Seth testing his skills.

ON FRIDAY, August 13, twelve students and one teacher from Wonthaggi Secondary College left school at 4.30am for a Personal Development camp for the year 10s.

Students went through a selection process and applied for a position on the camp – best described as mentally and physically challenging.

The experience was an eight-day cross country snow camp, where students built and developed skills such as self-management, decision-making, working in a team and perseverance. All of these skills would be needed for the extreme snow environment the students camped in.

The participating students were: Asha Boyd, Bella Schmidt, Ben Clements, Eve Leversha, Isaac Seuren, Jett Orpin, Luca Gleeson, Mia Plenkovich, Seth Cummins, Tess Wingfield, Toby Earle and Victoria Jaskula.

At Outdoor School Bogong, the group were greeted by the highly professional staff Mish and Grace.

The first day was travel, getting settled in and being fitted out with skis and a day pack. The second and third days were used to learn how to ski, learning the basics such as how to move, snow ploughing to stop, turning and moving uphill. These days were tiring and challenging as a lot of the students had not seen the snow before, let alone ski! At the end of the third day, the specialist equipment for camping and living in the snow was distributed.

This first day of touring on skis with backpacks was a challenge for most of the students. The weather conditions were tough with limited visibility, windy and snow falling. After making it to Pretty Valley Camp area, students were shown how to prepare the snow for setting up tents and make sure the sleeping gear was set up appropriately.

It was snowing while the tents were being set up!

“Before we hopped into our tents for bed, we had to do at least 10 star jumps to warm up our body temperature so we didn’t get cold at night,” Eve Leversha, a year 10 student, said.

The next three days were filled with adventure and excellent weather. The nights were -4 degrees, and the days were sunny and +2, which was great for touring in the snow.

The students dug an outstanding communal eating area in the snow, where card-playing, dining and group meetings were held.

Over the journey, the students managed themselves, worked together as a team supporting each other and making decisions that allowed the group to be successful over the whole journey.

For the last night in the snow, the group camped near Cope Hut; they had a warm fire in the hut and used the shelter for cooking and playing cards before going back to the tents for the night.

The last morning in the snow was spectacular. The sunrise over the valley was beautiful to watch while having breakfast, packing up camp and packing backpacks for the last time. From Cope Hut back to the start point was 10km before making their way back to Outdoor School Bogong for their last night on camp.

On the eighth morning, three volunteers – Victoria, Eve and Isaac – answered questions and engaged in conversation about the camp in a live radio interview with Alpine Radio station.

With last-minute conversations about making another trip happen the following year, the group left in high spirits.
“It was an incredible experience for the students, they were challenged mentally and physically,” Jamie Cummins, Wonthaggi Secondary College staff member in charge of the camp, said.

“They worked incredibly well as a team supporting each other and making decisions that included the whole group. We were extremely fortunate to literally pop out of lockdown with enough time to reorganise transport, complete the camp and the very next day on our return, go back into lockdown.”

Student Eve said it was an amazing experience where everyone learnt so much: “A huge thank you to all the staff especially Mr Cummins for the opportunity. And another massive thank you to Mish and Grace at Bogong, as well as Phill the chef there who provided us with amazing food, Marty the principal of Bogong and Nicole the program manager. Thank you to Tom Harley our bus driver, Mr Darren Parker and Mrs Marg O’Donnell.”