British Exploring Society Expedition

Towards the end of last year, I wrote a blog post around my preparation for an upcoming expedition to the Indian Himalayas that was taking place in July 2017. I have now been on that expedition and thought I would write another blog to share some of my photos and a little bit about my experience.

I learned a lot from not only being on the expedition itself, but also from the preparation that went into making it happen – and believe the entire experience will help me greatly in the future. I am already starting to see the benefits of being able to use the skills I learned and developed while in India, when incorporating them into my applications for graduate jobs.

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I volunteered over 100 hours for the British Heart Foundation, which the British Exploring Society recognizes and translates to a discount in the overall fundraising cost of the expedition. I worked with great people while volunteering and it felt good to be helping out for a charitable cause. I’d definitely recommend volunteering a couple hours a week, and doing it as part of the expedition has certainly encouraged me to continue volunteering in the future.

Being organised and prepared in terms of my kit and equipment was challenging something I had never quite appreciated before. The expedition consisted of a one-night stop-over in New Delhi, and then two nights in a hostel in Leh before five days of travelling through the Ladakh region to our base camp (altitude over 17,000ft) where we camped for a number of weeks while also going on short expeditions to Glaciers in surrounding Valleys. This required a lot of different pieces of kit and clothing, especially as we would see quite drastic changes in temperature, sometimes from over 30C during the day to -15C at night. The trip was really quite challenging at times, our group were completely isolated and many, many miles from anyone except the Indian Military who would train in the area, as we were close to the Kashmir region. This meant we were cooking all our food on camping stoves, primarily freeze dried ration packs, which I learned to quite enjoy – but was struggling to get used to showering with a bucket in the glacial stream…

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The expedition definitely took me away from the comforts that I’m used to, but I think this is what I enjoyed the most. It forced me to be; focused because as a team we were completely dependent on each other, determined because we would often walk long distances during the day which at high altitudes was extremely difficult at times, and inspired as I was constantly balancing all the new experiences and challenges while continually taking photos and lugging around camera equipment (definitely worth it).

I met some amazing people while on the trip too, including other young people who were taking part in the expedition, leaders who had inspirational stories from working in the outdoors around the world, and even the locals who I spoke to and photographed in the Himalayan town of Leh. We also had the privilege of being able to attend a reading from the Dali Lama, who was coincidently in the area that we were travelling.    

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I can imagine this kind of trip wouldn’t initially sound like it is for everyone, but I do think anyone would love embracing the challenges that I faced while away. Surrounded by incredible mountains and scenery, witnessing some extreme weather and the opportunity the reach 5800 meters while climbing on a glacier was a huge personal highlight for me. As much as I would recommend the British Exploring Society and undertaking an expedition, it is more the chance to challenge yourself and learn from extra-curricular activities while being a student that I would emphasise. I felt my confidence and motivation grow while I was away and will definitely be able to apply these to whatever I undertake in the future. Plus, I believe extra-curricular activities serve as strong conversation starters when talking to employers.  It took a lot of hard work to make my expedition happen and was at times very tough while on expedition, but I could only ever describe it as being completely worth it!

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Stewart

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