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.
Non-members: Are always welcome to attend meets.
Send Contributions to:
Note: Winter indoor meets require a minimum of prospective membership (see below) due to venue requirements for third party insurance.
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.
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
To arrange for email notification that the latest issue of the magazine is ready for you to download, contact the membership secretary at:
taken by the author of the article.
Committee 2011/2012 President – John Dalrymple Vice Pres. – John Mountain Secretary – Caroline Judson Treasurer – John Earl Membership – Sam Judson Access – Richard Pow Hut Co-ord. – Neil Cranston Hut Bookings – Derek Cutts Magazine Ed. – Peter Flegg Social Sec – Eva Diran Librarian – Sam Judson Web – Ian Birtwistle General: Peter Bennett, Malcolm Rowe, Gareth Crapper, Andrew Shanks & Ian Ross.
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.
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.
Peter Bennett on Rothley Crack by John Dalrymple
Unless otherwise stated all photos in this issue were
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What’s in this issue? Wednesday evenings meets .......................... 3 Weekend meets............................................. 3 Mount Aspiring – New Zealand ................... 4 Winter skills.................................................. 6 39 County Summits of England ................... 8 Club News .................................................. 10 Andrew Earl.......................................... 10 Bowderstone Hut News ........................ 11 AGM..................................................... 13 NMC Annual Dinner ............................ 14 How to NOT climb the Munros.................. 15 Trip Report Jan 2011 .................................. 17 Telling it, like it is ...................................... 18 Breakfast and Tafoni .................................. 19
Wednesday evenings meets The last indoor meet at Burnside wall will be Wednesday 23 March. The table below shows the meet locations from the 30 March onwards. 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. 30 Mar 11
Shaftoe – The Ox Inn
06 Apr 11
Rothley - Dyke Neuk
13 Apr 11
Curtis - The Ox Inn
20 Apr 11
East Woodburn / Wolf – The Ox Inn
27 Apr 11
Jack Rock - Northumberland Arms
04 May 11
Simonside - Turks Head
11 May 11
Peel - Twice Brewed
18 May 11
Wanneys - The Ox Inn
25 May 11
Bowden Doors - Salmon
01 Jun 11
Crag Lough - Twice Brewed
08 Jun 11
Kyloe Out - Percy Arms, Chatton
15 Jun 11
Sandy - Bird in the Bush
22 Jun 11
Callerhues - Cheviot, Bellingham
29 Jun 11
Kyloe In – Percy Arms, Chatton
NMC County Climber
06 Jul 11
Ravenheugh – Turks Head
13 Jul 11
Wanneys – The Ox Inn
20 July 11
Crag Lough - Twice Brewed
27 Jul 11
Back Bowden - Salmon
03 Aug 11
Coe – Anglers Arms
Weekend meets The follow list shows the weekend climbing meets currently arranged. You MUST contact the meet leader in advance, as any accommodation may be limited or already fully booked. 26-27 Mar 11
Bowderstone - Working Meet—Neil Cranston 0191 270 2648
16 Apr 11
Northumberland—Ian Birtwistle 07828 123 143
29 Apr 2 May 11
May BH – North Wales— Peter Bennett ??????????
7-8 May 11
Bowderstone – Ladies Meets—Alison Jones 07506 888 065
21-22 May 11
Bowderstone – new members—John Dalrymple 01670 519 629
28 May- 4 Jun 11
Spring BH – Mingulay, Scotland—Tim Catterall 07704 614 814
18 Jun 11
Annual Dinner—John Mountain 01670 505 202
2-3 Jul 11
Bowderstone – Family Meet—Neil Cranston 0191 270 2648
16-17 Jul 11
Lakes—Eva Diran 07824 627 772
6-7 Aug 11
Peak District—Gareth Crapper 07768 464 396
20-21 Aug 11
Bowderstone - BBQ Meet— Sam Judson 07793 522 261
3-4 Sep 11
North Wales—John Mountain 01670 505 202
24-25 Sept 11
Bowderstone - Working Meet—Neil Cranston 0191 270 2648
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Mount Aspiring – New Zealand Bob Bell
First some excuses. Yes a guide was used and yes there was a helicopter – and I am very, very sorry – but... 1 I was going down under to see my son/his partner/my granddaughter and had not more than a week spare for a climb. So there was limited time for going solo.
sofas. From Wanaka an hour and a half drive takes you to the road head at Raspberry Flat which is where the chopper takes over. If you don’t fancy the chopper – then it’s a tough two day walk-in with a full pack (including all your food) during which you will probably watch the good
2 If you object to using a chopper in mountain areas then presumably you never use a ‘frique in the Alps or go downhill skiing? Mount Aspiring is one of those peaks (Matterhorn? Ama Dablam?) which just looks sensational. In each case there are bigger hills around – but – these are the ones with real sex appeal. The ‘Chamonix’ of the Mount Aspiring National Park is Wanaka (watch your As and Ks). It used to be called Pembroke before the Equal Ops. committee got on the case. It’s a great little town with many attributes – not least a licensed cinema where the seats are just a collection of old
NW on left skyline & SW ridges
weather go past – and then you will probably need a rest day. From the chopper landing at Bevan Col it’s an hour or two to walk over to the Colin Todd hut. On the way there is a great view of the NW ridge of Mount Aspiring. The NW ridge is the left skyline. Actually the route stays off the crest of the ridge. It comes diagonally up a snow ‘Ramp’ between rock masses and reaches the crest half way along. Then it follows the snowy crest to the top cone. The Colin Todd hut is nicely placed for the NW ridge. Local pests are the Keas (large high altitude parrots) which would love to rip up your crampon straps and ice axe leads given half a chance.
Unloading after the flight in
NMC County Climber
Summit day started at 3am. The March 2011
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walk from the Colin Todd Hut to the Ramp is an unremarkable skirting of the glacier. The Ramp is about nine full pitches of Grade 2 nevé topping out (into the sun?) on the crest of the ridge.
bush to the valley floor and then about four hours to the road head. It was a pretty seamless trip; the weather was faultless, the logistics worked fine and there were no mishaps. I was fit enough – but only just. Summit day is 12-15 hours of pretty constant work and could be more in poor weather. If you set out to do this trip guideless without a chopper then allow three days for the walk-in (includes a spare for weather problem or rest) one day for the summit and two days for the walk out via the French Ridge.
Colin Todd Hut
The top cone of Mount Aspiring is steep but only the top (~ three pitches) needs pitching. The summit is a real sharp point where three ridges meet: NW, SW and Cockscomb. The latter is an amazing sight – actually used in some Lord of the Rings footage. The SW ridge is harder than the NW and needs a bivvy for early access. A team topped out on that route just before we did.
The Southern Alps deserve their reputation for size and grandeur. As well as the mountains and the rock climbing there are some great multiday trails based on huts giving spectacular views. All that and they speak English too! As long as you realise that ‘fit cit’ refers to a podgy pussy and not some exercise equipment...
We reversed the route; down climbing and abseiling the Ramp. At the Colin Todd Hut there was some serious carbo loading followed with a sleep punctuated by every muscle in the legs cramping up in sequence. Next day the route out goes out across the Bonar Glacier to the French Ridge Hut (overnight stop) and then two hours of Tarzan swings down through the NMC County Climber
The summit man and the top cone March 2011
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Winter skills Tina Evans
The first challenge was amassing everything on the extensive kit list; Hat, spare hat and fully adjustable helmet. Neck buff, double lense ski goggles, waterproof with hood that covers forehead cheeks and chin – and that was just from the neck up. “What kind of ice boots do you have,” asked Tim Hakim the course director. He called all six of us in the week before the Winter Skills course, held in Scotland in the first weekend in January, to check we had everything on the kit list. “Uncomfortable ones” I groaned, recalling the angry set of blisters I was left with the last time I’d worn them. There was a pause while Tim patiently waited for a more technical answer. The course was to teach the skills needed to take part in winter climbing activities. The time for joking was perhaps after we had safely grasped the basics. Saturday saw us up bleary-eyed at 6.30am and ready to leave still in darkness at 7.30am. Our early start and bid to beat the Cairngorm crowds was nearly thwarted when cars struggled to make it out of the Kingussie MCS car park. Luckily Craig Johnson saved the day with a cunning pair of socks not on the kit list – snow socks for car tyres. After witnessing them in action easy on and making short work of the slippery snow compacted slope - they will definitely be on my next Christmas list. Trudging to Corrie Cas in Northern Corries, where we were to practise movement skills, talk turned from socks to gloves. Try keeping a good pair of gloves dry in your day sack ready for when you really need them on the climb and have another to get wet or sweaty or both on the walk in, was Tim’s advice. One of many nuggets we were to gather during our two days with him. There was a decent amount of snow and good solid conditions after a period of thaw and freeze and the lower slopes of the Cairngorms were busy. Tim and Richard NMC County Climber
Pow who was helping instruct on the course went through the basics of using an axe; and moving with an axe only including step kicking and step cutting. Then we moved on to practising an iceaxe arrest. In the past, I clearly remember soloing up my first winter route (Central Gully, grade 1) when I started to regret not ever having actually practised a self arrest. I had read about it in the trusty Mountain Skills Training Handbook, but with the reality of the vast slope of ice below me and the very real outcome of a slip worryingly obvious, I remember vowing then to take the time out to practise it once I got down. Two years later and with routes including The Runnel (II**) solo and Spiral Gully (II*) and Fiacaill Couloir (II**) as a second bagged it was definitely time to go back to basics before my luck in the Northern Corries ran out. We split into two groups, in which we remained for most of the rest of the weekend. Alastair Boardman, Dan Hirst and I teamed up with Richard and Craig, Adam Johnson and James Duffy, went with Tim. First we were shown the correct arrest position for the axe with the adze tucked under the collar bone and our hand covering the spike. Then we practised the right body position, face down in the snow, feet up, backside and stomach raised, transferring our body weight onto the axe to stop a slide. The next step was attempting an arrest from a sitting position, as if we had slipped walking downhill. From there we moved to a head first slide, first rotating then arresting before attempting a head-first on our back slide. By now my knees and knuckles were aching from the hard snow and my thoughts were turning to lunch. Richard and Tim gamely threw themselves down the slope to demonstrate how a tumbling fall could be stopped by assuming a star position, which we stoically practised before devouring our sandwiches. After lunch we donned our crampons, enjoying the relative security and sureMarch 2011
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footedness they provided compared to our time spent practising without them. We practised zigzagging up and down the slope ensuring all ten downward-facing points on our crampons made contact with the snow before looking at front-pointing and ascending using a mixture of the two. Tim dug something called a ‘hasty pit’ and showed us how it could be used to identify the different layers of snow and assess the risk of avalanche. Richard busied himself constructing a bucket seat and demonstrated how it can be used in conjunction with a buried axe as a second anchor. We also looked at the use of a deadman anchor and the pros and cons of this alarmingly named piece of equipment.
I fumbled with ropes hampered by thick gloves but enjoyed my first chance to lead a winter route. I found the climbing easy and it was good to practise some of the things we had learned the day before. Richard soloed alongside giving advice on gear placements and building belays.
Back at the hut, once we had thawed out and demolished a good Testing the snow belay by Alistair Boardman amount of hot tea and cake, Tim gave us a The spindrift, that had scowered our talk on avalanches. By the time he had faces on the early pitches, eased and finished half of me never wanted to set visibility improved as the Pinnacle came foot on a snow covered slope again. The into sight. Two more long pitches took us dangers seemed complex, constant and to the top and a round of congratulations. catastrophic. The other half of me couldn’t For Alastair and Dan it was their first wait till the next day when we were to winter route and not, I suspect, their last. consolidate our day’s instruction with a climb. The course was an excellent introduction to winter climbing which left The snow blew relentlessly into our us all hungry for more. Tim and Richard faces as we trekked to Coire an t-Sneachda hold a wealth of information, which they on Sunday morning. Nobody spoke very share generously. There is clearly a lot much and I guessed some were feeling more to learn but having completed the anxious about the challenge ahead. We course, I feel confident to continue that split into the same groups we had been in learning in the snow clad hills. Bring it on! the previous day and started out on opposite sides of the large dog-leg gully of Contact Tim Hakim at: Aladdin’s Couloir (1**) email@example.com The group I was in got ahead but 07974 413 562 progress still seemed slow with one of us leading and then bringing up the other two. NMC County Climber
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39 County Summits of England 28Aug—4 Sept 2011 Alan Hinkes
I have always been up for a hill challenge; I managed the 14 8000m peaks in The Himalaya – but that’s another story. The traditional English Shire Counties have historical significance as far back as 1066; the boundaries only changed, or were ‘messed up’ in 1973/4. Bagging all 39 high points of these counties was a mini challenge I had been intending to do for many years. To make the whole event more meaningful, I included a charity, raising funds and awareness for Mountain Rescue. I had had a close shave in an avalanche on Great End last March when a slope released on me at the top of Window Gully, it was a classic wind slab with a clean cut crown wall. Somehow I rolled out of it and escaped being swept 500m. The alarm was raised by two other climbers who saw and heard the avalanche,
With the Skoda at the start
NMC County Climber
thinking I had been swept away. Three MRT’s were scrambled along with two helicopters, somewhat embarrassing as I had extricated myself, but very reassuring that we have such superb, committed MRT’s that can respond so quickly. The friendly crew of the Royal Navy Sea King from RN Gannet lifted all concerned down the hill, it was a happy ending callout as no one was injured. All Mountain Rescue Teams are charities and all team members are not only dedicated skilled professionals, but also volunteers. Casio Pro Trek, helped sponsor the 39 County Summits challenge and built a web site www.pro-trek.co.uk. The official launch was in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, my home town on Friday 3rd Sept. Specialist gourmet shop, Lewis and Cooper sent me off with a food parcel, Skoda helped with a Yeti and I headed off to Cheviot, the highest in Northumberland for my first summit. Arriving in the dark on a Friday night, I was fortunate that the gamekeeper at Langleeford knew me, so it was no problem to camp. It was quite a while since I had been up Cheviot, probably last century. We all know the Cheviot is a straightforward yomp following the fence to the sandstone slabs across the summit bog to the OS trig pillar. As expected, the clag rolled in as I reached the sandstone flags, but Cheviot felt like an old friend. I have had plenty of fun in this area hill walking, skiing, rock climbing at Hen Hole and ice climbing the Bizzle. As soon as I jogged back down to Langleeford, it was jump in the Yeti and head to Yorkshire. Mickle Fell, the highest in Yorkshire was next. I had a close shave on this hill a few years ago, when alone in the dark I ran into a sphagnum moss swamp. I was up to my chest and sinking, quite scary; luckily I got myself out before drowning. This time I went up with Dave and Steve from Teesdale and Weardale Search and Mountain Rescue Team, no dramas, but the weather was wild. August in the North Pennines and the lashing rain was almost sleet, the wind chill was well below zero. March 2011
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He was very proud of his high point and said he liked the field and the nice views. It did seem USA Nebraska-mini-prairie like in the starlight. As I was on a mission there was no time to rock climb, anyway most English Counties have no crags. We really are lucky and blessed to live in the North, with great hills and lovely crags.
With Dave and Steve before Mickle Fell
On the way down, the lads showed me the remains of a crashed Stirling Bomber. Not far away is the highest point in Co. Durham, Burnhope Seat. This is a walk up the line of the Yad Moss ski tow, England’s only permanent ski lift. There is the usual ubiquitous North Pennine black bog on the top, protecting the summit OS Trig pillar. Things were looking good, three big ones bagged in the first day, I drove South on the A1 to bivi in a hotel near Doncaster. Next day began with Lincs., a trig pillar in the Wolds.; Notts. – a landscaped slag heap (not many of them left in Northumberland or Co. Durham) with good views; Leics. above a huge hard rock quarry – looked crap and shattered for rock climbing; down to Rutland, the smallest county, a trig pillar in a field. The lowest high point is in Huntingdonshire, a County which no longer exists. I arrived at this top in the dark about 10pm, it is along a farm track and known as Boring Field. A local who lent me his 1:25000 OS map was miffed when I told him. NMC County Climber
I continued through the East and South of England, through Devon, High Willhays to Brown Willy in Cornwall, then headed up the West side of England to finish in the Lake District, which is now Cumbria, with only one County top, but originally three Counties. Scafell Pike the highest in Cumberland, Coniston Old Man, highest in Lancashire to finish on Helvellyn, the highest in Westmorland and one of my favourites. It was a great whistle stop trip around England bagging all 39 high points in a week, setting a record and helping Mountain Rescue. I am still tweeting if you want to follow me @alanhinkes.
On Black Mountain, Herefordshire
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Club News Andrew Earl John Mountain, Vice President
There will be few people reading this who are unaware of the traumatic event that befell the Earl family before Christmas. On the 9th December, Andrew was working at the Alnwick Wall, routesetting with his Climb Newcastle partner, Chris Graham. Andrew started to feel unwell and was taken back home by Chris. There he fell into unconsciousness and was rushed to hospital. He had suffered a bleed on the brain. At this time, Andrew’s partner, Suzan, was eight and a half months pregnant. Andrew was operated on and was kept under sedation to control pressure build up in the brain. He was in fact in this comatose and critical condition for two weeks. There was enormous apprehension amongst his wide circle of friends as to what the future might hold. For his immediate family, the waiting, the hope, the fears must have been incredibly intense.
In the early days, Andrew had no use of the right hand side of his body, and no speech. Since then, he has been making good progress with a regime of intensive physio and speech therapy, latterly at the new Walkergate Park Centre for Neurorehabilitation. Doubtless Andrew’s fanatical dedication to training, which took him to the pinnacle of his sport, has been a massive advantage. He now has good movement of the right leg and improving control over the right arm. He can walk with assistance, and easily move himself from bed to wheelchair to chair. There is every expectation that he will regain full mobility. His understanding is excellent and his speech is improving, but one still has to couch questions carefully to present Andrew with a choice of straightforward answers! So whilst there is still a long road to travel, we are now confident that Andrew will make the journey. There has been a massive surge of goodwill towards him from all corners of the climbing world. Everyone in the NMC will be willing Andrew back to full recovery and we all send our heartfelt support to Suzan, Amber, John, Carol and rest of the family.
On Christmas Eve, Andrew came out of his coma. It was clear that he had recognition of family members, which gave everyone much needed hope. On Christmas Day, Suzan gave birth to daughter, Amber. Suzan had been switched to the same hospital as Andrew, and there is a heart-warming photo of their meeting on Christmas Day, with Andrew clearly recognising his daughter. President’s Walk, December 2010 NMC County Climber
by John Dalrymple page 10 of 22
Bowderstone Hut News 1 – Hut Fee Increases Neil Cranston, Hut Co-ordinator
The Hut Sub-committee have increased the fee for staying at the hut by £1 per person per night across the board. The increase has been deemed necessary to meet the ever increasing hut operating costs, in particular coal and electricity. This means a new nightly rate of £5 for members and £7 for non-members. This increase will take effect immediately. The hut remains by far the cheapest place to stay, in the valley. 2 – Hut Bookings
The minimum charge for the cottage is £30 per night per party regardless of the numbers. The minimum charge does not apply to members using beds at short notice. At weekends, preference will be given to groups booking both Friday and Saturday nights. Groups booking and paying for 15 or more places will have sole use of the cottage. All places booked must be paid for. A deposit of £30 or half the total amount payable, whichever is the greater, must be paid with the booking form. Members intending to use beds in the main hut should always contact the Hut Booking Secretary beforehand. It is helpful for members to contact the Hut Booking Secretary before using the Hermitage. Beds in the Hermitage cannot be booked and are on a first come, first served basis. 3 – Sewage Issue Update
Derek Cutts, Hut Booking Secretary
The wording in the NMC Handbook concerning booking the hut, which applies to both members and groups has been modified as follows:
John Mountain, Vice President
Further to the meeting with the National Trust on 18 November (reported in the last issue of County Climber), the Club has now been in touch formally with both the
Eva Diran, Sarah Follmann and Neil Morbey on way to Dollywagon North
NMC County Climber
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Environment Agency (EA) and Natural England (NE). A meeting with NE has taken place at the Bowderstone, to review our plans in the context of the Bowderstone being in a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). NE did have some concerns over the proposed location of our soakaway, but the good news is that another site was found that will be acceptable to NE. At the beginning of March, a topographical survey of the area around the Bowderstone was done, concentrating on the proposed new location for the soakaway. A percolation test on the new site was then undertaken, to ensure that the drainage is within statutory limits. The data from these two exercises are being evaluated, and subject to a satisfactory conclusion we hope to be submitting our formal application to the EA in midMarch.
4 – Hut Lease Renewal John Mountain, Vice President
NMC member Bill Renshaw has had an initial meeting with the National Trust (NT). The NT has confirmed that it wants the Bowderstone Cottage to continue as a ‘mountain bothy’. They are non-committal at present on the terms of a new lease, but whatever options are followed, the NT will eventually want a fully scoped agreement. At some point in the near future, the Club will need to decide whether to go forward into serious negotiations with the NT. In my last missive in County Climber, I mentioned that we would need to find new Trustees if we were to go ahead with a new lease. Since then, the working group has come to the view that we should avoid placing any potential financial liability on individual members. The FRCC (Fell and Rock) has, so I understand, achieved this ideal by becoming a limited company…Watch this space!
NMC County Climber
5 – Hut Mattresses
Please note it is NO LONGER NECESSARY to turn the hut mattresses on their side. Previously it was necessary to do this to allow the mattresses to air. The new mattress covers (which have been in use for the last couple of years) are totally waterproof and hence protect the mattress from humidity build up when slept on. The mattress covers were very expensive and are slowly being damaged when being turned because they rub against the rough wood surface of the bed frame.
Membership Expired All memberships expired on 31 January 2011 Please renew your membership immediately, by sending a cheque for £25 to the membership secretary, Sam Judson. Once your membership has lapsed (from 28 Feb) then you will no longer be covered by the club’s BMC affiliated status third party insurance. CONFIRM YOUR CONTACT DETAILS: With your payment please also confirm your postal and email address, your home and mobile numbers and also state whether you want to take the magazine by electronic download from the club’s website. Sam Judson 31 Kenmore Close, Wardley Tyne & Wear NE10 8WJ Sam@wackylabs.net 07793 522 261
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President: John Dalrymple Vice President: John Mountain Treasurer: John Earl Membership Secretary: Sam Judson General Secretary: Caroline Judson Hut Coordinator: Neil Cranston Hut Booking Secretary: Derek Cutts Magazine Editor: Peter Flegg Access Officer: Vacant
AGM John Dalrymple, President
The AGM went smoothly again this year, with our retiring President, John Mountain, wielding the gavel with his usual aplomb. Forty two members attended, which is well up on last year’s attendance - it’s good to see so many people taking an interest in the running of the club. The minutes are not published until after next year's meeting, because they first have to be formally accepted by that meeting as correct, so this is just a short overview of the meeting. If you’ve never been to an AGM it goes like this - there are a few formal bits at the start, then annual reports from the Secretary, Treasurer, Hut Co-ordinator, Access Officer and Guidebook Editor. Finally we have the elections of Club Officers and Committee Members and the meeting ends with a summing up by El Presidente. So here’s the AGM in a couple of paragraphs, without revealing details which will have to wait until the minutes get approved next year. The Membership Secretary reported that Club has about the same membership as last year, but one founding member is sadly no longer with us – Angus McDonald. There was then the usual detailed presentation by the Treasurer, the main points being that Guidebook sales had increased the Club’s surplus whilst income in other areas had reduced, but was made up for in reduced expenses. The Hut Co-ordinator reported that usage of the hut was up on last year but the ongoing problems with the sewage system are still a worry - there’s an section on this elsewhere in the magazine. The Access Officer wasn’t present, so there was no report. Finally the Guidebook Editor reported that things were rolling along pretty much as expected with Guidebook sales.
General committee members were: Peter Bennett, Gareth Crapper, Ian Ross, Malcolm Rowe, Andrew Shanks, Ian Birtwistle (Webmaster), Eva Diran (Social Sec) and Richard Pow.
I’m pleased to say that since then Richard has resumed the role of Access Officer, which he held in his previous stint on the committee. John Mountain ended the meeting by thanking the departing committee members. What was missing was a word or two about our departing President... so I'm taking this opportunity to thank John Mountain for doing such an fine job in his two year tenure as President, in particular his expert handling of the ongoing problems we have with the National Trust over the Hut. Well done that man. I hope to see you all at next year's meeting.
Hut Overnight Fee increase Hut fees have had to be increased to cover operating losses. The new hut fees are: £5 for members £7 for non-members. These increases are effective immediately. Refer to the full notice in the Club News section on page 10.
After the elections, the new club officers were: NMC County Climber
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NMC Annual Dinner The NMC is holding its Annual Dinner this year on:
18th June The dinner will be held at a new location: Riverdale Hall Hotel Bellingham, Hexham, Northumberland NE48 2JT
The bunk house sleeps 15 and costs £16 per person per night. Cheaper if we book the whole place. The campsite requires notice if you want to return after 10pm and has strict noise rules. There is also a Camping & Caravan Club site in the area.
Dinner The 3 course meal costs £20.
Book your place at the dinner by contacting:
There are several B&Bs in Bellingham with prices starting from £20.
John Dalrymple email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel. 01670-519-629 You will need to pay John a £5 deposit to reserve your place, you make the final payment to John on the evening of the dinner.
Accommodation Hotel The Riverdale offers accommodation – you will need to book this yourself. www.riverdalehallhotel.co.uk 01434-220-258 / 254 or 07967396-345 It works out to be the same price as paying for Dinner and B&B at the hotel and easier for John.
Camping There is camping and a bunk house available at Desmesne Farm, Bellingham:
NMC County Climber
Martina Mederiova, very happy at the top of Dorsal Arete, by Adrian Heath her first winter route
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How to NOT climb the Munros Martin Cooper
“The Munros” are the mountains in Scotland over three thousand feet, first listed by Sir Hugh Munro in 1891. It appears that a number of people have been to the top of all of these mountains and that there are people who are currently also attempting the same thing. This article is an attempt to aid you in not climbing all of these mountains.
path. One munro completed, the other ignored. If you use this ploy frequently enough, clearly you will be left with many, many single mountains to climb and, with a little forethought, a lot of excessively dull ones. Try it. Climbing the mountain but not getting to the top might sound a bit odd, but not if you pretend you are a winter climber. Bidean nam Bian, by most people’s reckoning, would be a massif, not a single mountain. Yet only the summit of the mountain counts as a munro. I’ve climbed
First it should be pointed out that there is a crucial semantic difference between “How to Not Climb The Munros” and the similar sounding title, “How Not to Climb The Munros.” The latter suggests a successful attempt which has been spoilt by awful weather, dreadful navigational errors, choice of excruciatingly tedious routes, the company Another bloody munro! (Ben Nevis) of people you would really rather not be with or a resultant three winter routes on Stob Coire nan permanent separation from your partner. Lochan, always too knackered to get to the All of these can be avoided by making sure summit of Bidean and, in any case, that that each time you climb Scottish wasn’t the point of the day. I’ve still not mountains you clearly make the done the munro. I never will. What about appropriate decisions to ensure that you are Ben Lui, which looks superb in most of the not doing the munros.(Note the lower case. pictures you see, climbers near the top of That helps.) central gully, a grade one snow climb? Yes, I’ve climbed it but in cloud, by Many techniques recommend myself, in January, the snow conditions not themselves. The ascent of two nondescript so great. I turned back before the top. What munros on the same ridge is an excellent a wimp. No, sound decision making. starting point. Graham Williams and myself used this tactic in the Fannaichs in I’ve climbed Liathach, but then again, I February 2008. A long trudge onto the haven’t done all of it. I got to the summit subsidiary peak of Toman Conich meant of Spidean Coire a Leith on a day of low that we could easily have climbed both cloud, rain and midges but on my own up A’Chilleach and Sgurr Breac. We turned there, in the cloud, I didn’t fancy the left for Sgurr Breac and rapidly descended pinnacles along the ridge to the second off it to the north to pick up a stalker’s munro, Mullach an Rathain. In any case, I NMC County Climber
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set off on the wrong bearing, dislodging two huge pieces of rock which clattered down a steep gully and out of sight below. I didn’t want to go that way myself. So go on your own, sometimes. It increases the chance of turning back. If you can arrange to have young children and a wife/husband dependent on you, that helps with the decision making too. Possibly an extreme method, however.
Bheithir above Ballachulish Bridge on a sunny May day, happily leaving the second munro unclimbed. But times have changed. Now living back in Scotland, a munro map has worryingly appeared on the Robertson’s kitchen wall. Their children are starting to tick them and Alison has the darnned things in her sights too. Last May we had a day walking in Glen Lyon and did four in a day. I need to lose the Robertson’s phone number. Soon.
Neil and Alison Robertson, former There are other methods of course and I members of the club, are a help, but a wouldn’t recommend all of them. Keep hinderance too. The first time I went going out in awful weather and your spirits climbing with Neil I took an instant liking will be dampened. Your enthusiasm, as to him. He’d only every lived in Inverness well as your last stitch of clothing, could until he came south in 1999 and he’d be consigned to the back of your wardrobe completed the munros by the time he was twenty five. Mention any Scottish mountain and he would a) give the correct Gaelic pronunciation, b) tell you about all the possible lines of ascent and c) tell you how he’d run up and down it in forty five minutes while on a school trip. His knees are suffering now. I started having weekends in Scotland, alternating with Neil or Alison, the other one of them staying home with the kids. Neil is a good companion. He has no need to tick off anything and we’d choose an interesting scramble or rock climb. Alison was just pleased to get out and we had a couple of brilliant days, climbing the Great Ridge of Gharbh Beinn, a superb mountain, fortunately just a few feet short of three thousand feet. I wouldn’t have done it Richard Pow emerges from rabbit hole through cornice on White otherwise. We also did Tim Catterall Shark IV, 5 Anoach Mor the ridges of Beinn a’ NMC County Climber
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for ever . You wouldn’t want that. Developing an interest in geology or lichen or place names will sidetrack you for a wee while. Just sitting up there, pen in hand, staring into space, thinking deeply and writing a poem will help enormously. Go on. I dare you. It takes away the will to live, never mind doing another peak. I would also not recommend deliberate self injury, moving to Australia, becoming a Tibetan monk or joining a political party. These are unnecessary and will, ultimately, only provide temporary distraction.
Trip Report Jan 2011
But wait, I hear a news bulletin from the radio in the kitchen. The coalition government has announced that it is to cut the number of munros by twenty five per cent. Is this good news or bad? A spokesman for the Convalescent Government, the Liberal Democrat MP, Mr Stob Coire nan Beith has claimed that front line services, the bars of the Slighachan Hotel and the Clachaig, will not be affected. Instead, the Contradiction Front Bench will axe a number of QUANGOS and make efficiency savings. This will mean an end to the twice daily meetings of representatives of the SMC, the MCofS, The Ladies Scottish Climbing Club and the BMC to decide on the final and definitive criteria for designation of a mountain as a munro (revised lists published weekly). Eight hundred jobs will go. The Contraband Government intends to top slice twenty five per cent of Scottish mountains. Good luck. In a later bulletin, don’t you just know it, the Prime Minister, Mr David Cameron McNeish, will admit that he has no idea what a munro is and that this is quite simply a blatant ploy to win votes in the south of England. It won’t work, I’m afraid. The Munros will still be there long after Nick Clegg-Fly Midge has perished, frozen, in a peat bog.
On reaching the coire lip, the snow was awful, slabby in places with ice underneath and generally hard going. This didn’t bode well for the gully routes on similar aspects, but we thought we’d head on into the coire anyway and “have a look.” If it was too scary we could always “do a walk” or head up Fiacaill Coire an t’Sneachda for a nice ridge climb, or even back to the ski centre for coffee and cake.
As for me? See you by the summit cairn.
It quickly becomes apparent that the party is two clients and a guide: at one point Adrian is asked “how long have you been winter climbing?” to which Adrian replies “eighteen years” and is informed it is her second (and probably last) winter
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Saturday 8 January Adrian, Simon and I joined Tim’s Winter Skills Meet and headed off on Saturday for a climb in Coire an t’Sneachda. Despite it being one of the most accessible crags in Scotland, the Christmas diet left us finding it hard work on the walk in.
At the big snow slope below the crag things weren’t actually too bad, and we decided we would climb something. But what? An easier climb to give Simon some winter leading, a harder route to get a good tick, something in the middle? We roped up and moved together up below the junction of a number of routes, deciding we’d see which was busiest when we got there. Looking down the apron, a couple of small avalanche run-outs were visible, but the snow was generally good, without the slabs breaking away that we’d had on the walk-in. As the party in The Runnel were just about to leave their first belay, we decide to go for this route, thinking it would be a nice relaxing climb following the party in front.
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climb. They’re very slow: we spend a lot of time waiting at each belay for them to move off, and then a brief burst of activity as we catch up. Gareth isn’t impressed by the long waits, spindrift showers and general onset of hypothermia. However, Adrian is amused at the “good value” Gareth gives when upset, and the comments such as “stop knocking all that *** ice down!” when the guys ahead lead off. The final chimney is involved enough for us to pitch it. Thin ice over rock, and the final 15m to the top is surprisingly icy and steep. The calf muscles are sobbing, but you can’t give in now. The nice weather of earlier has gone and we are into proposer Scottish white-out conditions. The GPS comes out and we arrive at Windy Col. Our plan to descend there is aborted by Adrian skating down the ice and performing a textbook ice axe arrest. We change our plan and walk down the Fiacaill Choire Chais, finishing down the skiing pistes by head torch. Sunday 9 January While the serious people on the course had an early start heading to a clag-bound northern corries, our team had a lie-in, a fry up, cleaned the kitchen and drove home! This is what winter climbing is about – lie-ins and cholesterol. Looking forward to the next outing.
Mountain Art Exhibition Susan Dobson (partner of NMC member Bill Renshaw) has an art exhibition on at the Gateshead Library Gallery. The exhibition, called Mountains of Inspiration, runs from Saturday 19 March to 30 April – there is no entry charge. Susan’s work has previously been featured in the BMC magazine and was also on display at the last Kendal Mountain Festival.
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Telling it, like it is Eva Diran (NMC Social Sec) provided the following description of a typical Scottish Winter meet to those attending the Winter Skills course.
You don full waterproofs and ski goggles at the car park. You walk into horizontal rain for an hour and reach a flattish area, which you guess to be the corrie floor. You can't see the crag. In fact you can't see anything in the fog. You walk around aimlessly until by chance you find a bit of black rock. Your rucksack is now soaked with snowy rain. You get your guidebook out to identify the bit of rock, the pages flapping in the wind and sticking together in the rain, you getting really pi$$ed off about turning wet pages with gloves. After much deliberation you convince yourself that you know where you are. Bits of wet snow are avalanching around you. You choose an easy gully to climb, your ropes wet and heavy. You dig endless bucket seats as you can't find any gear, and get freezing cold sitting in them. You have cold, wet hands in cold, wet gloves. After what seems an eternity you top out on what you hope is the plateau. You stuff wet frozen ropes into your wet frozen sack. You wonder how you'll get off the plateau, rain driving into your eyes and goggles misting up. You start pacing, only to forget what step number you reached. After another small eternity and wondering whether you'll be snuggling into your orange survival bag later, you surprise yourself that you have found your descent (by pure chance of course!) You start going down, trip over your crampon and trigger a small avalanche, but at least you got down fast. You shake yourself out, remove the snow from inside your t-shirt and continue down. Truly miserable, you stagger back to the Cairngorm Mountain coffee shop for a nice hot chocolate and a de-freeze. You feel you wasted the whole day and the shop is already closed. March 2011
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Breakfast and Tafoni Andrew Shanks
In late February I noticed Trevor Langhornes's post on the NMC forum about a trip to Corsica. I may have been a little inexperienced for the big routes, but with a whole season to prepare for climbing in such a beautiful part of the world, I was eager. What could go wrong? 13 September: I stood under the Corsican sun, rooting through the pile of luggage for my sunglasses, while Chris Drinkwater and Dan Hirst queued at separate car hire offices – Trevor, who had been in charge of the hire car had been forced to drop out at the last minute. About the same time as I discovered my sunglasses were sitting on my bedside table in Newcastle, Chris and Dan returned with the news that the first hire car available would be the next morning. With that news, we grabbed some sandwiches from a closing airport bakery for dinner, and, with much broken French and gesturing at the map managed to persuade a taxi driver to take us to a campsite in town. 14 Sept: We awoke in the Ajaccio campsite. Chris went to fetch the car, while Dan and I packed up the tents and waited, and waited, and waited. Over an hour later, Chris finally turned up, having got himself trapped in Ajaccio's one-way system. We made a quick trip to the local supermarket to stock up on pasta, sauce and Pietra beer (a local specialty, made with chestnuts and surprisingly good), and finally got on our way to Bavella. The journey across the island was marked by bright sunshine, twisty roads and an interesting revelation about Corsican culture. Apparently most towns in Corsica have both a French name and a Corse name, and patriotic Corsicans take it upon themselves to paint over the names imposed by the wicked, imperialist French NMC County Climber
– our map was exclusively in French, leaving us to make educated guesses about where we actually were. We finally made it to Bavella with just enough time to put up the tents before sunset and rejoin the rest of the Climber's Club party, who informed us of a most grave challenge to any aspirations we might have of doing an alpine start - every morning at 9am, the baker's van would come from the village bearing its tempting cargo of baguettes, croissants and brioche. 15 Sept: Chris and I spent the day getting used to the rock on the sports crag at the Aguilles de Bavella while Dan, who had only one week instead of two joined up with the others for an altogether more ambitious route.
by Chris Drinkwater
16 Sept: Chris and I decided to go for our first mountain route of the holiday – the Punta d'Acellu. Following a map of unspecified scale, and the route description I had painstakingly translated the night March 2011
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before with the aid of a pocket French dictionary and Trevor's climbing-specific glossary, we headed up an increasingly narrow trail that eventually petered out. After scrambling aimlessly around the hillside for some time, we decided to call it quits and returned to the car park, where we found Dan had been separated from his party. Dan was able to show us the trail we should have taken but by then it was so late in the day that the three of us ended up at the sports crag again. 17 Sept: Chris and I finally get onto Punta d'Acellu. After much scouting around the foot to find the start of the climb, we finally get started sometime in the early afternoon. The route itself is six pitches of pleasurable trad climbing on wonderfully grippy Corsican granite, with convenient abseil bolts at the belays, including a traverse on tafoni, a feature peculiar to Corsica, whereby the rock is so covered with deep pockets that it resembles an aero bar. By the time we'd reached the top and descended the route, the daylight was fading and clouds were coming in. We made it over the Col in twilight, following the cairns that marked the GR20. After about half an hour, we ran into a problem – the cairns appeared to give out. After retracing our steps round and round in circles for ages, we finally decided to follow a likely looking trail down the valley. Relieved to be moving forward again, we crashed through the scrub at an increasing pace. When we finally stopped for a rest and to eat the remains of our sandwiches, I asked Chris “What's our plan NMC County Climber
now? Are we going to go back up to the trail or just find a sheltered spot to bivvy.” “Up?” replied Chris, “I thought we were here, above the trail”, pointing to a spot on
the map on the far side of the ridge. After a hasty conference and much comparison of the direction of slope with the compass we established our location and made a plan to get out – we could be reasonably sure of which direction down was, so we could get to the base of the valley and continue along a river until we met the road that would get us back into town. At about ten, Chris expressed reservations about the plan, suggesting that contouring around the southern hill would be much shorter than going to the mouth of the valley. I was horrified at the thought of trying to follow a contour and a bearing across a wooded hillside in the dark without knowing our exact start point or March 2011
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being sure to intersect our target, so we continued into the valley. At eleven, I got a call from Kyle Pattison at base camp asking where we were and if we were ok. I assured him that we were unhurt and making good progress on our new escape plan. It was at this point that I stepped through some undergrowth onto a slope and slid about six feet. Fortunately, I held onto the phone and was able to reassure Kyle that the sudden interruption to our conversation was only a short fall, and that I was still unhurt. We followed a dry canyon bed down the bottom of the valley for what seemed like ages, remarking on our good fortune that it was dry. We weren't so sure it was a good thing when our water bottles ran out, and we were greatly relieved when we heard the distinctive trickling of a small waterfall. After drinking deeply and filling our bottles to the brim we continued for maybe another half hour, until we reached a vertical drop. After a brief discussion about whether to abseil, and how we'd know when we could safely recover the rope if we did, we decided to head south, looking for an easier way across. We eventually made it down to the base of the ravine, where we crossed a pool at the foot of a waterfall and started scrambling up an alarmingly steep bank. Chris led the way, sending showers of dirt and pebbles towards me with every step. Visions of benightment or injury danced in my head, until Chris called from above that he'd reached the forestry track we were aiming for. I joined him, he very carefully aligned the map with the track and double-checked the direction we should be walking before we began the long walk into town. To walk on a flat road, knowing that it would eventually lead to the car and the campsite after hour upon hour of scrambling through dark woods was a blessed relief, but the road seemed to stretch forever. After maybe an hour of walking, we flagged down a fruit and veg van and completed the last mile or so into town amongst the cabbages and celery. The driver let us off at the refuge, NMC County Climber
explaining that he had to go left to make his delivery, and we should go right to get to our car park...or maybe the other way around â€“ with our French we couldn't be quite sure. We picked a direction and set out until we found a landmark, then turned around, waved sheepishly to the van driver as we passed him again. We finally made it back to the campsite around three in the morning and while trying to get back to my tent without waking the others, I decided I'd leave a text for Kyle to find in the morning. I could see his tent light up and hear his ring tone from ten feet away. Oops. 18 Sept: Coffee and guidebooks. 19 Sept: The last day before the bulk of the party had to leave, and the weather was threatening, so everybody decided to make an undemanding walk and then return to the village for a big meal together that would finally break the pattern of nightly pasta. Chris, Dan and I made it up the path to the obvious summit in good time, wondering how we'd managed to miss the arch that was supposedly the high point of the walk. After some time at the summit comparing the view with the map, we decided to make for another summit in the area, Punta Velacu. We had some enjoyable scrambling, including the surprising discovery of the arch we had been aiming for initially, but were unable to find a way up to our target summit before we had to go back down to make our reservation. For the second week of the holiday, Chris and I were on our own, and the weather was turning against us. Fortunately, the one day we were totally rained off was the day when we had to drive across the entire breadth of the island to find a working cash machine, and on the others our pattern of alternate walking and climbing got us to the summits of Punta Calletta, Ariettu, Punta Arcale and Punta Velacu.
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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, £4 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 and Fleeces Various styles of T-shirt with printed NMC designs and fleece tops with embroidered logo are available. Order direct on the website (www.thenmc.org.uk) or contact Ian Birtwistle 07828 123 143.
• Northumberland Bouldering Guide The new guide, £12.50 to members (RRP £19.95)
www.thenmc.org.uk The Giant of Fiacaill Ridge about to crush some tiny climbers
NMC County Climber
by Tim Catterall
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