Duke of Edinburgh Hillary Award Scheme Expeditions

October 20, 2014 at 2:54 PM

The recent holiday was an ideal time for the large groups of students involved in the Duke of Edinburgh Hillary Award Scheme to undertake the expedition element of the award. At each level – Bronze, Silver and Gold - there is a requirement to undertake a practice and a qualifying expedition in a challenging outdoor environment. The Bronze and Silver students both had trips away.


The Bronze programme has an enormous group of 170 students participating in the award this year.

As part of the programme, they are required to complete an adventurous journey that comprised an overnight practice tramp held in the Hunua Ranges followed by an overnight qualifying tramp in the Waitakere ranges. Due to the huge numbers involved, the students were split into two groups with one group on Friday/Saturday with the second group following in on Saturday/Sunday. This assisted greatly with the logistics of moving gear.

Camped at the Upper Mangatawhiri Campground in the Hunua range, the practice expedition involved a 3-4 hour tramp on the first day and a 5-6 hour tramp on the second day. The qualifying expeditions were also run back to back in the Waitakere ranges where they camped at the Barn Paddock Campground in Huia and also undertook two tramps.

On the practice expedition, the students first headed for the Upper Mangatawhiri Dam where they participated in a 3 hour tramp to their camp site just down from the Dam. After an overnight sleep in tents with responsibility for their own cooking and cleaning, they set off on a 20 km walk around the Mangatawhiri Lake, looping back around to the campsite. While this was occurring, the second group of students travelled out by bus to follow suit.

Sadly, for both Bronze expeditions, the weather was unpleasant and many found the experience very challenging. The track was very difficult in many places due to the conditions and most came back at the end of the tramp very wet and muddy.

For each of the qualifying expeditions in the Waitakere Ranges, staff and students travelled by minivans to Huia and tramped the afternoon through bush and hilly terrain to the Barn Paddock camp site where they camped with the sheep, chickens and baby piglets! The second day of the expedition started very early when the rooster began to crow at 4:00 am. This day entailed a much longer walk staring at the Donald McLean car park and ending at the Huia Dam at about 3:00pm. Again the weather was a challenge, and the tracks were very muddy, especially after 170 students had tramped over them!

This year was the second year that we had Gold qualifying Year 13 students along to help. This has proved to be a great initiative as it meant that we had more experienced people on the track to ensure safety and assist the 14 accompanying staff.


Unlike the Bronze groups, the Silver group were able to enjoy their expeditions to Great Barrier Island and Karangahake Gorge with fantastic weather conditions for both. 

The silver practice expedition took place on Great Barrier Island. In the early morning, 79 students and 10 staff embarked onto the Great Barrier Island ferry to make their way to spend three days tramping and camping on the Barrier. Thankfully the four hour ferry crossing was calm. In great weather, the students tramped along the coastal cliffs to the Heratonga camp site. This is located next to an estuary and a short walk to the beach. Some students took advantage of the good weather and went swimming.

An early start the next day saw groups setting off on a longer Day 2 tramp. This walk took them down Windy Canyon and up to the summit of Mt Hobsen.  Most groups were in by 3pm and settled into the Medlands camp site in amazing weather, allowing time for most to go for a swim.

The third and final day consisted of a short tramp up from the Medlands camp site up to the top of Rosalie Bay Rd where they were picked up and then delivered down the Tryphena Bay for a lunch break before the ferry ride home.

The qualifying expedition was run at Karangahake Gorge this year and was made more challenging by adding some extra distance to the first day’s tramp. This extra element of challenge was appreciated by many of the groups and seen as a challenge by others!

The expedition took place in the Waitawheta Valley. The students completed a gruelling 6 hour tramp on Day 1 up to the Ananui falls and down to the Waitawheta Hut where they camped for the night. Day 2 was a beautiful day that required them to walk down the valley to Dickie Flat camp site. This required them to do two river crossings were many of them got more than a little wet!

Day 3 was an easy day along the Karangahake Gorge, finishing at the Waikino train stations where tired groups were ready to head home!


The most experienced group of 66, the Gold students, will be undertaking their practice trip in early December with the qualifying expedition taking place in January.

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