A TEAM of young mountaineers have returned from an expedition to the Pyrenees.

During the summer holidays, seven courageous pupils from King’s Ely ventured to the mountain range, which divides France and Spain, to practise ice axe arresting, walking in crampons and other essential outdoor adventure skills.

After a wet start to the trip, the team managed to train below the Refuge de Saradets on the French side. They then undertook a three day trek from the base in the Cirque de Gavarnie in France to Spain, crossing through the iconic Breche de Roland and traversing to shelter below the summit of Monte Perdido. After a successful summit, the team then descended through the picturesque Ordesa Canyon.

After a couple of days’ rest and rock climbing in the valley of Benasque in Spain, the team prepared for the second expedition to attempt the summit of Aneto – the highest peak in the Spanish Pyrenees. Warm weather meant the pupils were operating in 40 degree heat as they ascended to the camp site. Concerns about the snow conditions in the heat meant they started the trip at 3am to ensure they were ready to ascend the summit by 9am.

The students’ inspirational start to the new academic year was facilitated by the school’s Ely Scheme – a unique programme that aims to build important life skills that cannot always be taught in the classroom. While most independent schools have an outdoor pursuits programme, the Ely Scheme is both unique and central to the whole King’s Ely experience, as young people are given tangible opportunities to push themselves to achieve beyond anything they ever thought possible. This concept forms the bedrock of King’s Ely ethos and values.

The aim is to develop each individual student through outdoor education and adventurous activity, concentrating on eight major elements: personal skills; self-confidence; teamwork; leadership skills; social and environmental awareness; problem solving; ability to cope with difficult situations; and healthy respect for nature and the outdoors.

Sophie Cheng, Director of Outdoor Education at the school, said: “At King’s Ely, we teach a progressive programme of outdoor education, beginning with a year of activities and camps in Year 9. The programme focuses on delivering technical skills and knowledge within mountaineering, rock climbing and kayaking at a pace suitable for each individual. In Year 11, the students have the opportunity to become instructors themselves, becoming inspiration role models for those starting the scheme in Year 9.”

Sophie added: “As all of our expeditions and trips are facilitated in-house, we can provide consistent, long-term training and development for our pupils, as our team of staff and instructors know each member’s strengths and abilities prior to undertaking any of our expeditions.”

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