Harrogate student's lessons in the Arctic with bears

Harrogate's Arran Laird in the Arctic in Norway.
Harrogate's Arran Laird in the Arctic in Norway.

An ex-Harrogate Grammar School student is learning to survive in one of the harshest environments on the planet.

Arran Laird, 22, a former pupil at Oatlands and Harrogate Grammar School, is currently learning the art of safe glacial travel, arctic trekking and bear safety in Svalbard.

Harrogate's Arran Laird.

Harrogate's Arran Laird.

Located between mainland Norway and the North Pole, this Norwegian archipelago is one of the world’s northernmost inhabited areas - perfect for anyone hoping to learn Arctic skills.

Arran said: "I want to really enjoy each day and follow my passion for the outdoors. With trips like this, you find you really came to value your friends and the experiences you gain."

How Arran came to end up studying for a year in a land of frozen tundra so close to the Pole the Northern Lights are visible during winter is a story in itself.

Arran said: "The outdoors was a big part of my family life. I regularly hill walk, kayak and mountaineer in summer and winter. I was also a member of the Dales Canoe Club.

"I saw the opportunity to come to Svalbard when I was studying Outdoor Leadership at the University of Cumbria.

"Thankfully, I managed to get some sponsorship to come to come to the Arctic University of Trosmo and do the Arctic Nature Guide Course."

With an intake of only 24 students annually, Arran is in a rare position.

And he is enjoying some rare experiences, too, wading through ice cold glacier melt water, learning to shoot with a Ruger M77 rifle and building trip wire systems with flares to warn of the approach of any bears.

After successfully tackling a nine-day glacier trip to Nordenshiolbreen sharing three to a tent, a career in the great outdoors is a distinct possibility for this former Harrogate student.

Arran said: "I want to improve my British qualifications, too. I've already worked as a freelance instructor.

"You learn a lot when you haven't washed for eight days and you're camping in tents of three.

"But I believe that you don't try something unless you are excited about it and have a deep enough passion to do it."