Not only did they have to navigate themselves across some of the highest peaks of the Mala Fatras in 3 days of continuous hiking, but they had to first plan their entire route, calculate times for sections, establish check-points to meet with staff, carry all their own food and equipment and cook for themselves. They also – with the exception of one person per group who was left as the emergency contact – had to surrender their phones. This was possibly the most challenging part for some!
On Thursday morning the students split into three groups. Two would cross the Mala Fatras from the South East, one from the North West, with the groups passing each other on the second day near Velky Krivan. The weather was generally very favourable, although the third group was unlucky to experience snow showers on the first day and the mud this created on their route both slowed them down and tired them out! The environment was physically challenging – both the ascent and descent of Suchy being described as ‘intense’ by some. The focus was on communication, team work and resilience. Make no mistake, this was a hard physical challenge that required intense, sustained concentration: not least because we could clearly see we were in bear country!
Over the three days the students climbed Suchy (1,070m), Maly Krivan (1,671m) and Velky Krivan (1,709m), and they traversed the Mala Fatra Ridge. On average our teams travelled over 40km, ascended almost 1,700m and (perhaps even more challenging) descended 1,500m. They demonstrated they could be adaptable and open minded, responding to changing circumstances and the physical demands of the journey in positive and cheerful fashion and remaining focused on their goals throughout. It was clear, seeing the celebrations of the two groups who ended their journey in Stefanova, just what it meant to our students to have successfully completed the Qualifying Trip (and get their phones back!)
The fact that, despite great tiredness, blisters and aching legs, Andy and Josef (and Ms. Conway) returned to successfully run in the 10km Night Run in Bratislava on Saturday evening deserves a mention, as does the fact that Veronika celebrated her 16th birthday by climbing Suchy. Thanks too to the members of staff (Ms. Bea, our IA Coordinator, Mr. Linley, Ms Pallova and Ms Conway) and Mr. Marcel Kubinsky (Mountain Guide and member of the Slovak Mountain Rescue Service) for accompanying the students and supporting them in their preparation and completion of the trip.
Well done to all the Silver Qualifiers. Onwards and upwards towards Gold!