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Eleven pupils from year nine and two staff travelled to Finland over Half Term for nine days of ‘winter skills’ training. Fully prepared for temperatures of -30 degrees, the group were surprised (and slightly relieved) by the unseasonably warm temperatures of between -10 and -15 that welcomed them upon their arrival.
After settling into their base at Kylmaluoma, near the border with Russia, the group spent their first day mastering the arts of fire building and ice fishing, which turned out to be much harder than it looked.
A two-day snowshoe trek took the group to a remote ‘wilderness cabin’ where they stayed overnight, enjoying the primitive lifestyle that came with having no electricity or running water.
A traditional Finnish sauna did provide some warmth to soothe the aching legs but it was the composting toilet that will leave lasting memories for most of the pupils. Walking across the frozen lakes and observing signs of wildlife such as beavers and otters did break up what seemed like endless kilometres of uninterrupted snow and although the group were keen to spot wolverines and bears, sadly (for some) none were seen.
Possibly one of the greatest highlights of the trip was digging snow caves and sleeping overnight in them. This was not for the faint hearted as it not only required a huge amount of effort to hollow out the caves but required serious mental strength to trust in the construction and go to sleep in the hope that they would not collapse during the night.
The latter half of the week was punctuated by further saunas (and snowball fights) with lessons in cross country skiing and a mini ‘Olympic Games’. Before returning back to the relative warmth of the UK, the group couldn’t leave without a morning of Husky dog sledding and a visit to a traditional reindeer farm to learn the basics of lassoing and sample some freshly prepared reindeer sandwiches.