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The Corporation

Posted: 20/09/16

Aspiring to great heights

With the start of a new academic year, students at West Nottinghamshire College have plenty to look forward to and lots to aspire to. Those who’ve joined the public services course will be looking up to the achievements of their peers from last term. In fact, they’ll be looking up very high. Mountain high!

  • Setting off at Ben Nevis
  • Clear views impressed the group
  • Climbing higher towards the summit
  • As the group climbed higher the temperatures dropped
  • Motivation and good humour kept the students going
  • The group pauses on the lower and sunnier parts of the climb
  • They made it!

During the summer, public services students took on a great challenge in the name of personal endeavours, coursework and a worthy charity, by climbing the UK’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis.

The group of eleven students from all public services courses joined tutors and a representative from sponsoring company – Irwin Mitchell Solicitors – for a four-day trek into the Scottish mountains. Irwin Mitchell sponsored the venture with £1,000 to set up purchasing of equipment and supplies to start the plans for the event.

As well as providing great experience of the outdoors, the event was a fundraiser for Walking With The Wounded, a charity which Irwin Mitchell supports to provide vulnerable veterans of the Armed Forces with independence through employment.

In spring students undertook fitness tests and trials followed by a mountaineering practice session in Peak District to work on their physical training and getting used to the outdoors. Accompanying students were tutors – who all have years of mountaineering and expedition training – and Louisa Chambers who is a solicitor at the Sheffield-based company.

Louisa said: “Admittedly this was going to be a very different experience to a day in the office, but I’ve had some experience with mountain expeditions. It was great to see the students getting involved in this adventure and the experience they gained was excellent preparation for a demanding career within the public services.”

In order to scale the 1,345m of Ben Nevis, the expedition was paced over a four-day period using all the advice and techniques provided in class by James Winning, programme area leader for public services.

He said: “As well as the practice in the Peaks we gave students fitness tests and worked on individual training programmes as part of the units of study. We had meetings where students went through all the equipment lists, and were told about the best kind of tents to take, how to pack and what personal belongings to take – and not to take! During the practice expedition one student did bring three changes of clothes and a pillow!”

This experience was a first for all eleven class members. The expedition style trekking and wild camping was a new thing and nobody had ever drunk water from a mountain stream. Students were in good hands with tutors who have all qualified as mountain leaders which sees them having to take part in at least 40 days in the mountains, six wild camps and a five-day assessment on navigation and survival.

On the morning of setting off to Ben Nevis it was bright and sunny for the group who were all in short and tee shirts. As they ventured above 800m the weather got cooler, overcast and rainy, with patches of snow on the higher levels which saw the summer wear exchanged for hats and coats.

Tutor James, who has previously worked in youth work and as an outdoor instructor, added: “Everyone was really impressed with the views as we walked closer to the summit. The skies were clear and we all got the cameras out. We discussed the importance of good navigation with the sheer cliffs to one side. Straying off the path can become dangerous and everyone welcomed having studied the maps and compass in class.

“Through an expedition like this students used their technical skills which they’ve learnt at college and they worked brilliantly as a mixed group of levels 1, 2 and 3, showing how well they’d organised their equipment and become self-sufficient.”

Away from life’s luxuries such as beds and electricity and wifi, students got on with camping and cooking outdoors and coped really well with the rain and wind as they pitched the tents. Their motivation was still there in the morning!

Eighteen-year-old Jack Stout was one of the student explorers. He said: “This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It was very challenging but at the same time highly exciting. The hardest part of the expedition was climbing to the top with the heavy rucksacks on our backs, which drained both the body and mind.

“Keeping motivated helped the whole team reach our end goal. Even our dreadful singing kept our motivation high! The best part of course was getting to the top - reaching the summit was a massive achievement and you could see the relief on everyone’s faces and how proud they were. If I could do it again I would because it wasn’t just an expedition - for me it was a perfect experience to end my two years at college with. I had the best team to share my experience of climbing Ben Nevis with.”

Fellow student Daniel Snowden said: “The best part of the expedition was the meal and awards ceremony in a local restaurant the evening following our final half of the descent.

“I couldn’t think of any better way to end my two years public services course especially as we did the climb for a public services-themed charity, Walking with the Wounded.”

Louisa Chambers from Irwin Mitchell added: “It’s fantastic to know that between the company and the college a grand total of £898 was raised for the charity. It was clear to see that this experience gave the students a lot of skills and some great memories. New friendships were made and the passion to do something like this again and again. It was a real pleasure to join them.”