SOAP 2012 – now with the Tour du Mont Blanc!

This year the Outdoor Learning Service are organising a 14 day trek to the Tour du Mont Blanc.

The TMB is 170km long-distance trek around the Mont Blanc Massif, with a total ascent of over 10,000m – that’s higher than climbing Everest! The reward; fantastic scenery, (normally) great weather, the chance to practice your French and Italian and meet other trekkers from all over the world while staying in mounatin huts and refuges.

This trip is aimed at adventurous senior pupils, who are up for a challenge and is the culmination of the 2012-13 Secondary Outdoor Adventure Program (SOAP) .

Teachers, you can find more information here … please pass on to interetsed pupils in your schools.

SOAP go to Knoydart

Last week saw the culmination of this year’s SOAP Program. The group planned a multi-activity expedition; canoes and mountaineering. After buying supplies and packing on Sunday we drove up to Kinlochourn on the monday … the ‘gateway to Knoydart’.

A brisk three hour paddle (into the wind) on Monday evening say the group set up base-camp at Barrisdale on the Knoydart peninsular.

Tuesday was spent climbing Ladhar Bheinn, the highest mountain in Knoydart , along and round some great ridges, and top views.

Wednesday was off for a perfect paddle down the loch to the ‘famous’ tea-shed at Corran – for ice-cream wafers.

Highlight of the trip for many was the sailing back down the loch …

… then a swim and some pirate games before the final evening.

As luck would have it the wind had turned to 180 degrees so once again on the Thursday we had to battle back up into the wind before the drive home.

This is the second year of the SOAP Program. The aims of this program are to give pupils the skills, confidence and experiences to undertake ‘outdoor adventures’ in a way closer to what they will do beyond school.

All the pupils seemed to get lots out of it and we are hoping to run another program this year. If you are interested in participating in please leave your details in the comment below this post and someone from the Outdoor Learning Service will contact you.

Click here to see all of the photos in a ‘full screen’ slide show, if you stop the slideshow you should be able to download and save any of the pictures.


Our very recent Winter Skills weekend for students had us searching for snowfields on the Cairngorm plateau (which we found and managed to employ some winter mountaineering skills in blazing sunshine!)

The find of the weekend though was a newly acquired slackline . This combined with the insipration of watching a video of Sketchy Andy meant some evening slacklining practice was in order – varying results.

From Winter Skills Students 2012
From Winter Skills Students 2012
From Winter Skills Students 2012
From Winter Skills Students 2012

 Daniel (Dunbar Grammar) managed to walk the line (complete the whole length of webbing without falling off) For the rest of us merely balnacibg for more than two seconds was a victory. I sense a long hot summer of blancing coming on.

A couple of slightly wintry scenes to prove we did some winter walking.

From Winter Skills Students 2012
From Winter Skills Students 2012

Can Yew hear the Lyon?

East Lothian’s Secondary Outdoor Adventure Programme (SOAP).

The first SOAP weekend of the academic year – after selection –  kicked off with Summer Mountaineering (be flexible with the meaning of the word summer (this was October)).

The selected pupils camped at Kilvrecht campsite on the south side of Loch Rannoch. After a quick shop in Musselburgh for enough fodder for the weekend we arrived to an unsurprisingly empty campsite at dusk. The forecast for Saturday from MWIS was for very strong westerley winds. We chose to see how far up Schiehallion we could get – coming up the main path on the east side would afford us some protection. The day certainly was dreich but the promised and feared wind didn’t materialise. We were able to make the summit and also to come down on the west side to gradually clearing skies – a lovely finish in the fantastic ‘Treats’ cafe at Kinloch Rannoch.

Saturday evening saw us have an open fire in our group tipi and the group were introduced to the delights of Perudo. A little bit of planning for the next day had us decide to walk from the back of the campsite over to Glen Lyon taking in some summits on the way – all weather dependent (forecast still giving strong westerlies.)The forecast rang true for the day and our group split on the col between An Sgorr and Meall Garbh – some descending straight dowm to Invervar and the others summiting Meal Garbh and then descending Meall a Bharr. Our journey back to us past the Fortinghall Yew at the entrance to Glen Lyon.


All students showed great resilience and fantastic navigational ability.

I make full use of and value the opportunities I am given to improve and manage my learning and, in turn, I can help to encourage learning and confidence in others.
HWB 4-11a

 This all bodes well for our next adventure – winter mountaineering weekend.

Many thanks to Brian Frost of Preston Lodge High School who came along as a volunteer to show the students another side to camp cooking and shuttling the minibus.


SOAP Exped to Arran

Last week was the last part of the SOAP mountaineering skills program … and it was destination Arran. The program has run over this this year for eight S5 and S6 pupils across East Lothian’s schools, and the Arran Exped was the finale. While the Arran mountains are not high they have some of the best (and most exciting) ridge walking and scrambling in Britain.

After gearing up in Musselburgh, it’s a short drive over to Ardrossan for the afternoon ferry to Arran. We were staying the first three nights at the very fine Seal Bay Camping down near Kildonan.

After setting up camp the plan had been to visit a local single-pitch crag. It was a fine evening, bright and warm. Unfortunately as the wind dropped, the midges came out for the evening. Standing around belaying at a crag would have been murder… so Plan B was a walk along a midge free beach and a helpfully smokey driftwood bonfire.

It dawned wet, and didn’t really stop raining for the next 48 hours. Still undaunted the group set off for a mountain day. We drove up to Brodick Castle and did a fine walk up over Goatfell, North Goatfell and back down Glen Rosa

The ridge along to North Goatfell gave some easy scrambling to add interest, but it was a pretty wet day, with no sign of the fine views which we were sure were out there.

Woke to rain and decided to try and stay low. So we set off north of Blackwaterfoot and walked up the coast, sheltering in the Kings Caves before visiting the fine standing stones of Machrie.

Luckily the forecast was spot-on … after a night of very heavy rain sun came out as we packed up camp at Seal Bay. Even better there was breeze. Just enough to blow away the midges.

Making the best of the weather we set off again for an great day of high ridges, and high visibility on the horse-shoe of Ben Tarsium from Glen Rosa. Lots of excellent dry granite, and views extending south to Ireland, out to Jura and north to Ben Nevis.

A pretty tired group arrived back at the mini-bus at 7:00pm … and then had to walk in for the last night to our ‘surprise destination’ … Cloud Base.

Despite being a bit midgy the it was luxury to not be under canvas for the last night.

Another fine sunny day, and once out of the tree in the breeze midge-free.

An easy walk down past the might Falls of Glashendale and back to the bus and off to the ferry.

Despite some wet weather at the start a really good trip, the group were always in good spirits, achieved lots and came back with some great memories. Over the past year all of the SOAP participants have gained new skills and confidence that should help them be better, bolder, and safer, mountaineers in whatever adventures they want to embark upon after their school days.

For a full-screen slideshow click here, or click here for a movie. (You may not be able to see these from inside ELC Corporate Network, sorry)