Third-year students at the University of Cumbria’s Ambleside campus have been celebrating the end of their courses by taking part in a unique Lake District challenge run by the Department of Science, Natural Resources and Outdoor Studies.
Hours after handing in their dissertations, final-year students joined others from across all year groups at the campus to compete in pairs in the Great Northern Adventure Race (GNAR).
A course weaving its way through iconic Lake District landscapes and beauty spots including Skelwith Falls, Coniston and the River Brathay saw students face a host of imposing obstacles – from traversing waterfalls on slack lines to ‘duck diving’ into water-filled caves.
Whilst organisers designed the route and checkpoint challenges, it was up to the 18 pairings to strategically plot their own routes and complete thrilling tasks, earning the most points along the way.
Each challenge was worth a different number of points depending on its level of difficulty. Those earning the most points – recorded electronically by Open Tracking on a live map for all to see – were declared GNAR winners before students, staff and supporters enjoyed a party and barbecue.
Canoeing, climbing, abseiling, paddle boarding, caving, swimming, running and cycling could all help students navigate their way around the time-trial event devised by experienced outdoor demonstrators.
Simon McCabe, whose career has included leading Richard Branson through the Alps, and Pete Waite-Shores, a former polar guide for the British Arctic Survey, designed the GNAR event.
Simon said: “This is a race designed to open students’ eyes to what is around them in the local area, to get them to mix across the year groups and to provide a social at the end of dissertations for those in the third years.
“It has been great to see so many take part in the event, which celebrates and reflects the great pride we have in our wonderful location here in the Lakes as well as the part the university and its staff and students play in the local community.”
Amy Kenworthy, welfare and support officer at the University of Cumbria Students’ Union, said: “Congratulations to everyone who has helped stage such a wonderful GNAR. It has created a real buzz and vibrancy at the Ambleside campus, bringing together and celebrating the close-knit family of staff and students.
“The SU has loved working with tutors and staff to stage the event for our students, including bringing a live band onto campus.”
Outdoor Education student Ryan Morey, 25, who lives in Ambleside, paired up with pal Max van der Lee.
Ryan, originally from south Devon, said: “It’s been a bit of a week. I’d handed my dissertation the day before; it’s about eco-therapy being an intervention treatment for young people suffering anxiety disorders which I am hoping to present at the Nature Connections conference in Derby this summer. I thought doing the GNAR would be good way to let off a bit of steam and mark the fact I’ve finished this degree.
“The abseil was the most challenging for us. Max can’t do heights at all. I’m not a fan but I chose to do that challenge. We could share them out between us. It was about 40 metres, so some height.”
Ibby Abulafia completed the challenge dressed as the Incredible Hulk, partnering Charlie May who was in a banana costume.
Ibby, 27, from Middlesbrough, has completed a degree in outdoor leadership and is looking forward to joining an Outward Bound graduate trainee instructor scheme in north Wales next month.
“The GNAR has been awesome,” he said. “The duck dive into the cave was amazing. We were told what kind of challenges would be out on the course, but not the exact details of each one. The event has been really well planned – well done everyone!.”
Rachel Dyke, 22, also took part after handing in her dissertation, which explores people’s perceptions of risk.
She said: “It’s been great to live and study in Ambleside. It is a small campus with small student groups and to be here in the Lake District on a course like this, it doesn’t really get better.
“I’m soon going to be starting a full-time job at the Kingsway Centre, in Middleton-in-Teesdale in the North Pennines. It’s an outdoor centre where I did an apprenticeship before coming to the University of Cumbria. A number of people I worked with had studied at Ambleside and at the institution so I knew a bit about what was offered and what to expect.”
Winners in three different categories were Nathan Hughes and Ben Field (male), Rita Cattaneo and Erica Proctor (female) and Chloe Price and Joe Rowley (mixed).
Dr Liz Mallabon, principal lecturer for outdoor studies, geography and forestry, said: “It has been a great event with a brilliant atmosphere, despite the less than favourable weather conditions.
“Simon and Pete have created an awesome event that optimises the spirit of the University of Cumbria, particularly in terms of sense of community. Students from across all year groups, staff from the department, campus services and the Student Union were all involved, along with support from local businesses.
“It was great to see everyone relaxing and supporting each other – and it has all taken place from our backdoor, I am very proud to be working with such a great group of students and staff.”
GNAR organisers also thank sponsors The Climbers Shop in Ambleside, Palm Equipment, The Epicentre and the university’s Ambleside campus vibrancy fund for their support in hosting the 2019 event.