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The Highest, Longest, Darkest Challenge

By Hati Whiteley
09, May, 2017

Breaking down barriers to the outdoors for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds

The value of overcoming a challenging obstacle cannot be overestimated, especially when your obstacle is an actual mountain.

Being able to Go Nice Places, Do Good Things is a luxury that we take for granted all too often. Petrol, food, coats, tents, training, guidebooks, walking boots: the costs add up and create a financial barrier to the outdoors for those who can't afford it. So when the Alpkit Foundation had the opportunity to help 12 young people from disadvantaged areas of Lancashire to take on the Highest, Longest, Darkest Challenge, there was no way we were going to miss it. We caught up with the project organisers upon their return to see how they got on.

'Highest, Longest, Darkest? What's that?' we hear you cry. Well, it's exactly what it says on the tin. In a 5 day residential, young people from the Lancashire Girls and Boys Club would be climbing England's highest mountain, paddling England's longest lake, and exploring the darkest depths of the Nenthead Mine - not a challenge for the faint-hearted by any means.

The Lancashire Boys and Girls club is a charity with the mission of inspiring and enabling young people, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, to realise their potential and to develop skills that would aid them in their transition to adulthood. Over the course of the residential the group of 15 - 21 year olds would be trying out mountain biking and archery, taking on Scafell Pike, Lake Windermere and the Nenthead Mines, and reflecting on what they had learned and achieved in a review and presentation session at the end of the week.

Sports and Events Officer, Andy Gunn, explained how the group rose to each new challenge hurled at them:

"[The group] identified that if they were faced with something difficult 'back home'  they would normally walk away and give up. However everyone embraced the challenges throughout the week and described in their presentation how they had felt a sense of adventure due the remoteness of the activities."

The 'Highest' aspect was particularly challenging for the young people and progress felt slow on Scafell Pike. Nevertheless the group realised their own strength of character and resilience upon reaching the summit, where they were rewarded with an unparalleled sense of achievement and absorbed by landscapes that they hadn't believed existed in the UK.

Throughout the week the group established positive relationships with one-another through their shared challenges and successes, giving each other confidence and learning teamwork in its purest form when times were tough, as Andy explained:

"As the week progressed, members became more aware of their own and others' strengths and weakness. Struggling members were supported  by ‘lightening the load’ of bags, ‘buddying up’ and swapping roles. They explained in their presentation that the positive support shown by those around them influenced them and helped them to continue at times when they were struggling."

For many of the group this was their first experience of the great outdoors. We were especially happy to hear that, inspired by the discovery of such a beautiful world on their doorsteps, certain members of the group have become converts to Going Nice Places and Doing Good Things. We look forward to hearing about their future adventures.

This was one of many enriching projects run by the Lancashire Boys and Girls Club, The Alpkit Foundation supports projects that enable people to overcome the obstacles preventing them from Going Nice Places and Doing Good Things. 

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