains. The weather was warm again, and with heavy packs, the total ascent of over 700m was a challenge in itself. Wasdale was bathed in golden early evening sunlight when they arrived - truly stunning and a much quieter night's camping was thoroughly deserved.
Day three brought about a change in the weather; the previous day's clear skies and bright sun were replaced with low cloud and hill fog. The forecast was for it to lift, so a later start saw the team set off into upper Wasdale, heading towards Sty Head, the high mountain pass between Great Gable and Scafell Pike. The cloud didn't lift enough and by the time the team reached the 400m contour, they were walking in zero visibility and really had to focus on their navigation skills. A lunch stop at Styhead Tarn still didn't bring about any significant improvement, so instead of heading further up the mountain to Sprinkling Tarn, the sensible decision to modify the route was made, and the group headed down into Borrowdale, for their overnight camp at Rosthwaite.
Dawn on day four brought some light rain and more low cloud, and the lonely path up into Langthwaite and over the top into Great Langdale beckoned somewhat ominously. The rain soon stopped though and the cloud lifted and the team set off again in good spirits. There are some seriously steep sections of ascent and descent on this path and everyone managed superbly with tired legs, dropping down into a gloriously sunny Great Langdale to complete their trek at Stickle Ghyll with the welcome sight of the minibus. The expedition over, it would have been wrong not to stop at Grasmere for well-deserved ice cream.
We are super proud of all of our DofE participants, but those undertaking Gold expeditions really are amazing - this is a tough challenge of four days hard hiking, with heavy bags and some tricky navigation. Practice over, the team are ready for their qualifying expedition which they are doing in the even more challenging mountains of Snowdonia at the start of the holiday. This will be an experience they won't forget - they plan to take in the highest point in England and Wales with a trip to the summit of Snowdon! Good luck to all!