The Perse School

Ice climbing and first aid training – PES Summit 12 field weekend

11 Mar 2015

The Lake District beckoned for last weekend’s Perse Exploration Society Summit 12 field weekend.

Upper Sixth student and Fire Chief Council Chairman, Aylwin Racher, wrote a piece on the events of the weekend – we hope you enjoy reading.

“Over the last weekend the thirty six members of Summit 12 ventured up to Borrowdale in the Cumbrian Lake District for some intensive expedition training for the upcoming trip to Ladakh this summer. This Field Weekend was designed to prepare the group in expedition style living; living out of one bag for weeks on end, and where home is two square meters of canvas shared with one other lucky soul. This also stretched to mealtimes, which in many ways expeditions centre around; three course seated meals may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but good food and good company (coupled with almost obsessive hand hygiene) are more important to the physical and mental state of a group than anything else.

Activities were similarly focused; extended first aid training, covering all manner of fractures, breaks, and traumas was given including the practise of triage in a large multi casualty situation. Methods of casualty extraction, especially necessary in remote areas, often miles from road access were also covered in detail. The same lectures, incidentally are given to first year junior doctors. This all culminated in a simulated avalanche scenario with four casualties, which the teams had to work through triage, treatment and evacuation under time pressure, and the watchful eye of our expedition medicine specialist Dr Jeremy Evans.

To be able to train for the use of crampons and ice axes that we will need on our ascent we took turns to visit an ice climbing wall in Keswick, best thought of as an oversized freezer, in which we scaled the sides, getting used to having twelve spikes protruding from our boots and placing axes in the ice in such a way that would hold, and not send us down the wall in a shower of ice chunks.

Due to the exceptionally high winds that weekend, the walks were much tamer than usual; one including an unprecedented hour-long coffee break in a cosy tea room in central Keswick. Nonetheless some found areas of challenging ground over which to scramble, and the weekend served as an ample testing ground for new equipment and to show up flaws in people’s gear. The hike days culminated in a river crossing, a skill that will be vital as our route snakes over the Ladakhi valley floor, meaning river crossings are commonplace. One half managed to get only a light dipping in the river, however the second half to go, had twentyfour hours of intense Lake District rain to swell the river so we found ourselves hip deep in chilly waters. Myself, Mr Parker and Dr Davies then took a more adventurous route through the faster flowing mild whitewater sections of the river; as we hit the waist deep thalweg of the river we feared that perhaps we had bitten off more than we could chew as the flow of the river threatened to sweep our legs out from underneath us, but we tightened our grips and shouted calls over the roar of the river until we reached the stability of the far bank, returning to camp with our prides thankfully intact.

The whole weekend was also effective in galvanising the group to a well oiled team, and pack down was seeming record breakingly fast, setting a good prospect for the gargantuan charity building projects we have set ourselves this summer. Despite the high winds the trip was both enjoyable and has us well prepared for Ladakh. Many thanks to the staff who accompanied us, and we now have our sights firmly set on Stok Khangri this summer.”

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