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Saturday, 25 October 2014

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EXPLORING INDIA: Robert Benson, who will be travelling to Ladakh, India, with the British Schools Exploring Society to take part in scientific projects and climb the Himalayas

FOR many students, taking a gap year is the perfect opportunity to travel.

But not many venture too far off the tourist trail.

Robert Benson’s exploration of India promises to be the trip of a lifetime.

The 18-year-old Barrow Sixth Form student has been selected to go on a five-week expedition to the Himalayas starting on July 24.

The trip is run by the British Schools Exploring Society and Robert has been selected by the Army to be part of the team which will travel to Ladakh in Northern India.

Ladakh is situated in the Indian province of Jammu and Kashmir, regarded by travellers as the “real India”.

It is a cultural melting pot of Buddhist, Christian and Islamic religions and is also home to one of the major Indian mountain ranges in the Greater Himalayas.

For the past three years BSES Expeditions have been exploring this area and climbing many of the peaks, both climbed and unclimbed, in the main Thanglasgo Valley and side valleys.

The expedition will have a strong science programme.

Robert will be studying the effects of high altitude on human physiology among other projects.

He explains: “We’re hoping to do one of the 6,000 metre, unclimbed peaks.

“It’s pretty much unexplored territory and we’ll be doing scientific research into altitude sickness.

“We’ll be keeping a medical log of how altitude sickness affects the body. As a group we will be writing a scientific paper for one of the journals with our findings.”

Robert is hoping his active lifestyle will stand him in good stead ahead of the rigours he faces.

Training has included cycling from Walney to Whitby, covering a distance of 120 miles in two days, during which he raised sponsorship towards the £2,900 cost of the expedition.

But he anticipates a tough challenge ahead.

“We’re pretty limited as to what training we can do in this country,” he explains.

“It’s mainly getting my fitness as high as I can.

“But I’ve always been into the outdoors and from that point of view it’s going to be brilliant to climb one of the 6,000m peaks.”

The Barrow student is looking forward to journeying into this relatively unexplored area, with its populations of blue sheep, Himalayan deer, marmots, eagles and the elusive snow leopard.”

“We will be working as a team, in a potentially dangerous environment, which links in with what I will be doing in the army,” adds Robert, who will begin basic training with the elite Parachute Regiment in October.

The Army is sponsoring his placement and Furness Lions have provided £500 towards the £1,400 Robert has to pay himself.

President of Furness Lions, Terry Yates, says: “You hear so much negative publicity about youngsters, it’s really refreshing when you meet people like Robert.”

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