Congratulations to the two groups of Yr 12 students that completed their Gold Final Journey in the highlands of Scotland. Both groups worked well together to face the challenges that the 4 days hiking and 3 nights of wild camping brought them. The groups have spent the last year planning and preparing for this part of their award and did us proud with their achievements. Thank you to the staff that helped support the groups throughout this journey. Below are some accounts of the student's experiences.
International Award Co-ordinator
Group: Space Ghettos (Arina Naaz Khan, Maya Peeters, Esther Marcussen and Sophiane Munoz)
The International Award Gold expedition was definitely one of the toughest challenges we have ever had to face. However, it was also one of the most fulfilling and rewarding experiences. Throughout the four days, we hiked along parts of the West Highland Way, as well as a few extra ascents up pretty challenging terrain in the Scottish Highlands and completed a total of 106km.
We had prepared for the journey months in advance, however, when you're there, everything changes and it still ends up being very challenging. Hiking on such tall and steep mountains is always different and difficult for us as we are all used to such flatlands. However, we still managed to successfully complete the journey. Waking up each morning to the amplified sounds of chirping birds and streaming rivers surrounding our tent was incredible. And the views and landscapes that the Scottish Highlands had to offer were breath-taking.
There were definitely many challenges that we faced along the way, one being the Mamores. These set of mountains are off the path of the West Highland Way and are known to be challenging. We had started hiking a little later than we planned that day, which meant that when we reached the top of the mountain the weather suddenly closed in on us. We couldn't see anything due to the clouds, and the situation only worsened due to the strong wind and rain. We tried to take some alternative routes which ended up being dead-ends. A group decision was then made to go back down the way we came as it started to become quite dangerous. Another challenge was trying not to get bitten by the midges!
Our journey was only so enjoyable due to the charismatic and motivated atmosphere in our group. We always made sure to look after each other, definitely during the more difficult times. Each one of us was skilled at something different and together we were able to build a strong team.
It has been a great experience to step out of our comfort zone, hiking in an unknown area on our own without any internet for four days. Only a map and compass was needed for navigation. The Gold expedition was definitely a worthwhile and memorable experience which we won't ever forget.
Group: D-ROD (Dion Lavaleije, Renee de Maat, Oscar Bonnefon and Devyash Goel)
Our Gold International Award journey was overall definitely a challenging but ultimately rewarding experience. The group dynamic was mostly positive and we really helped each other get through the full journey. This was incredibly important because it was a huge challenge both physically and mentally. The toughest day for our group was definitely day 3, where we underestimated the time it would take us to walk a trail that seemed endless. We realised in the evening that we were not as far as we had thought, and this meant an additional 2 hours of hiking when we were already exhausted. We tried to stay positive and this helped us in times when we were frustrated or tired.
On day 4, we hiked up Ben Nevis to the North face of the mountain but not all the way to the summit. It was however still a long and arduous hike up in terrible weather, but looking back now, we are proud to have managed to finish the route we had planned beforehand. One of the biggest obstacles apart from the weather were the midges. They seemed to be everywhere as soon as there was no wind, usually surrounding us at our campsites. They make it hard to set up camp, cook, and eat, and even our midge nets proved ineffective since they were small enough to come through the net.
Looking back, we were all somewhat relieved when we finally finished the journey, but now it feels truly rewarding and fulfilling to have completed something this challenging.