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Duke of Edinburgh's Award - Gold Practice Expedition

Published on 15/06/22

The Easter break saw two teams of Year 12 students travelling up to the Lake District by train to undertake their Gold practice expedition run by our provider The Adventure Element. This is what the students had to say about their experience.

Team one

After an early start to catch the train we arrived in the Lake District. It would be an understatement to say we were unprepared for the conditions that met us at Keswick. With winds that reached -15°C and torrential nights spent below 0°C, our rather optimistic sliders were quickly unpacked and discarded to lighten our load. This expedition was nothing like what we had done before.

As the silver salmon team (aptly named due to our bag covers), we kept our morale high through lots of hot chocolate, flapjacks and repeated Beyoncé renditions (credit to Jess!). Luckily the conditions didn’t detract from the beautiful surroundings of Derwent Water and it was a true pleasure to experience the natural scenery, particularly when the sun came out! 

There were parts of the journey that were challenging, after all, living in Cambridge can make you particularly unaccustomed to the size of hills, but our teamwork meant that we were always able to overcome them. It’s safe to say that dehydrated meals and sleeping bags don’t quite compare to a nice, warm bed and hot meal, but the skills and memories we developed were definitely rewarding. 

Annabel, Cecily, Charlotte, Fiyin, Jess and Katy

Team two

The Gold DofE practice expedition was an incredible experience - exciting and equally challenging, but we all came back from the experience with knowledge and proficiency in a range of survival skills, developing a strong sense of independence while also forming stronger relationships with our teammates. Our expedition took place in the Lake District, which was an absolutely stunning setting by the valleys, woodlands and pristine waters. Nonetheless, we were all stretched to our limits as we spent five days and four nights, sleeping in tents in the relentless rainy and windy conditions. The expedition was also composed of nearly 20km long walks with heavy rucksacks on our backs, testing our physical strength and stamina. But at the end of the day, the journey was a wonderful learning experience and under the guidance of supervisors we all learned to work together and support the team, and eventually, we all overcame the challenges and thrived. 

One key value instilled in us through the practice expedition journey was teamwork. Our particular team of four was one of the few teams that had come into this expedition with barely any experience doing DofE expeditions and teamwork was the critical skill that allowed our group to succeed, despite our lack of experience. Teamwork was crucial in various activities throughout the trip, from setting up tents at the campsite, to preparing meals for the team and even in packing our kits as we moved from one campsite to another. We managed to minimise the time wasted each morning by splitting up the tasks which allowed us to work efficiently, without any single person having to take charge of all the work. While some of us were cooking breakfast, others were busy folding up tents and packing rucksacks.

Another important value that we took away from this experience was resilience. I remember one of the days on the expedition being particularly challenging - we had planned a route that was around 19 kilometres and each of us was carrying nearly 20 kilogram rucksacks as we went up steep hills, climbed over boulders and navigated through the forests. As the day progressed, we were running out of snacks to keep us going and we felt drained. We even had a few confusions in the navigation which led us in the wrong direction up unusually steep cliffs, which was even more exhausting! At this point, we all felt the mental and physical strain and it felt impossible to keep walking without stopping for breaks. This is when we all had to push our limits and be resilient to keep going till the end point. Eventually, we ended up boosting each other's morale by singing marching songs and sharing our snacks between the group, which helped us keep going.

The practice expedition was instrumental in helping prepare us for our qualifying expeditions in the summer but it also allowed each one of us to learn something new about ourselves. I do believe I speak for the group when I say that it was truly an experience to remember!

Amogh, Mark, Adam, Leo