James borrell is a conservation scientist and science communicator, with a particular interest in how species adapt to changing climate.

The Quadrat

Reading your Twitter feed, and perusing websites can be an inspiration, especially when approaching your next adventure or expedition. However, when you must make progress with writing your research project, the thought of adventure can be a distraction. I might not be outside in the wilderness at the moment, but I don’t mind, what I’m working on will be worth it (I hope). Still, it can be nice to reminisce from time to time and dig out something from your Moleskine, after all it has to be a Moleskine.

Here is an extract from a leadership development expedition across the Haardangervidda plateau, Norway. A trip that taught me a great deal about learning and leading in a stunning remote environment.

Inspired by the recent escapades of the other team, Gunnerside, Jamie and Andy proposed a beasting day of our own. After much deliberating concerning the route we finally decided on a suitable plan involving seven peaks. We began with an early start heading east to the steepest looking mountain we could find called ‘Skol!’ (Which we are reliably informed means ‘cheers’ in Norge). In true BSES style we headed for the point that seemed to have the highest density of contour lines. Bagging a smaller peak en route we reached the summit of Skol at around 10am. We celebrated by dancing around shouting ‘Skol!’ in the most Viking like way possible, followed by flapjacks and mars bars.

So off we went with high spirits to conquer the next one, and the next one and the next one. There were numerous high points such as Jamie’s infamous quote (after being sure he had found a quick way down) ‘Ah…this looks suspiciously cliff like…’. We were blessed with beautiful views and fantastic weather. Making excellent progress up until about 2pm, when we reached a stream that was just so picturesque that we just had to stop and relax. Taking a moment to consider our surroundings, we thought of the men, the ‘heroes of Telemark’ that had braved this place in the depths of Winter to fight for their country barely 60 years before.

Reluctantly off we went again, and then we saw it…an elegant cone rising above the horizon. After quickly consulting the map we were able to put a name to it. A name that will no doubt live on in our hearts for years to come…Vergahovde! We dumped our main bags in a saddle to the West, and hurriedly munched through our favourite snack, be-well crackers. Feeling so light on our feet, we bounded up the slope. The view at the top was stunning; I think perhaps that the toxic army rat packs had finally reached our brains because for some reason we felt it was appropriate to shed the majority of our clothing, and pose as vikings. (Quite why, to this day I’m still not sure, but it certainly was a day to remember.)

After getting half way down the mountain (then climbing back up and coming down a different way) we charged off in search of the rest of our fire (a traditional term for expedition team), anticipating the beautiful campsite they would no doubt have selected. It was now nearing 5pm and we unfortunately noticed we were only actually four kilometers from our starting point, our enthusiasm had taken us in a great arc of exploration. We feared that camp may still lie some way in the distance, and as we trudged and trudged and ran out of snacks we still could not make contact via the walkie-talkie. Lizzie persevered and kept trying ‘This is grouse 3 to grouse 1, come in, over’. After about three hours this had deteriorated to ‘Anyone? Somebody answer me?  We could all be dead!’.

As we reached the top of a ridge we were treated to a fantastic display of airborne maneuverability. As a trio of Gyrfalcons relentlessly dived headlong at a great flock of smaller birds, who in return moved as one, evading and escaping. As brilliant and valiant as it was, inevitably, the Gyrfalcons won.

At long last we saw the homely sight of a cluster of green tents. Thoroughly pleased with ourselves we struck camp and tucked in to dinner, there’s nothing quite a like delicious Lamb Pilaf to bring the perfect end to a perfect day.

You might also like to read about what happened the week after. Or, if you’re a student, how you might get involved with the British Schools Exploring Society.