Youth at the Top works.
Should I explain myself better? Well, it is an authentic experience in the mountains and in nature that allows young people to understand and ultimately respect the natural environment that surrounds them.
In the Parc Naturel Régional de la Chartreuse, Sébastien was a sensitive guide that helped the young participants appreciate the treasures of French Alps. He wisely chose an itinerary that allowed us to discover different ecosystems, edible plants, sources of water and to appreciate the view from the top of the Grand Som.
The first day of excursion was dedicated to experiencing the ‘magic’ of the nature. Once reaching the location for the bivouac -the Granges de bovinant, an ancient pasture now being reconquered by the trees- we got rid of our heavy backpacks and roamed in the forest. First, we were introduced to some edible plants, like the Phyteuma spicatum, whose root tastes a bit like hazelnut. Then, we were blindfolded and barefoot to feel nature only with four senses. Under our feet we could feel the nature changing, from the dry harshness of the roots and the pines needles to some soft and humid grass.
With our eyes wide opened, we entered the forest again where we meet an extravagant mountain inhabitant. Julie, an experienced actress, reminded us that in the past mountains were savage and scary. Dressed in animal fur (don’t worry, it was fake) and covered in mud, she told mountain myths about ancient Greek mythology in such a natural manner that the Alps become the perfect environment where Artemis or Zeus could transform themselves in animals. She told these stories to the rhythm of the sound of rock clashing against each other and an ancient instrument, of which we cannot even recall the name.
At night we slept on the ground, protected only by the trees and our sleeping bags. At 4am, we woke up to the grunt of a doe, who ran around the camp and returned to the forest.
After a fulfilling breakfast, we refilled our bottles at a spring and got ready to reach the top. From the Granges de bovinant -1000m- to the summit of Grand Som -2026m with some stops along the way to drink water or to observe our surroundings with binoculars.
When we conquered the top, we ate a well-deserved lunch while enjoying the view. On the one side “La Grande Chartreuse” -the monastery of the Carthusian Order- on the other, the lake of Burget and Saint-Pierre-d’Entremont. All around us was mountains and forests.
On the way back the kids were looking for edible flowers. When they found a spot with a considerable number of Phyteuma they stopped, they wanted to collect one, but they reminded themselves that we did have food and we were not in an emergency, so we shouldn’t take from the nature. This is the moment in which I realised that Youth at the Top it’s a great way to make young people aware of their surrounding and of the necessity of nature conservation.