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O Castro British International School

Six O Castro students undertake the Duke of Edinburgh's Gold Award Practical Expedition to Picos de Europa

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During the last week of June, six of our Secondary students undertook a challenging practical expedition for the international Duke of Edinburgh's Gold Award.

During the last week of June, six of our Secondary students undertook a challenging practical expedition for the international Duke of Edinburgh's Gold Award. They were accompanied by the programme coordinators, Mr. Lewis and Mr. Gonzalez, after a school year of training which included physical preparation, advanced orienteering and map interpretation, and raising the necessary funds to face this journey, which had Picos de Europa as final destination.  

The aim of this expedition was to complete part of the route known as the "Extreme Ring", meeting the previously established objectives each day. On the first day, they had to overcome the 2,000-metre barrier, overcoming almost 700 metres of height difference to reach the Hou Santu. On the second day, they had to apply what they had learned about orienteering and navigation through the mountains. The students had to lead the expedition from Vegarredonda to Vega de Ario through Pico Conjurtao (1,925m); being able to follow the route in a rocky and steep landscape was the great difficulty. Despite getting lost on several occasions, thanks to teamwork and skills acquired through the Duke of Edinburgh programme, they were able to find the route again. 

The third and final day was a long and challenging 19-kilometre route, in which they had to climb one of the most emblematic peaks of the massif, El Hultayu, with a height of 1,945 metres, which provides one of the most spectacular views of the entire mountain range: a cliff over 1,000 metres high that ends in the well-known "Garganta del Cares". After enjoying their achievement and the spectacular panoramic views, they descended to Lagos de Covadonga, where transport was waiting to take them to Oviedo. They enjoyed a well-deserved dinner to celebrate the successes achieved and the lessons learned during the adventure.  

In Molly's words, "This has been an unforgettable experience... the mountains and the scenery... I have never seen anything so spectacular. Even though it was tough, what I will remember most is how it brought us girls together as friends and also how friendly everyone at the refuges were. 


For her part, Elena acknowledges that the expedition was a personal challenge for her from the very beginning. "Although the first day was hard for me because of the physical effort, from then on I found the right pace for me and the routes became very bearable. During the climbs, despite the fatigue and frustrations when we got lost, we always managed to keep a good mood and in the evenings we chatted about the day's adventures. Mr Lewis and Mr Gonzalez helped and supported us at all times and we are very grateful to them for giving us this opportunity".  

Mr Gonzalez remarked highlighted the unity and character of the group as key to the success of the expedition. "At the O Castro community level it was an important trip, as it was the first time we had done high mountain routes with students, and we couldn't know how it was going to turn out until we were there. Luckily, the group was very solid and the girls were fantastic. They tackled the steep routes with determination despite carrying backpacks weighing 15-20kg. Personally, I am left with the feeling that we have been a team during this week, beyond the roles of teachers/students. It has been an unforgettable experience for all of us and I can only congratulate them.   

"These six girls have paved the way for the next generation of students to be able to participate in this opportunity which, currently in Galicia, is only offered by our school. They are all eager to start preparing for the Official Expedition, with their sights set on climbing the highest mountain in North Africa, the Toukbal, and its imposing 4,167 metres at the end of the next school year.   

The Duke of Edinburgh Award 

O Castro British International School offers from Year 9 onwards the prestigious Duke of Edinburgh International Programme, which gives young people the opportunity to discover themselves and overcome their limitations, inviting them to set their own challenges and overcome them. This achievement is recognised at the end of each stage of the programme. 

O Castro British International School thus becomes the only school in Vigo and its area to offer this enriching programme, which is also highly respected and valued in the field of university applications, as well as by companies and institutions, enhancing such important soft skills as leadership, problem solving, teamwork, solidarity and resilience, among others. 

This internationally recognised programme follows on from "The Journey", an outdoor learning programme unique to Globeducate British International Schools, which is integrated across the curriculum and fosters key skills from the age of three upwards. 

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