Twelve sixth form pupils and two members of staff, together with two female assistant leaders from outside Loretto, have returned from a successful 30-day mountaineering expedition to North Norway over the summer. The build up to this major expedition was well underway many months ago (in the summer of 2014) when I visited the two areas the expedition team would journey through. During this visit, I carried out a reconnaissance of the most arduous sections of the routes, including climbing mountains where we came across reindeer and white-tailed eagles on the Lyngen peninsular. I returned wholly enthusiastic about the expedition areas, having gained valuable local knowledge.
Training started in earnest in the spring term of 2015, with weekly practice sessions on navigation, learning about equipment and equpping the team with suitable mountain boots and clothing. A five-day practice expedition in the Lake District followed the end of term. The next five days were very wet and cold, with extremely high winds as a series of depressions swept across the country. As a result, plenty of practice was gained in wild camping, cooking and surviving wet days of wild weather. The team undertook day walks gaining a few summits when weather permitted. To maintain team spirits in the extreme weather conditions, we took advantage of the many cafes around the Lakes to sustain ourselves. To give perspective to the conditions, there were three other school groups in the area – all of which had their tents destroyed in the gales and they all had to abandon their expedition! In the summer term, training sessions continued with food planning, equipment preparation and fitness training.
Loretto’s Borealis Society prepare supplies
The expedition team travelled by air to Tromso in Norway from Edinburgh at the end of summer term. Tromso was our base for 24 hours while we gathered fuel and five days’ food for phase two – this would be stored on board our chartered boat whilst we completed our first phase. We travelled by boat through the fjords to the north end of Ringvassoya, where the team trekked across the island, climbed three mountains whilst encountering much snow from a late winter in May. Campsites were wild, with tents pitched on soft springy moss beds with lakes and the mountains. The weather was clear, but there was a cool arctic airstream present throughout our route across the island.
The team boarded the boat and the journey took five hours through broad fjords, amid Spectacular mountain and cliff scenery of the Lyngen peninsular. Fishing off the boat was a new experience for many of the team members before landing on North Lyngen. After a reconnaissance of the route to a glacier camp, plans were adjusted due to the dangerous slopes up into a glacier lake system. Undaunted, the leaders hatched a plan B and the following two weeks saw the team venture through high mountain country, climbing a number of peaks via impressive glacier crossings which cascaded out of high mountain cirques.
Our final peak, Fastdalstinden was climbed as the weather was turning murky but the team were rewarded with views across Lyngen fjord before a wet descent ensued.
The journey back to Tromso was broken with a surprise stop for the team, where they enjoyed a fine meal after what had been a most memorable expedition journey.
David Howie is Head of Outdoor Pursuits at Loretto School.