Year 6 headed off to Ogwen Cottage, Capel Curig in North Wales first thing on Monday morning unsure of what lay ahead, full of expectation and anticipation as well as a healthy dollop of trepidation and apprehension.
Snowdonia is an area known for its rugged mountainous beauty and is not to be taken lightly. Indeed it has been the training location for numerous attempts on Everest including Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. Our base was Ogwen Cottage at the end of Llyn Ogwen, a very popular starting point for some wonderful walks including the Glyderau and Tryfan.
We arrived at Ogwen Cottage early on Monday afternoon and were greeted by our instructors for the week; Dan, Helen, Ian and Will. After a quick introduction and tour of the centre it was quickly into the activities as each group did what they called the ‘jog and dip’. After a brisk jog everybody went to the side of Llyn Ogwen where they then entered the very cold water, some more willingly than others! After drying off and putting on some warm clothes,the children went for a wander from the cottage through Tin Can Alley, and up onto the hills nearby. As we walked, the instructors explained about the rock formations, and various bits of flora. We were given some plants that were edible, and after most had tried them it was decided that it tasted distinctly like cucumber or some thought apples!
Prior to arriving, the year group had been split into three separate groups, Mason, Jones and James groups. On Tuesday morning each group did different activities. Mason group headed to Afon Ddu for some gorge walking where they scrambled up the gorge, through plunge pools and climbing, with the aid of ropes up some steep sides. That afternoon, the group packed their expedition rucksacks with food, waterproofs, tents and sleeping bags and prepared themselves for an overnight wild camp. We walked from the centre to Llyn Idwal which lies just beneath the spectacular mountains of Glyder Fawr, Glyder Fach and Y Garn and in sight if the mythical Devil’s Kitchen. We walked from Llyn Idwal and up the steep side of Y Garn to a flat area next to a small llyn half way up the mountain. The walk up was tough but the view that greeted us that evening was truly stunning and one that everybody there will remember. Tents were erected, food cooked and stories told - it was a lovely evening! Early the next morning the winds that were forecast picked up. We quickly struck camp, had breakfast and headed down. The weather was certainly against us at this point but everybody persevered. In the afternoon they took part in some team building exercises at the centre where they developed their ability to work together and listen to each others’ ideas.
James team headed off to Llyn Padarn for a morning of canoeing. We tied six boats into groups of three and then headed out on the lake. Each boat had a captain who was in charge of making sure everyone paddled in the right direction! As it started to rain a little, the team moored up in the cover on some trees and had our lunch. We then canoed back where we had parked the minibus, and as a team managed to carefully put all the canoes away. It was then that Will announced we would have the opportunity to get wet again (which almost all team members took!) and we were allowed to jump off the jetty into the water. That evening we packed our bags (that were almost the same size as some team members!) ready for a night of wild camping. After climbing up Tryfan for an hour or so, we reached our campsite (just over the hill from another team) next to Llyn Bochlwyd. We quickly set our tents up, cooked dinner, and then huddled down for the night, as it was pretty chilly up the mountain side!
Jones group worked as a team to fight against the elements on a very testing Expedition. On Tuesday morning we spent time preparing carefully, there was a lot to fit into the large rucksacks and everything had to be remembered and precautions taken against getting spare clothes and sleeping bags wet. Tents and stoves were divided amongst the group. Jones group set off late morning on Tuesday and climbed up to the lake just below Tryfan. Heavy rucksacks were hidden beneath rocks and essentials were transferred to day rucksacks. Team Jones then ascended Tryfan. This was a fantastic achievement. For a number of the group, this was their first mountain. The ascent required scrambling, the path up the mountain went over boulders so teamwork was required on some tricky sections. ‘Spotters’ were used to aid friends up the rock. After saying hello to the rocks known as Adam and Eve on the top of Tryfan team Jones descended the mountain. Conditions were poor. Waterproofs and walking boots were no longer waterproof! On reaching the wild campsite we found that conditions were very wet, but we made camp, cooked food and had as good a night’s sleep as could be expected! On Wednesday we packed down in torrential rain and made our way back to Ogwen cottage for welcome hot showers. The team of ten pupils worked really well together, they helped each other and showed resilience in the face of adversity.
On Thursday the weather was set fair and the decision to go for the summit of Snowdon was made. Each group would start at slightly different times but with the same aim. We parked at Pen-Y-Pass and walked up the Miner’s Track which goes past Llyn Llydaw and Glaslyn before starting up a steep, stepped ascent to a saddle that then passes parallel to the Snowdon Mountain Railway. It was tough going but, as was the case for the whole of the week, everybody showed great determination, particularly for those facing genuine fears. I was absolutely delighted that everybody managed to summit Snowdon, standing at 1085m, the highest mountain in Wales and England. As we descended the weather started to change and the last hour or so was done in fairly heavy rain.
On the final day, the last challenge was a tyrollean traverse over a large waterfall. For those that had a fear of heights, this was to be the greatest test. Placing their trust in the instructors, everybody leapt off the side and slid down the rope to the other side - the expressions on the children’s faces giving over a raft of emotions from fear to exhilaration.
This was a truly wonderful week where the children learnt so much about themselves. They pushed themselves out of their comfort zones and completed tasks that initially they perhaps felt they were unable to do. The most pleasing thing for me was to see the support that they offered each other. It was very warming to see the way in which they helped each other through difficult situations and it would appear that new friendships were made and others very much strengthened.