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Standing Tall

By Craig Blond – 7th April 2014

photo 5Arriving at the Howtown Centre, Shahab and I are greeted by the friendly staff of the Outward Bound trust. In my room, I am taken aback by the amazing views of the vast lakes and sweeping hills.

We put our stuff down and settle in, while we wait for the youngsters from Phoenix to arrive.
We meet Uisdean, one of the instructors. He is a real character; full of information and interesting anecdotes.

He gives us a tour of the facilities and we get a preview some of the activities the kids will be doing during the coming week.

For some reason Shahab is drawn to the door to what seems to be the sewers. It is in fact a tunnel system under the hills that run beneath the OB Centre. He says he will not leave the facility until he gets some “tunnel time”! I think it has something to do with his love for hobbits, but I choose not to ask too many questions.

We go to the store room where our kit is being issued. All sorts of hiking and camping gear mount up. This is a great relief to me, as being a city slicker, I’m not really prepared or geared up for the elements of the Lake District. After a few attempts the head of stores also called Craig, finds a pair of boots that fit. With much excitement I start trying on my gear, and as I put my hand in my jacket pocket, I discover a old mouldy sandwich. Without flinching I hand it to Uisdean, and for a moment I think he might tuck into it, but pretend I see nothing.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Now that we are kitted out, and settled in, and have met the crew, it’s almost time for the kids to arrive. After a bit of delay, they arrive, and it’s straight to business.

We are divided into 2 groups of 12, and I have the privilege of being in the “MUIR” Team. We sit with our instructor, Alex and together plan our activities for the next five days. There is a real buzz in the air, and everyone is looking forward to the adventures to come.

The students are getting their gear now. We all put on our waterproofs and meet for our first challenge of the week: The wall climb.

Immediately the youngsters take charge and begin to strategise. Andy and Dilan take a lead role, and soon a plan is in place, which they set about, and execute in a very coordinated way. Everyone plays their part with Jacob and Akinyeie directing traffic, and Rumon and Dignesh providing great support. Reece, Thanseela and Titilayo show no fear and are over the wall in a flash. The instructors try to push the group’s comfort zone to its boundaries, by making the wall higher, but the result is the same: Everyone gets over quick smart.

photo 2 (32)Donning our swimwear we meet by side of Ullswater. The lake is literally a stone’s throw from the centre; just across the road. I had thought this was a joke, because who swims in freezing waters at this time of year? We get the answer to that question very quickly, as we are ushered towards the waterside. One after the other we all jump in. The water is freezing up to the point that it is actually painful. It really hurts, but it is a great experience, and I realise how glad I am I am here and despite the chill that I am doing this; pushing the envelope – challenging myself – testing my mettle. It’s definitely something I would not normally do. I have to take my hat off to Liban who is the first in and the last out!

After dinner we leave on our first expedition outdoors. This is a night hike up one of the mountains near our accommodation. We are taught climbing techniques that will come in handy for what will follow during the rest of the week.

Finally, on what has been a tumultuous day, filled with shrieks and moans, but mostly fun and laughter, we get a chance just to sit and admire the views, talking and sharing. It is a perfect end to a near perfect first day.


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