Students gearing up for a month-long adventure in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands have taken part in a training weekend in the Peak District to assess their fitness levels. They were accompanied by Miss Dunn, Mr Houghton and a delegate from the travel company Outlook Expeditions.
The trip, which has been two years in the planning, will include a community project, a trek up a volcano followed by a period of rest and relaxation in the Galapagos. The group will first journey to Quito for acclimatisation before having a practice trek, working with a local tribe in the rainforest and completing their major expedition which will last about five days. During the trip they will also experience a day of white water rafting.
The 13 students have been raising funds to finance the project, both individually and as a group, most recently carrying out a bag pack at a local supermarket. The expedition starts in July and so the group went away for a weekend of climbing and walking in the Peak District to get to know each other and get used to walking for an extended period.
Miss Dunn said: ‘The weekend in the Hope Valley was more about them finding out their strengths and weaknesses before the summer. They learned new skills like putting tents up and cooking on the trangias. They were responsible for making all the decisions so we had different team leaders and each of them had a role and took turns to be in charge. We were walking for about six or seven hours on the Saturday and although conditions were terrible with a biting wind it was a great weekend.’
Mr Houghton said: ‘We will start off in Quito for two or three days then head off to the north-west where there are some markets. The students will walk around Guinea Pig lake which will get them used to the walking and then we will do a five-day trek up the volcano. It is just under 4,000m so they will be affected by altitude so they have got to research the effects of altitude and oxygen deprivation.
‘Then it is the community project where we go to one of the tribes in the rain forest. Their options are to cut down the rainforest and make money from it or try and promote eco-tourism. The students will learn about the rainforest, sustainability and survival. We will go white-water rafting for a day then fly to the Galapagos Islands for five or six days.
‘The expedition training highlighted a couple of issues with the students' fitness going up the hills, over rocky ground and also how they communicate within the group. The trek that we are doing is very challenging so we may do further training between now and our departure.’
Student John Dows said: ‘I very much enjoyed the weekend. It was brilliant apart from the cold, and I feel I got to know the other members of the group much better. Overall it was a great trip, and I cannot wait to go to Ecuador.’
Faye Patterson, also from Year 12 said: ‘It was a brilliant experience even if it was a little chilly! I think we all found it useful to try out our equipment properly for the first time and as a result we've identified potential issues that could come up, for example bad weight distribution can put serious strain on your shoulders.
‘We wanted to simulate how a trekking day would actually go in Ecuador (minus the bad weather) so we woke up very early and had to walk with a fully loaded rucksack. It was quite stressful at times when we were prepping during the morning since there was such a tight schedule.
‘It was really hard walking uphill for me since I'm very short- my bag is much higher than my head and I'm carrying more than my own bodyweight so I struggled to find the energy to lift my legs at times. I'm definitely going to use the step machine in the school gym to help with this. The training has been key in showing us how we can improve in everything and now it's so close to the actual expedition we really needed something to identify potential weaknesses.’