Situated in Scotland’s Cairngorm mountain range, Glenmore Lodge is one of the UK’s leading outdoor centres. In February 2018, six Explorers, three Networkers and three Leaders will be heading up there to do a winter hillwalking course and explore the incredible Scottish Highlands. Last weekend we drove up to Snowdonia in Wales to do some preparatory training. Keep reading to find out how we got on with the hiking, and more importantly, with cooking Christmas dinner!
Arriving at a dark Scout Park on Friday night, the air was buzzing with excitement for the weekend ahead. Would we be hiking for miles or be trapped by recent snowfall? Despite the heavy snow earlier in the week, the roads were now clear, but whether the hills would be or not was a different matter.
We set off quickly, a long minibus journey awaiting us; six hours later we arrived in Bethesda. Pulling up in the minibus in the dead of night, we attempted to find the elusive hostel without disturbing any of the local residents. It took some time and the majority of the leaders looking but eventually we did find the hostel we would be calling home for the weekend. The minibus was unloaded, and all our kit (and food!) was carried inside. Before long there came calls for bed and we headed up to get a good rest before our day of hiking.
The first and arguably most important task of Saturday was breakfast. A team of well-meaning Explorers crept downstairs, eager to start everyone’s day off with the enticing smell of bacon. However their plans were scuppered by the fire alarm; sonorous wailing filled the hostel, waking all the Explorers and Leaders. We attempted everything to get the noise to stop, from frantically waving tea towels to tearing the alarms from the ceiling, all to no avail. Eventually the main switch was found and the alarm switched off, allowing the festive sing-along to resume and conveniently getting everyone up and ready for breakfast. Once everyone had eaten, the hostel became a flurry of activity in preparation for the day ahead.
Split into two groups, we set off into the hills with the aim of developing skills important for the week in February. Navigating accurately across the seemingly barren landscape was a focus, becoming more difficult as clouds rolled in and visibility dropped. The icy winds and slippery mud provided a glimpse of what the conditions would be like in February, showing us that it isn’t easy to stay on your feet. Thankfully, however, the rain stayed away. After a tiring but rewarding hike, we all bundled back into the hostel to begin preparing the evening’s feast.
Due to the snowfall we were unable to venture particularly high up in the hills, so decided to spend Saturday evening cooking Christmas dinner – with all the proper trimmings, of course. Having returned from our hike, we quickly set to work on our grand meal. The kitchen was a hive of activity, filled with Explorers merrily massacring various root vegetables, enthusiastically swaddling pigs in blankets, and constructing various other Christmas delights as and when we remembered they were in the fridge. The greatest challenge of all was providing a full dinner for thirteen with only one small oven, a couple of hobs and some grills. Think lots of improvisation and microwaving.
The cooking frenzy briefly paused for a quick game of the entertaining card game ‘Werewolf’, before the last preparations began. Gravy was hastily mixed and cranberry sauce found, until finally we served the feast, an impressive and surprisingly delicious spread (if we do say so ourselves…).
As we recovered from our gorging, we began a game of the entertaining, if slightly obscure, ‘Geography Pictionary’. A cry for After Eights saw two Explorers heading to the local shop, their return prompting several fierce After-Eight-eating competitions.
Eventually, the washing up was done and we tumbled into bed with full stomachs.
On Sunday, having woken up and eaten a ‘two-pan-breakfast’ that turned into a ‘four pan, saucepan and two serving dish breakfast’ of bacon, hash brown and sausage sandwiches, we set off on a short hike. It was proper hiking weather this time, with the rain lashing against our waterproofs – no one stayed completely dry. We circled around a lake, before heading back to the minibus. Then came the challenge of getting wet waterproofs off without soaking the minibus or our (until that point) relatively dry clothes.
We drove back to the hostel, peeled off our damp clothes, and set about preparing lunch. This mainly consisted of gathering all our uneaten food into a large pile on the kitchen table and tucking in! Somehow this strange collection of falafel, After Eights, leftover parsnips, strawberries, humous and wraps became a proper meal.
We then packed up all our kit, cleaned the hostel, and bundled back into the minibus for the long drive home.
With the chance to get some hiking practice and eat some pretty good food, this camp was the perfect training for our trip to Glenmore Lodge next year! Keep an eye on our social media channels to find out how we get on in February.