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The Tour Du Mont Blanc

The Tour Du Mont Blanc

The group photo taken outside Heathrow airport on the 5thSeptember featured 7 members of Hampshire Scout Expeditions who were about to embark on a challenging expedition to trek the famous Trail Du Mont Blanc. None of us truly knew the immense task ahead that we had signed up for. The route in question was to start in the Chamonix valley situated near the massive peaks of the Aiguilles Rouges and the Aiguille du Midi. It would then take us through relentless undulating mountain and forest trails into Italy, Switzerland and back into France. Our aim was to complete the 170km route that circumnavigates the Mont Blanc Massif in 6 days, carrying all our kit needed to wild camp 3 out of the 5 nights. The remaining nights we would stay in refuges close by the trail.

After gathering supplies in Chamonix, a final kit check and packing commenced in our chalet the night before our first day on the trail. The morning greeted us with cloudy and misty conditions from Les Houches (1,008m) up our initial 650m ascent into the mountains; however we quickly removed layers to avoid overheating before reaching Col de Voza. At this point the clouds cleared and paved the way for glorious weather and amazing scenery for the rest of the trek. Nearly all the height gained was then quickly lost travelling down into Les Contamines. Our journey continued up a lot higher with the team making good progress where we finished the day at 2443m elevation at Col de la Croix du Bonhomme before sunset. We set up our bivvy bags under the starlit sky much to the amusement of other hikers inhabiting the refuge that night.

It was a chilly start brushing off the ice that had accumulated overnight on our bivvy bags before a quick calorie rich and convenient breakfast consisting of muesli, which none of us are particular fans of. We didn’t let this bother us though as we were all aware this trip would be far from the familiar comforts of home. The day ahead was the shortest, roughly 20km but an exciting one which included our first border crossing into North East Italy. There was yet again considerable height gain up to Col de la Seigne providing stunning views of both France and Italy each side of the Col. Our pace slowed down the steep descents to Refugio Elisabetta where we would spend the night along with several other trekkers from all over the world. It was here we were lucky enough to spot the silhouettes of some male Ibex traversing a steep ridge brandishing impressive curved horns.

Sadly one of the team had to separate from the rest of us due to injury manifesting itself after the first 2 gruelling days. Quick planning and difficult decisions had to be made by the leaders of the expedition to split us so 5 of us carried on with the trek while a leader remained with the injured member thus forming the support team. At the start of day three there was some relatively small height gain which warmed us up as the sun was still hidden from view. As the day went on we continued high along the mountain pass now on the opposite side of the range with more breath-taking landscape including Mont Blanc itself. Next came the never-ending descent into Courmayeur and if this wasn’t enough to contend with, the searing heat, dusty tracks and swarms of crickets made it a difficult task. We met with the others who kindly prepared lunch in the town and it was here that unfortunately another injury meant the support team grew to three. The four of us able to press on were faced with an enormous amount of altitude increase out of Courmayeur to Refugio Bonatti where we wild camped the night.

By day 4 of the expedition the blisters had got to a point where plasters were needed by most of us to make it bearable along with sharing memories of previous HSX expeditions to keep our spirits high. Not only did we struggle towards the end of our long 39km day physically but mentally we were drained so we were very grateful that the support team managed to secure us a refuge for accommodation that night. Our entrance into Switzerland the Grand Col Ferret, at 2537m our highest point, was reached in the morning after a steep ascent. We passed by several herds of cows high in the Swiss Alps whose bells filled the valleys with melodic ringing before dropping down alongside the glacial river. Probably the flattest section of the route led us through small villages before the final climb into Champex, which is home to a glacial lake with beautifully clear water. We had some well-earned rest that evening and it was great to all be back together as a team again to support one another.

The injured participants then headed by public transport back to Les Houches so our leader Jamie could re-join us on the last 2 days of walking. Over half way now we kept telling ourselves as we put one foot in front of the other plodding along the paths through Switzerland. Navigation was more difficult during this section, as the signs were not always obvious and fatigue was really setting in. The route was back into France now passing over Col de Balme giving rise to the Chamonix Valley but there was still a way to go yet. A short detour to find food in Argentière really helped our motivation to carry on to reduce the distance we needed to cover on the last day. This meant walking a total distance of 39km with around 3,000m of ascent including a series of metal ladders hammered into the rock to reach La Tête aux Vents after sundown. Over 13hrs since leaving the refuge – we decided this was where we would lay our heads for the night.

It was a great location from which to see the sunrise the next morning as we set off early on the final day. Our toughest challenge was finding a water source from this point and in the end we had to purchase some rather expensive bottled water from a refuge. More views of Mont Blanc’s snow-capped peak standing a proud 4810m tall were seen from Le Brevent as we were joined by many tourists some of whom took a Gondola most of the way. From there we knew the only way back to Les Houches was down a knee-crunching 1500m consisting of mountain and forest trails. This seemed to go on forever as we all had to dig deep and find our last reserves of energy. We met up with our support team still carrying their injuries during the last hour of the Trail du Mont Blanc. They welcomed us with much needed supplies of food and drinks during that final walk into Les Houches which it felt like we had left a lifetime ago. Arriving at the chalet together to end our tour of the Alps was a real sense of achievement after the many ups and downs both physical and mental which we had all shared.

In the days that followed we had some well-deserved R&R in Chamonix including a spa overlooking some glaciers and the adrenaline fuelled alpine luge. I didn’t know I was capable of eating so much bread and cheese and of course drinking wine in our final days there. Then it was time for the transfer back to Geneva airport for the short flight back to Heathrow terminal 5 which went very smoothly. Now back home my view of Butser hill a measly 271m above sea level just doesn’t compare to the landscape I was enjoying a few days ago. It’s back to work on Monday for the majority of us leaving me only dreaming of the next HSX expedition I get the opportunity to be a part of.

Sam Howe

Sign up for the Lakes Adventure 2018 is Open!!

Sign up for the Lakes Adventure 2018 is Open!!

Calling all Explorer and Network Scouts!

Interested in a long weekend of climbingghyll scrambling (Abseiling waterfalls and jumping and sliding into pools of water) and hiking in the Lake District? ( Here’s a video of last year!) 

Between Thursday 29th March -Monday 2nd April in the Easter Holidays Hampshire Scout Expeditions are running a trip to the Lake District. We will be staying at Great Tower Scout Activity Centre and will have an action-packed weekend full of activities.

Please find below further information, and continue to fill out the Google form if interested.

https://goo.gl/forms/cK1uvBMjdd8P9drZ2

The fun kicks off leaving Ferny Crofts on Thursday 29th March from around 6 O’clock pm.  There will be pick up points at Winnal Tescos as well as Eastleigh train station, however please indicate on the form your preferred pick up point.

During the course of the weekend, we will be staying in indoor accommodation at Great Tower Scout Activity Centre. (LA23 3PQ) The weekend will follow plans of hiking , climbing and Ghyll Scrambling.  A great opportunity for both those new to mountaineering wanting their first experience outdoors climbing as well as those working towards qualifications to get log books filled up that extra bit.

So the Cost: £120 including transport to, from and around The Lakes, food, accommodation and kit hire.

The £120 can be paid by BACS (see details below), or by cheque payable to: HAMPSHIRE COUNTY SCOUT COUNCIL

Bank: HSBC

Sort Code: 40-46-39

Account Number: 51260936

Payment will secure your place on the trip.

If you’re paying by BACS please put ‘HSX-Surname’ (EXAMPLE: HSX-Griffiths) as the reference.

Then please email both  tilly.griffiths@hsx.org.uk AND josh.hicks@hsx.org.uk and say that you have paid.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to email us.

THE DEADLINE TO SIGN UP IS WEDNESDAY 7TH MARCH!!

Google Form Link here>> https://goo.gl/forms/cK1uvBMjdd8P9drZ2

We Look forward to seeing you there!

Josh and Tilly

Don’t forget to take a look at our website! www.hsx.org.uk

Follow us on Twitter! @HSXOfficial

Find us on Instagram! @official_hsx AND

Find us on Facebook! facebook.com/hampshirescoutexpeditions

Next Stop (in 18 hours…)- Patagonia!!

Next Stop (in 18 hours…)- Patagonia!!

After a great farewell presentation yesterday, wishing their parents and loved ones Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and a Happy Birthday somewhere thrown in the mix, the Patagonia team made their way to the airport today, to set off on their 4 week expedition. Everyone in HSX wishes you a safe flight, we hoped you manage to stay occupied for the whole 18 hours, and we look forward to hearing all about your experiences when you get back. Stay safe, take lots of photos, make lots of memories and enjoy every moment. See you at Ferny Crofts on your return!

Training Round Up: HSXPat2017 Part 2

Training Round Up: HSXPat2017 Part 2

With a new year came a chance for another year of adventures- this is 2017 so far….

January- Dartmoor

The weekend started with a drive down to a scout hut in Dartmoor. We were very excited to receive our first Patagonia team kit. We were each given a light blue t-shirt which had our Patagonia 2017 logo on it, which the team had designed previously. After a few hours of patchy sleep, we headed out into the moors. As soon as we started walking we saw that all the water on the ground was frozen. This meant that Tilda managed to take out Nathan on the ice, nearly jeopardising the whole trek. After hours of trekking through frozen bogs we ended at the chosen wild camping spot for the night. We made dinner and played cards in the freezing tent until we dragged our bodies out into the cold and dark for some night navigation. Finally, we went to bed for some well-earned sleep.

The next morning, we were up, ate breakfast and were out by 08:30. We started by spending half an hour attempting to cross a river. We then trekked back to the vans through more bogs and practicing more navigation. Overall the Dartmoor weekend was…an experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

February- Scotland
The Scotland trip gave us, as a team, a good feel for how life will be, when hiking in Patagonia. With crampon skills, ice axe arrests, navigating through the valleys and the peaks, and long treacherous hikes we are feeling very prepared.

The week started with a very long arduous journey up to Scotland via mini bus. We had a top of night at a scout hut in Carlisle, where we learnt some judo skills with Rob as the instructor. Once we had reached the lodge in the Cairngorms, we sorted out what rooms we were staying in and then set off for our introductory walk. It was a gentle walk around a scenic loch. After taking lots of photos, we returned for a well needed uninterrupted sleep.
The first day of proper hiking (the Sunday) was spent hiking up the ridge towards 1141. We stopped half way up and learnt our first load of snow skills. We learnt ice axe arrests and had some spectacular fails but mostly just good practice and success. The most spectacular display of what not to do, was Tilda trying to do an ice axe arrest head first on her back and just panicking, dropping the axe and coming to a messy halt because of her heels digging into the snow. After sufficient practise and some lunch, we continued traversing up to 1141, then along the plateau and over Cairngorm. It was a tiring first day but we learnt lots and felt very skilled for tackling mountains!

On one of our rest days we still woke up for breakfast at 07:45 still but then instead of heading out to the mountains we had a talk about packing an expedition pack. It was very useful and we all learnt a fair amount. We then went out for a short hike to a bothy. A bothy is a small hut, sometimes with a fire place, to get out of the elements and sometimes to sleep. We went to see what one is like as we will hopefully be staying in one on Thursday night on our overnight expedition. We headed back for lunch and then went for a distillery tour about an hour away from our lodge. However, sadly, we couldn’t drink. It was a great day and lovely to have a break from such tiring daily activities, usually.

 

April- Lake District

Over the Easter weekend, we drove up to the Lake District for a weekend of hiking, climbing and scrambling.

We kicked off our adventurous Easter weekend with a hike, sharing navigation (Friday). After reaching the base of Pavey Ark we manoeuvred around Stickle Tarn to the bottom of a scrambling route called Jack’s Rake which is a grade 1, 3 star scramble. We kitted up with helmets (and snacks) before beginning the ascent. Most Jack’s Rake was enclosed however some parts were exposed to the elements which worried. Nevertheless, after a slow scramble, we emerged at the top of Pavey Ark where we had lunch. We then did some micro-navigation across the ridge lines to High Raise before heading back to Great Tower for the evening.

On Saturday we drove out to Bowderstone where two climbs were set up for us. We rotated around between climbing, belaying and tailing. After that a long, much harder line was set up with a top belay. Everyone tried their hardest to complete it however some people didn’t manage it. Later on, we moved to a long abseil before driving to Keswick where we had an ice-cream and a cup of tea then headed back to the activity centre for some well-earned rest.

After Saturday night’s dinner, the team were driven out by Alan to the base of a valley. We hiked up it in the dark and although it was hard going and steep, it was enjoyable as it was something different. We skirted around Grizedale Tarn and set up camp next to the shore. After a satisfactory night’s sleep, only interrupted by Dan’s snoring, we were walking out by 09:00. We took turns navigating and our navigating skills had definitely improved since Scotland. We slowly trudged up the ridge to Fairfield’s peak and as we got higher the visibility got worse because it had started snowing. At the top, we got out the cold wind and snow in a small wind shelter. We struggled to navigate off Fairfield as the visibility was so poor but once we got on our way we made good time. After a tough and very damp day we made it down to Ambleside where we were picked up and driven back to Great Tower. We had a great group singalong on the way back and then got straight in the lovely hot showers. After showering, we met as a team and had a debrief and then got on with organising our July fundraiser. All in all it was a fun weekend with lots learnt and experience gained.

 

 

We are still not done yet for this year!

We have fundraising days planned for our expedition, as well as a trip to the Peak District in June,

-The Patagonia Team

As always…

Don’t forget to take a look at our website! www.hsx.org.uk

Follow us on Twitter! @HSXOfficial

Find us on Instagram! @official_hsx AND

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2016 Training Round Up : HSXPat17

2016 Training Round Up : HSXPat17

Below is a little debrief of all the 2016 training we have done so for Patagonia 2017- Our 4 week expedition to Chilean Patagonia over Christmas and New Year 2017. We hope you Enjoy!

June- Ferny Crofts

This training weekend was to introduce ourselves and do some team building. We started the weekend by developing our group skills via frisbee golf, crate stacking, and a pioneering activity where we had to make a bridge across a “river” (a path). That evening we relaxed by the fire with our dinner.

On the second day, we did personal training in the morning which involved a lot of running! Once we had cleaned ourselves off, we prepared and ate a lovely cooked breakfast. We then got ready for going on a local hike around the New Forest. During this we all took it in turns to try out some map reading navigation which also gave us the time to bond as a team. We finished the day by showing of our (non-existent) volley ball skills and had a BBQ lunch.

September- FC (HSX’s 30th birthday)

The weekend began by meeting some other members of HSX including the Cambodia team 2016. We then went for a hike where we navigated on our own and did challenges and activities at each destination point. Once we got back we did some research on Patagonia and Torres del Paine and brainstormed fundraising ideas. We also did some rock climbing and abseiling on the mega tower at Ferny Crofts and then celebrated the 30th birthday of HSX with volley ball and cake.

October- North Wales

We arrived late and the lads had to sleep in tents and the lass slept in a lovely warm bed. The first day consisted of hiking up Try-Fan via Heather Terrace. This gave u some great views and at the top, we all watched Rob and Steven jump from Adam to Eve on the summit. The evening was spent relaxing and eating with both the team and the rest of HSX. The next day we went rock climbing, scrambling and abseiling which was quite challenging but nevertheless fun!

December- FC

A HSX tradition is to complete an adventure race on the Christmas weekend. We had to travel from point to point in the quickest time possible in teams. The points were distributed randomly across the New Forest area surrounding Ferny Crofts. Our team completed this, it was very muddy and the time limit was three hours. We then did an obstacle course in which Rob and Nathan jumped in a pond for extra points. Because we were the newest expedition team, we also had to cook Christmas dinner for everyone which was pretty “decent”.

To catch up on our training for 2017 – keep your eyes peeled for a post coming this week!

-The Patagonia Team

Don’t forget to take a look at our website! www.hsx.org.uk

Follow us on Twitter! @HSXOfficial

Find us on Instagram! @official_hsx AND

Find us on Facebook! facebook.com/hampshirescoutexpeditions