One week, six trips, 180 students. That's right, the famous Year 9 Activities Week comes back for 2017, bringing pure unadulterated fun along with challenges in all shapes and sizes.

Perhaps the most daunting challenge was choosing from the flabbergasting selection of phenomenal trips available. An expedition to the picturesque mountains of Morocco maybe? How about a jaunt to the coastal village of Calshot for a watersports and climbing bonanza? Perhaps the stunning mountain town of Zell am See, Austria for some canyoning and whitewater rafting would be your perfect for you?

Though the variety and range of visits on offer was truly mind-boggling, I think all of us discovered that whatever you chose, there was still so much action and enjoyment to be had, and every trip revealed its moments of challenge and exhilaration in different ways. One thing all of the excursions had in common was teamwork - virtually all of the exhilerating activities involved working together with our peers to help build our social and collaborative skills. Through this, we were all able overcome the perplexing challenges that presented themselves throughout the week and ensure that we all had a heck of a good time together.

So, now that I've got you hooked, click the links below to find out what extreme enjoyment and challenges appeared throughout the week, visit by visit. WARNING - may contain highly envy-inducing scenes!

Though it was the smallest of the six, Plas Y Brenin definitely wasn't a trip lacking activities and it had some of the most unique challenges of them all. Before we arrived at Plas Y Brenin, we stopped at Zip World’s Slate Caverns in Blaenau Ffestiniog to try our hand at high ropes in caves. This was very enjoyable, but also quite scary: traversing across small metal poles attached to a cave 150ft up has its downsides. Once we had gotten over our initial fear, we all had a great time zipping through the caves and getting past obstacles.

We then ventured on to Plas Y Brenin, where we were greeted by amazing views and accommodation. On the second day we went out on the water to go canoeing, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. We all enjoyed this, from trying to do headstands on the boards to skimming stones on a beach only accessible by kayak.

Freefalling from a cliff is a very peculiar feeling, and it is one that I don't think that I am going to forget anytime soon. This was probably one of my favorite memories from the trip: coasteering on the coast of Anglesey - involving clambering over cliffs laden with barnacles, freefalling from the top of crags and leaping into the ice cold Welsh waters.

However, like all good things it sadly came to an end and I think that I can speak on behalf of everyone that came on this trip that it was a completely thrilling experience.

Video: https://drive.google.com/a/challoners.org/file/d/0B-XA5RnBWpkhRWtrWGQ5TVJkMWc/preview

After a 21 hour coach journey by bus and ferry, we arrived at Zell Am See in Austria in the afternoon and immediately went into activities: playing football or basketball, or taking on climbing activities, testing our ability and for some challenging their fear of heights. Each evening, we each chose an activity from a range of activities, for example some people decided to go to the volleyball courts to play a few rounds of volleyball.

On Sunday, split into two groups, we started activities at 8:15am. Group A began with mountain biking, and Group B started the day with kayaking and paddle boarding. We used the huge lake at Zell Am See, surrounded by a huge mountain range. The depth of the lake was 70-80m: luckily we stayed on the surface. Both groups switched part way through the day. In the evening, everyone played in a volleyball tournament! After some intense matches, one of Mrs Timpson's teams won.

On Monday, we went to the largest high ropes course in Europe! One of the courses was 1.5km long. In groups of three or so, we ventured from course to course. There were nine courses, each so long that no one completed all of them. Most of our day was spent on the high ropes, but as we eased into the evening, we had an opportunity to take part in either a football tournament or bowling.

Tuesday brought whitewater rafting, a much favoured activity of the whole week: nothing could prepare you for it. There was also windsurfing, albeit with little wind! The weather throughout the trip was very interesting. Sometimes you would struggle to see who you were talking to due to the sun, then a few minutes later we were struck with downpouring rain.

The penultimate day we spent going to Salzburg for a quick shopping trip (also the home of Mozart) and also canyoning. Canyoning was also another favourite activity, as it consisted scrambling through rocky areas then swimming a few metres, then some more scrambling on rock, then a few 5m plus drops, the largest being 8m! Finally, on the last day in Austria, we went on a four-hour hike up one of the mountains close by. In some cases, going down was harder than going up!

Our week in Morocco began in Marrakesh, where we got on a bus that took us four hours into the Atlas Mountains. Here we met our guide, Ibrahim, along with our cook for the week Hasan. We sorted out rooms and then went for a quick walk to get used to the altitude. The scenery was incredible. Mountains, lots of goats, a big reservoir, and a ski lift as we were staying at the only ski resort in Morocco. Hasan cooked us an unbelievable meal that night, and we would soon learn that he is a god at cooking. We settled in for the night after discovering beetles and a rather large spider in our bathrooms.

The next day we woke up nice and early to 20 degrees of sunshine. It was only seven o’clock. We had a breakfast of a selection of spreads, bread and porridge, again cooked by Hasan. We kitted up, and set off for our first walk. We were walking six kilometers as the crow flies, but after the end of the day we had measured twenty one kilometers, going round all the paths and up and down two mountains. The first mountain we conquered, we walked up 800m, and then descended nearly 1000m. We found our lunch spot, and proceeded to have an excellent lunch eating Hasan's amazing pasta.

We set off again climbing another mountain, only about 600m, and then proceeded to descend to a point even lower than when we started. The walk overall took around six hours, and was very challenging, but we were pushed on by the thought of accomplishing the mountain at the top, and being rewarded with stunning views.

We found our first place to stay for the second night, a small gîte (a holiday cottage) in a village in the valley. We settled down, ate another incredible dinner, and proceeded to go to sleep after a big lightning storm.

The next day we woke up and set off for our second day of trekking. We had another brilliant breakfast, and then proceeded to climb up an enormous 1000m. It took a very long time, and once we reached the top, you could see right into the valley below. Ibrahim gave some of us the opportunity to climb to an even higher peak, up at 3200m above sea level. When we got to the top, we could see everything. It was the most incredible sight I have ever seen in a mountain range. You could see all the way to the desert, all the mountains in the mountain range and the sky was a perfect deep blue without a cloud in sight. After taking some pictures we then descended back down to the rest of the group waiting with Mr Hopkins. We started descending into the valley to our lunch spot, by some huge rocks. We had another amazing lunch and then proceeded on with our walk. We passed some goats and sheep on the hill side who were making a lot of noise, and Mr Hopkins decided to shout back at them, and then proceeded to have his own little argument with them. It was very funny. We reached our second spot we were staying at, and it was incredible. It was a large villa and wow, it was beautiful. The sunset right over the valley and beautiful stars came out at night.

The town mosque was right next to our villa and so at 5 in the morning, we were woken by a prayer call. Once the group had properly woken up, we then set off for our final day of the expedition. It was a very hot day, reaching 35 degrees. We walked down into the valley to the bottom where a large stream ran through. We stopped and cooled our feet in the water whilst watching frogs play in the shallows. We then set off climbing a huge mountain, which took a very long time. Once we had reached the top, we sat at a small cafe drinking Coke and Fanta to reward ourselves. We then descended a huge amount into a village where Hasan and his other cooks had cooked us an incredible lunch. We ate lots because we had a very long bus journey ahead of us. We drove for four hours to the coast where we stayed in two large B&Bs.

We woke up the next morning to huge camels outside our windows. Today we were camel riding on the beach. We ate a quick breakfast and then walked 15 minutes down to the beach and found our camels. After a shaky start, we were off. After a while, I noticed that it was starting to get uncomfortable. We learnt that this was in fact one of the negatives of camel riding. We stopped for lunch and then continued back up the beach to our initial starting point. We then finished up the top of the beach and arrived to the tents we would be sleeping in.

We woke to a beautiful sunrise over the ocean, and then set off for a long drive to Essaouira. We spent the day in Essaouira in the market buying nice things like necklaces and pots and paintings, and went to a beautiful restaurant where we ate on the fourth floor with an incredible view over the sea.

To finish it off, on our final day we drove to Marrakesh and had an entertaining tour of the city in a horse and cart. We then spent the afternoon at the market and back alleys searching for gifts to buy for our families.

Overall, Morocco was an incredible trip and I would highly recommend it to those who seek adventure in the mountains but who are also very engaged in the cultural side of learning. Mr Bristol and Mr Hopkins lead the trip very well and Jenny, our wilderness guide, was a very important asset to the team. Morocco 2017 was the best trip of my life.

[IMAGE:8202380f]
[IMAGE:62d5ca37]

The Ridgeway Challenge was an excellent trip filled with water fights, difficult challenges and lots of walking. The challenge began far before Activities Week: we had puzzles to complete and fitness challenges to beat even before we went on the trip.

The trip began at 6:15am. We were taken by minibus up to Barbury Castle, where we were to begin our walk. We were greeted by spectacular views of the surrounding countryside, and information packs about what we were to do that day. Throughout the week we cooked our own food on the camping stoves and on Wednesday we had military ration packs. These ration packs were much better than we expected, with most of us enjoying the freeze dried meals.

The week was filled with challenges, water gun ambushes by Mr Burn, a 'helicopter evacuation', building a radio mast, and many more. We walked almost 50 miles over the trip, which was a gruelling task, but at the end of it we were all proud that we had finished it.

[IMAGE:14c0518a]

With around 40 thrill-seeking Year 9s, the visit to Ullswater in the Lake District was one of the bigger of the six incredible trips to choose from. Offering the winning combination of one-of-a-kind views, beautiful sunny weather and invigorating mountain and lake activities, it provided a well-earned relaxing break after wearying exams.

We kicked off the first full day by going to a waterfall and taking part in a ghyll (deep ravine) scramble and climbing up a waterfall. The next day, we had a swift bus journey to Mount Helvellyn, and took approximately six hours to climb up it. At the top, exhausted, we sat down for dinner and were rather shocked at the prospect of a ration pack, although it was more appetising than we thought! The day still wasn't over though, as we had to find a flat spot to camp and sleep on. That was our reward for working so hard, as well as being able to look out over the mountains and observe the picturesque clouds and sky. Afterwards, lethargic after such an exhausting climb, we eagerly retreated into the safety of our sleeping bags and nodded off under the stars.

When we woke up, we were even lucky enough to have a cloud inversion, a rare weather phenomenon. For breakfast we again had a ration pack, and set off to climb back down the mountain - definitely easier than the way up! Before we knew it we arrived back at Outward Bounds Centre and went to sleep there for the last time.

On the final day we left the centre after a very enjoyable raft building activity, for the second round of a 7 hour coach journey. The trip was one of my highlights of school so far, and I wish it hadn't gone by so rapidly. I can say for certain that I was challenged many times during the trip and have widened my knowledge, so all in all, Ullswater was definitely a tiresome, yet terrific trip to remember.

[IMAGE:86b38aea]
[IMAGE:6fe1bc6a]
[IMAGE:53845aa9]

The week kicked off for most of us with watersports, specifically kayaking and windsurfing, while the last few set off for mountain biking through the forest. The fun didn’t stop there though, as after a delicious dinner we had the opportunity to attempt a giant rope ladder challenge and to explore the velodrome.

The next morning (after a full English breakfast) was far more eventful, with one group kayaking and the rest climbing, snowboarding, and track cycling. After lunch we split into wildly different activities, involving climbing, archery, mountain biking and snowboarding - a truly exhilarating and exhausting day! Yet again the evening brought even more action, with orienteering, and donut riding on the ski slope. On Wednesday and Thursday we rotated through these activities, with each of us having the opportunity to experience every single one, an ordeal we discovered was just as tiring as it was thrilling.

Friday, while short, was still chock full of fun. Everybody savoured their last moments before a somewhat sad but also exciting departure finished the trip, leaving everyone feeling accomplished and happy.

Along the trip we had to work together to perform most tasks, further building our teamwork and creating a rare learning experience. It was a truly exhilarating and incredible opportunity that will remain in all of our memories for years to come.

Video: https://drive.google.com/a/challoners.org/file/d/0ByH41whuUvC_a096M015aGlLODg/preview

[IMAGE:f5b40622]
[IMAGE:63b77722]
[IMAGE:f4a372fd]

So, after hearing about the incredible opportunities we got to experience in the desert, plains and forest, I would like to give a huge thank you to all of the amazing staff who made such one-of-a-kind visits possible, including those who helped lead the trips as well as those behind the scenes people who are equally important. Thanks to a truly wonderful activities week!