D of E: Gold Award practice
25th April, 2017
The Gold Duke of Edinburgh group consists of seven boys, six of whom have already completed their Bronze and Silver awards in a variety of different countries. This experience showed in the preparation, with many members of the group packing light and neat for the expedition. However, others chose to carry more equipment than necessary, such as Makar D’s enormous pair of binoculars, which will now doubtless be staying at home for the qualifying expedition!. With an extremely cold forecast and challenging terrain ahead, we took extra time to make sure that sleeping bags were appropriate, and warm clothing was carried.
Day 1 was perhaps the most simple – a few navigation decisions at the start, then a long march up Glen Tilt to the camping spot. The group members were more hesitant than expected on the early navigation, taking much longer than acceptable to orientate themselves in farmland. However, they were accurate, and the speed of the decision-making process improved throughout the expedition. They realised that some elements of their route card were not detailed enough, and should appreciate the extra detail which they put into their qualifying route descriptions. At the end of the day, the group made camp at a spot of its choosing – suitably flat and with good access to water. Meals were cooked and sore feet tended.
Weather conditions were highly variable, with snow, heavy rain, bright sunshine, and strong winds all experienced on Days 2 and 3. These were long days of walking, with the participants proving that they are capable of doing the distance, and handling ascent and descent over steep, exposed terrain. However, their timings were off, needing improvement in efficiency in the mornings and taking shorter breaks. The pace was also reduced, with Adam really suffering from sore legs. He hindered himself through carrying only one walking pole, resulting in a very uneven gait. Another member of the group lent him a matched pair which improved his stride, although he did suffer from sore legs throughout. The group was supportive, carrying some of his kit, and letting him set the pace, which was good to see.
Freezing temperatures were experienced on the final day – down to -2 in the early morning, with frosted tents and frozen boots. Hot drinks and meals saw the group on its way, in good spirits and determined to make speedy progress. The group managed a key section of open navigation to an appropriate river crossing, and self-selected an appropriate crossing point as a team.
Throughout the group, personal administration and organisation for some was excellent, whilst others struggled to stay focused and organised in the tough conditions. All boys have been debriefed with suggestions for improvement come June.
Huge thanks go to Mr Bisset for joining the group to act as a practice assessor, and his guidance and experience was much appreciated by all.