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Teens take up challenge to climb Scotland's highest mountain

CONQUERORS: The sextet of inner-city teenagers were helped to the summit of Ben Nevis by Jamaican-born Dwayne Fields as part of the Ordnance Survey GetOutside scheme

IT WAS AN ambitious challenge: take six young Londoners from difficult backgrounds and different cultures – who had never met before – out of the inner-city and into the wild highlands of Scotland to scale Ben Nevis.

Along with hardly any experience of pitching tents in the outdoors, let alone time spent outside of London, each group member shared tough upbringings on their home estates – from fighting, family breakdowns, gangs, mental health issues and more.

Destiny Guerrero, 19, from Hackney, said: “The life experiences you go through, some of us grow up faster than you should. It is all down to the company you keep. “This day and age and in this generation, I just feel we need guidance and we don’t get that guidance and support that we should be getting.

VIOLENCE

“A lot more should be done. With all the violence and stuff, it is horrible. These days you have got 15-year-olds, 14-year-olds thinking that they’re gangsters, but they haven’t even lived their lives.”

For three years, Ordnance Survey has run its GetOutside campaign to encourage people to explore the British outdoors, no matter where they live or how small the adventure.

This year, the ‘Street 2 Peak’ challenge gave an opportunity to do something deeper and transformational.

The hope was to show the youths a different way of life to consider from what they have encountered so far.

The man Ordnance Survey chose to lead the adventure was Jamaican-born Hackney resident Dwayne Fields; the first black Briton to walk over 400 miles to reach the magnetic North Pole.

At various times during this five-day expedition, Dwayne played the role of leader, organiser, motivator, elder brother, father figure, and joker to the six novice mountaineers.

The group respected and obeyed him. No wonder, when you learn he himself survived a stabbing, and later, during an argument near his Hackney estate, a gun being fired at him twice from close range.

“I was in a place where I didn’t feel like I fitted in,” Dwayne says.

“I was in a place where I’d see friends shot, stabbed, imprisoned. Where a lot of the people around me were angry and anti-establishment.

“I picked up on a lot of that and I never felt happy or comfortable doing it, but I didn’t have a safe space or a place where I felt I could show the real version of me. “What I’ve done is I’ve given these guys a place where they can say, ‘Look, we’re all here for the same reason. We’re not against each other’.


ON TOP OF THE WORLD: Dwayne Fields is the first black Briton to walk over 400 miles to reach the magnetic North Pole

ACHIEVEMENT

“I decided to do this project, getting this group of people from an inner-city urban area and achieve the goal of climbing a mountain, because there is nothing better than giving you a sense of worth, a sense of achievement, to build your confidence than to go out and conquer something.”

Ordnance Survey arranged for the group to meet at Gilwell Park in Chingford, near Epping Forest, for two days camping to prepare for Ben Nevis.

Under sunny skies, each team member was taught to erect tents, basic orienteering, map-reading skills, and how to make fire. There was even a ‘bushtucker trial’ with crunchy mealworms to eat.

Mountain leader for the trip was OS GetOutside champion Jason Rawles.

His checking of Met Office forecasts said there was a two-hour window on the day, in between spells of wind and rain, for the group to arrive and depart the summit safely.

And despite numerous walkers descending the other way saying they had been turned back from the top due to safety, he pushed the group, up the steep Pony Track and along the zig-zag rocky paths.

As Jahrel said: “I’m not going to lie I’ve done a couple of things in my life where I’ve just quit. I’ve said no I can’t be bothered. But you see this. I’m not quitting. I have to get to the top.

“It is like a life achievement for me. You see the top of that mountain, to me, that’s like my whole career at the top so I’ve got to climb it.”

For Dwayne, it was a huge moment to see the gang make it up there together: “I feel proud. I feel blessed. For me the biggest highlight was seeing them at the end, engaging with complete strangers at the bar, telling them all about their adventures.”

You can see Dwayne Fields’ and the rest of the team’s adventure up Ben Nevis on BBC’s The One Show, today (Sept 24) at 7pm.

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