December 04, 2012 at 2:29 PM
For 43 years, the College has run an annual ‘Field Centre’ in the Tongariro National Park for our students in Year 10, giving them a unique opportunity to gain independence and explore personal strengths in an exciting, spectacular and challenging outdoor environment. This year 309 students were due to climb aboard the buses with their packs loaded, wearing their brand new, borrowed or hired outdoor clothing ready for a week of adventure.
Tongariro is unpredictable with no two years in a row ever the same. The mountain environment can be benign one moment and harsh the next and with this in mind, safety on the mountain is about being well prepared. In past years we have had to deal with high winds, rain and snow that can be demoralising at the time but on reflection becomes part of digging deep and building character. The conditions on the mountain this year, added a new challenge. In the weeks building up to departure, the Department of Conservation (DOC) began to report of a possible pressure build beneath the Crater Lake on Mt Ruapehu. The Field Centre team monitored this carefully. As the first 107 students arrived in the National Park, Mt Tongariro chose that exact moment to erupt. Scientists had no prior warning to expect this. Over the course of the following 10 days, our team sought regular updates from DOC – hourly over the first 24 hours.
For the students it was Field Centre business as usual, albeit at a lower altitude than usual. They were, however, challenged to dig deep and find those reserves of energy, even when their pack felt heavy or the blisters started to bother. Many discover hidden strengths and a resilience they never knew they had. On return to their lodges, they made a new discovery. There were no dishwashers and no technology to entertain. The tea towels were put to use and decks of cards and board games found new life as our students talked in real time and thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company.
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