DofE in the Trossachs and Loch Lomond National Park

Never have I been so glad of my midge net…note to self; next time carry spare midge nets to make forever grateful friends of those who have forgotten!

Apart from the midges however, it was a fantastic setting for these ambitious Air Cadets to challenge themselves on their Silver and Gold expeditions, which Lupine trained, supervised and assessed for 4 days in the last week of August.

The groups of young people were well prepared and their navigation was generally very good. The main problems they came across however were down to the nature of the Highland terrain and the fact that it is all open access. It is great that we are free to roam anywhere in the mountains and valleys of Scotland, however it does require a good knowledge of the terrain so as to plan appropriate routes, given there are very few footpaths marked on maps and indeed in reality on the ground. This is something we therefore put a lot of focus on to help improve their route choices and planning for future expeditions. Some of the main points they learnt were to do with Safe River Crossings, and to have alternatives when it is not safe to do so, as many small streams marked on maps can become raging torrents within a few hours of heavy rainfall, which is not uncommon in the Highlands! Coming across 7ft tall deer fences were another issue when the groups originally planned their routes, as there are infrequently gates/stiles where you want them to be. Last but not least, yomping through knee high heather up steep mountains with a heavy expedition pack takes its toll, and unless you’re a super fit SAS type you’re not going to keep 4km/hr up! Having said that, although they set themselves a tough challenge, taking in 24km a day generally, including some mighty Munros, and not to mention wild camping every night, they managed and succeeded very well and I was genuinely impressed with their achievements.

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