COURAGEOUS King’s Ely students reached new heights during an action-packed expedition in Northern Spain.

A group of six King’s Ely Senior students, Charlie Watson, Fred Hughes, Matt Connolly, Kishan Patel, Marc Whittome and Sam Wege, returned home on July 20th exhausted yet extremely proud of themselves and each other after completing a gruelling five-day trek through the Picos de Europa.

The Picos de Europa, meaning the ‘Peaks of Europe’, are a range of mountains 20km inland from the northern coast of Spain, in the Autonomous Communities of Asturias, Cantabria and Castile and León; they are part of the Cantabrian Mountains. A widely accepted origin for the name is that they were the first sight of Europe for ships arriving from the Americas.

The group trekked from Fuente De to the iconic Naranjo de Bulnes, then north and west through the dramatic 100m deep Cares Gorge. They then pulled up through the mountains to return to Fuente De.

The aims of the expedition were for the students to make good, sound decisions at every opportunity, on which route to take each day, when to break, when set the pace appropriately for the team, and to navigate throughout the journey. On top of this, the expedition’s leaders encouraged them to develop a sense of risk management for themselves and for their teammates, especially when it came to making judgements in tricky and rocky terrain.

Director of Outdoor Education at King’s Ely Senior, Sophie Cheng, said: “The group did exceptionally, particularly in the heat and humidity with temperatures sometimes reaching over 30 degrees. Throughout the expedition, I was impressed with how the students formed a strong team and became a self-sufficient unit early on. After a little guidance and direction, they were making good sound and appropriate decisions throughout the journey. After the five day trek, we moved to the northern coastline in Llanes to rest on the beach and enjoy some of the limestone sport climbs. Huge thanks to everyone for their tireless hard work during the trip.”

The expedition was held as part of the Ely Scheme at King’s Ely, which 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.

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.

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