In July 2014 Robert Molnar led his 20th expedition with World Challenge after first joining as an Expedition Leader in 2006. With a background in orienteering – competing on an international level – Robert specialises in high altitude expeditions around the world, particularly in the Himalayas and East Africa.
With a degree in Physical Education and a Master's in Sports Science, Robert is well aware of the importance of fitness when it comes to tackling a challenging expedition. He says: "Fitness is absolutely essential; you take so much away from the experience if you are not physically capable. Even just being at altitude, if you are struggling physically this will have a big impact on your health and wellbeing. These expeditions are already putting students well outside their comfort zone, and so if they are not physically prepared, there will be no resources left to help them recover from any setbacks or challenges faced on the trip.
"However, at the same time, being extremely fit can also be a disadvantage on expedition. It is not an individual pursuit, you need to pull together as a team and I have often seen strong athletes struggle mentally because they get frustrated with having to slow their pace to match the rest of the group. At altitude, whatever age group you are working with, you also find that very strong athletes also struggle more with altitude sickness as they push themselves too far and too fast, not noticing the warning signs of altitude sickness.
"The best preparation any student can do to be physically ready for a World Challenge expedition is to get a backpack on and go walking. If you are training for a marathon you should run, if you are training for an expedition you should walk! The schools I work with are very good at setting up practice walks in the UK before we go and these are vital, not only to prepare physically but also to build up that group dynamic, so that when we face the physical challenges on expedition the trust and relationship is there to pull together to succeed.
"If a student on expedition wakes up one morning and their first thought is for someone else, or their team as a whole and not themselves, that is when I think they have succeeded. These experiences force us to think beyond ourselves. Being part of a team you can feed off the energy of those around you and for these young Challengers it can really push them to achieve what they didn't think was possible."