Expedition Physiology

The group of studentsThirty third year Sport and Exercise Science BSc(Hons) students travelled to the Brecon Beacons as part of the option module, Expedition Physiology.

This was the 15th time the annual trip took place and it was led by Dr Alan Richardson, with colleguares Dr Mark Hayes, Dr Nick Smeeton, Dr Neil Maxwell and Rebecca Relf. The group were treated to spectacular weather as they hit the Black Mountain hills of Wales – the best in the expedition’s history.

Dr Neil Maxwell, sho created the module back in 2004, reports on this year’s expedition:

The groups's pitched tents“We again stayed at Llanddeusant Youth Hostel, that is in the heart of the Brecon Beacons (and right beside a graveyard), allowing us to be straight up on the hill in the morning. The students had a night in the hostel and a night under canvas, before bed-bingo to decide which would be their fate for the last night! Even with the weather as good as it was, proximity to the snorers seemed to be the key determinant of a successful night of sleep, rather than if you got a bed or not!

“The students were assessed on their menu planning and awareness of expedition nutrition, navigation (both preparing route cards and their competency using a variety of techniques while out on the hill), incident management from being presented with a scenario, and leadership of a group. It is challenging, but also an opportunity for the students to really step up and show what they have learnt from earlier in the module…with navigation arguably being a lifelong skill they can take with them when they graduate.

“Over the two days of actual walking, most groups covered between 40-45 km in distance, 2000m of ascent and navigated across some pretty rough terrain. There were frequent streams/small rivers to cross. This year it was not too difficult since the ground was drier than normal, but there were still a few close calls, and some found out the hard way that their boots were definitely not waterproof!

“One of the groups, self-named as the Sheep Savers by their act of kindness and bravery, started their second day by rescuing five lambs who had inadvertently got trapped between two fields. Feeling unable to walk by, they put on their imaginary superhero masks and got to work. The girls took the first action, scouting out the field for access and tried to corral the lambs towards a low gap in the fence. With the Great Escape music or was it Mission Impossible ringing in their ears as they went in hot pursuit…

“From there it was a mixture of comical and brutal, as we watched lambs bounce off fences and fence posts, desperately trying to evade the students and get back into the field. You can see the students in action in the short film below:

“Back at the youth hostel, there was always a mad dash for the toilet or shower, but the students enjoyed regaling stories from the day’s walking, while making up for lost calories.

“Well done to Alan who put so much into organising yet another successful expedition. To the students, well done for getting stuck in and making the expedition memorable. As always, our annual expedition was eventful, but as the saying goes…what goes on tour stays on tour! Until next year…

“P.S. The leaders promise they did not set off the fire alarm deliberately on the final morning to get the students up early to clean the youth hostel!”

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