Georgina Ferguson - Outward Bound

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Outward bound is a course run by an independent charity, which helps people improve their confidence and leadership skills through various activities, aimed to challenge them.
Each year, the kennel club sponsor members of the YKC to participate in an outward bound course, two age groups are arranged, the 16-17 years and 18-24’s. This year I applied for the 18-24 age category, after being unsuccessful a few years ago for the 16-17. This time I was successful, and myself and 11 other YKC members prepared ourselves for the action packed week that was to come....

Sunday 8th August
After a long and complex journey consisting of a flight, train and taxi ride, my fellow Young Kennel Club members and I began to assemble at the outward bound trust house, in Eskdale, Lake district, surrounded by sheep and tranquillity the setting couldn’t have been more idyllic.

After meeting our trainer,Anja, we changed into old clothes and met out on the lawn to introduce ourselves (and had many dog-themed conversations!) with Anja, we played some ‘icebreaker’ games to get to know each other. One game involved lowering a cane held up by each of our index fingers to the ground, a lot more difficult and frustrating then you’d think! We also had to get the whole group through an elastic hoop in 7 seconds, after much deliberation and falling over we completed the task in 5 seconds. After quick refreshments we met upstairs as a whole group of twelve and discussed our backgrounds and what we’d like to achieve from the course, we talked about how improving our leadership skills and pushing our abilities could be used in the future to help out with YKC events.

Next we went to the equipment hut and were kitted out with everything we would need for the week, we borrowed waterproof trousers and jackets, a fleece, boots, water bottle, head torch and a daybag, which left all of us feeling like professional hikers! After dinner we assembled by reception before our ‘homing night walk’, in which we were dropped off at an unknown destination and had to direct ourselves back to the base. I, of course, forgot my head torch, and after Anja taught us how to use our compasses, we got our bearings ready and set off. After missing the steeping stones right beside us, we directed ourselves to a bridge half a mile away in order to cross the river. We trudged about dodging sheep poo’s and rocks, occasionally catching a glimpse of our leader in the distance-making sure we were on the right track. Night fell as the head torches came out (I borrowed one!) and we continued up the famous hills and crags of the lake district.

Finally two and a half hours later, we reached the lake of the outward bound house and eagerly walked back towards our beds, tomorrow we are planning to surprise our trainer by joining her on her 7.00am jog and dip in the lake-whether this will happen at such an early hour for us teenagers we shall see!

Monday 9th August
After a large group of us completed the jog and dip, (although my effort could be described more as stumbling round the lake at 7am and chickening out of the dip!) we began the day with a task called ‘jigsaw’ consisting of numerous tasks we needed to complete in order to obtain 9 pieces of a jigsaw. Our nominated team leader read through the instructions and we prioritised each task within the time period. First of all one member of the group needed to draw a picture to scale of the outward bound building, winning us our first piece and 6 blindfolds, needed for the next task.

The rest of the instructions weren’t so simple through, with a trick test asking us to sing 'yellow submarine' which would sacrifice a jigsaw piece! Luckily we managed to stop ourselves before we broke into chorus. Other tasks included some orienteering, searching for letters in a story and me answering a question about the outward bound house to obtain the 9th piece! We managed to complete all the tasks in the nick of time!

Following this success we attempted the ‘board of directors game’, this included two people acting as the ‘directors’, two ‘supervisors’ and the remaining members as the ‘workers’. The workers had to stand outside in the wet and cold on a chess board, with yellow and orange cones blocking the way of a couple of squares, the directors had a copy of the chess board upstairs with a walkie talkie to the supervisors, and had to send messages directing the workers where to move.

Our communication was really poor (resulting in us workers amusing ourselves outside by playing eye spy and singing) and we realised that even the most simple directions and objectives need to be known by all members of the team for it to function, something we can use when helping out at YKC events in the future. After our failed attempt, we discussed what went wrong and what we wanted to achieve next time.

After lunch we were kitted out with hard hats and harnesses and walked to the rock climbing destination and prepared to climb a 30-40ft natural rock face. We started off well, learning how to attach ourselves to the ropes and learnt how two people are needed at the base to support the climbers weight, major trust was needed between the climber and their supporters and we all managed to get at least half way up with some making it all the way to the top. Even the ones afraid of heights (including myself) stormed up the rock thanks to the encouragement of each other at the base.  After rock climbing we went to the store room to get ready for our overnight hike the following day, our packs were so heavy! A good nights sleep was required for the long journey ahead!

Tuesday 10th August
Another jog early in the morning-minus the dip for me! before jamming into the minibus and driving to our starting point, we had planned our journey the night before and our nominated navigator ordered us to start the trek up the hill. In total we covered around 10 km in the day, through numerous stages of rain!
During one of our frequent rests in an attempt to recover, a group of sprightly joggers ran through our group, giving us some motivation to keep going.

Unfortunately our route was a little optimistic, and we had to miss out the mountain ’pillar’ from the route and continue through the valley.

With very aching muscles and joints, we arrived 6 hours later at the youth hostel camping barn. We unloaded our gear to find out two of the sleeping bags were soaked in the downpour - one of them mine of course! and started to cook dinner on the camping stoves and pans. After some horror stories and funny dog-showing tales we retreated to our beds and settled down for the night, another hike back tomorrow through the tremendous views will get my muscles groaning!

Wednesday 11th August
After an early rise this morning we packed up our gear and ate our porridge before setting off back across the mountains. The views were spectacular with sheep roaming the fields and waterfalls down every valley, we hiked for 2km up a very steep hill, to reach the top and see clear views of wast water lake, a favourite of Cumbria inhabitants. A few funny moments arose from our hike back, including one member disappearing into the ferns for 5 minutes, before a hand reappeared further down the hill! Another team member confidently strode across the mud in her poncho (despite having to retrieve her boot earlier) laughing at those of us carefully balancing along the edge, as her foot sunk into the mud up to her ankle. Losing her balance she toppled over into the mud, covering herself and enforcing a mass of giggles in the surrounding walkers!
At the top of one hill, Anja informed us that if we walked 200m more in one direction, we would in fact be high enough to be classified as onto a mountain! Releasing our bags we hiked to the hill and cheered triumphantly! We made it to a mountain height! After our success, we felt regenerated, and trekked along a sheep path to the base of wast water lake. At the bottom, a 2 hour walk continued to reach our pick up destination at the other end. Stumbling along rocks and through little streams, we passed many other energetic hikers out early in the morning. Finally, (before my legs gave in) we reached out final pick up destination and eagerly sat down in the minibus when it arrived. After sorting our or (rather damp) gear, we headed in for showers and a rest. After a short break, we met back outside to participate in the ‘Night line’ activity. This task required intense communication between the team, as we were all blindfolded and had to follow our way through an obstacle course. After we finished, we investigated out “extremely steep drop” and “really sloped ledge” to discover a short circuit with hardly any difficult patches! We did really well and even encouraged out claustrophobic team mate through a hole under a rock, a very small and muddy spot! Still in our cave suits to protect our clothing, we met Les from search and rescue dog association, a charity who work with the police to help find lost hikers with the help of trained dogs. Kess the border collies strutted her stuff and showed off her training as she discovered a volunteer behind a tree and alerted her handler. After this impressive show, Les showed us how he trained Kess using a squeaky toy and told us stories of Kess out mountain searching. After dinner, we got our gear ready for “gill scrambling” the following day which included full length all-in-one fleece suits (resembling telly tubbie outfits) and special water helmets and life jackets. With our bags all packed its another early start tomorrow!

Thursday 12th August
Today was the most fun, we arrived alongside a lake after being dropped off by the mini bus, and secured our harnesses and life jackets. We were lead by Anja and the safety instructor Steve to a stream strewn with rocks and mini waterfalls… for us to climb! Hauling each other up every ledge in the freezing water, we often slipped and bobbed about in the little dips before climbing up each assent again. We reached a large waterfall where Steve told us there was a cave behind the falling water. Steve pulled himself along the adjacent rock face and through the downpour, before giving us the thumbs up for us to follow suit. After a few attempts, 7 of us had bobbed up inside the cave beneath the water fall, including our hydrophobic team mate! Steve then helped each of us down and told us to push through the waterfall out the way we had come, with us one by one being pulled along by the current and caught by our fellow team mates on the other side. After this, we began going back down the stream, clamouring over rocks and guiding each other over the slippery bits. Once we reached the grassy ledge, we trudged back to the minibus as Steve drove us to a bridge, which we were to jump off! A few of us went to the top, as Anja demonstrated the best way for us to do it. After losing my original confidence, I was helped up onto the bridge ledge and began a count down to step off. I kept chickening out and remained standing there for a few minutes! After encouragement from my fellow YKC members at the bottom of the bridge, I took a step off and fell (for what felt like ever!) before plunging into the water below. Soggy and cold we headed back to the minibus and went back to the centre. After a quick shower and drying off, we went and met Anja by the lake for canoeing. We were taught how to canoe and attempted the odd race (to which my team ended up on the wrong side of the lake!) before the rain started and we headed back inside. That evening we met before dinner to share photographs and receive our certificates for completing the course, before a sad goodbye to two members leaving for an agility contest the following day. The next day a few of us were up for the jog and dip, with me jumping into the freezing water twice as a final farewell!

After some emotional goodbyes, we parted back to our areas of the country, but not before sharing some funny memories of our great time on outward bound!