Sarah Armstrong

I first completed my Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award in 2003 and loved it so much that we convinced our teacher to run the first ever Gold Duke of Ed program in our region.

I learnt pottery as a new skill, did my residential at a sport and recreation camp and volunteered with the local football club. But my favourite part by far was our expeditions. We went abseiling and canyoning through the Blue Mountains in NSW Australia. It is a beautiful part of the country and saw me and my three team mates work together to canyon through some amazing terrain.

We often completed hikes that included 6-8 abseils throughout the day and were 10 hour days. None of us has abseiled before starting the Duke Of Edinburgh award and we had to learn everything through both the Bronze and Gold Award. We owe a lot to our teacher who ran our program and learnt so much from him.

In our last expedition we had just finished our last abseil and were ready to start the hike back to the campsite. I was leading and there had been some recent rain that had eroded some of the track away. As I scouted to try and find which way to go I slipped on some loose leaves, when getting up I slipped again, which resulted in me holding on to two tussocks of grass hanging off the side of a 20m cliff. One of my fellow students heard my whistle which was our signal for help and ran towards me. I had my backpack on weighing me down, as I was crying one of my friends was consoling me while the other two were creating a rope connection to use to pull me back up.

They hooked the rope up to a a close by tree, threw the other end of the rope to me and I grabbed it with one hand as they pulled me back up and dragged me along the ground to safety.

This was by far one of the scariest experiences, but we knew our training and the skills we had learnt through the program would help us in this scenario.

We are all still great friends now and often reminisce about the great times we had doing the program.