Mongolia 2008 – Training in Hope!

29th Feb to 2nd Mar
Here are some reports for the training weekend – from Liz as a new member to the team, Will as a long standing member, and Richard who only took part in half of it.

Wills report:

Venue-Peak
District National
Park – Pindale farm in The Hope Valley.

Friday – Most of
the team arrived after dark at Pindale farm after a walk from Hope station. The
weather was not ideal, so the group aim at that stage, was to stay warm and dry
by pitching tents as fast as possible and, for those who had planned to do so,
cook an evening meal before getting some sleep.

Problems on this first night were mainly related to a lack
of practice and knowledge of camp craft and some general outdoor skills. Some
tents were harder to put up, as people were not familiar with them. The wind,
rain and lack of daylight made this problem more apparent.

This can be avoided
again in the future by rehearsing a routine and getting to know tents
thoroughly before they are used. Getting to know other equipment and becoming
proficient in its use such as stoves, we decided was also a critical thing to
do before we go to Mongolia.

Saturday – After
cooking breakfast and re-organising disorganised kit, the group headed for the
shelter of the local Mountain Rescue base. Here we reviewed the previous 12
hours, and went on to discuss a wide range of topics covering the aim of the
weekend and the group aims from that point onward.

At around 1pm the group decided, mainly due to shortage of
sleep and daylight, not to walk to the campsite at Upper Booth as previously
planned. The group split roughly in half.

Half of the group did a short circular walk without kit
which included Castleton and Loose hill hall before returning to Pindale Farm. The
other half of the group chose to explore the area around Pindale Farm and Hope.

After an evening meal, the team returned to the Mountain
Rescue base for a slide show presentation by Paul of his and Allies’ previous
expedition to Tibet.
Discussed also were personal projects and a few brief presentations on
researched topics about Mongolia and the expedition which included, Geography,
the visual arts, Religion and the Do’s and Don’ts of Ger etiquette.

Sunday – Packing
up Tents and equipment in the morning, brought the groups attention again to
the necessity of a well rehearsed routine and camp craft.

Packing up tents more
quickly will allow more time for new experiences and opportunities to learn and
benefit from the expedition.

The team had agreed the night before to carry out an
extended walk with full packs possible to the summit of Mam Tor. The weather
however did not permit this which highlighted the importance of adapting plans
to remain safe and in the best interests of the group.

Despite altering the route due to the weather it was still a
productive day as we carried out a first aid scenario with Paul as a casualty,
from which we all learned a great deal.

Issues Discussed

Fundraising

Equipment

Camp craft

First Aid

Mongolian Culture and
Religion

The Language barrier

Personal Projects and
goals

The Team aims and
objectives

Water purification

Fitness

The John Muir Award

The Importance of
Initiative amongst the team

Future Training
Weekends

Areas for further research

Fundraisers

This includes past present and planned events.

A Concert, organised by Ella Dixon at the end of last year,
raised a significant amount of money towards the cost of the trip.

Supermarket bag pack, raffles, car boots, sponsored runs,
walks etc.

Applying for grants and donations from local companies
through letter writing and contacts has been moderately successful for some
members of the team.

Planned events include the three Yorkshire peaks, and a bag
pack in Leeds.

Several people in the team have part time jobs, which are a
reliable and effective way of raising money towards the cost of the expedition.

Equipment

Throughout the weekend the group discovered various issues
regarding equipment.

The size of rucksacks, every piece of equipment should be
carried inside the pack. This deters against general damage, loss and theft of
equipment.

The importance of knowing how to use equipment effectively
and safely.

Weight. Every piece of equipment, even if shared, has to be
carried by somebody.

Sharing any knowledge of cheaper kit, discounts, or the
possibility of Group discounts, will save resources and time.

Wilderness First Aid and Rescue

The team covered a few aspects of wilderness first aid relevant
to the expedition and carried out a scenario putting some existing knowledge
into practice.

It has been suggested that every member of the team should
attend some form of first aid course before the expedition. A first aid course
geared towards expedition and wilderness travel would be ideal if possible, but
any first aid knowledge held within the group can be beneficial.

Future weekends

Planned are two more official YSES training weekends, one of
which will be water based to prepare the team for the canoeing phase of the
trip.

Members of the team have begun to discuss also further
unofficial training which will concentrate on preparation on a more personal
level. It would be appropriate, as an example, for me to get out a little more
with a camera to prepare more fully for my own personal project.

Areas for further research

The language of Mongolia.
It was said that learning the Mongolian language will help on a personal level
allowing us to communicate with the local people and guides more easily.

Devices for water
purification.
Spending extended periods without access to running water the
team will require a lightweight, durable, easy to use, effective method of
making fresh water safe to drink. Discussed was the possibility of using pump
operated ceramic filters combined with the use of a chemical (probably Iodine).
We still need to find out about cost and the possibility of a group discount.

More on customs and
culture.

Team aims and objectives

Discussed by the team has been the importance of having a
purpose behind our trip, which defines and sets it apart as an expedition.

Aims discussed by the
Team;

Preserve and protect the environments, animals, people and
culture we visit.

Share and give back what we experience and learn from the
expedition, this will be in the form of a visual, written or spoken record.

Work with local people possibly on some form of conservation
project and to achieve daily and longer term goals.

The expedition report and Personal projects

As a group we will carry out both a main project with the
group of orphans as well as personal projects.

As individuals we will also work on personal projects which
will be brought together as part of the final expedition report. This will be
something pursued on an entirely individual basis and therefore is most likely
to be a topic of deeper interest or relevance to that person.

The final post expedition report may include itinerary,
medical info, maps, the group
journal, photographs, any film clips, personal projects and records of the
group project with the orphans.

The John Muir Award

Another aim for the team is to link our work with the group
of orphans in Mongolia
to the John Muir award. The group project is likely therefore to be based
around an act of conservation, which is relevant to the nature of Mongolia’s’
unique landscape, large areas of which are protected national monuments, parks,
nature reserves and world heritage sites. 
A project such as this will make all of the Mongolian orphans we work
with, and the members of our team, eligible for the John Muir award.

What I Have I Gained Personally from the Weekend

I now have a much clearer idea of what form my personal
project will take.

As someone currently exploring the visual arts I have chosen
photography, alongside a few other simple methods of visual recording, as my personal
project to pursue whilst in Mongolia.

Pre, during and post expedition sketch books will provide
visual and written material for the final expedition report, which will include
the individual projects of the whole group.

Richards report:

A quick (ed – wouldn’t call this quick!) write-up of the March
training weekend. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it until Saturday night, as I
had Witness Service training in Mexborough all day; so rather than repeat all
the wonderful stories I’ve heard, I shall leave those to Liz and Will!

Saturday
evening

I drove in to Pindale campsite at
around half five, past a rather cold but high-spirited group who had obviously
arrived the night before. Having spent all day in the cosy warm gas-fired
Mexborough Business Centre, the bitter winds took me a bit by surprise! (Three
cheers for the Rab sale!)

After being filled in on the dramas
of the night before, I changed clothes and Olivia and I went for a quick jog
into Castleton and back to warm ourselves up a bit. By the time we returned,
people had already started cooking – many thanks to Kathy and Lily in my
cooking group for being absolute stars with all the food! Noodles in a Lloyd
Grossman tomato sauce was on the menu for us that night, with pulverised dead
fish for the carnivores, followed by various cakes. Everything tasted good even
despite the dark, cold, wind and rain! Andie
and Sharu helped me put up the tent I borrowed from Paul, and I now feel much
more confident about being able to pitch it on my own in Mongolia.

With full bellies and cold toes, we
all headed up to the nearby Mountain Rescue base to dry off and receive a
presentation about last year’s expedition to China. (Big thank you to the Edale
team for letting us use their impressive facilities.)  I first saw this presentation delivered by
some of last year’s expeditioners, at the DYEG/YSES open evening in the Scouts centre
at Hesley Wood. Meeting some of the people involved, and hearing some of the
stories and seeing some of the pictures they brought back with them is what
really triggered my application to the Mongolia expedition, so I enjoyed
having a reminder of all the prospects ahead of us. It was useful too to see
some examples of personal reports; I know many of us (myself included) are
still trying to decide precisely what to do in that area, and how to deliver it
too.

Also useful was the research some of
us shared, on Mongolian art, water purification, and the geography of Mongolia (sorry
if I missed anything, I was rather tired by then!). Incidentally – Andie revealed that water filters and pumps etc.
will be supplied by YSES out of the expedition budget, but purifying  tablets etc. will have to come from us (please
confirm!).

Gallons of tea later, bedtime came,
and I spent my very first night on a Thermarest!

Sunday

Having made a comparatively
half-hearted attempt at waking everyone up with a spoon and saucepan, Paul got
the following morning off to an (almost) explosive start as he set fire to his
stove! We were all convinced that the blackened fuel bottle was going to
explode as it burned, taking nearby tents with it… but luckily it turned out
to be simply a controlled and well-executed ploy to get the boys out of bed and
demonstrate why we should never light a stove in a tent. Or so the story goes..!

Whilst everyone else did complicated
things with beans, milk, eggs, and various kinds of porridge, our group settled
for a sensible breakfast of cereal bars and scotch pancakes (thanks again
Kathy!). We packed ourselves up, and headed off for an independent, in-role
walk up towards Mam Tor, taking in the ‘gers’ in ‘the Mongolian village of’ Castleton
en-route.

We wrestled with some strong winds
on the way up – most of us managed to stay standing, though I did nearly lose
my hat! We dumped our packs in shelter, and stepped out onto the ridge…
“experience is everything,” Andie
said, and what an experience it was – there we stood, over a steep drop, face
to face with some of the strongest wind I’ve ever felt in my life. The valley
below was framed beneath a beautiful clear blue sky, as nature thrust itself
against our entire bodies, screaming around us like we were just another feature
of the landscape. It flattened our cheeks and cleared our nostrils, as we sat
and stood in awe of this unrelenting and beautiful force.

We moved on back below the ridge,
sheltered from the steep drop to our right side by the trees. Just about to
climb the stile, a message came – Paul’s slipped off course and broken his
ankle! We called those ahead of us back, who stayed and looked after our packs
as the rest of us ran back along the track to the accident site. We knew it was
a drill, but it was an important test of our ability to draw together as a
group in an emergency situation. 

We arrived with first aid kits at
the ready, to find Paul had fallen several metres from the trail. Those already
there had quickly taken up position to stop him from falling any further,
established what the injury was and covered him with a space blanket. This is
where it hit me: I didn’t know who, if anyone, had first-aid training. My
knowledge was limited, having only recently had a quick pre-training crash
course in battlefield triage with the TA, which was more about how to deal with
combat casualties than things like this. With a bit of help from Paul, we
splinted his legs together, and carried him up onto flatter ground. He couldn’t
walk; so the objective was to carry him along the trail to the stile at the
end, where we had apparently left our bags in a Mongolian ger containing a
satellite phone. After some deliberation, we rolled Paul onto a bivi bag, and
promptly set about carrying him the 500 metres or so back to ‘base’.

With Paul being a senior Mountain
Rescue member, the feedback we received from him and Andie
was very useful. One criticism was that although lots of suggestions were made,
no one person emerged from the inevitable confusion to co-ordinate the rescue
effort. I took this very much to heart – this was the key factor for me. Undergoing
officer training in the TA, I should have had the foresight to step back and
take this role. I know others are equally (if not more) capable of this, but
still nobody did. For me, it was just one thing that was holding me back: I am
not sufficiently first-aid trained to feel confident in my understanding of
what needs to be done. None of us were. Hence the major message to us all: get
first-aid trained as part of our personal preparation for Mongolia. Enrol
on something which doesn’t assume that emergency services are on-hand, like St. John’s Ambulance
courses do. Edale Youth Hostel was mentioned as one of the providers of rescue
and emergency care courses; Will Ormondroyd mentioned one or two that he was
aware of, so hopefully he’ll share some in his report! (Maybe running these
would be a good way for Mountain Rescue to raise some money?)

From there, it was just a gentle
downhill walk back to Hope, where people made their way to the station etc. or
sat outside the Woodbine Café to wait for lifts (where Paul ordered the largest
slice of apple pie I’ve ever seen).  Liz
and I enjoyed a very pleasant afternoon stroll back to my car in Pindale.
Another weekend over!

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About Andie Brazewell

Working with the profit and not-for-profit sectors of society, I am a Director, Business Development Consultant, Event Manager, Trainer, Facilitator and Expedition Leader.
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