Year 12 student, Jenna Tate, gives us an insight into their DofE Gold practice expedition in Snowdonia.
It was an early morning start for the team; we set off from the Academy to Wales. A 3 hour journey along with winding roads and Mr Mears driving isn’t exactly the best when it comes to travelling, although we did have some fun times singing along to the radio. We arrived at the youth centre to begin our Day 1 trek to the forestry campsite. Things didn’t exactly get off to a great start considering we got lost on a straight road looking for a phone box. Note to self: never listen to a truck driver who said the phone box was definitely 2 miles in the opposite direction!
Once we found the phone box we made our way to the second check point. Things don’t always go according to plan: we missed a footpath and hiked up a mountain by mistake. We were on the mountain for around 5 hours with no signal and daylight ending. A miracle happened once we received a phone call from our leaders. If I said ‘panic’ that would be an understatement to the state they were in! We made our way back down the mountain in hope to find our leaders. They drove past us and ended up shouting on a hill looking for us. By some sort of miracle, we arrived back at camp at 11pm. We pitched our tents in the dark and ate some warm food. I was overjoyed when I heard the campsite had warm, working showers. Although it was a hectic day our group responded well and I am glad to have experienced how to handle extreme situations. It will definitely help in Scotland when we do our real expedition.
It seems Day 2 didn’t get much better…
After a crazy day 1, I didn’t expect how hard the next day would be. Day 2 needed to be one of those mind over matter kind of days. Waking up to torrential rain was not the best start and I was still coming to terms with yesterday’s mystery footpaths. Despite the initial doubts, I managed to experience the classic steam train, an iconic part of Wales and walked through a forest, hearing the sounds of nature. We arrived in a village that no one could pronounce the name of besides Mr Ashton and the locals. I found it rather interesting getting to learn new words and how to pronounce them in the Welsh language. As the rain stopped, the group and I headed to our second checkpoint and the map reading went smoothly. One of the landmarks we passed was an old copper mine that had been converted into a coffee shop. Becky loved the owner’s ginger cat and was contemplating losing all her food to steal the cat in her rucksack!
The weather then took a further turn for the worse. It was pouring down and didn’t stop for what felt like the entire afternoon. Spirits were again at an all time low, especially after we missed another mystery footpath. It wasn’t all doom and gloom however. Due to hours of relentless rain, Mr Mears and Mr Ashton came to our aid and drove me and the group up the hill to the campsite. To finish off the day, we attempted to dry our sobbing tents in the rain and retired to the van to enjoy playing music and games until the rain hopefully stopped.
Surely not more rain, Jenna?
Had the rain stopped? No. But did we care now? Definitely not! This expedition would carry on no matter what. so as we crawled out from our tents, changed out of our wet clothes and ate some food, we looked over our route for Snowdon and decided to call a meeting with Dave, our mountain guide, to determine the safety of the climb. To our disappointment, the climb up Snowdon was off. Thick fog sent visibility down to zero, so it would not be feasible for us to begin the trek to the summit. Our original plan was now out of the question, so we had to find a new expedition to undertake. Our leaders decided to drive us down to the coast of Wales. Words cannot describe how happy my team was when we saw a clear sky with a nice warm sun. The campsite was beautiful and had soft grass to pitch our tents. The only problem was the fact that we needed to dry our tents. Mr Mears the camping expert made a washing line with a piece of rope, a wall and the van. It did look a tad strange but it did the job. Once the tents were pitched. It felt great to finally relax in the sun before we took a short walk to the beach. The view of the coastline alongside the rolling hills was fantastic. We decided to end the day by skipping stones and collecting shells. We then went back to the campsite to play uno and chill out. Day 3 will always be a day I remember for the rest of my life. These moments are something you will always treasure and I am grateful for these experiences. Without Gold DofE, I wouldn’t have been such good friends with many people on my team as although we might have argued about which way a path went or when to stop for lunch, we still looked after one another.
So it did get better, Jenna?
With spirits high, and the fact we knew we were on our way home, the tents and bags were packed in record time and my group were all in the van. This time we were the ones waiting for the leaders. Once we set off we drove amongst the coastline and had the final chance to appreciate how lovely Wales can be but also how dangerous too. We had experienced both sides of Wales and had survived it. Our faces were so happy at the site of our sixth form and the idea of going home to a nice comfortable bed. We then parted ways and thanked our leaders wishing them a good summer.
So, an eventful practice expedition, setting them up for their proper expedition next academic year. There’s one thing they can almost guarantee in Scotland: rain. It’s a good job they know how to dry out a tent…