About the Northumbrian Mountaineering Club (NMC) The NMC is a meeting point for climbers, fell walkers and mountaineers of all abilities. Our activities centre on rock-climbing in the summer and snow and ice climbing in the winter. Meets are held regularly throughout the year. The NMC is not, however a commercial organization and does NOT provide instructional courses.
NMC Meets The NMC Members’ handbook (available to all members) and the NMC website list the dates and locations of all meets. This magazine lists the meets arranged for the next few months.
BMC Public Liability Insurance for climbing incidents. Discounted NMC guide books. Discounted entry at certain indoor climbing walls and shops. Access to the extensive NMC library.
Join the NMC Download a Membership form from: www.thenmc.org.uk Send the signed and completed membership form with a cheque made out to the NMC for the membership fee (see below) to the Membership Secretary at the address shown on the membership form. Membership Fees •Full £25 •Prospective £15.00
Magazine articles This is YOUR magazine so please keep it running by writing about your own climbing experiences. Even beginners have something to write about. Send Contributions to:
Non-members: Are always welcome to attend meets. Note: Winter indoor meets require a minimum of prospective membership (see below) due to venue requirements for third party insurance.
Membership Details Members are Prospective until they fulfill the conditions for Full Membership (see membership form.) Full membership is valid for one year from the end of February. Prospective membership expires at the end of March each year. Membership gets you: • Copy of the quarterly magazine. NMC County Climber
Committee 2012/2013 President – John Dalrymple Vice Pres. – Richard Pow Secretary – Sam Judson Treasurer – Eva Diran Mem’ship – Gareth Crapper Hut Co-ord. – Neil Cranston Hut Bookings – Derek Cutts Magazine Ed. – Peter Flegg Social – Sarah Follmann Librarian – Eva Diran Web – Ian Birtwistle General: John Mountain, Andrew Shanks, Ian Ross, Adrian Wilson & Neil Moreby.
As an affiliate to the BMC, the NMC endorses the following participation statement: The BMC recognises that climbing, hill walking and mountaineering are activities with a danger of personal injury or death. Participants in these activities should be aware of and accept these risks and be responsible for their own actions and involvement.
Black & White Photos? If you received this magazine as a paper copy, then you are missing part of the picture as the download version of the magazine is in colour. To arrange for email notification that the latest issue of the magazine is ready for you to download, contact the membership secretary at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos Unless otherwise stated all photos in this issue were taken by the author of the article.
Copyright The contents of this magazine are copyright and may not be reproduced without permission of the NMC. The views expressed in the magazine are not necessarily those of the editor or the NMC.
Cover Shot Richard Pow, NMC Vice President, on Henninger (II, 4), Cogne, Italy
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What’s in this issue? Wednesday evenings meets .......................... 3 Weekend Meets 2012 ................................... 3 Hard Yards.................................................... 4 Club News .................................................... 6 1) Bowderstone Hut Update ......................... 6 2) New Discounts for NMC Members ......... 7 3) Letter to the President: ............................. 7 4) AGM notes ............................................... 8 5) Wednesday night pub locations................ 8 The Doctor, the Woodman and the Hill of the Goats ................... 9 Sunshine, snowshoes & skinny-dipping..... 13 In Search of Winter Ice............................... 14 Peak Limestone .......................................... 17 Obituary: Les Rimmer .............................. 21 Neil’s Antipodean Adventure..................... 22
20 June 12
Callerhues – Cheviot, Bellingham
27 June 12
Kyloe In – Percy Arms, Chatton
04 July 12
Ravensheugh – Turk’s Head, Rothbury
11 July 12
Wanneys – The Gun, Risdale
18 July 12
Crag Lough – Twice Brewed
Weekend Meets 2012 You MUST contact the meet leader in advance, as any accommodation may be limited or already fully booked. Note: A deposit may be required to reserve your place on a weekend trip. 14 Apr
Northumberland – The rarely visited crags: Padda and the Tipalt John Dalrymple – 07591242-339
The table below shows the meet locations beginning 28th March.
CIC hut, Ben Nevis - Eva Diran – 07824-627-772
No need to call anyone—just turn up with all your own equipment. The NMC website has crag location details (www.thenmc.org.uk), also check the website forum for indoor wall alternatives if the weather is not good. Meet afterwards at the pub shown in italics.
May BH Llanberis – Neil Moreby 07734 842 582
Wednesday evenings meets
12-13 May Eskdale, camping – Bryn Roberts 07921 436 955
26-27 May Bowderstone, New Members John Dalrymple – 07591-242-339
23-24 June Highlands Rock Richard Pow 07831 216 024
28 Mar 12
Shaftoe – Dyke Neuk Rothley – Dyke Neuk
30 Jun - 1 Jul
Bowderstone, Family Meet –
04 Apr 12 11 Apr 12
Curtis – The Gun, Risdale
Annual Dinner John Dalrymple
18 Apr 12
East Woodburn/Wolf – The Gun, Risdale
25 Apr 12
Jack Rock – Northumberland Arms
02 May 12
Peel – Twice Brewed
09 May 12
Simonside – Turk’s Head, Rothbury
Hut fees were increased in early 2011, to cover operating losses.
16 May 12
Wanneys – The Gun, Risdale
The new hut fees are:
23 May 12
Bowden Doors – Percy Arms, Chatton
30 May 12
Crag Lough – Twice Brewed
06 June 12
Kyloe Out – Percy Arms, Chatton
13 June 12
Neil Cranston 0191 270 2648 – 07591-242-339
Hut Overnight Fee increase
£5 for members £7 for non-members. These increases are effective immediately.
Sandy Crag – Bird in the Bush, Elsdon
NMC County Climber
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Hard Yards An ascent of Portcullis Ridge (IV, 4) Jim Rigg
I first heard the expression ‘hard yards’ when listening to the great Springbok captain, Francois Pienaar, commenting on some of the unglamorous, physical activities one observes in the game of rugby union football when a team methodically grinds down the opposition with a view to setting up a scoring opportunity. It occurred to me at once that the same expression could be used to describe many aspects of winter climbing in the British Isles. The last three winters have seen good climbing conditions prevail in the Lake District. Not so this season!
Getting going was a slow process. Porridge (‘slow-burn carbs’) for breakfast was followed by a lengthy process of deicing the car and gate lock before we could make a move. Move we did - eventually. All too soon I was slip-streaming in Will's wake under a cold, cerulean sky. Deepdale was superb. The ground was frozen hard and, once through the drumlins, the snow pristine. We veered from the main track to approach Sleet Cove and eventually reached Black Buttress to find our route for the day. ‘A mountaineering route with the crux in the lower sections of the buttress.’
The chimney start was easily located. Crag Lough-like, it appeared to be overhanging in places and conditions looked doubtful. An awkward start led to a runner ‘secured’ around a dodgy chockstone festooned with unstable rubble. An upward struggle ensued, which eventually saw the Will climbing towards top of pitch 2 With such acquisition of two thoughts good placements that facilitated a hefty buzzing round my head, Will Tapsfield pull onto a resting place. (I’m definitely and I left home on Thursday evening to getting too old for this game!) Excavation spend the night in Beetham Cottage. (My revealed protection before the next bulge first visit to this delightful hut since 1979!) was negotiated. Technical grovelling, ‘Hopefully there’ll be a few folk in the hut heaving and scarting allowed access to the so that it will be warm and welcoming on belay. Hard going for the grade! arrival.’ Thus it came to pass that a convivial time spent in front of a roasting The only obvious detail of the next fire saw us later into bed than first pitch was a clean crack a few metres above anticipated. ‘I have to be back by six on the belay. Delicate moves using the Friday.’ I’m sure that remark rattling round occasional good placement allowed good my mind saw me checking the time on protection to be placed. From this position, several occasions during a restless night. route-finding became more of an issue as the unpredictable ground leading to the ‘difficult but well-protected near the top’ NMC County Climber
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was negotiated. The top section was exactly as described ‘on the tin’ and when tackling this section I was thankful for the furtive dry tooling practice undertaken at a local bridge. The next pitch was less difficult. That said, unconsolidated snow, loose rock and turf placements of doubtful integrity required total concentration and a section that resembled a tottering dry stone wall plastered with snow certainly got my attention. Fortunately (or regrettably depending on one’s attitude) that saw an end to the difficulties and we were soon located at the top of the climb ‘fuelling up’ for the descent. Plans for a yomp over Fairfield were abandoned (‘I’ve got to be back by six’.) in favour of a swift(ish) return via the line of approach. Conversation focused on the grading of winter climbs, the remote, mountainous feel of this particular part of the Lakes and the quality of the experience. I presented my apology for not anticipating the difficulty poor conditions would present. But, that’s the way it is.
NMC Annual Dinner The dinner this year takes place on: Saturday 7th July At the same location as last year: Riverdale Hall Hotel, Bellingham, Hexham
Membership Expired Your membership for last year expired on 31 January 2012. If you have not yet renewed your membership then you have become a lapsed member. Note: A lapsed member no longer has voting rights and is not covered by the club’s Third Party Insurance with the BMC.
How to Renew your Membership: You can renew your membership by getting your renewal fee (£25) to the membership secretary (see below), either by cash if handing over the money in person or by cheque if sending in the mail. Unfortunately we are unable to accept payment by Direct Debit. Confirm your details: When contacting the membership secretary, please also confirm your postal and email address, your home and mobile numbers and whether you want to take the magazine by electronic download from the club’s website.
A 2 or 3 course meal is available (£17.90, £21.40), and a choice of accommodation including exclusive NMC use of the Desmesne Farm Bunkhouse (£16 pp)
Gareth Crapper NMC Membership Secretary 6 Abbeywood, Firtree County Durham DL15 8JQ
Book your place at the dinner and in the bunkhouse (first come, first served) by contacting John Dalrymple:
email@example.com 07768 464 396
NMC County Climber
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1) Bowderstone Hut Update Report #23,273
Well, it’s only a couple of months since the last update, but rather a lot has happened since then. In brief, we now have all necessary permissions to commence work on updating the sewage system and we are currently looking at assigning a contractor to do the work for us. Regarding the lease, we have advised the National Trust (NT) that we do not want to renew on the same terms as the current lease. They are looking to see if that is possible. For more flesh on the above bones, read on! Sewage System The AGM in January was advised that we were ready to start the groundwork. There were questions from the floor regarding the wisdom of doing the work ourselves, given the tightening of Health and Safety regulations which apply to construction work, and the need for insurance to provide cover for our volunteers. Having looked at both of these issues, the Committee has come to the conclusion that the best way forward is to hire a contractor to do the work. We have obtained three quotes for the work, which range from £6,000 to £10,000. As we were ruminating on these matters, an experienced Project Manager (a Chartered Surveyor), a friend of John Dalrymple, kindly offered to oversee the job at no cost to the Club. He is currently evaluating the quotes from the contractors and will decide on whom to give the work to. Some of you may be taken aback by the above quotes. May I just remind you of the context: •
We HAVE to upgrade the sewage system whether we renew the lease or not
NMC County Climber
our permit from the Environment Agency requires us to do this by 1/7/12 Neil Cranston estimates that it would cost >£5,000 to do the job ourselves The Club can afford £10,000. It can’t afford >£55,000 which is what the NT ‘solution’ would have cost.
Hopefully, my next report will be to say that the work is scheduled, if not completed. Please note that if you want to visit the hut between now and July, you should contact Derek Cutts (Tel. 0191 268 8625), to confirm that the hut is not closed for repairs. Bear in mind that if you do turn up on spec, the hut may be ‘closed’ whilst this work is taking place! Lease Just to recap a couple of points • •
the current lease expires in March 2013 we are stuck with the sewage update work because our current lease requires us to do it. The lease is a standard business lease, which places full responsibility on us for all repairs AND any new work needed to comply with changed regulations.
We were already thinking of insisting that any future lease should not be a ‘full repairing’ lease. The decision to employ a contractor to sort out the sewage job has firmed up this view. Having talked to the BMC about insurance matters, and having avidly browsed the HSE Construction Design Management requirements, we’ve come to the conclusion that any major works for the future will probably also need a Contractor to do the work. A(nother) new contact has emerged at the NT. Bill Renshaw and myself met this gent in late February at the hut and discussed the lease. We made it clear that under no circumstances would the Club be March 2012
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taking on a new lease that could leave the Club in the same position, ie an unlimited liability for funding whatever might arise in the next 21 years. We also pointed out that our existing Trustees were stepping down at the end of the current lease and it was unlikely that any replacements would step forward whilst their personal financial position was at risk. Our NT man listened to this carefully, and has returned to base to discuss our position with the NT’s legal team, to see what, if anything, could be changed in a new lease.
YOU WILL APPRECIATE THAT IF THE NT CAN’T MOVE ITS POSITION, THEN IT IS LIKELY THAT WE WILL LOSE THE HUT IN A YEAR’S TIME.
Bill and I will try to complete negotiations by October, and then get the Committee to agree a resolution to be put to an EGM before Christmas. As ever, members are welcome to get in touch with me if they would like to discuss any aspect of the above.
3) Letter to the President: Dear President, The rain is lashing down outside, giving me not only a chance to read through County Climber, but also a chance I have been seeking for months, to tell you how much I enjoy reading your magazine. I hope you will pass on my thanks and congratulations to the editor Peter Flegg, whose hard work and skill I do appreciate (I am one of those awkward ones who pleaded to receive the magazine through the post rather than by email - even though I miss the colour pictures.) The pictures, incidentally, are really splendid. You now are enjoying a great variety of climbing in Northumbria as well as many forays abroad. The Wanneys and Crag Lough were the main playgrounds back in 1945 - just as the war was ending - when some of us got together and founded the Club. Unfortunately, a skiing accident many years ago stopped me from climbing or skiing again, but nevertheless I still manage a little walking and swimming. I note that the AGM is 18th January. This will be a few days before my 90th birthday. I am afraid I will be not be able to attend the AGM. Very best wishes to you and the Club. Peggie Robinson
2) New Discounts for NMC Members PLEASE look carefully at your copy of the new (2012-13) Annual Members’ Handbook. (Obviously if you have yet to renew your membership then you won’t have a copy of the Handbook to look at.)
Happy 90th birthday to NMC founder member
There have been some new shops and businesses including on-line stores which now offer discounts to NMC members added to the list of discounts.
NMC County Climber
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5) Wednesday night pub locations
4) AGM notes President, John Dalrymple
John Earl, Malcolm Rowe and Peter Bennett, three long-serving committee members, retired at the AGM in January this year. They have been on the committee all the years that I have been involved in the club at committee level and have all done immense amounts of work on the members’ behalf. In particular I believe John Earl must be the club’s longest ever serving committee man, he has been a club member for over half the time the club has been in existence, from way back in 1974. They will certainly be three hard pairs of boots to fill. Also thanked were all the officers who have served last year and did such a great job. In particular I must single out last year’s Vice President John Mountain for his Herculean efforts over the last two years digging the club out of our well publicised sewage problem. Also thanks were those who have led meets in the last year. Meets are at the heart of a club, so I'd like to remind people that anyone can lead a meet. If you've got an idea please step up to the plate.
NMC Library news: The committee has decided that the guidebook library needs to be updated. Members can claim back the cost of the purchase price of a new guide for a climbing area if the club does not already have the copy – the book will be added to the library after your trip. You should ALWAYS first check with Librarian Eva Diran whether you can claim the back the cost of the book. Eva Diran: 07824 627 772, firstname.lastname@example.org
NMC County Climber
After Wednesday evening climbing we meet for a drink and a chat at the pub listed on page 3 of this magazine (and also listed in the Members’ Handbook.) This list of pubs and locations is here to assist new members to locate the pubs we use during the summer: Dyke Neuk, 3miles east of Scot's Gap on the B6343 to Morpeth. Angler's Arms, Weldon Bridge, 2miles south of Longframlington on A697. Northumberland Arms, Felton village. Twice Brewed Inn, 1mile south from Steel Rigg car park. Bird in the Bush, Elsdon village. Turk's Head, Rothbury, High Street, just along from The Coop. The Gun, Risdale, on the A68, 2miles south of West Woodburn. Turn left on the A68 from the Wanneys road. Percy Arms, Chatton, 3mile south west of Bowden Doors, continue west from the crag and turn left at the cross-roads. Cheviot, Bellingham, hotel on main street opposite the shops.
Magazine Deadline The next issue of this magazine is due in late-June 2012. Articles for inclusion need to be with me before the end of the first week of June. Send photo files and text separately. Send text only in DOC, RTF or TXT format. Send to: email@example.com
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The Doctor, the Woodman and the Hill of the Goats Map, compass and altimeter, and, between us, around 90 years of mountain experience John Spencer With apologies to GJF Dutton and his stories about 'The Doctor' and his hapless companions stumbling their way through the Scottish hills, immortalised in the SMC Journal and the book The Ridiculous Mountains.
The Doctor arrived an hour or so earlier than scheduled. I sat him down in the kitchen with a mug of tea and the guidebooks, and carried on tying up loose ends. Busy lives meant this trip was just an overnighter, the target being Beinn a’Ghlo, the triple Munro complex above Blair Athol, described in the SMC Munro guide as a ‘beautiful mysterious stony mountain of many remote peaks and corries’. The Doctor wanted to develop his mountain legs and test some new kit in preparation for a ski mountaineering tour in the higher ranges; I simply wanted the Munro tick. As it happened The Doctor had apparently traversed the peaks a few years previously, on skis, in perfect snow conditions under a clear blue sky, 'Positively Alpine,' he said. The forecast for this trip was unfortunately
Interesting web info? Briton Kenton Cool, who has summited Everest nine times has announced he will take one of the original Olympic Medals presented, at the France 1924 Olympics, to those on the 1922 British Everest Expedition to the summit of Everest – a promised made but never fulfilled in 1924 by the leader of the expedition. Check out the following links: www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk_17493939 kentoncool.com
NMC County Climber
far from perfect, with talk of low cloud, high chance of precipitation, gusting wind, albeit with freezing levels above the summits. I finally finished my business, packed the car, and off we set for the not-so-frozen north, our first port of call being the Travelodge at Broxden roundabout near Perth. Later, checked into our room, we started to sort gear for the morrow, and pulled out the map and guidebooks – hang on, where are the guidebooks?… Ah… it turned out that The Doctor had forgotten to pick them up and had left them in the kitchen, on the dog’s sofa. Still, he knew the hills well from his ski traverse, we had map, compass and altimeter, and, between us, around 90 years of mountain experience. Shouldn’t be a problem. The next day dawned dreich1, as forecast. We drove to the Loch Moraig parking place, kitted up and set off. A thick blanket of cloud sat doggedly on the hills obscuring the summits. The Doctor was experimenting with equipment. First, he had a brand new, all-weather, all-breathing storm-proof jacket to put through its paces. Rather disconcertingly, however, he also wanted to see whether wearing plastic bags over his socks, inside his boots would… well, actually I can’t remember the hypothesis, but there he was, sporting state-of-the-art jacket and… ahem… a couple of food bags from Tesco. Over his socks. We trudged off into the clouds and spent the next few hours following the undulations of these three magnificent peaks, a traverse described in the SMC guidebook as '...pleasant walking and plenty of interest...' At height, the wind picked up, with accompanying wind chill, and there was patchy snow but no need for crampons or axe. Visibility rarely extended beyond 50 metres, but that was no problem – after all 'we had map, compass and altimeter, and, between us, around 90 years 1 Dreich - (old Scots) Combination of dull, overcast, drizzly, cold, misty and miserable weather. March 2012
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of mountain experience’ and, most crucially, we had prior knowledge as The Doctor had passed this way before, had he not? Success The first two Munro summits (Carn Liath, 'the grey hill', and Braigh Ciore Chruinn-bhalgain, 'height of the corrie of round blisters') were knocked off relatively painlessly despite the big loss in height between them. On the long flog up the flank of the highest peak, Carn nan Gabhar ('hill of the goats'), we fell into step with a lone walker, a pleasant chap, a local and apparently a regular ascensionist of this fine hill. The Doctor and I stopped at the first large cairn – obviously the summit. But, 'No,' our friend assured us, the summit is the next one. So, on we plodded through the cloud to an even bigger cairn topped with a trig point. Success. We shook hands, took summit photos, all the usual stuff, then tucked into lunch. Our friend bade us farewell and disappeared into the
murk. We didn’t linger and shortly afterwards set off along a stony ridge over a subsidiary top, Airgiod Bheinn (translated from Gaelic as... errr... 'stony ridge') and down the knee-jerkingly steep, heathery butt-end of the hill, to join a muddy track for the plodge back to the car. Beinn a’Ghlo. A 21km walk, 1300m of ascent, three Munros… not bad. We drove back suffused in a warm glow of achievement, tired but happy. ...or was it? Later on, The Doctor having gone his way, I opened the guidebooks as I ate my tea, and there it was – staring me in the face, the awful truth: 'The highest point is at the north-east end of this nearly level summit ridge at a cairn about 200 metres beyond the trig point.' Oh bugger. So only two Munros ticked, and the drag of having to go back to collect the third. So much for 'map, compass, etc...' I emailed the Doctor immediately. His
The doctor with map, compass and altimeter NMC County Climber
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reply shocked me to the core. I’ll spare you the full details; suffice it to say, after a glib 'Shame about the extra summit! You can vaguely work this out if you look very closely on the map', he went on to suggest I consider the mountain climbed: 'We were there, we knew we were there, we were well capable of getting to and finding the summit with no real extra effort and all reasonable expectation is that the trig point is at the summit and if you hadn't looked at the guides you would never have thought of it!' Think of it. A senior member of his profession, a man well respected by patients and colleagues alike, a pillar of the community, an elder statesman of our fine Club no less. Suggesting that I count our non-ascent as an ascent. What a display of moral turpitude. I was plunged into emotional turmoil, my world turned upside down, everything I believed in now open to question. Did he honestly think I would be able to look my companions in the eye as I downed a celebratory shot of whisky on my day of Munro completion? What was I to do? Signs of an unhinged mind I sought counsel, from my sister and also from a senior member of the club: '...Don't get me wrong, I firmly subscribe to the principle that when mistakes happen in an organization, it's rarely the case that a single individual is at fault... not at all helpful to wallow in a 'blame culture'. BUT... well, put it this way, I had packed the guides, and someone else - no names took them out to browse while he had a cup of tea... THEN LEFT THEM ON THE DOG'S SOFA! What's more, this person claimed to have bagged the three summits before, on skis, in good visibility, and one would expect him to have recalled there were false summits. I wouldn't normally point the finger in this way, these things happen and all that, BUT the same person is exhorting me to count our non-ascent as an ascent, and I am now having to think long and hard whether to refer it to the General Medical Council as a 'probity issue'. There's also a nagging thought NMC County Climber
HAD he actually skied up those mountains before? IS he actually going to the higher ranges? Is this all part of some grandiose Walter Mitty fantasy?' My sister, who thinks that climbing hills is a completely pointless activity at the best of times, had no words of comfort, indeed thought both the moral dilemma and my plan to go back and claim the summit were signs of an unhinged mind. The senior club member was, as ever, a master of tact and diplomacy and remained neutral. Meanwhile, another email from The Doctor: 'Anyway I have already ticked itshame I didn't recall there was a trick summit!' So, not only shameless in encouraging me to flaunt a basic mountaineering ethical principle (that is, in order to claim an ascent you have first to do it!) but also showing neither remorse nor empathy. It got worse. In darker moments I began to wonder whether he might even have set me up, and was poised to report me to the GMC if I claimed the summit. I needed to tread carefully. The Doctor’s final word on the matter made his stance perfectly clear: 'I believe it is better to find our own way in life rather than endlessly following the petty minded who have tried to take the adventure out of life by telling us where to put each foot. Who ever heard of needing a guide-book to walk up a hill?' So there the matter was left. No false claims. One less Munro on the tick list than there should have been. No whistleblowing. Reputations left unsullied (but I’m still concerned – I hear The Doctor is a very good GP... but then so was Harold Shipman!). Postscript (a few years later) Having abandoned any hope of winter climbing because of unprecedented and disappointingly mild conditions, we decided to head north anyway, to walk on the Saturday and maybe snatch some early season cragging on the Sunday. The Woodman was very accommodating and, March 2012
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despite having completed one full Munro round already and strode many of the summits several times since, he graciously agreed to join me in my second attempt at Beinn a’Ghlo (it would be his fourth ascent thereof). I use the word ‘strode’ advisedly – The Woodman doesn’t so much walk as lope the heights (verb: 'to move with a long, swinging stride'; noun: 'a long steady gait or stride'). He gears up, and off he goes, in giant strides, loping, pausing only occasionally to allow catch-up, for example at a summit cairn or notable viewpoint, where he greets his hapless companion with an indulgent smile that says 'What kept you?'. You train not only for the hill, but specifically to walk with him, learning how not to appear too exhausted when you finally reach him huddled in the shelter of the summit cairn. You train also to suppress any urge to push him off the edge of a cliff or to hope for a blister or something that might slow him down. This expedition was no different. We kept in step on the approach track, chatting, but as soon as it steepened, he was off. Into the cloud. I wheezed along a couple of hundred yards behind him. There was little snow on top, but an increasing wind threw flurries of hail and snow at us. Visibility was generally much better than on my last visit, indeed from time to time we could even see the tops. Unfortunately, however, the 'hill of the rounded blisters' failed to live up to its name.
veered off onto the lee slope, and found ourselves on steep, greasy and unstable scree, not very pleasant. However we eventually hit the heather zone, slightly easier on our arthritic knees, then the track which took us squelching back across the moor to the car. A fine excursion, and, at last, the elusive tick, honestly achieved, taking me to No 167... with ‘only’ 116 to go to completion!
Unaccompanied this time by a ‘helpful’ local, we finally reached the summit of the hill of the goats – the actual summit I mean, the tick, confirmed by naked eye and map and verified by The Woodman’s GPS - just to make absolutely sure! As forecast, the wind was building in strength so we didn’t hang around. Traversing the stony ridge in the teeth of the gale was exciting. The MWIS report for the day had predicted 'Considerable buffeting widespread and general mobility difficult higher up... 35mph to perhaps 50mph at times, gusts possibly 70mph', and it seemed spot on. Even the lope was reduced to a cautious stagger. The steep descent track was taking us into the full blast, so we
(found by Neil Moreby)
NMC County Climber
Beinn a’Ghlo is not the only Munro to catch people out. Notorious among many is Beinn Dorain above Bridge of Orchy. There is a false summit some five minutes short of the real summit and separated from it by a dip in the ridge – easy to miss in poor visibility. Oh - oh... wasn’t visibility really poor – horizontal sleet, swirling cloud, deep snow cover - when I climbed it all those years ago? I wonder... and I never did found out why The Doctor was wearing those plastic bags. The Professor Footnote In order to preserve anonymity and protect reputations real names have not been used.
A Found Poem
Taken from the Lundy Logbook:
Standing there in the breeze A Puffin looks on with emotionless, dead and slightly boring eyes As its beak pecks at nothing in particular And as I gaze at this Puffin I think ‘Who on earth created Big Brother?’ (Sorry I do get carried away a lot) by Becky and the Levatt March 2012
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Sunshine, snowshoes & skinny-dipping
had been talked into attempting her firstever multi-pitch rockclimbing experience on the famous 200m Ardverikie Wall of Binnein Shuas.
Global warming forces new approach to Winter meets
As the Saturday barometer, and the reality of the Classic (not summer) Rock undertaking both swung from 'Fair' to 'Wild', Sue persuaded Lewis to 'scope-only' Ardverikie as part of a round-of-three munro winter walk. This was a very good plan, for by the first 3,000 foot summit of Creag Pitridh, the gail-driven hailstorm had made just standing and seeing, never mind climbing, virtually impossible.
It can be reported that the participants of the recent Raeburn Hut weekend at Laggan have pioneered an alternative activities approach to NMC winter adventures. Creag Meggie had melted, the Cairngorms were (according to John Spencer's recent FaceBook postings) denuded of snow and ice, so there was originally a planned alpine start for a drive over to the Ben where the highest few metres might have vestiges of climbable ice.
Back at the cosy, timber-lined hut, Ali had prepared a veritable triumph of a feast, to be washed down with bubbly and birthday cakes (two) with candles (very few) for a still (nowhere near retirement) young man, (author's licence applied here.)
This plan was thwarted when the Jeff and Trevor team dined on salvaged canned-food from the Franklin NW Passage expedition (Best Before Date: 1859) resulting in one very poorly tummy and the pre-dawn start abandoned.
The Sunday expedition team of Ali, Lucien, Sue and Lewis traversed the ridge near the hut, returning via the lochan in sunshine and snowshowers and a 'braving' skinny-dip to round off a memorable Scottish winter weekend.
Not to worry: Ali was on her first mountaineering outing since a major legrebuilding operation and newcomer Sue
NMC County Climber
by Sue Quinn
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In Search of Winter Ice... John Vaughan
It starts, as many of these things do, with a casual conversation at the Burnside Wall... As so often happens in a world of infinite possibility, a casual conversation morphs into a project, a group coalesces around it and a plan comes together... Transport is booked and accommodation sorted... Guidebooks are acquired and thumbed for inspiration and the interweb trawled for images and information... Axes are honed and crampons adjusted and sharpened in anticipation... Richard buys a new set of ice screws and Eva splashes out on a new pair of Petzl Nomics – rash extravagance or a statement of intent? And so, almost seamlessly, Richard, Eva and I find ourselves at Newcastle Airport one Saturday afternoon in early February, turning our backs on a fickle UK winter and heading for one of Europe’s premier winter climbing destinations, Cogne, in search of ice... Bryn is already in the French Alps, so we would pick him up on the way... Our flight is delayed... We’re going ice climbing and we can’t get off the ground because there’s too much snow on the runway and they need to de-ice the aircraft!!! But after an hour’s delay we’re on our way... Geneva... Pick up the car, drive twice round the airport before finding the right way out, collect Bryn and head through the Mont Blanc tunnel into the Valle d’Aosta... As we climb towards Cogne in the early hours of Sunday morning the sky is clear, the air sparkles in the headlights and the temperature drops steadily to minus 25ºC... At our apartment in Epinel, a small village just down-valley from Cogne itself, we agree on a long lie in, a relaxed start and a short afternoon route to get the feel of the place... Hours later we wake to a winter wonderland of crisp white snow, clear blue sky, no wind and picture postcard scenery... NMC County Climber
Most of the ice cascades are located in two steep-sided valleys that run southwards from Cogne and Lillaz – the Valnontey and the Valleille... We opt for an exploratory afternoon on the nearest route in the Valnontey... Lauson (WI3*), gives us 50 metres of 60/70 degree bluewhite water-ice with short steeper sections, solid first time placements and bomber ice screws... Except for Bryn’s that is, which in spite of being recently sharpened, just don’t seem to want to bite the ice... Everything looks set for a fine week, with the possible exception of Bryn’s bodily functions, which are already heading towards meltdown... We round off the afternoon with the first of many glasses of ‘vin chaud’ in the Hotel la Barme, a popular base for wealthier climbers and source of beta on local conditions, and head back to the apartment, where Bryn and Richard raid the domestic woodpile and play at making fire... Early next morning the thermometer still reads minus 19ºC as we return to the Valnontey and I’m grateful I’ve brought full mountain mitts and a good belay jacket... Walking up the valley reveals cascade after cascade of pristine ice, by turns inspiring and intimidating... Richard and Eva opt to push the boat out a bit on Thoule (WI3+***), although, because of its popularity, they eventually climb the neighbouring Thoulette (WI4*)... Bryn and I head further up-valley to Sentiero dei Troll (WI3***), which rewards our effort with a succession of short 65/70 degree ice steps separated by easier snow slopes – 350m of pure delight in bright sunshine under an azure sky – does it get any better than this? Near the top of the route, just to plant our feet firmly back on the ground, a large spindrift and powder avalanche pours down the slope some 10 metres to our left. We decide discretion is the better part of valour and abseil off from just below the final pitch, meeting the others on the way back for another transfusion of vin chaud...
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Another day, another valley, only this time without Bryn, who by now is feeling distinctly under the weather... The Valleille is narrower and steeper-sided than the Valnontey with an even more imposing set of icefalls, including Cold Couloir, a 600m, three star WI4+ that’s already high on the agenda for next year, and the Stevie Haston M11 mixed testpiece The Empire Strikes Back, which definitely isn’t!!! The day’s objective is Pareti Contrastanti (150m WI3+), a fine route with four sporting pitches that definitely deserves at least two stars... The second pitch provides high entertainment as Richard, strung out on the steepest and
avalanches that engulf both Eva and me as we climb the final pitch!!! After yet more vin chaud we once again retire to the apartment to watch unbelievable TV coverage of the rest of Italy disappearing under several metres of snow, while we bask in settled conditions under clear and cloudless skies... In contrast, reports from Dr John in the UK suggest that wet-tooling in the Cairngorms may be the way to go... Daytime temperatures rise to a more comfortable minus 10ºC... Feeling somewhat recovered, although still not 100%, Bryn is keen to get back on the white stuff, so the next day he and I head
Richard Pow, on Henninger (II, 4), Cogne
most fragile section, discovers he’s inadvertently packed Bryn’s less than helpful ice screws and has a tense few minutes threading a couple of ice columns before equilibrium (and domestic harmony) are restored... He’s more fortunate higher up when he somehow manages to avoid the intense powder NMC County Climber
by Bryn Roberts
for the popular local überclassic, Cascade de Lillaz (250m WI3***)... This must be the ultimate convenience route, starting less than 10 minutes from the car with five long and varied pitches separated by horizontal walking along a frozen streamway in a fine rocky gorge... You can make it as easy or as hard as you fancy and March 2012
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there’s a gentle walk off the top back to Lillaz village – pure pleasure... By now we’re all feeling the effects and a rest day is declared. Bryn and I head down-valley to wander round the town of Aosta, view the Roman ruins and sample the local cuisine, while Richard & Eva head upwards to the small ski area just above Cogne for an afternoon of on and off-piste exercise... We all finish the day sitting outside a local bar in the late afternoon sunshine drinking beer and cappuccino – Fort William this ain’t!!! For our final full day, with Eva beginning to flag, Bryn, Richard & I head back up into the Valleille in search of one final helping of white mischief... We find it in the shape of Henninger (WI4***), a steep, two-pitch icefall on the right side of the Mur de Val that combines all the best elements of cascade climbing, an immaculate line, intricate and absorbing ice, a short section of mixed and an exciting vertical finish, to give the best route of the week... We celebrate with our first meal out, accompanied by a bottle of the local Valle d’Aosta wine... In spite of early ambitions, our final day gradually morphs into a gentle ramble around Cogne, which is holding a snow and ski festival, followed by a leisurely lunch before a slow drive back to Geneva past yet more spectacular icefall scenery around Chamonix... We stop briefly at a bar in Courmayeur so that Bryn and Richard can catch up on the Manchester United v. Liverpool match and again at a strangely deserted truck stop for hachettes and frites, before hitting the runway and our flight home... Will I go back? Of course I will – so much ice, so little time - bring it on!!!
NMC County Climber
Cogne Beta Location: Valle d’Aosta in North-West Italy, on the northern edge of Parco Nazionale Gran Paradiso Climbing: redominantly water ice cascades along the flanks of the Valeille, Valnontey and Valsavaranche valleys Guidebooks: Cascades Autour du Mont Blanc Vol 2 by Damilano & Perroux (Edition Ice Connection); Alpine Ice by Mario Sertori (Versant Sud) Access: Flight to Geneva, followed by a two and a half hour drive to Cogne Accommodation: we stayed in a chalet apartment in Epinel, 3km from Cogne... There are also apartments available in Cogne, Lillaz and other villages Other activities: Cogne has a small downhill ski area, enough for an afternoon’s sport... The area is popular for cross-country sking, with prepared tracks up the main valleys... In summer the area is a mecca for long-distance walkers...
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Peak Limestone – it’s a crime to miss the lime! Trevor Langhorne
Trad Limestone has fallen out of fashion in the Peak District. It wasn’t always like this, throughout the 70’s and 80’s Peak Limestone was very popular for its excellent and varied climbing. We have a Peak meet this year; as a fan of limestone I thought I would whet your appetite and encourage you to try the lime rather than heading for the classic grit crags of Stanage and Froggatt with everyone else. Limestone gives a very different experience to grit, more like the Lakes although there are few worthwhile routes below VS. To tempt you here are my 'three of the best' routes at VS and at HVS/E1 from two great limestone areas, around Stoney Middleton and around Matlock.
masses of protection. Sin is amongst the best known of Stoney VS’s offering superb jamming and bridging in an extremely exposed groove, climbed ground up and on-sight it was originally graded Exceptionally Severe due to loose rock and rampant ivy! Finally Froth offers a pleasant corner as a prelude to the very steep, exciting and well protected traverse of its second pitch. My big three at HVS/E1 are Alcasan, a Hard Rock tick, starting up Aurora and traversing across Windy Buttress about 40’ below the top of the crag. The pitches are sensational, the stances small and the climbing sustained with sufficient protection to ease most anxieties. Take your sandwiches! Next to Froth lurks the
Stoney Middleton Area
Stoney Middleton. Roadside, part quarried, part natural, once the place to be and the forcing ground for standards, now very quiet. Stoney invariably evokes strong feelings in those who venture onto its routes, there are numerous excellent and characterful adventures. At VS my must dos are Aurora; a mould breaking route from the 1930’s which challenged the prevalent view of the times that limestone was not suitable for climbing. The first pitch is bold climbing up a rib with runners only where most needed. The second pitch climbs a large and enjoyable groove with NMC County Climber
Jeff Lamb on Padme (in 1977), Stoney Middleton March 2012
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Buttress (check for any restriction due to nesting birds) with many excellent steep routes on positive holds.
interestingly named Dead Banana Crack with its perfectly protected desperate start leading to wonderful thin crack climbing cutting through the traverse of Froth and up the headwall above. Lastly Prayer Wheel Wall offers several good routes the finest being Padme which follows a shallow groove/weakness up the vertical wall with the crux where it should be, just below the top (and beside a good runner); rests are good and enough protection is available for the diligent.
At VS Medusa is a must do providing three varied and well protected pitches, the first is polished and a good place to develop a polished technique. Just to the right is the steep chimney/crack line taken by the first pitch of Mealy Bugs. The second pitch culminates in an exposed traverse to a forked lightning crack for a storming finish. My final choice at VS is Ploy a tough but well protected VS. The holds keep coming on the first pitch, the crack above has a bark worse than its bite and a burly peg protects the crux bulge on the third pitch. Do all three for a grand day out and reward your-self with a piece of cake.
And now for something completely different! Situated about six miles West of Stoney is Ravensdale. The location could hardly be more different with climbing in a tranquil wooded Nature Reserve above a row of cottages and no main road. The best routes are on the towering Ravenâ€™s
Moving up a notch or two after a short first pitch Conclusor has a fantastic long second pitch, the crux is probably low down and the protection perfect but it just keeps on coming at you. The final two choices are very close to each other but they provide such good climbing that I love them both. Mephistopheles negotiates the obvious wedge flake above the toe of the buttress before heading up the wall above to the half way stance. The second pitch features a brilliant thin crack over a small bulge before a more reasonable groove leads to the top â€“ the grade of the top pitch is debatable, suggestions range from HVS 5a to E1 5c! Just to the right lies Purple Haze offering another two pitches of cracking wall climbing plus an exciting layback near the start.
The Ploy, Ravensdale NMC County Climber
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The Matlock area has three fine limestone crags, Wildcat, Willersley and the peerless High Tor; two are included here. Willersley
There are some long term access sensitivities here, check with the BMC Access Database for the current situation; best behaviour is mandatory. Although only a few tens of yards from the A6 Willersley is a shaded haven of peace and quiet in some woods overlooking the River Derwent and adjacent to Arkwrightâ€™s Cromford Mill. The crag is a long 40m high vertical wall with many bulges and grooves. The climbing is usually sustained, well protected and with positive holds; you will need to 'get a move on' to avoid fatigue on some sections. A gentle introduction to the VSâ€™s is Cucumber Groove, well protected with glorious rock, what more needs to be said? A little harder and much more impressive is the two pitch Garrotter. An elegant lower section lands you below the upper groove which gets more difficult as you approach the top. Finally, and a contender for the best VS on Peak Limestone, is Pothole Wall. This has the lot, sustained climbing, technical sections, good rests, an airy stance and enough NMC County Climber
protection to allow full enjoyment; savour it like a fine wine. Close to Pothole wall is Gangue Groove (gangue being a mining term, something to do with the veins of minerals they exploited). Brilliant steep and fingery climbing up thin cracks and scoops leads to a hanging slab stance. The slab is traversed and an easier groove leads to the top. The next two great routes are adjacent to each but of very different character. The prominent Lone Tree Groove is a steep corner with a tree part way up! Bridging
Trevor leading Lime Street Diect (in 1993) March 2012
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proves the be the key as you head towards then past the tree; 'better than it looks' climbing completes the route. The left arête of Lone Tree Groove sports an enticing shallow corner groove starting about 30’ off the ground. This is Lime Street Direct, one of my all-time favourites. The technical crux is getting to the groove which is best achieved by wobbling up the precarious arête below (easier options are available). Once in the groove incredibly sustained climbing leads past an overlap and eventually to a stance. A relaxing second pitch leads to a well-earned lie in the sun. High Tor
Without doubt the premier Peak Limestone Crag for the 'trad' enthusiast. There are some VS’s which are quite good, but for me they miss the point; thus my favourite three are all HVS/E1. Probably the easiest of the trio is Highlight which boasts crack and groove climbing of escalating difficulty past a stance (optional, beware of rope drag) and culminating in spectacular moves to outwit the roof which caps the corner. The compelling groove up the centre of the main wall is Original Route, a former aid route that felt fine when there were lots of old pegs for protection. Rust has done for the pegs and what remains is an exhilarating lead where you must balance the desire for protection with the need to avoid running out of steam. The reward is a brilliantly positioned stance. Take care with the top pitch, it is the sting in the tale despite its 4c grade. Lastly, another Hard Rock Tick, Debauchery, two amazing pitches traverse terrain climbed by much harder routes (i.e. don’t fall off as you will always end up on more difficult ground!). The first pitch is marginally the easier of the two because it is not as sustained. Don’t forget to treat your-self to an ice-cream afterwards.
NMC County Climber
Lime: The Practicalities A Limestone Rack: Carry a rack comprising two sets of stoppers/rocks up to about rock size 10; a Hexentric 7 or Rockcentric 6; a dozen quickdraws, some longer slings to manage rope drag and thread runners (6-8mm Dyneema slings are brilliant for threads.) No Friends as not suited to irregular cracks in low friction rock. A pair of half ropes. Interesting Hazards: In-situ gear – by all means clip them if you wish but BACK THEM UP!!! Loose rock and vegetation – you will encounter some loose rock, test doubtful holds before committing to them. A helmet is a must. As for the vegetation, you will soon learn to embrace it. Polish – quite common but not as bad as you think. Remember to look for alternative footholds; if you have to use a polished hold place your foot carefully and positively on it maximising rubber contact, keep pressing your shoe directly onto the hold. Guidebooks: The definitive BMC Peak Limestone Guides (3 volumes from the 80’s) are out of print although some shops still have copies. 'On Peak Rock' BMC selected climbs is an option as is Rockfax’s Northern Limestone (out of print but copies still in shops). I believe that the BMC and Rockfax both plan to publish Peak Limestone Guides this year; the limestone renaissance begins! Weather: The Matlock area enjoys significantly better weather than the Stoney Middleton which is often drier than the grit edges. Limestone is like soap when wet. If Willersley is out: Try Wildcat, there are even three good Hard Severes; Cats Eye, Cat Call and Cougar Cleft. At VS Derek’s Dilemma/Coyote Crack, Broken Toe Groove and Tiger Buttress Route1. Harder and equally good are Cataclysm, Catastrophe Grooves and Tut’s Anomalous.
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Les Rimmer Clive Goodwin
Les Rimmer, a navigation lecturer, who had lived in East Boldon, was an active club member for several years in the 60s and 70s. Sadly he died on October 5th after a period of ill health. He and his wife Joan had moved to Sheffield two years ago to be near their daughter.
to a huge rock some distance behind me, Les suddenly shouted that he was coming off, two-thirds of the way up another Diff. At 11 stone then I was impressed that the rope friction around my cotton anorak let me hold Les who was 16+ stone. Of course with some slack to get back on the route and then a tight rope, Les completed the climb.
He and Joan, in later years, spent more of their time at their caravan at Wooler and took up bird During the presidency of watching. It has been said Jim Robinson in 1964-65 the before that there was always asbestos roof of the Knowe conflict between walkers or blew off and the Club agreed 'mountaineers' and rock Les Rimmer to replace it. Local builders climbers in the NMC and replaced the roof and massive working the social side, committee work, huts and meets removed the floor and its oak beams guide books took far too much of our time. so that a new upper floor and bunks could However most of us who were guilty of be put in. Les Rimmer, Vic Johnson, Jack this in the 60s and 70s did rock climb in Donaldson, and I as Warden and many boots with minimum protection, walk up a others spent several weeks on this. I can summit the next day and wielded our long still picture Les standing on a kitchen table ice axes in the Lakes and Scotland in heaving a sawn-through oak beam from the winter plus the Alps in summer - Les ancient Grundy's Knowe wall! Rimmer was one of those. Les with those mentioned above plus Douglas Blackett, Derek Craggs, Ian Turnbull and countless others were involved with the major works on the Bowderstone Cottage and Hermitage, acquired in 1966. The putting in of new window frames and the first floor of the Hermitage is attributed to Les in the historical book ‘No Nobler County’ (an excellent historical record.) In both huts the huge working meets were great social occasions and much drinking went on at the Bowes in Bardon Mill or the Scafell bar in Borrowdale, as well as back at the huts afterwards. Les was a moderate rock climber and an excellent fell walker. At a beginners meet at Crag Lough where I brought Les and another up a Diff, as he neared the top he said to me, ‘not bad for someone who suffers badly from vertigo!’ Similarly at Simonside when I was belayed at the edge NMC County Climber
A(nother) found poem (Found by John Spencer)
1 large loaf (uncut) 1 lb beef sausage 1/4lb cocoa 1 small jar of jam 1/4lb margarine 4 eggs Potatoes Ginger snaps 1lb sugar (Written on the back page of a copy of the st SMC’s ‘Rock climbs in Arran’, 1 edition, published 1958. It also has a rather good sketch of Glen Rosa and a handwritten topo of the Rosa Pinnacle South Ridge Direct, both in biro, at the front of the guide. The comment ‘A wee doddle in PAs’ is jotted next to ‘Rosetta Stone’.)
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Neil’s Antipodean Adventure Neil Moreby
During winter 2011 Cat and I travelled around Australia and New Zealand, I’ve attempted here to distil those three months into two pages! Starting in Cairns we lived aboard a boat and learnt to dive to a depth of 18m. We saw all sorts of fish, flat worms (including the penis fencing flatworm) and a white tipped reef shark! We visited the rainforest and played under timotee-style waterfalls before we headed to Sydney (for a day) and then a short train ride to the Blue Mountains.
finished the route! I learned a couple of things; firstly don’t try something TOO hard on your first lead abroad, and secondly – spiders on the cliff are not the dangerous ones, the dangerous ones are those on the ground in small holes. I learned this from Adam Derragh, who we met on our way out of the crag when we also sighted an Echidna. He was THE local climbing guru’s and guidebook creator. He gave us a lift back to town and had us over his house for tea and cake! We met his teenage son, Max who was encouraged to talk to the ‘foreigners from the motherland’!
This spectacular place is very Adam also lent us some bolt plates. accessible, but without a car we were These fit over carrot bolts placed in the limited to about five crags. We had come rock. Without these you will have nothing for trad, but really the Blueys is a place for to clip the quick draw to. This is a strange 2 clipping bolts . Undeterred we booked into Australian idea used at a lot of the crags the Flying Fox hostel there. After a few (next door to a strange more trad days in cult that woke every the blistering heat morning at 6am to sing we teamed up in the garden) and again with Adam planned an outing to and Max to climb Mount Piddington. Sweet dreams (14 / Upon arrival I VS 4c); a classic abandoned the warm up Blue Mountain’s and attempted an Aus experience! It Grade 18 (Ewbank follows an aweSystem; created by an inspiring six pitch, expat Brit!). The route 200m line on an was The ‘Eternity’, an airy section of cliff HVS crack line. As I that has a real 'Big climbed a spider Wall' feel about it. appeared in the crack. I On the climb you placed a cam and tried are surrounded by to avoid that section. breathtaking views Seconds later my hold of the beautiful snapped-off and I had a Jamison Valley short, sharp fall, and the East Wall bringing my belayer, of the world Cat, slamming into the famous Three rock. We taped her Sisters. A wet Cat in Queensland fingers and I then After the Blueys we went to Melbourne for a great time with friends in this very 2 The Editor (an Aussie passport holder) cool and arty city, before picking up the comments: for Aussies The Blueys isn't considered a bolt ‘Hippy Camper’ and heading out to The clipping area, you would need to go to Nowra (a few Arapiles (via the world’s largest artificial hours drive south of Sydney) for a real sport climbing mecca. NMC County Climber
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Koala). The Arapiles is something special. A small cliff, maybe two miles long but up to 200m high in places. It has some of the best rock on the planet, with well protected routes of every grade. Anything you climb here (even a bumbling Diff) is exhilarating, fun and safe! On arrival day we saw a kangaroo hop through the campsite and we met what was to become a great group of friends. We set off for lots of fantastic single pitch routes at the organ pipes – just 10 minutes walk from the campsite. I climbed some of my favourite routes here, including Tannin Direct (19) and The Wraith (21). Climbing the long multi-pitch routes
like Resignation (15), Muldoon (13) and even Arachnus (9) was immensely fun, but I had to do the famous roof route; Kachoong (21) amongst other tough leads. It was easy to find a partner from our campsite friends. One evening we all went to the local Nati-fringe festival in Natimuk, dressed in odd clothes for the climber’s fashion show – a unique experience. We visited the nearby Grampians for a couple of days too, where I got very scared on Soweto (21) and we explored the sand sculpted caves. This is a beautiful place I would love to return to and next time climb the immense, 200m overhanging ‘Taipan wall’. We drove back along the Great
Neil on the crux roof move of Kachoong (21) NMC County Climber
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Ocean Road and flew to Christchurch, NZ to pick up another Hippy Camper. New Zealand’s south island is basically a nature reserve, with small pockets of towns. The main highways are single lane roads where all you see are other camper vans (at a rate of one per hour). We drove to many places including the beautiful rocks at Castle Hill, set in a rolling green valley, overlooked by snow peaked mountains. We got spanked here by the smoothness of the rock and headed to Milford Sound via beautiful Mount Cook, bathed in moonlight.
queue of campervans waiting at the tunnel. Luckily Cat indulged me further and I got to climb at the Chasm, a mixed sport/trad venue with a waterfall overhanging the crag. I climbed Mr Wolf (22), a scary trad lead with a massive rising undercut traverse followed by a sequence of 5c moves with no rests. What a day! The sunshine was soon followed by the infamous rain that powered the thousandor-so waterfalls that we saw at Milford as we kayaked and explored.
Milford is basically one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Set in Fjordland, it is said that the gods carved the fjords from rock. Starting in the far south, Tu-te-rakiwhanoa created a rough coastline and many islands, gradually perfecting his art along the way, culminating at Milford. When an underworld goddess saw the fjord's beauty, she was worried that visitors would never want to leave, so she created the sandflies. This is Milford’s bitter-sweet curse. Driving in Neil on Responsible Lunges (23,) Paynes Ford sunshine I persuaded We enjoyed a famous ‘Fergburger’ and Cat to join me in climbing at the Darrens, the Luge in Queenstown before whiteabove the Homer Tunnel. Recent snowfall water boarding (terrifying!) Then some meant we had an Alpine style climbing more climbing and a trip to Puzzling adventure, but never reached the stunning World in Wanaka (recommended.) rock above the snowline. We sat and had Charleston, on the West coast had roaring lunch in the snow looking down on the seas and granite cliffs with several 40m NMC County Climber
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routes. I climbed the fantastic ‘Hanging around’ (18), amongst others, while Cat belayed with the waves crashing behind her on a beautifully sunny day. Our last climbing spot on the south island was Paynes Ford, in the Abel Tasman National Park. This beautiful area houses some fantastic limestone sport climbing. The big feature though is the ‘Hangdog’ campsite, started by the local legend ‘Wild Willie’ (RIP). Here we made more friends from all over the world. I climbed ‘1080 and the letter G’ and ‘Responsible Lunges’ (23) amongst other single and multi-pitch routes. Cat climbed her first grade 18 clean, onsight!
Neil on Sweet Dreams, Blue Mountains
We went sailing on a Catamaran, white water rafting and swam with dolphins before we went to the North Island which is, by comparison, more developed and busier (but still pretty slow paced!) We had a wet day in Turangi, where we went to an indoor climbing competition and fortuitously met Dan the Man - the region’s local climbing guidebook writer! We learned of a place called Kawakawa Bay. After we had climbed a nearby Volcano, went black water and white water rafting (as you do) I persuaded Cat to come climbing at the bay. We had a three hour walk in with heavy packs in 23 degree heat, but we were rewarded with a gorgeous (naked) swim and some interesting climbing on Ignimbrite, a strange volcanic rock. We slept in a dirty cave, which meant we were soon filthy and NMC County Climber
it was time to leave, but I will return one day. We did some Ignimbrite sport climbing at Wharepapa (with lots of pockets), which marked the end of our climbing. By this stage we had been travelling 10 weeks and we were ready for some beaches and ‘bed & breakfasts’. To top the trip off I found myself proposing to Cat on a starry beach on the Coromandel coast – an unexpected twist in a truly memorable holiday. Get yourself out to NZ and Australia ASAP, but make sure you give yourself time – you’ll want a minimum of 4 days per place to get to know it properly. Kia ora!
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The website includes various discussion forums, a photoarchive for members’ climbing photos, online guides for most Northumberland crags.
Indoor climbing: £1 off the standard entry price at: • Sunderland Wall. • Durham Wall. • Climb Newcastle (Wed. nites only). • Newcastle Climbing Centre (Byker) • Morpeth Bouldering Wall Also winter season Wed. nights at Burnside college, £5 entrance fee, open to NMC members only.
NMC Website The NMC has a very informative website
NMC Guidebooks NMC members pay a discounted price for any guidebook published by the NMC. Currently available are the following guides: • Northumberland Climbing Guide Definitive Guide to climbing in Northumberland. £12.50 to members (RRP £18.95)
For the above 2 guides add £2 P&P if required. Contact John Earl on 0191 236 5922 • No Nobler County A history of the NMC and climbing in Northumberland. Now ONLY £2.00 Hurry while stocks Last!!! Contact Martin Cooper on 0191 252 5707
T-shirts Various styles of T-shirt with printed NMC designs and logo are available. Order direct by contacting Ian Birtwistle 07828 123 143.
• Northumberland Bouldering Guide The new guide, £12.50 to members (RRP £19.95)
Lewis Preston on munro summit Creag Pitridth with Binnein Shuas in the background by Sue Quinn
NMC County Climber
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