Sixth Form Students’ Inspiring Expedition to the Canadian Wilderness

Having been selected from numerous applicants for a place on the expedication,  and fundraised for nearly a year, Sixth Form students, Tomas and Toby Richardson spent 3 and a half weeks exploring the to the Canadian Yukon as part of the British Exploring Society’s (BSE) groundbreaking programme for young people. We hope their account will set an example and inspire others from Fyling Hall and beyond to step ourtside their comfort zone and grasp new experiences for growth or perhaps to apply for an expedition.  Read their account here and head to the BSEs website if you wish to apply for an expedition. Staying closer to school a great start is to get involved in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award programme and charity or volunteering work.

By Tomas and Toby Richardson

To begin with we would like to thank the beautiful people who supported us in our fundraising journey for the 3 and a half week expedition to the stunning Canadian Yukon. The skills and memories we gained will undoubtedly stay with us for the rest of our lives and will support us as we enter University and adult life – memories that wouldn’t have been made possible without the donations of a whole host of generous folk. Thank you! We hope this blog will give a little more information about our time in Canada and inspire others to seize similar opportunities with both fists.

Phase 1 – Hiking

The Kluane National Park lies in the southwest of the Yukon territory in Canada, an area of beautiful visages, looming glaciers, and vast swathes of Boreal forestry. When submerged in such mighty landscapes it was almost impossible to find words adequate enough to depict such majesty – particularly when reminded that the land on which we were walking was only 20% of the Yukon territory, the other 80% being rolling mountains inaccessible to anyone without a plane.

The first trail we embarked on was a 3-day route referred to as the “Gopher Mountain”- a namesake sought from the furry little critters who ran to and fro, observing the alien silhouettes of our group with a somewhat alarmed chorus of squeaking. This route acted as a test-run; testing the waters so to speak for the more strenuous trails to follow. Certainly, it was a perfect opportunity for the group to get to know one another; with both of us becoming increasingly heartened by how well the group meshed together. It was definitely greatly confidence building to be able to gel with strangers so quickly. Moreover, the trail eased us into expedition life, particularly the washing routine which would be so essential to our hygiene over the course of the three and a half weeks. It was this which first appeared to be the most difficult aspect of the expedition, for we had to use unscented soaps and toothpaste. Deodorant, as the ranger explained to us at the start of the trail, becomes redundant in the wilderness of the Yukon, and so we resolved to become comfortable with our own ‘wonderfully natural’ odours.

Despite initially getting slightly lost (a near disaster straight off the block) the group worked well together to solve the problem. It was still difficult to believe we were in the Yukon, yet looking around us the breathtaking glaciers and bear scat on the ground confirmed it time and time again.

Our second trail went by the name of the “St Elias” route; perhaps our favourite of the entire expedition. Starting off with a 3km road hike along the Alaska Highway we set off for St Elias Lake; a glistening pool of Sapphire nestled amongst the rolling mountains. Not only did it make water collection, filtration, and purification more efficient, but it also acted as a cooling opportunity to swim and wash, much appreciated by our overheating bodies. After staying at the lake for a night, the group decided to go on a bushwacking excursion up a nearby hill to get a better view of the lake; despite finding it extremely difficult to make our way through the dense shrubbery (there were more than a few cuts and bruises by the end) the team morale stayed high and the eventual views at the top were more than worth the effort. Unfortunately, the route was not entirely plain sailing as some members of the group contracted giardia (beaver fever) and as such toileting became unpredictable to say the least!

The third and final route was a trail known as the Auriol trail – originally a skiing route, it was later converted to accommodate hikers and incorporates breathtaking scenery of the Auriol glacier as well as beautiful, braided streams. This route was particularly enjoyable as it incorporated around 1,500m of height not only allowing us to gain some incredible views from above, but also acting as an intriguing example of the Krumholtz line – the height at which the vegetation shows signs of stunted growth due to the altitude. The trail was roughly 40km and although it was rather steeply uphill, it was surprisingly easy going – a testament to the way in which the expedition built up our fitness and endurance, especially with the heavy rucksacks.

Phase 2- Canoeing

The last week of the expedition was spent canoeing on lake Dezadeash, and this was certainly the phase which we were looking forward to the most. Despite some high wind speeds of up to 80 km/h, our first day was a great learning experience with the paddle leaders; our communication skills were certainly worked on as teamwork was essential to prevent capsizing. The wildlife, however, was the most spectacular aspect of the canoeing phase; seeing a moose in the wild is something which will stay with us for the rest of our lives. The largest moose, a member of the group whispered to us as we watched a particularly elegant one watering in the lake, could fit a Mini Cooper through its legs!

Once again thank you to all those who allowed us to embark on this amazing adventure with their kind donations; it was an experience which we will never forget!

Sixth Form Expedition
Sixth Form Students Expedition
Sixth Form Students Expedition
Head Students, Sixth Form