As part of their discovery learning on the topic of adventurers and explorers, Year 3 were treated last week to a first-hand account by Year 3 parent Jonathan Davies on his bold 2010 attempt on Everest. Later in the week, they explored the impact of exercise on their bodies in a circuit training lesson which introduced them to the physical challenges mountaineers endure before even making their journey out to the Himalayas.
First, they heard from Mr Davies of the preparation he had to make, of the training walks in the Lake District and Scotland, progressing to the Matterhorn in Switzerland, itself a treacherous climb.
â€˜Why would anyone ever want to do that?â€™ asked Mr Davies as he showed the children a slide of the precipitous ascent.
Training completed, the first stop was the bustling city of Kathmandu to stock up on equipment, provisions and medical supplies, and the journey to Everest base camp by plane for the climbers, by trucks and donkeys for the supplies.
The harshness of the conditions at Everest base camp â€“ the severe cold, the wind and the rocky terrain â€“ came as a stark reminder to the children that this was an inhospitable and dangerous place. The tents were down by rocks to stop them being swept away by the wind, and morning brought fresh frost and ice on the inside of the tents. If any limb was left exposed outside of the sleeping bag, it was at the risk of frostbite.
Here the party spent eight weeks acclimatising and going on arduous training treks whilst they waited for the right conditions to make their ascent to the top of the world.
When the moment came, it was with some trepidation that they set out, knowing that many people had lost â€“ and continue to lose - their lives in the attempt.
Why, wondered the children, would anyone want to risk so much? The thrill of the adventure, the prize of realising a cherished dream, because itâ€™s there to be conquered, came the reply.
By any account, this was a gruelling feat of endurance. First there were the glaciers to navigate with the constant danger of hidden crevasses over which bridges had to be constructed. Then there was the extreme cold which could lose your fingers in minutes; the threat of avalanches and the enervating effect of altitude which made you permanently breathless. Towards the summit, the breathlessness meant you might be able to take only three steps per minute, a mental challenge as well as a physical challenge
The children also heard of the intoxicating thrill of nearing the summit and of how this could blind men to the dangers they faced â€“ some would achieve the summit only to find they were too weak to make the journey back down. Then there was the daily heroism of the sherpas carrying their heavy loads and regularly saving the lives of fellow mountaineers by single-handedly carrying them off the mountain.
One such Sherpa helped save the life of Mr Davies who, with the summit only 12-14 hours away, but seriously ill with altitude sickness, took the bold and difficult decision to turn away from his dreams.
Nevertheless, it was evident that he had no regrets over turning away or of making the attempt.
â€˜If you ever have the chance to have an adventure, take it,â€™ says Mr Davies to the children. â€˜This was the one of the most fantastic experiences of my life.â€™
The childrenâ€™s hands shot up to quiz this real-life adventurer some more before they pored over his equipment, trying on harnesses and hard hats, and marvelling at the crampons, the gloves like mini sleeping bags, the ice axe and the weight of the backpack.
Wow, now they really had a taste for adventure . . .