A group of air cadets found themselves nearly on top of the world after climbing one of the toughest summits.
The youngsters and staff from 2344 (Longbenton) Squadron climbed Pic du Canigou, in the Pyrenees in southern France, in nine-and-a-half hours.
The expedition, partly supported by The Ulysses Trust and the Cadet Forces Trust, gave the youngsters the chance to enjoy French culture, mountain etiquette, and gain life skills.
Cadet George Ferguson, 15, of Forest Hall, said: “It was the best time of my life. The gorge walking was great fun and taught us to be responsible and safe when out in the mountains.
“Visiting the towns was good fun as we got to explore Catalonian culture before heading to a mountain hut at the base of the Canigou.”
Nathan Horner, 16, from Longbenton, added: “It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Climbing the Canigou was incredible. I never thought I’d have the chance to do something like that. I enjoyed every second of it.”
“It was tough but I learnt that if I persevere and work hard then I can achieve.”
International Mountain leader, Flight Lieutenant Will Close-Ash said: “I was very, very impressed with the group.
“Their attitude, work ethic and humour were unquestionable and they were one of the best groups I’ve ever worked with – they’re certainly the quickest cadet group I’ve led in the Pyrenees.”
After their Canigou climb, the team then went on the next day to climb another mountain – Rock Colom which stands at 2500m high.
During this expedition the team took a route to the Spanish border and followed the footsteps of many downed airman from World War Two who fled into the Pyrenees to make good their escape into neutral Spain.
Cadet Thomas Bell, 15, of Killingworth said: “The overall experience was something else. We learnt so much about history, the outdoors, mountaineering and how to be self-sufficient.
“It was a great confidence boost. We even cooked and cleaned for ourselves.”
Officer Commanding, Flight Lieutenant Gary Richardson said: “I thoroughly enjoyed seeing first-hand the progress the young people made and how much they gained from the experience at such a young age.
“The skills and knowledge learnt will provide unique qualities that can be taken forward and I am tremendously proud of the team, their characteristics and achievements.
“However, on behalf of us all, I must sincerely thank the generosity of the Ulysees Trust and Cadet Forces Trust for their support in making this expedition happen.”
For more information on the squadron visit www.2344.org.uk