A Next Generation Adventure

Words: Emily Ackner
Photography: Jack Atkinson

Emily Ackner manages the Never Stop London community and has been working with The North Face and Outward Bound Trust to bring the Next Generation project to life on the ground in the UK. She travelled up to Snowdonia, Wales to check out the adventure week first hand and share the experience.

It was a misty morning on the Barmouth Slabs of south Snowdonia. The usual sea views were absent (they provided an epic backdrop to the gritstone slabs on clearer days) but this didn’t deter the ladies who laced up their rock shoes in between mouthfuls of snacks and chatter.

We had joined the Outward Bound Trust one week Serious Adventure course in Aberdovey, Wales where twenty-four young women between thirteen and eighteen were signed up from all over the UK to enjoy a week of mountain and sea-based adventure. From rock climbing to gorge walking, overnight camping and canoeing, comfort zones were to be tested and the wild landscapes of Wales enjoyed.

This year The North Face has celebrated and elevated inspirational women all over the world with its first female-dedicated campaign, Move Mountains. A multidimensional approach gave visibility to not only a phenomenal team of female athletes, but women with equally inspiring stories on a wider scale. The primary goal of the campaign was to give visibility to these women who work and play outdoors, because if we see more female explorers, there’ll be more female explorers. Search the hashtag #Shemovesmountains and the 20K+ Instagram posts indicate the traction of this message, a shared appreciation for exploration and adventure, irrespective of gender.

One of the key focuses of the campaign was ensuring the Move Mountains message found its way through to younger generations of women. The North Face recognises its responsibility in this process and has taken action to launch the Next Gen project, part funding places for over one thousand young women on outdoor adventure courses with Outward Bound Trust, fifty percent funding the Serious Adventure Week in Aberdovey and fully sponsoring an adventure weekend in The Lake District for one hundred and twenty pupils at east London’s Sarah Bonnell School.

Choosing Outward Bound Trust for the partnership was an important decision. Founded in Aberdovey in 1941 offering survival training for young merchant seaman, the first Outward Bound course for females also took place a decade later in 1951. Aligning with The North Face’s core ethos of exploration, their values also encourage a focus on self-development and human interdependence. This all plays out in a wild setting as the importance of the natural world is emphasised and celebrated.

“All of our courses inspire and motivate young people and take place in the natural environment, away from distractions or modern amenities. Participants learn a deep appreciation of the balance between risk, reward and responsibility and leave our courses with transferable, essential life skills.”

The takeaways from time spent on these OBT courses are many but always beautifully reflect some of the most important lessons in life, the hardest moments providing the ripest rewards. Seventeen-year-old Libby was on the Serious Adventure week in August and despite finding the overnight expedition particularly challenging, triumphantly came back smiling...

“Working as a team and everyone sticking to a role and having high morale can help you get through a tough situation. Eg our expedition! Even if you don’t know people very well you can help each other in situations you might not like. I feel like on this course I realised with help from others that I can push myself to do great things!”

From mountains to city and back again, in mid-October, one hundred and twenty students from Sarah Bonnell School in east London will make a unique journey up north to experience true exploration in the Lake District. The adventure course has been tailored to the school by Outward Bound Trust and is fully sponsored by The North Face, embodying all the Move Mountains campaign set out to achieve. For many of the women this will be their first time out of London and into the wild. Alongside course instructors, members of the Never Stop London community will be accompanying the groups to support and mentor the ladies. We’ll be documenting the trip and can’t wait to bring you tales from The Lakes next month...