Perse students reach Himalayan summit
Report by Perse head of outdoor pursuits, Ben Parker
Over the summer holidays 19 students from Year 12 and four staff embarked on a three-week expedition to Ladakh in northern India. The aim was to widen students’ cultural understanding, conduct charitable work and trek high up into the Himalayas.
Forty-eight hours after leaving home the group landed at one of the world’s highest military airports in Leh, Ladakh, 3600m above sea level. After a couple of days of sightseeing, soaking up the culture and acclimatising to the high altitude environment the group travelled by road to the community project at the Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL) Shey campus. SECMOL provides a rounded education to those who have dropped out of the Indian state education system either due to poor attendance at school or failure of state set exams. A large proportion of the timetable is dedicated to environmentalism with local students encouraged to take responsibility for maintaining the electricity supply through solar arrays, tending vegetable gardens, milking the centre’s cows and maintaining the grounds.
Our students immersed themselves in the day-to day-life of the centre, helping local students in their daily tasks. In addition they constructed a new cow shed from recycled materials and repaired the existing cattle enclosure, taught lessons on topics ranging from first aid to UK culture and helped to build new composting toilets. Money raised in the UK was used to provide SECMOL with a new set of bicycles which proved very popular with the local students. Even in the sweltering heat and high altitude conditions the Perse competitive spirit shone through with our students setting the record for the most mud bricks produced in a single day (19) – a meaner feat than it sounds!
The expedition group then moved deeper into the Himalayas for a gruelling nine-day trek which culminated in reaching the summit of Stok Kangri (6,153 metres). This was a significant challenge – summits over 5000 metres are classed as sitting in ‘extreme altitude.’ After much shuffling and heaviness of breath and more than 15 hours of trekking, 18 of the 19 students stood proudly at the summit – a new Perse record over the three PES expeditions to Stok Kangri. The Year 12 students involved should be proud of their achievements; very few people of their age would attempt such a challenge let alone carry it off so successfully.
Thanks go to the expedition staff (Dr Graeme Smith and Miss Parker) and doctor (Dr Steve Lindley) who gave up their time to support our students and who played a significant role in making the trip a success.