They didn’t know it but the 420 Scouts who took part in the Chiltern Hills February Challenge Hike trekked the equivalent of the distance from the UK to Australia and 17 Luton Explorer Scouts and their leaders were amongst them.
The event was a test of stamina, map reading and teamwork said organiser Clover Heather as the Luton Scouts, in five teams, penetrated dense woodland and open fields from one check point to the next. The under 18-year old novices took the shorter, 30Km route, while the more experienced adult leaders were faced with a longer 50Km hike. The Scouts, from the Phoenix Explorer Unit based in Bodmin Road, knew from the outset that their survival depended on a map, a compass, sturdy boots, snow-proof jackets and trusted friends.
This was no afternoon stroll. From the start at around 8am they were faced with muddy paths through dense woodland. In open fields they had to deal with snow and frost-covered hedgerows. And for the last few miles the tired teams had to find their way in the dark.
At around the halfway stage one Explorer Scout twisted his ankle and the team, with help from a nearby checkpoint, arranged to drive him back to base for treatment. He vows to return next year determined to finish.
One of the two adult teams called it a day just before midnight still six miles short of their destination. All the other teams finished in around 10 hours ready for a shower, a hot meal and a good night’s sleep. But they aroused themselves to greet the latecomers in a bond of friendship that impressed Megan McIntosh and the rest of the team.
Explorer Leader Clover Heather said, “These young people now have extraordinary stories of friendship and comradery tested to the limit that will make them and their families feel very proud and privileged. And next year we’ll do it all again.”
A record 420 walkers took part in the weekend hike and trekked a total distance of 16,343 kilometres – over 10, 200 miles – during the event. That’s the equivalent of all the way from Luton to Australia on foot say the organisers!