Five days in the life of an Outward Bound Trust Ambassador

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Our Corporate Events Manager, Sam Hardy, was selected to represent Go Ape as an Outward Bound Trust Ambassador for five days. Here, he tells his tale!

An inspirational trip 

Rather than a blow by blow account from day 1 to day 5, which would be like watching my trousers dry in front of a log fire (3 hours) – we should just explain why these trips are so worthwhile, and how the OBT inspire children from all backgrounds to go on to be the best that they can be.

A few students in this particular group have not had the best start in life, and aspirations for some were pretty low. To begin with, it was difficult for most to grasp the concept of ‘leave nothing but footprints and take only memories’ i.e. to leave nothing on the hills, no litter, no waste, and no damage to the environment. This was a group of individuals, not necessarily friends either, whose phrases in the embryonic stages were – ‘that’s not mine’ or ‘I can’t be bothered’ and the all-time favourite ‘why should I?.

Never providing answers

On the initial walks and climbs the group was given the task of leading the way, and navigating a route, but they were a disparate bunch. Walking for 5 minutes and stopping for 10 minutes, strung out across the hills like confetti at a wedding from last week. We discussed this as we went, asking what the issues were, and again asking how these could be solved – never providing answers. Any poor behaviour was challenged, but not the individuals themselves. E.g. “Do you think that puddle is the best place to store your sleeping bag?” That was addressed to me…

It is safe to say I found this approach quite hard, and wanted to tie shoelaces, sacrifice food, hand out dry clothes, light fires and even carry the more forlorn. These sodden creatures with heavy burdens (and massive rucksacks) surely needed some sympathy and support? Not so…

Alone in the hills

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Once they realised that after the food drop on Tuesday morning we were alone in the hills, with no Uber to call on, no phones and no hotels – they had to rely on each other for support.

On the third night after many hours of trekking in the rain, across bulging streams and boggy terrain we looked upon the Herberts. They had pitched tents, packed bags, prepared the stoves and had started cooking. I was expecting the lake to part and Moses to wander over and ask if anyone fancied a brew. Not only had they achieved the unexpected (the instructors had seen this before, but not I) they had supported each other and all without our help. These little giants are all just 13 years old – I know adults that would struggle with this task. Yes, I am Southern, and an office body…

After another outstanding ration pack of dubious content, using said spoon of great import – we embarked on a night walk. It was here at the boulder of wisdom (it is an erratic), the group discussed their progress again. This time words like “pride”, “achievement” and “teamwork” were used. Some say I shed a tear, but it was just run off from the rim of my hood.

They were starting to realise – “I can” and “we can”.

Day 4 was something I now know to be ‘type 2 fun’, (thanks Rich).

  • Type 1 – A day at a theme park – very enjoyable at the time, good memories.
  • Type 2 – An arduous journey, outside the comfort zone that is sometimes painful – but you look back in 5 months or 5 years and realise; that was fun!
  • Type 3 – An arduous journey, outside the comfort zone that is sometimes painful – but you look back and say, that was pretty fecking awful…

The troops were buoyant but pretty tired by day 4 but the rain was not relenting and the wind picking up. We were heading for Ruthwaite Lodge for the night in Grisedale valley on the side of the Helvelyn Range and some luxury – a wood stove in a brick building.

It was decided late afternoon, after the Billy goats had led the first part successfully to a waterfall crossing, that Rich and I would go ahead to the Holy Grail that was the shed of delights. This took us 2 hours to reach, across swollen rivers, over the ridge in sideways rain and guided only by the eye of Sauron across what looked like Mordor.

We made it!

We reached the Promised Land as darkness descended and the winds reached whistling pitch, to set the fire and light the stove, knowing that we had basically abandoned the Lilliputians and left them to a mauling by Mother Nature.

My estimation was that it would take a month for our clothes to dry and another 2 hours for the intrepid teenagers to get through purgatory.

With heart in mouth and socks on the dryer, there was a knock on the door an hour and a half later. Just as we were preparing to go back out and find the teenage debris, Jon was at the door requesting for room at the Inn! He was like the Pied Piper on a mission and his resilient rodents were tired but jubilant.

OBT3They filed in as if this almost impossible mission, was a mere pain in the ass to be endured before they could get at the remaining Haribo. As I choked back more rainwater from the rim of my cap, they set about changing clothes, organising bed space and cooking dinner for each other.

That evening after I had finished marvelling at the courageousness of the collective, the skill and judgement of the instructors, I realised that we are all capable of much more than we know – if we are prepared to give it a go.

Feeling proud of each other

The discussion at the table that night was open, honest, touching and at times inspirational. I think this was the moment when they truly understood the reason for the trip and the motivation behind the instructors pushing their boundaries and limits.

I think the guys got more sleep that night than the previous 3 combined, knowing what they had achieved, feeling proud of themselves and each other. Maybe for the first time in a long time…

Friday was a breeze, all be it a 40mph one, and we arrived back at Howtown safely to receive our certificates, and it has to be said, much respect from all the other instructors… On the bottom of the certificates was this caption from the Co-Founder of the OBT, Kurt Hahn;

“We are all better than we know. If only we can be brought to realise this, we may never again be prepared to settle for anything less”.     

It is the job of the team at the OBT to help us realise that we are all better than we know, and what a fantastic job they do. Much respect and many thanks to all on the trip, and all at the OBT.

Sam H