Once again, many thanks for all the contributions to this issue. Articles remain a bit
thin on the ground; if I could paraphrase a recent presidential missive by saying that if
every member contributed one article a year, every issue would be a bumper one.
All contributions are welcome, of whatever length and subject but preferably related to
mountaineering. Please email to email@example.com or post to 10
Princeton Mews, Colchester, CO4 9SJ. As ever, photos are particularly welcome. The next
newsletter will be mid-September. On a more personal note, I’d like to thank everyone who wished me happy birthday during the n0ughties meet. It was appreciated. Happy scribbling,
“Summer’s here and the time is right for climbing on our peaks” a gentle wordplay on an
old Springsteen song! In case you ain’t noticed we appear to be enjoying some fine weather as
the summer season hits us and once again it is great to see and hear of IMC folk travelling far
and wide in our great land exploring its crags and fells.
First things first I would like to thank Dave Tonks for yet again organising the Beginner’s
Meet. I could not believe how good the weather was. In fact, I forgot to pack the sunscreen
preferring to leave some space for a wetsuit, flippers and a snorkel and naturally the end
result was sunburn. Outrageous! I think numbers were down on previous years but
nonetheless we had fun and I hope that the “Beginners” enjoyed the experience of climbing
on real rock and were not put off. Don’t forget there is the follow-up (or follow-through as
some of us know it) weekend in September. Failing that you can always try and join in on
one of the club meets although these do require a bit more self-sufficiency in terms of providing your own equipment such as shoes, harnesses and helmets.
However, lots more than that has been going on since I last wrote. I don’t think I will ever
forget that weekend at the end of March freezing me nuts off on Bamford Edge and
some classic routes (Quien Sabe is simply stunning!). Easter saw another IMC raiding
party hit Cornwall for cream teas and, yes, some climbing. And amazingly we did actually
get to Pembroke for the May Day Bank Holiday Weekend this year where I had the
pleasant experience of having someone deck out 10 metres from me when I was beginning my
gibber up a route! Thanks to Louise Farr and Martin Hore for organizing these meets.
Ah yes what else happened in May? Oh, Chris Bluebottle hit 18, and I made it to 40 years
young – which leads nicely to the n0ughty weekend, when a large body of us made our
way up to the Lake District thanks to Mike Bayley’s organisation. A weekend made
notable not only for some excellent climbing and a large number of birthdays that particular
weekend but also the fact that I found out just how tough fell-running is when I went out for a
training run up “The Band!” Ok I am a Silly Billy but hey I’m not getting any younger (or
wiser) and these things have to be tried! Them fell-runners are as hard as nails and barking
Not much else to write about although it was a bit disappointing that no-one was prepared to
organize anything for what was nominally the “Yorkshire Grit” Meet which meant it didn’t
happen. They don’t organize themselves! Rant over and I have just remembered something of
great import. Please let me know of any lobbing action as soon as you are aware. I would prefer
that you keep hold of the rope if you are belaying at the time rather than phoning me
immediately but a little snitch note when you get back would be appreciated so that I can
collate information for the annual stitch up.
Finally, it is not long before the hospital abseil when a few of us like to help out. Dave Tonks
is looking for volunteers to help out so if you have a spare day or even a spare few hours on
the weekend of the 17/8 July please step forward and let Dave know. It is good for the
profile of the club and a way to say thanks to Mega for lending us gear for the Beginners
Meet and personally speaking it is a great experience helping to get people to overcome
their terror and step over the edge and start their abseil. If you don’t want to drop ‘em over
the edge there are plenty of other jobs which need doing and the more bodies we have the
easier it is for everybody.
You’ll be relieved to read “that’s all folks” from me now before I totally bore your tits off!
Make sure you get out on the hills (I know there is a lot more activity going on in addition
to those featured above) and enjoy them and of course stay safe.
CORNBEEF – THE FOOD OF THE GODS
(and the happy camper)
I am writing in defence of that much underrated culinary item, the humble tin of
cornbeef which, in certain circles of the club, has been somewhat lambasted. This is
completely out of order. Indeed when I was camping it up in Northumberland late last
year I fell into conversation with the chef at the pub I was in and he was in raptures about this
wonderful product. It is so versatile in that with only slight modifications to the ingredients you can make spaghetti bolognese, cornbeef hash and chili con carne. It’s brilliant and don’t forget if you get a big tin you’ve got next day’s lunch sorted as well!
Spaghetti Bolognese. Ingredients – Tin of CB, Spaghetti (or any sort of pasta that comes to
hand), Tomato Puree, Dried Mixed Herbs, Seasoning.
Boil spaghetti until ready and put aside. Then put a little amount of water into another pan
and heat and add that marvelous tin of CB, bung in some herbs and seasoning and then add
the tomato puree and mix up until the meat and puree has broken down into the sauce and hey presto once you add the spaghetti (it is a good idea to drain the spaghetti first!) you’ve got
spag bol. You can get a bit posh by adding onions and, say, fresh basil (thanks Louise!)
Chili con Carne. Ingredients – Rice (boil in bag Basmati particularly recommended for the
camper), Tin of CB, Tomato Puree, Tin of Kidney Beans, Chili powder, Herbs, seasoning.
Boil rice until ready and put aside. Boil a little water in pan and add CB, Kidney Beans,
Tomato Puree, Chili, herbs and seasoning until all is mixed together and broken down into the
sauce and add the rice. Fantastic. Again depending on time and degree of poshness you
can add onion and substitute in some proper chilies instead of the powder.
Kruggie’s Cornbeef Hash. Ingredients: – Smash, Tin of CB, Stock Cube (preferably beef), dried
mixed herbs, seasoning. Boil water and make up Smash and leave aside. Then again put a bit of water into another pan, boil and add the stock cube. Once that’s broken down add in the CB with the mixed herbs and seasoning until it has all broken down and then bung onto the Smash
and mix in and “Bob’s your uncle” cornbeef hash! I don’t recommend any posh additions but I have on occasions bunged in some curry powder which adds certain piquancy (and is really quite nice). Haven’t tried chili yet!
As you can see the humble cornbeef tin has much to be proud of and the timings of the
preparation of these marvelous meals is to a large degree determined by what you have with
it i.e. rice, spaghetti or mash because the mixing of the sauce takes less than 5 minutes
particularly if you use a flamethrower such as my MSR Whisperlight!
After the long trip up from a scorching Suffolk we arrived very late on Wednesday night, and
eventually found a campsite that had the gates open so we could get in. We parked the car and
then wandered around for about 10 minutes trying to find where to put the tent. The problem was that the cars are well separated from the camp fields and we couldn’t see them in the dark. Finally, I spotted a glow-in-the dark guy rope through the trees! What a relief!
Anyway Thursday dawns damp and windy. By late morning we are ready for a short stroll
and head off up Lingmell which was behind the campsite. At one point the wind got rather
strong and I had some trouble moving forward, but luckily most of the walk was sufficiently
sheltered! We get to what we thought was the top in the cloud, shelter behind a wall for a
while planning a descent route (because we did not fancy wandering around the tops in the
cloud and wind!).
Anyway, off we potter when Pete made a surprising revelation – we had in fact missed the
top and been sitting on a subsidiary! Indeed the wall we were hiding behind whilst examining
the map was a bit of a clue had we taken it! Needless to say we took a little more care after
that. A nice wander down the “corridor route” and back to Wasdale ensued without further
mishap. Now Pete had some scheme to go backpacking wilderness, travel routes rarely travelled, really get away from it all. And of course it turns out that backpacking is also on his training schedule for his trip (whatever that turns out to be!)
When he showed me his suggested route I had rolled around the floor in fits of laughter – he
actually suggested that we do a high level round of Wastwater. In 2 days we were to climb
(with full backpacking gear) something like 10 peaks (including Scafell Pike), with about 3,500
metres (not feet) of ascent and covering about 40 km. Total madness.
Friday dawns. By 11am (after a standard IMC faff) we are leaving Greendale, starting Pete’s
suggested route, having planned the previous evening to definitely be away by 9am. We had
adjusted the weights of the rucksack so we are both carrying 1/4 body weight (it is perfectly
correct that Pete has to carry more than me!)
We have an extra day’s supply of food in the load, because we are both not too sure that we
won’t need an extra day to complete the route, although we had identified multiple places
where we could retreat to the valley to hitch back to the car! Anyway, the first 500m of
ascent was nice and easy as we made our way up a pretty little hill called Middle Fell and we
made good time. The next hill, Seatallen, was a touch steeper and did we struggle under the
weight of the packs! Gruesome. By the time we reached the col next to Haycock, we were
looking much more closely at the map to find out where we could retreat from! We skipped
Haycock (which would have meant a short detour without packs but in the cloud and rain)
and plodded along Scoat Fell towards Steeple and Pillar. Reasonable progress was made and
we actually had a few decent views when the cloud chose to lift a bit. We both got a tad
annoyed at the number of times we had to put on and take off waterproofs (well with the
weight you get very hot very easily).
However as we approached Kirk Fell the weather became was very dark and threatening.
I was concerned about the navigation over the flat top in mist as you have to find a narrow
gap in the crags to get down. Pete was wondering if perhaps an earlier start would
have been advisable as it was already past dinner time. And it did look hard to get up.
After a classic IMC dither we decided to take the low route behind Kirk Fell (a tad
disappointing but the right call all things considered). I had long intended to skirt Great
Gable and we did so by ascending the gully up to Windy Gap (Pete did a rucksack free detour
to bag Green Gable) and at around 8pm we made it to Styhead Tarn to set up camp. We
were both well chuffed to have actually made it. And more chuffed that we got the tent set
up and dinner cooked before the rain hit. We ate the spag bol as pasta is heavier than Smash.
Pete was a darling to do the washing up. The night was sleepless. The wind tore at the
tent and the rain lashed down. A handy backpacking tip – take the earplugs- the tent
was fine but we both found the noises very unnerving!
Saturday, and Pete is much more motivated for an early start. We packed up, and got going
along the “corridor route”. Getting up Scafell Pike was not as bad as we feared and totally
amazingly, the weather had cleared – the top was clear! We mooched down to Mickledore
and then a ******long way down as “Lords Rake” is still not recommended due to rock falls
and a precarious boulder – although we did see (and hear!) a fell runner heading up there. By
now its 1pm, and Pete can see his chance of a pub trip disappearing fast which makes him
very grumpy indeed. So we storm up the somewhat wet ghyll toward Foxes Tarn and I
asked Pete whether he thought that Steve had been ghyll-scrambling with a tent? “He’s not
hard enough” was the reply! We continued up the loose path to the summit of Scafell (passing
backpackers who are so chilled they can take time out to brew up a pot of tea!) and then a
grim hour followed as we made our way down 300m of hideous, loose, ankle turning, goingon-forever scree. Pete terrifies himself by dislodging a large boulder onto my leg (which luckily just scrapes me).
And it’s still not over. We need to drop to about 200m, and take in a few more km of distance, before the climb up and over Illgill Head and Whin Rhig at the top of the infamous Wastwater screes. By this time I am seriously trashed. We are still racing to make the pub (there was a nice squelchy section over which I made rapid progress after all my years of practice at Scottish bog hopping!) My legs are slowing by the minute. At the top I take on food in a last desperate effort to reduce the weight in the sack and find some energy. Pete kindly volunteers to carry the camera! The descent down the flank of Greathall Gill should be easy – a lovely, non-eroded sensible gradient grassy path. I could barely move. At one point, my eyes said “down in 5” in fact it took another 20 minutes! By now, just to add to the misery, it was also very hot in the sunshine.
And it was still not over. Pete clearly in charge of the map as we trudged the last 3 km back to
the car. Fantastic!
And, we did make the pub.
Louise (and Peter)
P.S. Total ascent turned out to be less than 3,500 metres (more like 2,750) as we did not
trudge back to Wasdale Head at the end of day 1 (why trudge all the way down to Wasdale
when there is a perfectly good campsite at Styhead Tarn?) and we omitted to climb Kirk
Fell and Great Gable. OK we’re wusses!
How many emails does it take to organise a climbing trip?
To get 12 people and 1 dog to Cornwall for Easter the answer is about 50, possibly a few more. By about 8pm on the Thursday evening, we were all gathered on the campsite, but with
a cold wind blowing and the temperature rapidly dropping most of us soon sought shelter in the campsite bar.
Friday dawned somewhat warmer and less windy. The venue for most of us was Bosigran; I teamed up with Sheila for the diff and v. diff classics of Alison Rib, Fasolt, Fafnir & In Between. How can it be that a diff seems harder than a v. diff? Perhaps its just the Cornish grades. As a believer in putting money into the local economy, we diverted into a tea shop on the way back to the campsite. I’d been in there before and, remarkably, was recognised by the owner. Fame!
Saturday saw rather grotty weather so seeking something relatively easy and escapable, there
was a mass ascent of Bosigran Ridge (AKA Commando Ridge), a 200 metre V. Diff described in the guidebook as ‘Atlantic Alpinism’. Most of the descent to the start is fairly straightforward with one short abseil and then a rope to protect the last few feet to the starting ledge. Whilst waiting to move onto the starting ledge, Lou and El Pres were doused by a wave necessitating a quick change of clothes. El Pres was later only too happy to tell us how he did Commando Ridge ‘commando style’. I for one am happy to take his word for it.
Only the first pitch of the ridge really needs to be pitched; Chris led the way but had to stop
at a half way ledge to avoid interfering with a party already on the route. Simon led the rest
of the pitch and soon we were all gathered on an expansive grassy ledge at the bottom of the
second pitch. For speed, we decide to rope up in groups of four and move together. With no
previous experience of moving together it was with some apprehension that I tied on to take
the lead. Fortunately all went smoothly. The section where the ridge narrows to a knife edge
and holds are found in a crack just below the edge was particularly exhilarating, although I’m
not sure Lou would entirely agree.
Towards the top of the route a section of down climbing proves a touch too much for Lou.
Fortunately a quick retreat to terra firma is possible and after a few minutes her sense of
humour returns. We regain the ridge and complete the route, El Pres taking the lead on
the final HS 4b moves. A good effort with a rucksack on his back. Overall, a good day out
even if the final moves are out of keeping with the rest of the route.
I awoke on Sunday morning to the pitter patter of raindrops on the tent. The weather doesn’t
show much sign of improving and there’s much debate as to what to do. Sheila and I go for a
walk along the coastal path, Simon and Guy walk into the local crag of Kenidjack Cliffs
whilst a crack team led by El Pres head for the tropical Lizard for some new routing activity.
By contrast, ‘Biggles’ Harbottle has a flying lesson and comes back enthusing about the
delights of powered flight. Remarkably, everybody seems to have remained largely dry,
apart from those who stayed on the campsite where it hammered down. Perhaps more
importantly, everybody seems to have enjoyed whatever they got up to.
An early start on Monday morning sees Simon, Guy and myself as virtually the first group at a
sea damp and greasy Sennen. We climb Corner Climb (V. diff) and Demo Route (HS) as a
three, finding the rock cold, damp and quite slippery. Having had a battle with the chimney
on Demo Route, I call it a day whilst Simon and Guy climb a variation of Letterbox. I feel it
is a good decision as the final moves are the wrong side of vertical. As we leave the crag to
start the long journey home, the sun comes round onto the face to dry the crag out. Mental
note made that Sennen is best as an afternoon and evening crag ……
First off, from www.rockfax.com
I’m only here to play
I don’t mean you any harm
So please don’t harm me
I won’t gouge
Chip or break you
So please don’t throw me
Or crush my dreams
Your curves and cracks
Call out for a gentle caress
Whether summer sun warms you
Or winter’s chill cuts through
Your fragility is hidden
To the speed of our lives
As you have lived
Millions of ours
Have seen you age
Your present day beauty
It’s now my turn
To climb you
And then, it’s over
You were great!
I pass you on
For the next customer
I cry out…..enjoy ‘her’ as I have done, and leave
her the same
Secondly, borrowed from OTE
Which art near Sheffield
Hallowed be thy Stanage
No bolts shall come
And trad shall be done
On Earth as it is in Heaven
Give us each day
Our daily crag
And forgive indoor routers
As we forgive those
Who compare indoor routes
And leaders not into seconding
But deliver us our seconders
For ours is the rack, the power and the first
For Froggatt and Curbar
Robotic rock-climber takes its first steps
(From New Scientist)
A robotic mountaineer that could one day climb cliffs on Mars and even help rescue earthquake
victims has taken its first steps. The spider-like robot, called Lemur, was developed by engineers at Stanford University and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California, as a prototype for a fully autonomous rock climber. It can already follow a human climber up an irregular surface without any guidance from a controller. And it has a spookily human gait.
Tim Bretl, the lead engineer on the project at Stanford’s robotics laboratory, says Lemur’s
technology could take planetary exploration to another level. “Scientists would really like
robots on Mars to be able to access the sides of cliffs to look at the geology,” he says. “This
could be a way to get there.”
Bretl also reckons that climbing robots could have search and rescue applications on Earth.
“A lot of people are becoming interested in using robots for disaster scenarios, like
earthquakes,” says Gurvinder Virk, a robotics expert at the University of Leeds in the UK.
While other climbing robots are designed to scale the sides of flat structures using suction
cups or magnets for grip, tackling uneven geological surfaces is a far more difficult task.
With a central body and four triple-jointed limbs, Lemur’s gait resembles that of a human
rock climber as it manoeuvres up an indoor climbing wall at Stanford.
At the moment, the robot cannot stick to a sheer wall. But on uneven surfaces it can use
the claw at the end of each limb to hook into a foothold. “It’s like a human climber using a
single finger,” Bretl says. For the moment Lemur cannot “see” its footholds, so a computer model of the wall, containing coordinates of the footholds, has to be fed into its onboard computer before it starts climbing. From this it figures out an ideal route up and works out how to manoeuvre itself for each step of the ascent.
The ultimate goal is for Lemur to read a scene and calculate its own best path up a cliff. The
route would be modified as it climbed, using information from its own video cameras and
touch sensors. At the moment, the sensors are used only to make sure that each foothold is
After Lemur moves one of its limbs to a new foothold, it must simultaneously shift its
weight by repositioning the other three limbs to maintain balance. This requires complex on-thefly calculations from its onboard computer. Route-planning software specially developed
for the task rapidly analyses different limb configurations before settling on the most
efficient one for the next step. It can take the robot a few minutes to work this out, although a forthcoming redesign of the control system should speed it up, allowing the robot to “scamper”.
Future incarnations of Lemur are likely to have grippers for a more secure foothold, and more
joints in the articulated limbs, giving them a greater range of movement. It will also be taught how to react if it unexpectedly loses its grip.