I think they were ready to called ‘the
people with the white coats’ when I further explained that I had organized the
expedition on a piece of blank paper and a few ideas. That I wasn’t being paid
for my time while I was away and that I was in fact funding my own way onto the trip and contributing exactly
same amount of money as each of the young people. I would of course be
accepting accountability for the group during the whole four weeks as we
operated in one of the remotest parts of the world.
Well perhaps an experience like this is not
everyone’s cup of tea but for me running and organizing youth expeditions has
become fairly normal summer experience during the last 14 years.
Since 1996 I have organized and led nine
youth expeditions of not less than 21 days to some very challenging
environments. Many of these ventures have been approved by organizations such
as the Dorset Expeditionary Society (where I am a trustee), The Young Explorer
Trust and the Duke of Edinburgh Award. By not employing guides or local hosts
and by relying on a carefully selected expedition leadership team I am able to
keep the costs for the young people down while ensuring high standards of
safety and care for all of the group.
I like planning, organizing and accepting
accountability for these trips and spend hours preparing maps, researching
expedition areas and working on the logistics. I select my expedition team at
least nine months before we depart for the expedition area and spend at least
six days working with the group in the UK and training the team before we
depart. While we are away we operate as a close family ensure the welfare of
I have always believed that
extra-curricular activities are one of the most important roles of a teacher
and outdoor experiences are one of the things that really gives a school or youth
organization spirit. I have learnt more about leadership and management from my
summer adventures with young people than I ever have from a formal or academic
My expeditions always have objectives for
example with under 18s I have canoed the Bowron Lakes of British Columbia,
Climbed Mt. Rainier in Washington State, Trekked the Wonderland Trail in Mt
Rainier National Park, Climbed the Marmolada by Via Ferata and Glacier in the
Italian Dolomites, Paddled Beaver Creek in the Alaskan Interior,
Sea Kayaked 200 miles across the Prince William Sound in Southern Alaska and
gathered data for research papers in remote parts of Wyoming.
But as well as these physical and academic
objectives I believe the youth expeditions that I run are mentally tough. It’s
hard to live in the wilderness for a prolonged period of time and it’s the
routine of wilderness survival and the
‘thinking time’ associated with it that increasingly young people
struggle to cope with. For me the
mental challenge remains the most important parts of a young persons
development – after all if we can’t develop young people that are mentally
strong what hope will we have for the future leadership of our society?
The ‘Gates of the Arctic’ Alaska 2010
Expedition had two main objectives. These were to trek in the Wrangell-St. Elias
and to Canoe the Noatak River from its headwaters in the Gates of the Arctic
National Park to Noatak Village a distance of nearly 400 miles.
Over the four weeks that we were away we
were quite simply punished by the weather and Alaska threw every type of it at
us from blistering heat, unforgiving rain and even snow. This combined with the
being totally self-sufficient during both objectives and the remoteness of the
expedition made it the toughest trip I have ever done with young people.
The group were well prepared and humor,
teamwork and compassion conquered the hardship of the environment. We succeeded
in both our goals and it was an absolute pleasure to work with such talent.
I’ll document the expedition in the next