Summit 11’s Cold and Muddy Field Weekend
Tom Kilcommons on a 'character building' canoeing trip:
"On Field Weekend in early March, the PES Summit 11 group embarked on their first canoe journey down the River Great Ouse, in preparation for the Sweden expedition this summer. Following a brief coach journey, all the kit was unloaded and work began preparing everything for the water.
Canoes had to be unloaded from trailers and food packed tightly into waterproof barrels. After a brief shuttle of all this to the river itself, we were ready to go. Once we had re-familiarized ourselves with the concept of a paddle, the group set off.
Each fire (student group) made its way steadily down the river with their heavily laden canoes, stuffed snugly with tarpaulins, sleeping bags, a vast selection of dry bags and bizarre combinations of food. Throughout our journey, particularly on the first day, we completed a number of ‘portages’ – these are sections of uncanoeable land that involved transferring everything, including the boats, from one stretch of water to another. Whilst a good opportunity for a break, chocolate bar and cup of tea, these portages certainly were not a welcome addition to our weekend – thankfully they will not feature in Sweden.
Upon our arrival at the campsite, the first thing we noticed was the mud – recent flooding in the area had led to the deposition of a thick layer of clay more or less everywhere near the bank. This situation, much to the detriment of the washing machine back home, would get worse. As fires erected their tarps in the fading light, the focus turned to dinner. We cooked all the food over our fireboxes and served delicacies such as fajitas, sausage casserole and homemade burgers.
The next morning we woke under a dusting of snow and proceeded to attempt breakfast by sharing fireboxes and Kelly Kettles. Once all the wet (and thoroughly mud coated) kit was packed up we quickly bailed the canoes, broke the ice, loaded up the boats and got back on the water. The second day presented a new challenge; the wind had picked up considerably, as had the precipitation in its various forms. Plenty of singing nonetheless kept spirits high along with copious amounts of chocolate. After a few hours of paddling into the wind, rain and sleet the group finished with a 9-kilometre hike to our next campsite, arriving in the dark.
On our final morning, we were greeted by an icy, windswept paintball range that we had been sleeping in the previous night. With gloves and Buffs out on full show, we packed up for the last time and began a series of activities for that day. These involved canoeing skills on the lake, First Aid & CPR training, carving skills, and bread making.
Despite the poor weather, we all enjoyed the weekend very much and gained lots of skills & experience that will no doubt be invaluable on the (hopefully warmer) Swedish lakes in a few months’ time."