In all honesty, I don’t think that we even knew what we were expecting.
We had seen each other at meetings and said our names, but we didn’t really know each other- that would be obvious to anyone who looked through the windows of the ground floor of Bennet House at the group of fourteen girls sat in a circle. We were all quite segregated into our year groups, and we didn’t stray outside of them.
First order of business was checking our kit, which was easy. It was then that two girls were given the jobs of compiling every meal that we were going to make over the weekend, and work out the quantities. There were calls for broccoli and chicken, reminders of vegetarians and dairy intolerant girls we had to take into account, and one exclamation of “cinnamon is good for digestion!” until we finally had our list, and everyone split into groups. We determinedly marched down the road to Surbiton, drawing amused glances at the lot of us in our walking trousers and trekking boots, and raided Sainsbury’s.
We boarded the coach at 11:30 with our newly-purchased supplies, and settled down for a four hour drive (which most of us slept a fair portion of) with a half hour lunch break.
Upon arrival at our campsite in South Wales, we were thrown straight into constructing tents and setting out our mats and sleeping bags, and we were then split into two groups- one was to retrieve the food we bought that morning and prepare dinner for both our teammates and the four staff members accompanying us. This would be the same for every other meal that weekend, with the two groups rotating. While one group prepared the first dinner of the weekend, the other sat in a circle with Lucy, our expedition leader for the weekend. This group planned out our route for the trek that we would embark on the next day.
Ten o’clock next morning found us with a rucksack per tent (which we would share the responsibility of carrying between us) and setting off down the road. We marched along narrow paths, pressing ourselves into the hedges whenever a vehicle passed; we trudged down bridle paths and across fields, scaring sheep into miniature stampedes with our chatter. There were also a few stiles that had to be overcome- some were more slippery than others. Soon we reached the base of the mountain, and after taking a moment to shed thermals and jumpers amid the bracken, we were off again. We tried to keep together, taking consideration for those who had injuries giving them trouble, and exchanged a few riddles.
We reached roundabout our halfway point just in time for lunch, and we sat looking down at the way we’d come as we had pitta bread sandwiches of ham, cheese and tuna mayo.
Unfortunately one of our girls had particular trouble with her knee, and chose to head back down despite the rest of the group’s wishes to keep together, even if it meant slowing down the pace. Nevertheless, we carried on, and after walking along the ridge and conquering an almost vertical climb, we reached the top of Pen-Y-Fan.
After we quickly put our jumpers back on and took a fair amount of victorious photos with a glorious view in the background, we all looked to our right, where the second-highest peak in Brecon Beacons sat.
Why not? We thought.
The second climb was just as rewarding as the first, though it was clear that people were now lagging, and the throbbing in our feet was really kicking in. Deciding that this day’s achievements were more than enough, we headed back down and towards the campsite, making sure to mingle with different girls outside our usual friendship groups.
That night we had dinner and came back after washing up to a cosy campfire. There, we retold what we’d learned about our teammates on the back from the mountains; after that came a long conversation comparing our most famous celebrity encounters. We decided that the girl who had been friends with Colin Firth’s son and had been allowed to hold his Oscar won that round. Finally, after teaching the teachers how to play ‘Down In The Jungle’, everyone returned to their tents for a well-deserved sleep.
The next morning we made breakfast before packing up both our rucksacks and our tents. As we waited for the coach to come, we reflected on our weekend, and how we could apply the skills we learnt in the past three days could help us on our expedition in July. Additionally, Lucy left us with another puzzle that she has given Mr. Humphreys the answer to. We have yet to work it out yet. However, on our way home, we were more than happy to indulge the team with a box of doughnuts picked up at the service station, and we all worked our way through our repertoire of radio hits and Disney songs as the coach drove us back to Kingston. We’re fairly sure it’s safe to say that despite the blisters on our feet and the ache in our backs from sleeping on thin mats, we have all come closer together as a team, and we look to next July with excitement.
Ciara Hay, 12V