Magazine article Geographical

Himalayan Heights: Climbing at Altitudes in Excess of 5,000 Metres, Surveying Plant and Animal Distributions and Mapping Previously Unnamed Peaks Are All Part of the Experience on a Month-Long British Schools Exploring Society Expedition. Last Year's Young Geographer of the Year Winner, Niall Mcloughlin, Recounts the Highlights of His Prize

Magazine article Geographical

Himalayan Heights: Climbing at Altitudes in Excess of 5,000 Metres, Surveying Plant and Animal Distributions and Mapping Previously Unnamed Peaks Are All Part of the Experience on a Month-Long British Schools Exploring Society Expedition. Last Year's Young Geographer of the Year Winner, Niall Mcloughlin, Recounts the Highlights of His Prize

Article excerpt

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'THE MOST MEMORABLE moment of the trip was probably when we climbed a 5,800-metre peak above the Lasirmou La (pass),' says last year's winner of the Young Geographer of the Year competition. 'The views were amazing: we could look into China, India and Pakistan--just so far. I felt a huge sense of relief at having reached the top, and also a great sense of achievement. I do a lot of hill walking in the Lake District, but when you're climbing at this altitude, you really feel like you've earned it when you reach the top.'

When A-level student Niall Mcloughlin, from Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Penrith, submitted his entry for the 2008 competition, which challenged contestants to 'Explore Your World', he hadn't told a soul about it and really hadn't expected to win. Once his research project was posted off, he forgot all about it until he received a phone call several months later while he was immersed in his school books, revising for an impending geography A-level exam.

'I got a phone call the day before my geography exam, and after that I couldn't really concentrate--I was really worried that I was going to fail, which would have been a bit ironic,' he says with a nervous laugh (he's still awaiting his results). 'I was really shocked and surprised--I really didn't expect to win. It was a bit surreal, but I was so happy.'

Niall's project, entitled 'Do microclimatic wind systems exist in Cumbria, and why?', investigated whether the landscape of the Lake District National Park and the Eden Valley influenced the pattern of localised winds and, if so, how? He looked at three main areas: valley winds in Borrowdale, lake winds at Derwentwater and helm winds (a localised, seasonal wind from the northeast) on Cross Fell. The judges were impressed with the care and attention to detail that had gone into the project and, as a keen walker, Niall's knowledge and appreciation of the area was clearly evident, as was his methodical approach to the investigation.

'My project looked at the way small-scale wind systems are affected by the topography--lakes, valleys, mountains--of the Lake District,' he says. 'It really got me to explore the world around me where I live using all the principles of project work we had covered in school.'

LAND OF HIGH PASSES

But that wasn't where the fieldwork ended. In July last year, he joined 37 other young people (between the ages of 16 and 20) from across Britain and 13 leaders on a month-long research expedition with the British Schools Exploring Society (BSES) to the Ladahk region in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, which is sandwiched between the Kunlun Shan mountain range in the north and the Great Himalaya to the south. …

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