Duke of Edinburgh

1. Duke of Edinburgh Award – Silver Expedition
April 2014

The expedition season got underway in April this year, with our silver group (S5 pupils) travelling to Sutherland to complete a three day expedition in the hills around Loch Choire. This was a very strong and accomplished group, who had prepared well as a team for the challenges of wild, remote hillwalking and camping. Their journey took them across beautiful landscapes, from Lairg towards Kinbrace. A rare period of dry, settled and sunny weather meant that this was a particularly special experience for all our young people. Elspeth Husband (area assessor for Caithness and Sutherland) was impressed at the ease with which our young people navigated their route, and looked after each other. The silver group comfortably passed this section and look forward to now completing their silver award.

2. Duke of Edinburgh’s Award – Gold Expedition
June 2014

On the 4th June the Stromness Academy Gold group (Halina Romaniszyn, Ingrid Kerr, Aidan Morrison and David Porteous) met their expedition assessors in Ballater to set out their aims as part of the “flag a munroe” D of E challenge. That they had decided to flag five munroes (a mountain above 3000ft), as part of an expedition which would see them walk 50 miles in four days, across the remote and wild Southern Carngorms, was a cause of some anxiety for the two assessors who had only just met our young folk. It didn’t help that they were straight off the bus from Aberdeen and dressed as if ready for a shopping trip!

In the event, on day three of their expedition, the group took the decision to shorten their day by taking a straight line across the high plateau above Loch Muick and forgo the summit of munroes 2 and 3. This change of route would save them about a kilometre of walking and a couple of hundred meters of ascent, but would mean that (if they maintained their current pace) they would arrive on Lochnagar (the highest point of their expedition at 1115m), and have time to descend before dark. This was a remarkable decision; a fine example of careful planning, rationale thinking and good group judgement. It was the moment when I realised how far the group had come in their experiences of expedition through the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award - that not only were they utterly deserving of their gold award but that they were now ready to move beyond this and begin to make their own adventures in the hills.

They arrived on the summit of Lochnagar, some hours later, with just enough energy to slice the chocolate cake which they had carried for three days, and stumble back down the mountain to their final camp. They sat for a few moments in awe, looking down through a rainbow, to the corrie lochans, nestled below huge cliffs. A day later, back in Ballater, their assessors had no hesitation in declaring that Halina, Ingrid, Aidan and David had comfortably passed their Gold Award. Their initial anxiety and doubt about how four 18 year olds would accomplish such an expedition, had given way to a knowing respect for their abilities and resolve in achieving all they had done.

Well done and congratulations! I am sure this achievement will be an inspiration to current pupils who are embarking this year on bronze, silver and gold expeditions.

Dan Walmsley

3. Duke of Edinburgh’s Award - Bronze Expedition
September 6th and 7th 2014

This year, four large groups set off in South Ronaldsay to complete their Bronze Expedition. Using the skills and experiences of their weekly training and Bronze Practice Expedition completed earlier in the year they were put to the test in this unfamiliar location. The groups started in Burwick at the very southern tip of the island, all laden with packs and essential food. Although the sky was glowering, the groups were positive and looking forward to completing the courses that they had planned.
They camped overnight at the Sands of Wright, cooking hot meals for themselves and working in teams to ensure tents were set up well for the winds and rain that were predicted.

Sunday was (as predicted) wet and windy. Despite aching feet and some stiff backs they packed up wet tents on time and set off to complete their final day. Each group was met by the leaders and assessors and both groups of adults were proud of their determination and group work to stay positive in awful conditions. The relief on their faces when they had completed the challenge and passed was measurable. Well done to all!

The groups will now complete the award with a presentation and uploading their information about the other areas they have completed – Volunteering, Skills and Physical.

D Stead