Virtual crowd to climb mountain

18:58, Nov 21 2011
JOURNEY: Preparing for their climb to Mueller Hut are, from left, Learnz project director Pete Sommerville, Mt Cook pupils Cian O'Connell, 13, and Edmund Sherpa, 6, Learnz field trip teacher Shelley Hersey and Mt Cook school principal Bu Windsor.

Pete Sommerville and Shelley Hersey are climbing to Mueller Hut today and taking 3000 children with them - virtually.

They are all following in the footsteps of Sir Edmund Hillary who did much of his training for the first ascent of Mt Everest, in the same area.

Mr Sommerville is project director and Ms Hersey field trip teacher for the Learnz virtual field trip programme, and weather permitting they will climb to Mueller Hut in the Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park with two village children, Cian O'Connell, 13, and Edmund Sherpa, 6.

Making the trip will be Mt Cook School principal Bu Windsor, Department of Conservation ranger Ray Bellringer and musician Martin Curtis.

Also going to Mueller Hut and Mt Ollivier with them  virtually  will be 3000 pupils from 100 schools around New Zealand. The Learnz programme runs virtual interactive field trips for pupils throughout the country, with the Mt Cook field trip being the organisation's 16th this year.

This particular field trip was being done in association with Sport and Recreation New Zealand (Sparc), with the aim of encouraging New Zealand children to get active and to inspire them to get out into the great outdoors, Ms Hersey said.

Cian was chosen to make the trip as one of the older children at the school, while the decision to include Edmund was made for several reasons. Not only did his Sherpa parents name their son after the mountaineer, but the young boy is very used to being in the outdoors with his father, who is a guide.

As with any serious outdoor adventure, the trip to Mueller Hut and Mt Ollivier has required planning and preparation.

For the past two months the two Mt Cook youngsters have been sharing their training for the trip on line with the 100 other schools taking part in the adventure. Packs, sleeping bags and clothing were laid out at school yesterday as the group prepared for today's trip.

What makes the Mt Cook adventure unique for the Learnz team is they are actually taking pupils with them on the field trip.

Like all outdoor adventures, today's is very much weather-dependent.

But if the Mueller trip should have to be cancelled, Ms Windsor has no doubt they will find some other outdoor adventure to share with those in the classrooms around the country. As she points out  they are in a national park, after all.


The Timaru Herald