Seven pupils from Coniston’s John Ruskin School had the experience of a lifetime in 1998, completing one of the most demanding long distance Alpine walks.

The Tour du Mont Blanc is a 200km circuit of the Mont Blanc Massif, reaching an altitude of more than 8,000 feet at its highest point and passing through France, Italy and Switzerland.

It is one of the most famous French Grande Randonnees and the trek is not for the faint-hearted.

The youngsters, some only 13 years old, completed the route in 11 days.

Before they embarked on the TMB Challenge, members of the expedition party had to undergo rigorous training.

Two trips to the Scottish Highlands involved navigation training, wild camping, fell walking and scrambling.

Carol McNeill, sports teacher at the school and expedition leader, said: “The kids coped really well with the altitude but some of the adults had difficulties. The heat was more of a problem really.

“Fellwalking in Scotland is very different to a long-distance trek in the Alps.”

She added: “They were every good at looking after themselves and each other.”

Many of the overnight stops en route were spent in mountain refuges and some villages and small towns were visited along the way.

The youngsters had the chance to practise their language skills in three different countries.

Pupil Patrick Isherwood, 13, said: “We were about the youngest people we saw. Everybody seemed quite surprised to see us doing the TMB at our age.”

Everybody on the trip had to raise £350 to pay for it. The school helped to arrange fund-raising events like car washing, cake stalls and sponsored walks, but the emphasis was on pupils using their own ideas to raise money.

Kathleen Green, 14, said: “I’m very glad I did it - it was a fantastic experience.”

The group had lots of support from local companies, the council, and individuals and part of the trip was to carry out environmental research for the John Muir Award.