ESMS Adventure Club's Walking Weekend

Posted on 08th Mar 2022 in Stewart's Melville College, The Mary Erskine School, Outdoor Education

Adventure Club's Hillwalking Trip

The school bell rung and six brave (some may say bonkers) members of the Adventure Club, along with three incredible staff members, left for the Cairngorms for a weekend of mountaineering.  

After a quick stop in Perth to buy the weekend provisions, including a very conservative amount of milk (15L), we paused in Pitlochry to acquire our dinner of high quality pizza from the local takeout. With eight of the ordered pizzas, a tub of Ben and Jerry’s, a handful of chip forks and an accidental 16” margarita - we were on our way to Lagganlia.  

When we arrived we got our kit ready for the next day on the hills and discussed the risks that hiking in snow and high winds can pose and how to recognise them. We then went to bed so we were well rested for a Saturday of hiking. We fuelled ourselves up with porridge that morning and set off to the minibus with our kit in high spirits. These were temporarily lowered when we opened the door to see, what we now refer to as ‘The Sour Cream Incident’. We proceeded to spend 20 mins cleaning to get rid of the overwhelming stench. However, we did not let this get us down as we embarked on the drive to the Cairngorm Ski Centre, our starting point for the day. Upon arrival, the weather was wet and windy, yet, undeterred, we donned our jackets and layers and began the day's walk. Soon, we were trudging through a thick layer of snow, with our ice axes quickly coming into use. 

Further up the hill, we came across a completely frozen river, we deemed the area good for practising self-arrests and walking with ice axes and crampons. After learning these new skills and with a belly full of dried mango, we headed back down the mountain. With a brief hiatus for an intense snowball fight and the adrenaline-inducing rescue of a runaway helmet, we soon arrived back at the bus, tired from the day of walking. 

Back at our Lagganlia base we set on making fajitas for dinner, supplemented with delicious guacamole, courtesy of Mr Love, who bravely ventured on a solo expedition in search of lime juice. With a collective effort we made the feast in no time and all sat round eating eagerly. After dinner we had an important discussion about avalanche risks, followed by an equally important three and a half hours of table carving. With one success, many brilliant attempts, and some bruising we headed off to bed.  

On the Sunday, rather stiff from the events of the previous night, we very neatly packed the minibus for our departure. Having had a fresh dump of snow overnight, we were enthusiastic for the day ahead. We had our sights set on the Munro Geal Charn, south-west of Kingussie. After a bus-shaking attempt to get hand warmers going, we started with a quick pace towards the hill, the weather on our side. However, when stopping for a quick bite of our pizza leftovers, the conditions began to worsen. We soon had to employ ‘trenching’ in order to traverse the ever thickening snow. We stopped for a second to gaze at some snow-white hares, all extremely jealous of how effortlessly they bounded up the side of the mountain. We then began our tiring ascent once more.  

During our final climb to the summit, we faced over 40mph winds and relentless snowfall which we had to battle through to make it to the top. Eventually, with weathered faces, snow-covered jackets, and numerous hair-icicles, we arrived at the peak of Geal Charn. Despite a view the length of a table tennis table we were buzzing with achievement. After briefly resting behind a cairn, we began to make our descent. We initially opted for a more unconventional method of making our way down the hill, with an attempt to use snow shovels as sledges. However, after proving inefficient, we resorted to the more common technique of roly polying.  

We returned to the bus triumphantly, looking back to the conquered Geal Charn Munro. After Ready, Spready, Go cleared a way through the snow for us, and MC Kirkland got the tunes on, we were back on the road down to Edinburgh and the arguably more daunting task of getting up early for school the next day.  

Of course, none of this adventure would have been possible without the amazing work done by the wonderful Mr Ogilvie, Mrs Brown and Mr Love, who provided expert guidance and kept us all safe while on the hills. Our sincere thanks go to them for giving up their time for us to make such a memorable weekend. Without them the trip simply wouldn’t have been what it was. 

We have all learnt from this trip. We’ve agreed that we have certainly found our calling, our calling for hillwalking. 

Many thanks to Lucy R, Oli B, Sam H and Daniel S (all S4), Alligin G (S5) and Niamh K (S6) for writing about their experience for us. 

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