Welcome to the Cambridge University Mountaineering Club's website. To find out about the Club please look in the About Us section where you will also find details of the current Committee. All Club business is done through this website and the mailing lists. To subscribe to the mailing lists or come on a meet, please register. You only need to pay for membership if you come on a meet or want to borrow gear.
WELCOME!!! The CUMC is Cambridge's climbing club. We are active in all areas of climbing, big mountain to indoor bouldering, socials, outings, competitions, everything... Our members range from those who are brand new to climbing to the 6 times a week training addict. If you're at all interested in anything climbing we'd like to meet you. We have a number of freshers events coming up in the first few weeks of term and will be at the CUSU societies fair. The website is currently being updated with lots of other things happening next term so keep an eye out to see how you can get involved.
We also have a facebook page:
Thinking about becoming a member? Here's why you should.
What you can do with us if you're not a member:
- Come to KK and the pub.
- Come to the freshers bouldering, squash and meet.
- Come to one outdoor or indoor meet before the end of October to try it out.
What you can do with us if you are a member:
- Attend indoor and outdoor meets (the club subsidises transport costs). These happen every weekend and also include the winter meet to the CIC hut next to Ben Nevis in February and the week long annual meet at the end of June.
- Borrow gear from the club, including racks, guidebooks, shoes etc.
- Attend the Winter skills course.
- Compete in various climbing competitions for the University.
- Attend the Annual dinner.
- Buy stash.
- And you get BMC membership.
- Plus much more...
The club also has access to a (very) small training wall in Jesus college gym, only suitable for training (it has some small holds and a campus board) which you must be a member to use. If you're new to climbing, a member of the committee can teach you the nesessary rope work to come climbing with us (note we're not qualified instructors and these sessions will proably take place climbing trees on Jesus Green). For either of these things please contact Gwilym (gr372).
To become a member simply create an account on the website and follow the instructions. Membership costs £25 for the (academic) year. Any problems let us know.
|Big Rock indoor meet||24 Feb|
|Indoor climbing at Big Rock, Milton Keynes|
|Birchen outdoor meet||25 Feb to 26 Feb|
|A day of Trad climbing in the peak district!|
|LUBE 3 - White Spider||25 Feb|
|London Universities Bouldering Event|
|Banff Mountain Film Festival||01 Mar|
|A collection of short films about astonishing sportspeople|
|XC indoor meet||03 Mar|
|Indoor climbing at XC, Hemel Hempstead|
|Lawrencefield/Millstone outdoor meet||04 Mar to 05 Feb|
|A day of Trad climbing in the peak district!|
|Pinnacle indoor meet||10 Mar|
|Indoor climbing at The Pinnacle, Northampton|
|Curbar outdoor meet||11 Mar to 12 Feb|
|A day of Trad climbing in the peak district!|
|LUBE 4 - The Reach||11 Mar|
|London Universities Bouldering Event|
|Castle indoor meet||17 Mar|
|Indoor climbing at The Castle, London|
|Winter Mountaineering Course 2017||20 Mar to 22 Mar|
|A course for people with some experience to improve their skills on easy Scottish winter climbs|
|Winter Skills Course 2017||20 Mar to 22 Mar|
|Learn the basics of winter mountaineering|
|CIC Hut Winter Meet||26 Mar to 30 Mar|
|5 nights in the CIC hut at the foot of Ben Nevis for some snow, ice, and mixed climbing|
|Banff Mountain Film Festival||21 Apr to 21 Mar|
|A collection of short films about astonishing sportspeople|
It was an early get up on Monday morning as five CUMC members set out by train and car on the long journey up to Aviemore. The warm and wet weather did not bode well, but we optimistically hoped this would mean snow in the mountains.
Unfortunately when we arrived in the evening, it was to reports of no snow or ice anywhere, and storm conditions on the way. The weather forecast’s prediction that ‘mobility will be tortuous’ hardly filled us with glee.
Despite the poor forecast, we set off early on Tuesday morning with guarded optimism, with the grade 2 Fiaciall Ridge our aim. With hindsight, a ridge may not have been the most sensible choice for a very windy day, but we survived an early battering to reach a section of scrambling which heralded the start of the ridge proper. Although there wasn’t much snow, this was still fun, and got progressively more interesting the further we went, with one short section of scrambling/drytooling so good that James actually went down to do it again!
We reached the summit relatively soon, and from there set our sights on Cairn Gorm, about a n hour’s walk away. Ed’s excellent navigation kept us on track in whiteout conditions, and motivation was kept up by James’ promise of a cafe soon after the summit! The rest of us were sceptical, but were proven wrong as we knocked on the door of the top ski station and were greeted by a very friendly ski lift attendant. Although astonished and dismayed to see that the omnipresent Starbucks had even made its way up here, we were glad of a bit of warmth and respite from the wind and sleet. After a short break, we headed down to the carpark, pleased with a day that had surpassed our (admittedly low) expectations.
Evening entertainment included Alex whipping up a tasty veggie curry, Cameron introducing everyone to the tasty delicacy that is egg-porridge, and the start of a week-long pool tournament.
Anticipating apocalyptic weather, James and Alex decided they were better off staying in the warm to nurse their respective injuries on Wednesday - and they probably made a very wise decision! Ed, Robbie and Cameron were at first pleasantly surprised by the strong yet manageable wind and half-decent visibility, but both of these deteriorated rapidly the further we got. We had optimistically hoped that the corrie might provide some shelter from the gale, but in fact the exact opposite was true - the wind was funneling directly up into it, bringing a combination of spindrift and fresh snow which made for pretty horrible whiteout conditions. Sadly, the plentiful snow in our faces did not translate into much snow or ice on the ground, and, along with the two other climbers stupid enough to be out that day, we decided to turn round. Back at the carpark, Robbie chose to head home, enjoying a chilly dip in the loch with Alex on the way back! Meanwhile, Ed and Cameron foolishly attempted to ‘make the most’ of the conditions by walking up a track to the ski station for a coffee. This was relatively straightforward, if unpleasant, and in an hour we were there. After a well-deserved drink we set off down again, but had been lulled into a false sense of security by the appearance of lower winds, and as soon as we stepped outside were both immediately knocked over! We then proceeded to battle our way downhill, our bodies almost horizontal at times to fight the wind, but it soon improved and it wasn’t long before we returned.
The other three had decided to usefully channel their pent up energy but buying food for a roast, and Ed and Robbie produced a masterclass worthy of a Christmas Dinner - very much appreciated by all! It was then time for more pool, but once this got boring, Alex and Robbie thought it would be a good idea to have a sock wrestle in the middle of the communal lounge, attracting some funny looks and even some offers of help to break up the fight! After a drawn-out, violent battle, Alex triumphed, claiming the unofficial title of CUMC sock wrestling champion.
Fresh from his victory, Alex decided his injury was ok on Thursday, meaning we were back to a full compliment of 5 for the final day. We planned to walk in to the corrie and then assess which routes seemed vaguely in condition. ‘Vaguely’ proved to be the operative word, as upon our arrival we discovered that there was still a distinct lack of snow or ice, and our best option seemed to be the grade 1 gully ‘Jacob’s Ladder’, which was in fact a mixture of short ice sections, frozen turf, and rock scrambling. Robbie led the way, but soon found himself in difficulties on the crux ice section, as his feet slipped off, leaving him dangling perilously from one ice axe, staring down at a long and potentially very painful fall. Fortunately he was able to effect a successful recovery, and continued impressively despite a chastening experience. Alex showed us all up by climbing the route without crampons, although to be fair this was due to failing to check that his crampons actually fitted his boots before he came to put them on. In the end the route was great fun, and provided a really good end to the trip. All that remained was some whisky and an all-you-can-eat buffet, before a snowy drive home the next morning.
The trip was at times frustrating, but certainly gave us a fitting introduction to Scottish winter climbing, and left us all keen for much more.
Fresh from a 4 o’clock get-up (or 2.30 for Izzy who had foolishly set her alarm an hour early!), it was a bleary-eyed team of climbers who assembled at Stansted airport ready to fly to Valencia. Everyone had chosen to drive, apart from Gwilym and Jammy, who backed up their claim that it was far easier and simpler to get the train by being delayed, arriving at the departure gate just a few minutes before the flight was due to take off.
The journey safely navigated, we arrived in Valencia, and headed to the car hire desk. This too proved problematic, as the company seemingly would only accept payment from one person, and not many people were particularly keen (or had anywhere near enough money in their account at the end of term) to pay the whole deposit for four hire cars. Luckily, Alex stepped up to the plate, and we were soon on our way. Three of the four cars headed straight for Chulilla, via the supermarket for a big shop, the highlight of which was the purchase of a 5kg leg of ham, complete with its own wooden stand. The other car however, containing Alex, Izzy, Carrie and Cameron, decided to take advantage of the wet weather to pretend to be cultured in Valencia. After about an hour navigating the crazy traffic in the city centre, followed by about an hour dashing from shop to shop attempting to avoid torrential rain, we decided that we had stayed long enough to gain a small moral high ground from attempting some cultural activity, but that we were also soaking wet, so headed back to the car.
We arrived to find an amazing hostel, with stunning views of the main gorge in which we would be climbing, complete with swimming pool, hot tub (although both were absolutely freezing, as we would later discover!), and indoor and outdoor bouldering walls, and run by local climbing legend Pedro Pons, one of the first men to climb 9a!
Tuesday saw the first day of climbing, and after exploring the delights of the village bread shop and its delicious doughnuts, everyone headed off to one of the larger local crags, Fantasia. Two of the three cars survived brief scares after heading off on the left hand side of the road, turning the corner into the village to be confronted by three cars coming at them head-on - but swift reactions from Ed and Alex ensured disaster was averted. From then on, everybody enjoyed a great day’s climbing in beautifully warm conditions - in fact too warm for some of us, who were constantly seeking out shade! Tuesday evening also provided the first opportunity for Izzy to impose her regime of what would become known as ‘compulsory fun’ - an activity programme which ranged from often incomprehensible card games, to overly violent team games, to masochistic yoga, but was very much enjoyed by all, and provided the major source of evening entertainment - so much so that Izzy would receive multiple queries each night as to what that evening’s activity would be! Fortunately she coped with the pressure admirably, coming up with ingenious new ways to injure ourselves each day.
On Wednesday, the majority of the group headed to the suspiciously-named Sex Shop, which we could see from our hostel. Alex and Timo logged an impressive onsight ascent of the classic 6c+ La Diagonale, the crag’s most obvious line, where they especially enjoyed the no-hands no-feet rest provided by lying in a cave halfway up. Many of us were also keen to get on the superb multi pitch 5c ‘Orgasmatron’, but sadly other climbers on overlapping routes made this impossible. Not to be deterred, three groups returned on later mornings to complete the route, with everyone declaring it one of their highlights of the trip. This set a pattern of people splitting off into smaller groups, which would last the rest of the week, and worked well in allowing for different interests and abilities. On Thursday, there were groups at a range of crags, with many people simply visiting the two short but extremely local crags of Los Perros and Ceguera, which were conveniently located just a 5 minute walk from the bakery and their chocolate-filled doughnuts, a key consideration.
By Friday, arms were starting to get tired, and quite a few people had a rest day - well, when I say quite a few people, this seemed mainly to consist of pretty much all the boys (with a few honourable exceptions) and none of the girls, who proved to be far more hard core. Everyone had a fun day, whether it involved laying around reading a book or doing some actual climbing, and particular highlights were Holly leading her first 6a onsight, and Alex his first 7a! These were in fact two of many firsts for the trip, with a majority of people climbing harder than they ever had before.
Saturday saw another successful day, with many people checking out another new crag, Oasis, home to hundreds of long, steep, impressive-looking routes. Almost everyone returned there on Sunday, with Timo very impressively getting up an 8a with only four falls/rests. Special mention should also go to Elise for her great effort to onsight a 6c+, spurred on by Timo’s shouts of encouragements and her own terrifying power screams, falling agonisingly short when almost within touching distance of the chains. This led to an even more terrifying tirade of expletives, but everyone was very impressed by her total commitment and her extensive knowledge of swear words.
After an excellent final day, it was sadly time to head back, and all that remained was a celebratory meal out to make us feel like we had sampled a small amount of Spanish culture, followed by an evening spent consuming copious volumes of wine and chocolate whilst playing children’s games - a fitting end to the week given these activities had played a key role in the trip as a whole. On Monday morning we unfortunately all woke up not-so-bright and early, and after a hurried packing session and an obligatory terrible group photo, waved goodbye to the hostel and Chulilla.
A big thank you to Gwilym for organising the trip, and to everyone else who came and made it such a great week. Now that we’ve experienced the delights of a winter sun sport climbing trip I’m sure many of us will be heading back to Chulilla very soon!
19 E Points in a Day!
By Daniel Zheng
Saturday saw Gwilym drive Felicity, Ella and me up to Bamford (picking up Jammy along the way for that rarest of things—a female majority on a CUMC meet…) The day began with modest ambitions: we all just wanted a nice day out in the sun and some grit mileage without any drama! After a short walk-in to the start of the crag, Jammy started off the day with a strong lead of Gunpowder Crack VS followed by Felicity and Gwilym, while I led up Ammo S which Ella seconded, followed by Porthole HVS, the cold rock on which led to a techincal traverse sequence on slopers with completely numb hands, a solid effort for Ella’s first HVS second!
Ella looking chuffed standing under Porthole HVS, her first HVS second.
The other three moved over to the Salmon Slab area, where Felicity led up the top-50 Brown’s Crack HS, seconded by Jammy and then soloed (!) by Gwilym, and we arrived shortly after they’d finished. My comment that I’d always wanted to do Jetrunner (E4 6a) but that today probably wasn’t the day elicited a suggestion from Gwilym that I put my money where my mouth was—a bit too much to refuse. After about 10 minutes fiddling with gear (the smallest microcam we had and a dodgy sideways brass offset in a slim break) I eventually pulled through on the crux pocket to claim my first E4 tick of the year! Felicity followed through on the second and Ella had a good go but sadly the jump from HVS to E4 proved marginally too much.
Dan pulling on the crux pocket of Jetrunner E4 6a with Felicity belaying, while Gwilym belays Jammy up Nemmes Pas Harry E1 5b.
Meanwhile Gwilym had cruised up Nemmes Pas Harry E1 5b and The Naked Eye E2 5b (his first E2 lead!) which had a worryingly loose and flexible flake, with Jammy following up both routes. Felicity then lead Bilberry Crack VS, followed by Ella and me, which we all thought was pretty stiff for the grade, and Jammy’s lead of Curving Crack VS provided the quote of the day, a shouted “how the f*** is this VS?” while midway up the crack which it turned out should’ve been taken as an undercut rather than a delicate slopey mess… Gwilym and Felicity followed while I led Brown’s Crack which Ella put in a big effort to second, completing the team tick for the day! We all then took a lengthy and much-needed lunch break to recover, which coincided with the sun starting to go in, sapping a lot of our motivation.
Gwilym just before the runout final section on The Naked Eye E2 5b, his first E2 lead.
After copious amounts of sugary snacks, Ella and I wandered off to try and find a suitable route for her first outdoor lead. After backing off the first choice of route which had a bit of a blind move over a bulge, she succeeded on Loader’s Bay D in good style. Slightly further over Felicity led Bamford Rib HVS, and Gwilym ticked a lead/solo ascent of The Crease E1 5a. While waiting at the end of the crag I quickly soloed up Green Parrot VS, and then somewhat embarrassingly almost slipped badly on the descent… The others arrived and after some discussion I decided to try Three Real Men Dancing E2 6a, which I then proceeded to back off the top moves of before Gwilym flashed it in frustratingly easy fashion! This spurred me on to another two attempts, falling off both. One for next time! Finally Jammy decided that she couldn’t miss out on the plethora of firsts for the day and went back to successfully lead The Crease for her first E1 lead and a solid end to the day! We all agreed it had been a great meet, with 19 E points climbed in total and good weather to boot. Maybe we should go climbing in exam term more often…
On 6th March a few CUMC members set out to Millstone Edge in the Peak District, to celebrate Mother's Day by hanging out with Mother Nature rather than our actual mothers. Hopefully they didn't mind too much (although faced with the exciting prospect of outdoor climbing, would we really have cared if they minded?).
Matt and Andrey split off to do their own thing, leaving Ed, Gwilym and I. They rejoined us at the end of the day, having learnt the valuable lesson that on grit stone, slow and steady doesn't win the race - it makes you freeze your ass off.
After a slightly sketchy walk-in down a steep bank and through a few inches of snow, we reached the quarry. Not a great believer in warming up, I jumped straight on an HS; although I think the grade should probably have been raised, to take into account the snowballs thrown at my head by fellow team members - thank you Gwilym. Don't worry, I got him back as he seconded up.
Then it was Ed's turn to lead. After a valiant start on his VS, he reached a rather precarious position. Despite mine and Gwilym's encouragement, he slipped off, taking a fall which left his toes skimming the ground! This was the first trad fall any of us had experienced, and we were all pleased to be shown that the gear really does work. After Ed had recovered and thanked Gwilym profusely for saving his life, Gwilym took up the mantle (in this case, a truly obscene quantity of gear) and ascended the route. Ed was mollified when I couldn't even second up it. I blame the freezing weather, and general lack of climbing ability.
Having said that, that afternoon I lead my first VS! (I may have fallen on it once - still counts.) As well as being a stunning route, it was livened up by the fact that after having placed a piece of gear and trying to move on, I found that I had done a bit too good a job of securing myself. My elbow was stuck in a crack. Like, seriously stuck. Like "guys my elbow is stuck ow I can't move ow what do I do ow help ow" level of stuck. Predictably Ed and Gwilym laughed a lot and told me to reenact 127 hours. As much as I'm sure El Presidente would like it to be, thankfully the CUMC is not a dictatorship, so I elected to ignore that advice. I instead spent a minute sat on the rope trying to wriggle myself free. Eventually I managed, arm intact. Phew.
Of course, being the CUMC, there had to be some level of incompetence and danger. Belaying off wobbly fence posts was an unfortunate necessity, whereas Gwilym beginning to climb before Ed had started belaying him was just unfortunately moronic. I watched with horror as a huge loop of rope appeared underneath Gwilym, and frantically shouted at Ed to take in. Once Gwilym was about half way up, Ed complied. Gwilym: "Soloing is much easier when you don't know you're doing it!"
Whilst there, we were privileged to see some actually good climbers, two of whom ascended Master's edge, E7. It looked both terrifying and awesome. Ed's heart rate has now just about returned to normal.
All in all, it was a fabulous day, and I'm super psyched to go back.
BUCS Bouldering 2016
On Saturday the 20th of February six of Cambridge’s strongest climbers made the trek to Sheffield to take part in the BUCS National Bouldering Competition. As usual the qualifiers were split into two sessions and each university was asked to nominate two route judges to judge the session they were not competing in. Jemima and I volunteered to take the hit and made an early start (in my case just a few hours after a well lubricated engineering subject dinner), arriving at The Works climbing wall in good time to be told: “we have enough route judges, you can just hang around until the afternoon session”. Mildly annoyed we did just that. The morning session featured several GB climbers including Billy Ridal, Jen Wood and Tara Hayes and we enjoyed watching them crush the wide variety of problems set: from technical slabs (in which apparently it’s okay to crimp the bolt holes?!) and powerful overhangs to bizarre feats of agility involving swinging bars and dangling boulders.
At around 2pm the rest of our team arrived. Seb is our only competitor who fulfils all the requirements needed to hire a car but had never driven outside of Italy before and so had to be reminded on occasion that the speedo reads in MPH not KPH! We were briefed on the competition format and told that due to some confusion in the morning session crimping bolt holes was entirely allowed and then the afternoon session began. Once the initial nerves and fear of falling off were dealt with three hours proceeded as pleasantly as a session at KK (but with good routes and clean air). Jemima dazzled as usual on the slabs and Dan put his massive wingspan to good use - often skipping moves and simply reaching for the top. Izzy and Clare climbed as a duo and happily worked their way around the room while Seb sent bloc after bloc with his impeccable technique and incredible strength putting him in 1st qualifying position! My own competition went well and I felt weightless on the steep power problems. If it weren't for some silly mistakes on the slabs I would have had a perfect day. When the scores were counted up Cambridge had done exceptionally well.
Seb qualified for the finals in 1st place but sadly I think he had worn himself out and placed 4th overall. Still a stunning effort and the CUMC could not be more proud. Izzy had to rush off before we managed to take a team photo but from left to right we have: Seb, Gwilym, Jemima, Clare and Dan (leading at Awesome Walls the next day :P).
A Step Too Far
A new book about CUMC alumni Tim Hurrell has recently been published by The Medlar Press. The book can be purchased from https://www.medlarpress.com/code/bookshop.html#!/A-Step-Too-Far-The-Tragic-First-Ascent-of-Kuksar/p/55513008.
"A Step Too Far is Tim Hurrell's personal record of the 1982 Kuksar Expedition. Tim was a mountaineer and diarist of exceptional dedication and this record has been transcribed from his notebook with as few alterations and additions as possible.
In June 1982 four friends - Tim Hurrell, Steve Brodrick, Martin Hore and Martin Gledhill - set off from Rawlpindi to climb the 6493m peak of Kuksar (sometimes referred to as Kuk Sar) in the Karakoram range of the Himalaya. They were accompanied by a Liaison Officer and an experienced local climber. Two of them - Tim and Steve - made it to the top but, tragically, were killed by an avalanche on their way down. They were discovered by the two Martins, along with the notebook and camera (proving their successful summit of the mountain), on July 22nd.
Kuksar had never been climbed before, and it was Tim’s intention that his account of this expedition would be published.Knowing this, Tim's parents, with help from Martin Hore, produced a typed spiral-bound book for family in friends. Now, thirty years later, thanks to a unique set of circumstances which put Tim's neice and brother-in-law in touch with Medlar, we are delighted to publish in hardback the account of this extraordinary expedition. Martin Hore has helped throughout and has written a foreword and a postscript which add further details.
Tim and Steve are still the only people to have reached the summit of this peak. "
Freshers' Meet 2015
By Daniel Zheng, CUMC Secretary and Journal Secretary
Sunday 25th October, 7am: A coach full of keen (yet sleepy) new CUMC members sets off from Queens’ Backs, heading up to Stanage for the 2015 Freshers’ Meet…
The day got off to a slow start. I’d gone up along with some of the more experienced members on the Friday night hoping to get a full weekend of climbing in, but heavy rain all of Saturday meant we were a bit over-ambitious in trying to get routes in on Sunday morning before the coach arrived! With fingers cold from forgetting my belay gloves at home I managed to over-cam one of Gwilym’s cams deep into a break; of course, this was immediately followed by the coach pulling up to the roadside car park below, where we were meant to be meeting everyone. 15 minutes and a couple of sheepish apologies later, and all the climbers had been split up into groups for the day’s climbing.
Luckily, the weather on Sunday was dry and bright, if a bit windy, and most groups got at least 3 or 4 climbs in, not too bad for a short day out on a very busy day at Stanage. Hrittik and Marius, my two seconds for the day, showed some impressive skills including both topping out on The Louisiana Rib, a VS 4c with a delicate start and a big overhanging finish! Nearby, Lachlan and Fred made a great leading/belaying/coaching tag-team with a larger group who got started on the mega-classic Christmas Crack HS, and Gwilym took full advantage his mixed-experience pair by teaching Francois how to trad lead. Everyone seemed to have a great day, and a lot of people were left very keen to come climbing again!
Francois looks shocked at the prospect of actually trusting a grit sloper
The coach setting off at 4pm then left just enough time for Rose to make a run-out lead of Kirkus’ Corner E1 5b, with me and Ed W following up as the hazy sun set over the Hope Valley. After attempting and failing to retrieve (by headtorch-light) a club cam that had been over-cammed (not by me this time!) into a flake, the last three of us set off back to Cambridge, and finished off the weekend with the obligatory stop at the pub.
Thanks of course go to Andrey and the rest of the committee for organising a great day out, and it’s sad to think this was probably my last CUMC Freshers’ Meet. Maybe I need to stay for a PhD…
Varsity Comp. 2015
Gwilym Rowbottom - Competitons Secretary
Saturday 9th May saw 13 of CUMC’s finest head down to The Arch in London to compete in the annual Varsity competition. Despite having such a large group no one was late and we arrived eager to put Oxf**d to the test. After a brief introduction we were off enjoying the problems set by the Oxf**d comp sec and giving our best. Three hours flew by and when the scores were counted up Cambridge emerged victorious! Our ladies took the lead by 1 point with a team score of 422 against 421 and our men won comfortably with a score of 658 against 610.
The Cambridge team happy with their victory!
Full results can be found here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1koOd3KBehx6rz4k7Ll2ByzZ2BWIiMVtRb5jCdo9rzoY/edit#gid=0
Keep training hard and next year we will keep our title as Varsity champions!
Bamford Edge Meet
This weekend’s meet was to Bamford Edge in the peak district. We met bright and early on Saturday morning, eager to get out climbing, or rather to go back to sleep in the car. On the way there drizzle hit the windscreen, however the ever optimistic Alex pointed out that we were only half way there and the forecast said it wouldn't rain until much later in the day.
Thankfully on arrival the rock was still dry and the crag was mostly deserted, a welcome relief from the hustle and bustle of Cambridge. We managed to get a number of climbs in before the weather turned for the worst in the afternoon.
Alex loving the climbing.
Andrey and Josh, given that we had driven 3 hours to get there, refused to give up climbing once the heavens opened and continued on wet rock under the confused eye of passers-by, who were wrapped up warmly in their waterproofs. Alex and I however decided to put the mountaineering in CUMC and went off in search of a mountain to climb. From the vantage point of the other side of the valley we were able to look back at the beautiful edge where we had spent most of the day climbing.
Alex pointing at Bamford Edge across the valley.
On the way back Alex's mum spoilt us with exquisite cuisine that left Andrey desperate for more. Overall we had a great trip!
Winter Meet 2015
By Will Kernick
3 days Guiding
The trip started off with 3 days guiding for members of the club. The 8 members split into two groups of 4 (one introductory group and one intermediate group), each looked after by a guide.
Day one took both teams to Aonach Mor where there were fantastic spring-like conditions and great views from the summit across to the North Face of Ben Nevis, giving those attending the following week in the CIC hut their first glimpse of some of the routes they would be getting stuck into.
Day two was spent on Buachaille Etive Beag with some skills and a summit for one team. On day three one team went to Glen Nevis to up their technical knowledge whilst the other team continued their summit spree with an ascent of Carn Mor Dearg via the Arête. This topped off a great few days with lots of learning in Scottish Winter conditions.
6 days in the CIC Hut – Ben Nevis
Following this, those of us who didn’t attend the initial three days met up with those on the guiding course in Fort William. 11 of us spent that night in a youth hostel in Glen Nevis. The next morning 8 of us set off with heavy packs full of gear and food, and headed up to the CIC hut at the bottom of all the routes on Ben Nevis. The remaining 3 members would spend the coming week in the youth hostel and hike into the bottom of all the routes every day – real dedication!
That afternoon we did a short practice route, with Rose and myself accompanying the other guys to reinforce the skills they had picked up over the previous few days and get them ready to be independent by the end of the week.
The following day Rose and Will were once again accompanying the other guys. I took three of them off to Slingsby’s Chimney (II). Sadly the final pitch wasn’t in condition and we had to abseil back down the route, but we still got several good pitches in. In particular, Dan got some great experience winter leading that proved very useful for the rest of the week.
Meanwhile, Rose, Paul and Andrew headed up the uber classic Ledge Route (II). They had a fantastic day with Paul and Andrew doing a lot of leading between them, which was very encouraging. They topped out in bad visibility and walked down the tourist track back to the hut. The same day Josh took a long winter ridge walk having suffered ‘bed-related’ injuries the afternoon before. He managed to navigate the ominous cornices on the summit ridge all the way to the summit marker with map and compass in visibility less than 10m in places. Even as an avid hill walker, that’s still pretty impressive stuff!
The following day Rose and Will lead four of the guys up Tower Scoop (III) in the morning. I believe it was the first grade III for all of them and they all got stuck into some great quality steep ice climbing – happy faces all around (apart from Simrun perhaps who experienced hot aches for the first time upon arriving at the first belay…). (The photos above show myself leading the first pitch). (Below Josh approaches the first belay).
That afternoon Dan and Simrun headed out to Tower Gully (I) after a prolongued rest in Observatory gully – maybe it was the great views. Rose and I climbed Smith’s Route (V) – an absolutely fantastic three pitch climb and in great condition. Meanwhile, Paul and Andrew attempted Garadh Gully (II), but decided to turn around due to conditions.
The next day everyone minus Will and Rose headed off to attempt Garadh Gully (II) again, while Rose and I trekked in to the bottom of Psychedelic Wall (VI) – (below: Rose approaching the first belay, and the route marked in red). The weather was the best we had all week but snow condition under foot were a bit unstable.
For the guys attempting the lower angle Garadh Gully, this wasn’t ideal, and they had a dramatic day retreating from the base of the climb following the helicopter rescue of a guide who fell on the route above them. However, conditions for me and Rose were perfect given the steeper nature of the climb, and we both put it in the top 3 ice routes we had ever climbed (below: Will leading the third pitch, Rose leading the second pitch). (Rose on the summit of Ben Nevis, Rose topping out at the top of Psychedelic Wall).
On the penultimate day Josh and Dan headed off to attempt Ledge Route (II) in full blooded Scottish Weather (lots of spindrift and wind in very limited visibility). Sadly this bad visibility (and some degree of absent mindedness!) meant they missed the correct turning, and instead found themselves halfway up number four gully! Will and Rose climbed one pitch of Hadrian’s Wall (V) before deciding to turn around due to incessant spin drift avalanches down the face. We abseiled the first pitch and the approach due to unstable snow conditions. Meanwhile, the remaining 4 guys did the same winter trek that Josh had done a few days before and successfully navigated themselves all the way to the summit marker and down the tourist track – not bad in such terrible weather!
The final day was a half-day, which we spent digging a snow cave and doing some great ‘ice/mixed bouldering’. It was great fun, but sadly not a unanimous success – Josh accidentally buried his jazzy hat (Below: Josh burrowing out our snow cave, Josh getting stuck into some ‘ice/mixed bouldering’).
This was the first time the club has run a trip to the CIC hut on Ben Nevis, and as you can see from the photos, it was great fun and an unparalleled success. Sign up next year – it’s not as cold as it looks!
AGM and Annual Dinner
It may have been Friday 13th, but it was a lucky day for CUMC members who attended the AGM and annual dinner. Not only did they have the excitement of a number of hotly contested elections, especially for President, with Alex defeating Phil by a single vote, they also enjoyed a delicious meal in Clare Small Hall, as well as the 16 bottles of wine which Lucy had lugged in a rucksack all the way from Hugh’s Hall.
The meal also saw the handing out of the club’s two annual awards: the Nick Leyland Trophy for social achievement and the ice axe for biggest contribution to the club. Fittingly Alex, the incoming President, won the ice axe, mainly for hours spent persuading drivers to make 6 hour round trips to the wet, cold peak district by offering them (usually false!) hope of free chocolate or fish and chips. The Nick Leyland Trophy was more difficult, as social achievements usually involve being sociable, a condition which seemed to rule out a large proportion of those present!
The helmet was therefore deservedly awarded to Lucy for her gallant, though often fruitless efforts this year to get all the rest of us to join in with organised fun. She is getting married this summer though, so maybe she’s right that being sociable does have its advantages…
After the awards, the traditional fines began, a highlight being Will’s fining the one person who abstained in his vote, for which he was the only candidate. Then came the sock wrestling, which this year resulted in surprisingly few injuries, but nevertheless saw a number of intense contests.
Eager not to get too rowdy for fear of ruining our reputation as a club entirely devoid of social achievement, we then sat around chatting in a civilised manner, as Lucy dutifully continued to ply us with the remaining wine. This concluded a great evening, lots of fun and a good celebration of the past year.
A big thank you to this year’s committee for doing a great job, and good luck to the next committee, keep up the good work from this year!
The positions for next year’s committee are as follows:
Kris Cao & Ed Wheatcroft
|Alpine & winter||Will Kernick|
It’s now Christmas which means we’re halfway through LUBE! This year has seen the best ever CUMC turnout to the annual 4-round student bouldering competition, as we have entered full teams in both rounds so far.
The first round took place on 8th November at the Vauxwall in London and was set by Gaz Parry. There was much debate over who should join Liam and Amelia in the A team, Luke or Philip. In an interesting twist, Philip argued it should be Luke and Luke argued it should be Philip, but as it turned out it should have been Gwilym, who beat them both and drew with Liam as top CUMC boy! In her usual style, Amelia rocked up having done no training for yonks and topped the girls’ table with a record score of 220. CUMC newcomer Clare also put in a great performance, coming perilously close to beating Luke. Katie and Kris also put in good performances to round off a reasonable round for the club, with our A team finishing in 5th place and our B team in 11th. On the way back, Liam was delighted to spot a massive croissant at the cafe, and it was only after purchasing that he unfortunately realised that not only did it disappointingly contain ham and cheese, but was also in fact larger than him.
The second round was held at White Spider on 29th November, involving a significantly longer train journey, which meant there was more time for f large quantities of sweets and cakes to be consumed. There was also great drama as Liam temporarily lost his precious bike helmet at Vauxhall station. This round could only be described as nails, with many extremely hard problems, which most of us could only watch other people attempt. Gwilym, however, had a great round, finishing with the top CUMC score. Clare stepped up to the A team and once again came very close to beating Luke, with only one point in it, and with Philip just 3 behind Luke and 4 behind Liam it was all very close. Katie, Beth and Melody also put in good scores. The difficult nature of the round though meant that a lack of beasts in the CUMC this year cost us a few places in the table, as scores were quite spread out at the top. The A team came 12th and the B team 24th, although there was very little between 12th and 6th. The journey home proved amusing as Clare and Katie dashed off early to get back to Cambridge, but after missing a train ended up on the same one as the rest of the team.
Overall we have had a successful first two rounds and are looking forward to the third and fourth rounds next term.
Ogwen Valley Weekend Meet
17 CUMC members enjoyed a great weekend in the Gwern Gof Uchaf camping barn in the Ogwen valley. Despite arriving late on Friday night, everyone was keen to get going on Saturday morning with the weather looking sunny (yes sunny. In Wales.) and leapt out of bed. Well when I say everyone I mean Rose, who thinks that a lie-in is the Kiwi pronunciation of that big cat she wrestled on her last visit to Africa. Everyone else, meanwhile, moaned, then hid under their pillow, then slowly rolled out of bed when they realised the vital importance of securing a good position in the porridge queue for the microwave. Keen to fulfil his role as president, Tom did his best to raise team morale by gleefully showing off his wild boar pâté, while everyone else filled their stale sandwiches with 5 year-old peanut butter.
Despite these travails, everyone set off in good spirits, with five heading to the Idwal Slabs to take on the classic HS Tennis Shoe, and the others walking up to Heather Terrace to climb the classic VDiffs Grooved Arête and First Pinnacle Rib, topping out almost at the very summit of Tryfan. Everyone made the most of the day, so much so that those climbing Grooved Arête required headtorches to descend as the darkness closed in.
In the evening, conveniently forgetting our implacable enmity toward all hillwalkers at the promise of food, we headed to the bunkhouse where CUHWC were staying, just a short walk away. A lavish array of delicious feasts were prepared: from baked camembert to jambalaya, from sticky toffee pudding to freshly baked banana and walnut cake, it was hardly your standard weekend climbing trip fare. After thanking our hosts for their hospitality, we hastily departed before we could be forced into too much interaction with the hillwalkers. Upon our return, a brief meeting to discuss plans for the next day provided the perfect opportunity for Alex and Dan to show off their matching pyjama bottoms, and a couple of people actually thought about which route they might want to do as well, then we all headed to bed.
Another 7am get-up was enforced on Sunday morning, but again we were amazed to find there had been no rain, and soon everyone headed off, eager to fit in some good climbing before we had to head back. Most of the group went to climb at the Idwal Slabs, enjoying the classic lower grade climbs there. The five who had been there the day before headed for Milestone Buttress on Tryfan’s west face, tackling a couple of enjoyable VDiffs, followed by a long, greasy abseil.
Tom, keen to prove his credentials as the alpha-male of the mountaineering club - or maybe just keen to protect his much-vaunted sandwiches from the possibility of theft - went on a ridiculous walk/scramble which seemed to take in most of Wales, but still arrived back before most of us had even completed a single route! This conveniently gave him plenty of time to clean the bunkhouse, while everyone else chivalrously decided the most helpful thing they could do would be to get out the way, and promptly sped off back to Cambridge.
Overall the weekend was a great success, so thank you very much to Alex and Tom for organising it.
And if you think this sounds fun… come along to the next weekend meet to the neighbouring valley next term!
CUMC / CUEX / CUHWC Swap
After the huge success of last year, this swap had a big reputation to live up to, but it did not disappoint. We somehow managed to squeeze about 50 people, a hillwalking teddy bear, a couple of climbing ropes, and some suitably ridiculous outdoorsy attire into one small room at Curry Garden, and great fun ensued!
Liam boldly fined anyone who could do a one-arm pull-up, before disappointingly refusing to attempt one, despite the fervent chanting of the whole group.
We then moved on to Downing bar, which seemingly might have been designed as a playground for lovers of the outdoors (or equally for 5 year-old children!)
The cereal-box game proved far too easy, as many people demonstrated a level of flexibility and coordination, which was clearly testament to many hours dedicated to perfecting their technique for picking small pieces of cardboard off the floor with their tongues.
Table-bouldering was another popular activity, and Shahid proved himself the master, claiming the first, and thus far only, ‘ascent’ of the Downing Bar coffee table in a lengthwise direction.
Everyone had a great time, thanks to Lucy for organising it and hopefully it won’t be too long before the next great social!
Freshers' Meet 2014 - Stanage
Freshers’ Meet 2014 - Stanage
On Sunday 26th October a coachload of climbers headed to Stanage for this year’s freshers’ meet. Some had a reasonable level of experience of climbing outdoors, quite a few had only climbed indoors, quite a few more had never really climbed at all, and some of these, who had associated ‘mountaineering’ more with hiking than rock climbing, were shocked to learn only as they got on to the bus that rather than a day of leisurely rambling on some peak district hills, they would be subjected to a gruelling test of strength and perseverance in buffeting winds as they took on their first ever rock climbs at one of the premier venues in Britain and possibly the world. Despite this confusion, everybody had a great attitude and made light of the difficult conditions, following the great example set by Phil with his very optimistic decision to wear shorts on a day when most people were wrapped up in about five layers!
After each leader was assigned two or three partners, they were free to do as they pleased, climbing a variety of routes at Stanage Popular, ranging from Diff to VS. Everyone seemed to enjoy the challenge, and soon got used to the technical differences from indoor climbing, Harry even made use of the shoulder of a handily-positioned and very obliging nearby climber as a foothold!
If the aim was to tire everyone out, then the day was certainly a huge success, as the return coach journey was almost completely silent, the peace disturbed only by the occasional snore as everybody felt the effects of a tough day. From the odd murmur of conversation which could be heard (we’re a sociable lot us climbers!) it seemed like everyone had a great day. Thank you very much to Alex for organising it all and to all the leaders, hopefully if it was people’s first time climbing they weren’t too put off, frozen, or terrified, and might even consider coming again!
Volcan Aguilera first ascent
A brief account by Wherry Librarian Evan Miles
Cries of ‘estaca’ rang through the night, punctuating the ceaseless blowing of the wind and the horizontal flurries of snow illuminated by 5 headlamps moving slowly down the north ridge, the only signs of humanity for at least a hundred kilometres in any direction. The 5-member team of the UNCHARTED:Aguilera expedition had just completed the ascent of the volcano, and we were determined to make it back to camp together and in one piece, in spite of the pain in our feet and the voice in the back of our minds telling us it was time to sleep.
The ascent had promised so much – we left our camp at 980m on the South Patagonian Icefield at 4:30am under a star-filled pre-dawn sky, and made rapid progress up the slopes of the north ridge, ascending nearly 1000m in the first 3 hours, to arrive at a much-hoped-for pass onto the heavily-glaciated northwest face. Discovering the pass to not only exist (a point of strong doubt when scoping from below) but to be walkable, the summit seemed within easy reach. But the mountain hadn’t even begun to fight.
Roped up, we ascended the steep, crevassed terrain, finding a fantastic couloir that appeared to lead directly to the summit ridge – this should be a piece of cake. And it was, until Camilo discovered an utterly impassable gaping bergschrund directly beneath the summit ridge’s ice mushrooms, forcing us to retrace our tracks. Considering our options, we elected a longer traverse across the face’s glacier, and I set off traversing beneath 5-story seracs, kicking steps into the soft, unconsolidated fluff. Pitch after pitch, slow progress 8 pickets at a time – the glacier broken enough to demand a rope, and steep enough to require protection for us to avoid the most classic of mountaineering accidents. So it was picket in, kick 30-40 steps, picket in, … , and regroup to collect the ‘rack.’ Camilo took over, and slowly the weather deteriorated. Again we were just below the summit, now maybe 50-100m directly above us, but denied by a different bergshrund. Here the mountain tried deception, as a bridge appeared, but the void was only veiled by a thin 30cm of fluffy snow.
Now, in the midst of the cloud, an end run seemed less probable, but we began to traverse, following the gap in a descending arc. About to resign ourselves to yet another double-back, the clouds parted for a brief moment, and – it goes! A further descent and traverse would take us to a path of snow zig-zagging between rime-crusted volcanic outcrops and more crevasses. A bite to eat and a sip of tea, but it was now late afternoon in the short daylight hours of the austral winter. Camilo placing pickets in front, we continued up left, crossing the bergschrund, then up, inside another bergschrund to connect to another steep slope, through yet another to one final thin bridge. Countless snow pitches, but we had made it to the summit ridge. As the light dimmed and the temperature dropped, the weather worsened to a moderate wind carrying freezing rain, crusting our jackets, packs, goggles, and trousers with ice all up one side. But now we were on the summit ridge, with the peak only 100m of short stroll away, according to the GPS. Elated, we walked the hundred meters. Summit? No – the ridge continued up, and we spied another rime-crusted high point. Another 100m, the same thing. Does the mountain ever end? Finally, 600m of ridge from the summit identified in maps, we were on top of the easily-identifiable rime mushroom of the peak's highest point, at dusk. Thus, we found ourselves placing gear on descent in the dark, on our way to a 25-hour round trip.
Concierto de Rimayas was physical, but not exhausting. It was not technically challenging according to mountaineering grades, but it was committing in its own way. It may not be a test-piece for modern alpinism, but it required 10 days of approach across the icefield, a lot of luck in fickle Patagonian weather, and a mentality of caution and self-sufficiency, of endurance. In return for our patience, caution, and persistence, it rewarded us with the first ascent of Volcan Aguilera (2480m).
Annual Meet 2014 - Pembroke
It was 7 o’clock on a wet Friday morning in Cambridge, but this could do nothing to dampen the spirits of the eager team of CUMC members, with Luke valiantly turning up in his pyjamas after just 4 hours sleep to drop off some kit. Sure enough, in a statement of intent, we set off just one hour later than our intended departure time, and made good progress, our only major delay coming when Alex and Cameron spent half an hour looking for Laurence in a service station, only to eventually find him nonchalantly sipping his second refill of his Starbucks coffee.
We arrived at the campsite in the afternoon, and after setting up our tents set out to walk along the coast path to St Govan’s, the nearest crag. This proved optimistic, as it was actually about a 10 mile walk with full climbing sacks, so, deciding we’d quite like to get there before midnight, we quickly returned to the car, and arrived in time to fit in a couple of routes. Laurence set the tone for an exciting trip with a dramatic fall on the first route of the trip, after deciding the E1 variation looked more fun than the VS he was on, and I suppose if your idea of fun is dangling head first in mid-air after a fall of 5-10 metres then it was!
Tom, Imogene, and Rose arrived in the second car in the middle of the night, with our team spirit shining through as the three of us already there decided they’d be far better off without our help putting up their tents in the pitch black.
Saturday was everything we had hoped for from the trip: clear blue skies, not a breath of wind, and beautiful sunshine all day. Everyone was keen to make the most of the day, particularly those who were only coming for the weekend (the super-keen, super-efficient Rose was ready before most of us had got up!) so we again headed to the St Govan’s area. In perfect conditions, Tom and Alex both led the brilliant HVS Army Dreamers, before also later in the day doingthe classic traverse Riders on the Storm, with both declaring it one of the scariest routes they’d ever done. Meanwhile, Rose exhausted Laurence by dragging him up an E1 and 2 E2’s. After a full day, we all headed back for some dinner, enjoying cooling off in the sea and the revelation of warm, powerful showers on a campsite!
Tom, Imogene, and Rose had time for a morning’s climbing before heading back in the afternoon, fitting in some great routes at Mother Carey’s, including the classic 3 pitch severe Threadneedle Street.
Cameron and Phil also decided to give it a go but somehow mistook the first half of the neighbouring E1 for the first pitch, meaning Cameron led 10 metres of E1 with only two pieces of gear, somehow battling his way to the top of the pitch, but not before he had utterly terrified both himself and Phil with his increasingly frantic running commentary, which was more befitting of a rhino about to have a heart attack than a Cambridge student!
We then headed back for a dip in the sea and an early dinner, before fitting in an evening route at St Govan’s, meeting Luke walking from the station on our way. A highlight of the trip ensued as Luke, waiting at the top as we had left his harness at the campsite, decided to cook himself some dinner. The student staple of baked beans may seem a simple meal, but Luke’s decision to leave the beans in their tin and then place this on top of his mess tin as he heated it left him with a nice circular hole in his mess tin and distinctly dubious-smelling baked beans!
On Monday we paid a visit to St David’s, about an hour’s drive away. Despite being baffled by the fact that our turning actually had a sign to the place we wanted to go, rather than being unsignposted as advertised in the guidebook, we eventually made it, and arrived to another day of perfect conditions.
Being the more experienced pair, Alex and Lawrence went to do Ethos, one of the area’s classic HVS’s. Their expertise shone through as they managed to forget the rope when they abseiled in, having to use prusiks to escape!
Meanwhile, Luke, Phil, and Cameron had a great day, with Luke deciding it was sensible to take on the classic E1 Sinecure, his first lead at the grade, as his first since coming back from injury after taking a groundfall on his previous lead. Yet despite any misgivings the rest of us may have had, Luke made impressively short work of the route, even if his first three pieces of gear did fall out. He, Phil, and Cameron all declared it one of their favourite routes of the week.
With Alex and Cameron starting to feel the effects of the previous four days and with the lack of a driver as Laurence left in the morning, with Lucy not arriving until the afternoon, we decided to take a rest morning, walking into town and taking a tour of Pembroke Castle. Ironically, the day also proved surprisingly efficient, as we still fitted in three routes in an evening visit to Saddle Head, the same number as we managed in a number of other full days!
After retreating from our initial intended route when a seagull divebombed Cameron as he strayed too close to its nest, Lucy enjoyed her introduction to Pembroke climbing, Phil was hugely excited to find that Saddle Head had not one, but two Diffs, and Luke enjoyed showing off by dangling from one arm halfway up a route.
After discovering that the whole St Govan’s area was out of bounds due to army firing, we again headed to St David’s, this time to the disarmingly innocently named Initiation Slabs. As Phil had pointed out, ‘initiation’ can have a number of connotations, and a few hours later we left with Alex and Luke having completed the extremely scary run-out VS Aries, and Lucy and Alex then being forced to prusik out as the tide came in to block access to most of the routes. Undeterred, we headed for the neighbouring bay, only to find a massive rockfall had made the routes unrecognisable from those in the guidebook.
After stopping for a late lunch at around 4 o’clock, we headed to Craig Caerfai, home of the area classic Armorican. Cameron and Luke abseiled in, but, perhaps in an effort to emulate the expertise shown earlier in the week by Alex and Laurence, forgot the rope, leaving them stranded for about 15 minutes as they waited for Alex to return from one of his many explorations of possible DWS routes (perhaps dreaming of Malta?!). It was worth the wait, however, and, with Alex leading Phil and Lucy up after, everyone agreed it was one of the week’s best lines. Our mixed day continued as we dropped three nuts in the sea and discovered a massive gash in our ab rope, but, as we relaxed in the classy venue of Haverfford West’s ‘Kebab’s ‘R’ Us’, we all agreed it had been a successful, if eventful, day.
Keen to make the most of what seemed likely to be our final day’s climbing given the less than promising weather forecast, Alex perfected his porridge-making technique just in time for us to leave for Mother Carey’s at the extraordinarily early time of 9.30. The wind seemed to want to make up for it’s lack of activity during the rest of the week, nearly blowing Phil and Lucy off the cliff as Cameron led them on a wild goose chase attempting to scramble through the raging sea in his blind desperation to do one particular route. After they finally persuaded him that the highest point for miles around might not be the best place to spend by far the week’s windiest morning, they returned to Alex and Luke, conveniently just as they had finished constructing the abseil. Everyone fitted in one final route, with Alex impressively leading the E1 Karma Waters. Rain then drove us back to the car, but Alex and Cameron’s indomitable, but perhaps misplaced optimism meant that we left the ab rope in place, only to be forced to venture out into the rain to retrieve it half an hour later. This left plenty of time for an afternoon and evening of almost constant eating and drinking, first in the pub, and then in the drying room at our campsite. As we emerged from our second pub of the day at about 11 o’clock, it suddenly began to pour with rain again, leaving us to sprint up the unlit road with just one small head torch, getting completely soaked just in time to dive into our tents. That may not sound bad, but Luke was less fortunate, forgetting his phone and so being forced to run alone through even heavier rain in pitch black, as we once again displayed true CUMC team spirit in a collective decision to abandon him.
We had already decided to head home a day early due to the storm, and so the first part of the morning was spent attempting to squeeze five people and all of their climbing and camping kit into one small car. Everyone was very glad to take a break after about 2 hours, when we just about managed to shake the numbness out of our legs for long enough to fit in a few hours climbing at ‘Boulders’ in Cardiff. Luke’s impressive attempt at a 7a route apart, we all soon found that the effect of any fitness we might have gained from the week was far outweighed by the tiredness built up over a week of climbing and being woken up by the world’s noisiest sheep multiple times every night.
Nevertheless, we all agreed it had been a brilliant week and we had probably already done more than enough climbing. Thank you to Tom for organising the trip, as well as to everyone who came and made it so memorable. We look forward to another great annual meet next year!
A short week in the Écrins.
For me, exams finished on Saturday 7th June. After 9 in 8 days I was reasonably knackered, so what better to do than finish a saturday afternoon exam and head to Stansted for the night! Whilst in the past I've had no problem kipping on the airport floor overnight, this time things were different: you used to be able to put your head down anywhere and everywhere, but now they come round at intervals and prod you towards the arrivals lounge i.e. a space not condusive to sleeping, with flashing lights and megaphones going on for most of the night.
Oh well! After a rubbish night and an early flight we were soon at my parents' home in the Écrins, a southern part of the French alps. Rose, being the never-tiring, ever-energetic machine that she is, fancied doing a route that afternoon, so without further ado we headed off for 'Two Hot Men', an 8-pitch 6-something route. Arriving on top it was quite nice to think that less than 24 hours ago I was still sat in an exam hall! A short walk down and we were soon revelling in the delights of home food.
The morning of Tuesday 9th was a little more relaxed - so as to reduce costs and faff, I'd said that Rose could borrow anything that couldn't fit in hand luggage (or wasn't allowed). So, axes, crampons, harnesses, etc. In the afternoon we headed up to the Glacier Blanc hut with Mum and Dad, a pleasant 90min walk from 1800m to 2500m. The next morning, we all set off for the Cinéastes - Rose and I to do the Vieux Piton and my parents to do the classic traverse. Our route, TD 6a, would take us up the S face of the first point. From here, we would have the choice (weather depending) on either continuing the classic traverse or descending via the normal route. In good spirits and after an enjoyable climb we thought we'd push on. However, soon enough we realised that the weather was indeed coming in, forcing us to retreat down the E slopes only one point from the end of the ridge. Oh well! By the time we got down into the cwm the snow was coming down good and proper, but at least the way out was now only an easy walk. All in all, a good outing to get the week started.
The next morning, after a quick look at the weather forecast, which was essentially saying 'most afternoons you're likely to get some precipitation, but we don't really know when, nor where...', we decided that big routes were out. It would have to be shorter things that we could hope to be off by lunchtime. So, off we headed back up the Glacier Blanc, but this time continuing as far as the Écrins hut. The intention was to do the Barre Noire couloir, a classic 50 degree snow route. Alas, we couldn't see it from the hut and it had been described by another party as a thin film of snow on top of poor quality ice. Instead, we opted to go and do the Barre des Écrins by one of the N face (normal) routes. On seeing the Barre Noire it looked in good condition - 'what had they been on about?!' we thought! Still, onwards and upwards, at least as far as the long traverse beneath the rimaye. Here, I saw that the bergschrund was passable, and had memories of seeing an appealing line in the guidebook heading directly to the summit - the 'Couloir Coolidge', 200m of 50-60 degree snow with a mixed exit. We each had only one axe; the conditions looked good, so we went for it. Retrospectively, it would have been good to have had two, but we coped!
That evening Mum and Dad joined us at the hut, with all of us intending to do a traverse of Roche Paillon, Émile Pic and Neige Cordier. A nice little outing I thought, marred only by Rose's loss of her camera! As opposed to the Vieux Piton, a route on good rock, or the Barre des Écrins (purely snow) this was much more chossy mixed terrain - classic 'rocher type Oisans' as Chamoniardes kindly refer to it as. Whilst Rose might climb hard, the oldies with free bus passes and the like showed her (and me) up on the mess! Experience I guess...
That brought us to the end of a good, albeit short week away. Now for May Week, which in truth has already started...
Albula ski touring
This report served as an entry into the Eagle Ski Club yearbook, and has been lifted straight from it. No CUMC members other than myself participated in the trip.
Convening at the Hotel Post, Bivio, during the afternoon of the 22nd March, we sat and watched the sky darken, the ensuing snowfall lasting approximately forty-eight hours. Bivio’s lift ‘system’ struggled with Sunday morning’s power cut, though we were told that eventually some electricity would “arrive from Zurich” - not enough to run more than one teleski though, it would seem. Perhaps the highlight of the various Sunday excursions was the group’s descent of a black run: never had any of us descended a piste of this grade without putting in a single turn! Rather, we resigned to an iterative process, each individual using the tracks of the person in front to gain speed, departing prior to collision, and coming to a standstill a few yards in front.
Monday saw us lose Hare Senior whose already damaged feet, despite a full week's preparatory rest during unbearably glorious weather, proved not to be up to a week’s touring. The rest of us boarded the swish transport network, only to find that our destination, Preda, was cut off by avalanche. On arrival at the train station in Bergun, we were directed across the river to a café, where a complimentary hot drink awaited us - this could only be Switzerland! Arriving in Preda early in the afternoon, we set off for a 300m leg-stretch, which served only to highlight the difficulty we would have in the 2ft of new snow.
In mixed weather, Tuesday's 1100m ascent to the Kesch hut took five and a half hours, with only a relict set of downhill tracks to help with the trail-breaking. However, the reward was just: the only people in the hut, we were looked after well, with dinner that kept on coming.
Choosing a modest objective in cold, fickle weather, we departed for the Fuorcla Viluoch, with the option of lapping it if the descent was good, or potentially reascending to a minor summit further north. Whilst the majority opted to spend the afternoon digging snow pits, Mark and I made an ascent of pt3021. Back at the hut, home and hungry, we would regret our inability to finish the salad course the night before. This time, in a bustling dining room, we were presented with a disappointingly small bowl accompanied by a rather pointed reference to the previous night's failings.
The final two days were unequivocally excellent. Piz Kesch gave Colin, Mike and myself a mountaineering objective, with 200m of steep snow and a little easy mixed ground. Thankfully, forty aspirant guides had been up beforehand, excavating a trench from the ski depot to the summit as well as laying down beautiful, perfectly equidistant tracks in descent, much akin to accelerated, en masse synchronised swimming. The others having waited for us, we enjoyed skiing the glacier before skinning up to Kesch Pitschen, again to be rewarded with a fantastic descent. All that was required was a little white lie, for there wouldn’t be much re-ascent to get back to the hut, would there?
Well fed, and satisfied with a good mountain day, we deliberated over the options for the Friday, settling on returning to the Fuorcla Viluoch, but this time descending northwards. And what a final day it was! Wonderfully remote, with excellent snow and only faunal tracks to contend with, it exemplified quintessential ski-touring. All that remained was a tolerable flog east along a long valley, and a forty-five minute walk to the station at Brail. A well-salvaged hut-to-hut tour, this trip certainly served to whet the appetite for future visits to the somewhat underrated Albula alps.
BMC Winter Meet
This report was adapted from an entry to the NZAT blog, to see the full content click here. Although I was the only CUMC member on this trip, it serves to illustrate the joys of winter climbing in Scotland.
The BMC International meet is held every winter. It's a fantastic event bringing together climbers of all abilities from around the world to experience some of Scotland's finest Mixed and Ice climbing. When I found out about it in August 2013, I was particularly keen to attend on NZ's behalf as I was preparing to immigrate to the UK.
The meet is held in Glenmore lodge at the base of the Northern Cairngorms. We arrive Sunday evening and are greeted with an excellent talk by Simon Richardson 'An Introduction to Scottish Winter Climbing'. We are also assigned a host to climb with. Mine is Simon. Conditions are tricky with strong SE winds, which have left significant loading on North and West facing slopes. Simon asks what I think about climbing somewhere a little 'unusual'. I am intrigued.
It dawns gray and blustery as predicted. We drive to the lower Cairngorm car park then walk to the South East facing Creag na h-Iolaire. At 60 – 100m in height it was dismissed by the hard men of the 60's at not worth the bother, but as time has gone by tastes have changed. Simon thought it would be in good condition, and it is. We climb the central buttress (FA) and the right buttress both at III 4. Its great to be mixed climbing again! We return to Glenmore just in time for dinner through a substantially stronger head wind.
Simon suggested we head west of Fort William to a perhaps unknown Crag up Glen Finnan. After an early start, we still only reach the card base at noon after a long drive and walk in. Disappointingly the turf is decidedly unfrozen so we bail to the obvious line up the central buttress. This provides increasingly entertaining climbing, and Rolly Polly Finish (FA) comes in at III 4. Despite being unable to climb our initial objective, I relish the afternoons solitude. A respite from the ever crowded British Isles.
Tuesday night we interoperate the weather forecast to give stable conditions about Ben Nevis. Eight hours later as we strip off our soaked layers in the snow and wind outside the CIS hut, we lament the weather and Simon's forgotten key. But we were there, so we would climb. Simon had his eye on a 1908 summer line up the East ridge of the Douglas Boulder. Soon, I was braced against the wind belaying as Simon happily climbed up to a prominent notch. From there, I set off up over two steep but well protected corners before reaching the top of the 'Boulder' IV 5. As Simon put it 'A good route of a stormy day'. I am still looking forward to my first view of the Ben.
My time with Simon had come to an end; I was traded to Mark Stevenson. He was keen to climb the West Ridge of Ben Eighe (300m IV 4), so we joined the flocks heading to Torridon. The weather was great and Ben Eighe was crawling with climbers. The west ridge was no exception with three parties climbing up the wide open first two pitches simultaneously. A few pitches on we had an entertaining poke up the stunning corner system that forms the direct finish before abseiling back down to our spot in line. It was a great route in great condition.
The forecast looked grim, and so it was. We joined a van heading NW to the dry tolling Crag, Lochcarron. Its bursting with climbers when we arrive. Here Mark and Patrick Cooke proved to be an entertaining if not slightly terrifying double act. First, Mark caught Patrick's 5m fall on a 6m route. Next route and Mark is on belay again. This time he is tied down. Patrick's tool falls arching viciously toward Mark, who somehow manages to catch it and keep Patrick on belay. There are relieved smiles all round when Patrick eventually returns to the ground.
The weather was unsettled, but we decided to take a gamble. Mark, Patrick, Martin Cooper and myself set off early for Torridon. We arrived in heavy rain at 6:30. There were already a few other cars idling in the car-park, but they soon buzzed off disheartened. The rain lessened and turned to sleet as we set off. We turned off the track to Coire Dubh Mor on Liathach at dawn as the snow finally stopped, and we were at the base of poachers Ice Fall (V 5) at 9am. On the way up Mark asked about my ice climbing experience. My response of '… I've done two leads: WI 3 and WI3+' must have been less than inspiring. We decide he'd lead the first pitch, and I'd lead the second if I was up to it. Ah hour later, I sit in the belay cave drinking the offered hot cordial and gathering my courage. My pitch is great, but our 50m ropes were shorter than we thought. It's only after 9 ice screws, some rope stretch and a tiny bit of simul-climbing that I reach the 60m belay ledge. From here Mark charges up to the easy summit slopes before we sidle to the decent gully in white-out missing the clear summit views Patrick and Martin enjoyed 30 minutes prior. We all agreed this was a stunning end to a great week.
"Scotland’s vigorous weather adds to the overall satisfaction of climbing here" (Paraphrased from Simon Richardson)
"Little Mountains, Big adventures" (Simon Yearsly)
"Often you don't know if a route is in condition till you rub your nose up against it" (Paraphrased from Simon Yearsly)
- Strong winds can produce significant rope drag.
- Dancing at belays helps keep the circulation flowing in ones fingers and toes.
- If the wind if from the east, head west.