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Kinsale Scouts take an Arctic challenge 

JJ Hurley

Kinsale scouts are celebrating the recent success of two of their scouts in completing the 2024 Crean Challenge. 

The Icelandic expedition is an annual event based on the experiences of Irish explorer Tom Crean. It is for scouts aged from 13-15 years and takes place over an eight-month period, culminating in a week-long expedition to Iceland.

The pair, Orna Gibson and Oisín O’Connor, were the first scouts from the group to have been selected to participate in the 32 person national expedition team. 

The scouts were based in Úlfljótsvatn Scout and Outdoor Centre, in the south of the island. From there, four patrols of eight scouts navigated for two days across a difficult frozen landscape, staying in isolated mountain huts. 

The daunting physical and psychological challenge was the culmination of eight months of training, which included  four 16km day-long hikes in the Munster mountains and four weekends in the mountains, in which they learned how to cross rivers, plan routes and organise expeditions, navigate during day and night, use Primus stoves and how to use ice axes and crampons. 

The training also had an emphasis on personal development and cultural appreciation. The scouts were required to complete community work and projects on Icelandic culture before their departure. Whilst in Iceland, the Irish scouts taught céilí dancing to their Icelandic peers; ate local delicacies such as sheep’s brain and putrified shark and reinacted scenes from Tom Crean’s adventures such as building sleds from ropes and shelters from boats and tarps. 

For the scouts, it was an unforgettable experience. Addressing her fellow scouts, at a recent celebration, Orna said that ‘Taking part in the Crean Challenge was a life changing experience, it taught me independence and leadership skills that I will carry with me’, while Oisín said that ‘camping  on the snow under the northern lights and hiking across a glacier with new friends was the most amazing event that  I have had the joy of experiencing’.

Congratulating them, scout leader, Pádraig Moloney, said that ‘It was a fantastic opportunity for our scouts  to embark on an Arctic expedition, replicating some of the frozen challenges faced by the Antarctic explorers, including Tom Crean, 124 years ago. We hope that more will follow them in the future’.

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