There are many kinds of expeditions at Aiglon, and the spirit of "Ex" is central to Aiglon’s philosophy – and an important part of what makes an education here unique.
You can find out more about our mountain setting and the specifics of skills learned on expedition elsewhere on our website, but here is an introduction to the three types of "Ex" our students enjoy.
While students at most schools are spending their weekend having a lie-in or catching up on homework, up to half of Aiglon’s students, of all ages, will be out on an expedition. These trips, scrupulously overseen by experienced and highly trained staff and experts, are both fun and challenging, and may involve the acquisition of new skills or trying out exciting activities: camping, orienteering, kayaking, rock climbing, and mountain biking. Once each term, students will undertake multi-day trips known as "Long Ex’s".
Expedition activities vary according to the seasons, from Switzerland’s celebrated Via Ferrata in summer, to ski-touring in winter. Recent and upcoming expeditions include: kayaking and camping at Lac Léman, road cycling on the circuit at Bex (with safety instruction from the police), and cross-country skiing and snowshoeing between mountain huts in the Dents du Midi.
Every student will be exposed to activities new to them, some of which they may find extremely challenging, or outside their comfort zone. Nonetheless, with encouragement and support, they all rise to those challenges. Students consistently describe “going on ex” as among the highlights of their time at Aiglon: from the sense of accomplishment at achieving more than they thought themselves capable, to the wonder of being in an environment very different from home and reliant on their own resources, to the friendships forged amid the lows and highs of a challenging trip.
Expedition is what makes Aiglon special – and it is part of what makes Aiglon students special.
"High Ex" is what Aiglonians call the most challenging form of expedition – that undertaken high in the mountains.
High Ex will usually involve technical skills, which will have been fully tutored in advance and will be carefully supervised when in the mountains. Aiglon employs a number of qualified specialist mountain guides. Rock climbing, ice climbing, glacier travel, and the use of gear such as crampons, ice axes, and carabiners are all standard on High Ex.
As a reward for their efforts, our students get to stand on mountain summits; and the confidence and self-knowledge acquired on High Ex stands them in good stead for the rest of their lives.
Daytrips to places of interest are popular weekend activities, but once a year each year group will also travel further afield for a multi-day trip – "Cultural Long Ex" (or CLE).
Students are encouraged to find inspiration in these cultural and historical encounters and workshops, and to go on to pursue their own creative projects. Junior students tend to go to locations in Switzerland, while senior students have recently visited Oslo, Prague, and Paris.
Head of Expeditions/Chemistry teacher
BSc (Hons) Chemistry, Bristol University
PGCE Bangor College
Teacher of Chemistry, Paul Wright, is also Head of Expeditions and loves making the most of life on the mountain, from skiing and skating to cycling and mountaineering. He is married to Mathematics teacher Tracey Wright – their daughter Sally is enjoying life at Clairmont and son Jack also joins in '14.
This is Mr Wright’s 14th year at Aiglon, which is “more like a way of life”, he says. “I enjoy the company of young people, the independence and the variety.” Running the Expeditions programme means his rucksack is “ever present. It is also great for carrying paperwork!”
Sports and Expeditions Assistant
Bsc (hons) Sport Management, University of Wales Institute, Cardiff
Rugby player and coach Mr Liam Broad says that Aiglon has presented him with a new challenge: learning to ski. Newly arrived from leading independent school, Clifton College, Mr Broad says that Aiglon is unique. “Seeing pupils develop over the course of the year, both academically and as an individual is one of the great pleasures of teaching – so doing that in a place with opportunities that are second to none is going to be very exciting.” As well as taking on the mantle of assistant houseparent at Chalet Bol D’Air, Mr Broad is looking forward to putting Aiglon’s rugby players through their paces.
Sport and Expeditions Assistant
BA (Hons) English literature, level 3 Personal Trainer
Sportswoman and keen baker Miss Leah Geldeard says that she is rarely out of her trainers and that as a result, Aiglon is the perfect school for her. “I fell in love with Aiglon on my first visit,” she says. “I am excited to work in such an amazing location and I am looking forward to getting to know all the students.”
Head of Junior Expeditions and PE teacher
BSc(Hons), Applied Sports and Exercise Science
PGCE & Postgraduate Diploma, Outdoor Education
When not on an Aiglon expedition, Mr Milner can often be found travelling and camping in his camper van, or riding his '61 vintage Lambretta scooter. He also loves mountain biking, road biking, ski touring and running “on some of the finest mountains, trails and cols that Europe has to offer”.
Mr Nicholas Mortley can often be found cycling around the mountain or climbing up it. “The challenges Aiglon is able to offer are unique due to its location and the expertise within the department,” he says. He delights in “introducing students to an environment about which I have great passion, while at the same time helping develop them for future life – whichever path they take".
Miss Tansell has been teaching in the outdoors for over 14 years and delivers a range of activities at Aiglon including climbing, walking, campcraft, navigation, ski touring, cross-country, snowshoeing, and watersports. She is responsible for Aiglon’s expeditions and everyday running, and also organises climbing and football clubs. “I am highly motivated and passionate about the outdoors,” she says. An active ski mountaineer, road biker and climber, she seizes every possible opportunity to enjoy these sports all over the world – and is very proud to be Welsh.
CAS Co-ordinator, PSHE Co-ordinator, PE teacher & Expeditioner (responsible for girls expeditions)
BEd Human movement and dance
Duke of Edinburgh International Award Expeditioner
Ms Thomas is a climber and mountaineer who before coming to Aiglon made many first ascents of mountains and was chief instructor at Plas y Brenin National Mountain Centre in Snowdonia. “I enjoy working with Aiglon students because they enjoy sharing their thoughts and opinions, and they truly value education beyond the classroom,” says Ms Thomas.
BSc(Hons) Outdoor Education with Environmental Education
“My passion is sharing my love of the outdoors and introducing young people to the greatest playgrounds in the world,” says expeditioner Mr Calum Wallace. For Mr Wallace however, it’s not just about fun. “Passing on the skills so that young people can go out and enjoy the outdoors independently is really rewarding,” he says. “Expedition is a very powerful tool to help students challenge themselves to develop into well-rounded people – in fact some of the most memorable experiences of my life have been out on expedition.”