Author Archives: mikeb

Easter in North Wales

The Official Report of the Official Splitters Easter Trip

Mike Bayley – April 2009

Thursday evening saw myself, Mervyn & Dave (a friend of Martin’s) gathering at
Jesse James’ bunkhouse in North Wales for the Easter weekend. With an
indifferent weather forecast for Good Friday, Martin & Adrian were driving up
the following morning.

True to the forecast, Friday started wet so after a slow start we headed off to
the Llanberis slate quarries for a look round. After an unplanned tour of a
Welsh hillside we arrived at the parking where we met Martin & Adrian. After
some damp wandering and taking in the industrial heritage, itchy feet saw the
party splitting. Dave & I elected to continue our wandering whilst everyone else
opted for a more energetic walk elsewhere. And so we continued our wandering
through the somewhat other worldly quarries, taking in Serengeti, California &
Australia in a carbon free style.

Dali’s Hole – an otherworldly place.

As the day progressed, the weather improved and the quick drying slate made
climbing an option. A dash back to the bunkhouse saw a rope and quickdraws
hastily packed and we got 6 or 7 routes between F4A & F5A in before the face
went into the shade and a trip to Pete’s Eats became more appealing.

Meanwhile, the walkers had changed their plans and gone for an ascent of
Milestone Direct with much squirming on the chimney pitch.

Over dinner plans were laid for the following day, all involving an early start.
Adrian & Dave went for Grooved Arête on Tryfan and were out of the door at 0730
to beat the queues. Martin, Mervyn & I opted for Pinnacle Wall on Craig yr Ysfa.
Despite starting a little later, we were the second party on the crag after some
extended walking along its foot and up into the amphitheatre in fruitless
pursuit of the start of the route, mountaineering judgement ruled and we opted
for the most popular route – Amphitheatre Buttress. A combination of soloing,
moving together and pitching saw us cover 960’ of climbing in 3½ hours and what
fine climbing it was too. Partway up the route, we were able to see Pinnacle
Wall, someway up the opposite side of the amphitheatre wall. Well there was no
flipping mention of that in the guidebook!

Talking to the pair who followed up on the route, it turned out that one of them
was a member of the Ogwen Valley MR team. Although not present on that infamous
day in 2006, we had a bit a chat about rescues and his experience of a rescue on
Great Gully. The day finished by walking off a broad grassy rib and a trip to
Ogwen cottage for tea and checking the weather forecast.

Sunday’s forecast was for a dry but cold start with an increasing chance of rain
in the afternoon. So, we opted for Bochlwyd Buttress, some 20 minutes from the
car. The downside was its north easterly aspect which gave us a chilly start.
Once again, the guidebook was less than perfect and we struggled to match the
topo to the crag. I took the initiative and launched up a route that I thought
was a Diff but which proved to be a Severe with an awkward exit from a niche.
The guidebook wasn’t wrong in that respect. I was up and down trying options,
placing extra gear and trying to keep my hands warm. When I finally went for the
move, I have never been closer to falling without actually doing so and a knee
had to be employed for, erm, stability. Later in the day, Mervyn made a proper
job of falling in the same place so I no longer feel quite so bad about the
tactics that I employed.

Martin then jumped in with a lead of Wall Climb, complete with an interesting
traverse. Still not sure if we did the second pitch correctly but a fine climb
nevertheless. Then it was Dave’s turn on Arête & Slab, another fine route with
some testing moves for a Diff.

My turn again – this time on Marble Slab. The guide suggests severe, UKClimbing
HS; I’ll take the latter as that’s what it felt like to me and very thin in the
middle. Focus was required!

And that was the end of our day, apart from another visit to Ogwen Cottage for
tea & check of the weather forecast.

As forecast, Monday started dry & sunny but with three of the party leaving
during the afternoon big walk-ins were out. Dave & I opted for a return visit to
the slate where, in a confidence building style, we repeated most of the routes
from Friday and pushed out to F5C. That took us to early afternoon and a good
place to stop. From my perspective a very good first weekend of the year, pity
about the cold I took home.

It’s a gully, but is it great? Part 2 – reflections on being rescued

Mid-summer came and with it a prolonged spell of hot, dry weather. As to near to
perfect conditions for another attempt at Great Gully on Craig yr Ysfa as we were
likely to get. [Click here to read an account of the first attempt – Ed]

I teamed up with Andy Hansler whilst Mervyn teamed up with Adrian. We got a reasonably
early start and by 11.30 we were at the bottom of the route, fed, geared up and ready
to go. We scrambled the first 150 feet or so and roped up for the first rock step.
This was quickly surmounted and all went well with the following pitches, including
the pitch that stopped us on our first attempt.

As the day wore on the weather slowly deteriorated becoming cloudier with occasional
light rain. This wasn’t a problem until the penultimate pitch up a steep, polished
chimney. I led it in the dry but a little while later when Adrian was leading it had
become a bit wet and a top rope had to be dropped. So, we ended up at about 5.30 with
all four of us 8 pitches up, facing the crux Great Cave pitch with slowly worsening
weather. Hmm, this is beginning to sound like an epic in the making.

Great gully
Typical conditions in Great Gully
(click on image to view in Flickr)

The way up wasn’t exactly obvious and we spoke about retreating but decided continuing
up would be quicker overall. Taking a few steps into the dark recesses of the cave
showed a line of sloping and nearly dry holds up the wall, leading up to a chockstone
and a traverse out to the cave mouth. Handily, there was also a rope loop and other
tat for protection.

I stepped up to the holds and clipped the rope loop and tat but almost immediately
wondered where the handholds were. Nothing for it but to pull on the gear. Now where
do I put my feet? This was repeated several times, falling off each time. By removing
my rucksack I was better balanced and able to place a nut and clip a sling for aiding
on. It was a precarious position but it gained enough height to place a higher sling
and somehow wriggle, squirm and thrutch until I was sitting on top of the chockstone,
panting like a steam train.

I sat for a few minutes, regaining my breath and composure before tackling the
traverse to the cave mouth. The footholds were large and obvious but it required a
squat to get under an overhang. Would there be protection? What were the handholds
like? As it turned out the hand holds were good enough but there was no protection, so
it was very much a test of nerve. I’d soon squirmed onto another chockstone at the
cave mouth and into howling wind and blowing rain. Brighter and really rather better
than the confines of the cave. I was soon anchored and ready to bring Andy up. Using
much the same combined tactics, but with extra swearing, Andy soon joined me on the

Having only clipped one rope, Andy was able to clip the other and so protect Mervyn’s
ascent. And so I brought up Mervyn with much huffing and puffing and a certain amount
of swearing, leaving only Adrian and my rucksack to be brought up before we could
scramble out to the top. Adrian looked at the now glistening holds and gave it a bit
of ’What the hell do I do here?’ Gear pulling and aiding soon commenced but whilst
pulling hard on the sling around the chockstone, the sling slipped and Adrian let go,
banging into the cave wall before ending up dangling on the rope.

At this point Adrian felt unable to make another go at the pitch. Oh bugger. We pulled
up the rucksacks before rigging the ropes to attempt an assisted hoist, but with ropes
running over rock there was too much friction for that to work. And despite having
succeeded at prussiking in the past, Adrian was unable to do so now, when it really,
really mattered. Double bugger. By now it was something like 7.30 and the weather was
getting worse, the cloud having dropped to below the top of the mountain. We had
earlier discussed calling mountain rescue but now there was no choice. Mervyn
scrambled up to the top of the gully and made the call. Thank goodness for mobile
phones! It was then a waiting game. There were several calls back to say ‘We’re
dealing with it’, then ‘We’re 2.5 hours away’ and finally ‘We’re 10 or 15 minutes
away’. Having spent most of the intervening time on the belay when the last call came
through I decided it was time for me to pack up and scramble out. With a shove from
Andy over a difficult section I was on the top and could hear Mervyn shouting ‘Over
here, over here’ but with no light he couldn’t guide them in. Fortunately, I did have
a headtorch and in a few minutes the first of the rescue party were with us.
Unfortunately, this left Andy a few feet from the top of the gully unable to overcome
the step that he had helped both Mervyn and me to get over. Had there been a few more
minutes before the rescue party arrived, I’m sure we would have found an anchor and
dropped a rope to get Andy to the top.

They quickly took over getting Mervyn and me into a more sheltered position. They soon
established that there were 2 still in the gully before bundling us into a bothy
shelter. We made ourselves as comfortable as we could whilst outside there was much
talking and flashing of lights. At some point, Mervyn’s mobile rings and lo and behold
it’s Martin Hore on the other end, asking after us. A few minutes later, someone pops
their head into the bothy and introduces themselves with a cheery ‘Hello, my name’s
Chris and I’ll be taking you down shortly. In the meantime, here’s a flask of coffee.’

Whilst we were reasonably comfortable in the bothy shelter the rescue team set up to
extract Andy and Adrian. Andy was just a few feet from top and was soon with us. The
three of us were then walked down to the road, loaded in a Landrover and driven to the
MR base close to the foot of Tryfan. No idea what time we arrived there, maybe 1am. At
the MR base we were loaned dry clothes, fed with soup, bread and bacon butties and
plied with all the tea we could drink.

We worked out from conversations and descriptions that the team on the mountain set up
a pulley system and lowered a man down to Adrian before hauling both of them out. Some
of the team returned about 2.30 – 3am, and then a dishevelled Adrian walked in with
the remaining team members at about 3.30am. We finally left the MR base at about
4.30am, were dropped off at the car before getting back to the campsite around 4.45am.

I really couldn’t recommend the route, although I understand Andy is keen for another

The final word must go the Ogwen Valley MR team who were fantastic with 15 of them
giving up their Saturday night to rescue us. A donation from all four of us was
subsequently made to help them continue to provide their service.

So what could we have done differently? Well, given that the weather was forecast to
deteriorate during the afternoon we could have decided to leave Great Gully for
another day. Having got to the crux in deteriorating conditions we could all have
abseiled down rather than go on. Similarly, having got into difficulty, we could all
have abseiled down and walked out. Alternatively, we could have tied loops into
another rope, tied it off to an anchor and dropped it to Adrian for him to try aiding
up. Quite why we didn’t think of these options at the time, I really don’t know.

Lakeland Adventures

Saturday 20th August saw Martin & I heading for the Lake District to
collect some Classic Rock ticks and as many other routes as we can. We
left Ipswich mid afternoon and after an uneventful journey enjoyed
chips in Keswick before putting the tents up at a busy Hollows Farm in
the gathering gloom.

Sunday dawned bright and warm. After a leisurely start and gear
faff, we drive up to Seathwaite and walk up to Gable Crag, our
targets being Napes Needle & Needle Ridge. Unwisely we chose the
shorter but scrambly path and the walk in takes about 3 1/2 hours. At
Styhead we pick up the climbers path that contours around Great
Gable, passing under the impressive looking Kern Knotts and Tophet
Wall before arriving at Napes Needle.

I’m staggered that there’s nobody on the route. After some lunch
and a final check of the instructions for making ourselves secure
on the top and getting down again, Martin tackles the first pitch –
a polished offwidth crack. I join him at the belay, take the gear
and start the very short second pitch. There’s an obvious break
above the belay for gear and this takes a friend and a nut. A
couple of surprisingly easy moves later my feet are in the break
and I can traverse left into a more exposed position. The holds are
all obvious and fairly well used but some more gear would nice. A
couple of moves later I get a nut in just below the top and before
I know I’m on the top of the pinnacle, feeling rather insecure as
it’s far from flat and quite polished.

Napes Needle
The view from Napes Needle
(click on any picture to see the image in Flickr)

Right, time to see if I can recall the instructions. Drop a loop of
rope under the overhang and clove hitch into the harness. Drop
another two loops down to Martin and tie each one back into the
harness. Still not feeling that secure but it will have to do.
Martin comes up and we exchange the gear so that he can place more
pieces to protect my descent. Martin down-climbs and re-attaches
himself to the belay at the top of the first pitch before I too
down-climb and remove the gear from the top pitch.

We then change the gear over again and I down climb the first
pitch, placing more gear as I go before Martin comes down. What a
performance! It must have taken at least twice as long to get down
from the top as it took to get up there. The guidebook gives an
overall grade of HS; the ascent almost certainly isn’t that but the
descent probably is.

Needle Ridge starts right behind the needle and as we’re feeling
confident in our abilities, we decide to take coils and move
together. This proved to be a good move and we cover the ground
very quickly, progress only being limited by the two teams ahead of
us. By the time we get to the top, the weather is beginning to
change with the wind picking up and cloud lowering. We scramble
down and then lurch down some scree before picking the walker’s
path back to Styhead. We return along the better path to the valley
but it’s already started to rain and we’re quite wet by the time we
get back to the car at around 7.30. Good day out though, with two
routes ticked.

Back at the campsite a group of chavs are in residence in poorly
pitched tents and seem intent on making as much noise and being as
oiksome as possible.

We’re somewhat fatigued the following day; we decide an easier
valley day is in order. We start off by walking up to Black Crag
for the tick of Troutdale Pinnacle. The first three pitches are
despatched in short order. The fourth pitch starts with a downward
traverse across some slabs, which required some thought, and then a
steep step up onto the pinnacle. Easier ground follows to gain the
top of the pinnacle on which I sit, semi-astride, with plenty of
air on both sides. An airy step off the pinnacle follows and then a
groove with an awkward move near the top to finish. Another tick

We then walk round to Shepherds Crag and Martin points me at Brown
Slabs Crack ‘So we can nail that mountain VS thing’. The main
feature of the route is a polished corner that can be either jammed
or laybacked. I go for the jamming option and although it’s quite
strenuous there’s enough gear to keep it safe. The corner is soon
ascended, as is the easier ground to the top. A visit to Shepherd’s
Crag wouldn’t be complete without going to the café, so that’s our
next port of call. Being late in the day, they’re keen to sell that
day’s cake so we get extra large portions. Result! Better still; we
get to bask outside in the warm sunshine.

Back on the campsite, we’re chilling out and nibbling when Martin’s
friends Dave and Chris appear. ‘Oh’ says Martin, ‘I wasn’t
expecting them until tomorrow!’ Tents are soon pitched, beers
exchanged, tea drunk and food prepared and eaten on a warm evening
only spoilt by uninvited midges and the chavs.

Tuesday starts grey and gloomy. Undeterred, we drive up to Honister
Hause; Martin, Dave & I walk into Gillercombe for the tick of
Gillercombe Buttress whilst Chris walks back to the campsite. On
the approach, the cloud base is dropping but we apply
mountaineering judgement and decide to go for the route anyway but
to climb with rucksacks so we can walk straight out from the top.
With the weather looking threatening, we elect to climb in
waterproofs. I also choose to wear waterproof trousers and was I
glad I did!

Martin takes the first pitch and it proves to be jolly exciting for
the grade, with an awkward struggle into and out of a square notch.
I led the second pitch but don’t recall much about it. I do,
however, recall leaving the belay and moving round into the full
force of the wind and rain now battering the buttress. Dave led the
fourth pitch in increasingly foul conditions and I led the fifth,
which wasn’t too difficult despite the conditions. And so it fell
to Martin to take the 6th and penultimate pitch. We thought the
difficulties were over and this was now a romp to the top but there
was a sting in the tail. We should perhaps have realised this
sooner, this being a Classic Rock route.

The technically difficult moves were very thin and reachy above a
big drop and would be interesting on a still, warm day. But in the
wind and streaming with water they were much more difficult. The
moves above were considerably easier but no less demanding due to
the runout. So demanding that Martin had to take a five minute
break mid pitch to gather thoughts and recover sufficient mental
energy to finish the pitch. Meantime, Dave and I were getting
progressively colder & wetter on the belay. Dave feels the cold
anyway and with soaking poly cotton trousers was suffering. I lead
the 7th and final pitch; by the time we’re all at the top it’s
about 5pm and time for some lunch. After a nibble we navigate
across the tops through cloud and eventually get back to Honister
Hause at about 6.30. With the food and movement, Martin & I have
warmed up a bit. Dave however was moving very slowly, feeling sick
and had gone very quiet.

The wind and rain kept up all night; if anything they got worse.
The weather forecast was for torrential rain and gale force winds
and we certainly got all of that. Despite the exertions of the
previous days I slept only fitfully but when I finally surfaced,
just as the rain was abating, there was tent carnage at Hollows
Farm. Our tents were undamaged but there was evidence of several
groups packing up and leaving during the night, with their trashed
tents and paraphernalia dumped by the bin. The chavs had left
sometime during the night, their weak erections evidently not man
enough to resist all the weather could throw at them.
Stereotypically, they left a trail of rubbish behind them for
others to clean up.

Flooded River Derwent
Flooded River Derwent

A little later we found that a swollen River Derwent had cut us off
from Keswick. Fortunately, it wasn’t long before the rain stopped
completely, the sun came out and it turned into a good drying out
day. Our climbing gear and wet clothing from the previous day was
soon spread around the campsite and we salvaged some guy lines and
a tent pole from the bins to make a drying line.

Norman arrives mid-morning and with the flooding has to walk the
last mile or so to the campsite. Being made of stern stuff, he and
Dave team up for a day at Shepherds Crag. Meanwhile, Martin and I
loaf around the campsite until lunchtime then head into Keswick for
gear fondling and food shopping.

Drying out
Drying out at Hollows Farm

Unsure of the weather for the coming days, a call was made to the
ever-reliable Culverhouse weather centre. Part of the plan for the
week is to walk over into Ennerdale and wild camp for a couple of
routes on Pillar but this is very much weather dependent. The
forecast isn’t too good so we cook up an alternative plan – an
early start the next day to do Tophet Wall on Great Gable and if
time permits walk into Ennerdale for a recce of Pillar and maybe a
route as well.

Wednesday evening saw the late return of Norman & Dave from
Shepherds Crag, and the arrival of Adrian and Kearton, the Chandler family
and Nick Willis.

It was about 8.30 the following morning that we parked up at
Seathwaite and started the walk up to Great Gable. This time we
chose the easier valley path and make good progress. With a bit of
prior knowledge it takes us around 3 hours to walk up to Tophet
Wall. As we gear up, a cold wind is blowing up the gully and we’re
out of the sun but at least it’s dry. I launch up the first pitch,
which is steep and thin, but there is enough protection that was
particularly appreciated through a technical section. Martin comes
up to the somewhat uncomfortable hanging belay at the end of the
pitch where we swap over and he leads through.

The second pitch starts in much the same way as the first, but
without the welcome gear! Fortunately there is gear a bit higher up
and we both make fairly light work of the pitch. From the guidebook
it looks as though the third pitch is the crux; the wording in the
guidebook is “Semi hand traverse right in a sensational position”.
It certainly is a good position but the holds and protection are
both generous. I’m left wondering what the fuss was all about! We
swap over again and Martin leads through for the fourth and final
pitch. It starts easily enough, climbing up to a pinnacle before
stepping round an arête and then easier ground to the top. What
neither of us had banked on was the exposure – huge! – from
stepping round the arête. At the top, both of us were giggling like
a couple of schoolgirls at the position.

By the time we’ve scrambled down and lunched it’s mid afternoon;
too late for another route but just right for a recce into
Ennerdale. We regain the climbers’ path and contour round Great
Gable in good time. We then head over Kirk Fell, steep but steady,
before dropping down to Black Sail Pass. Big black clouds have been
rolling in and as the descent steepens, rain starts to fall. As it
looks like it’s fairly well set in, we stop to don waterproofs.
Whilst faffing around we’re approached by a father and son team who
have been sitting nearby. ‘The boy doesn’t want to tackle the steep
descent; can we help them? Martin uses a couple of slings to make
sit and chest harnesses into which we tie a rope. With his father
in front and me providing a waist belay as required from behind,
his confidence soon returns and whilst maybe not skipping down like
a mountain goat the descent that had previously appeared very
daunting now posed little problem. We leave them at Black Sail Pass
but it’s taken us a couple of hours to get here so although our
destination is in sight we take the mountaineering decision to turn

Our exit from Ennerdale is obvious – Windy Gap between Green Gable
and Great Gable. Rather than go back over Kirk Fell, we pick up a
path that contours round Kirk Fell. The path to Windy Gap is now
obvious but that doesn’t mean it’s easy! Well, the first part is
easy but, joy of joys, we’re soon onto steep and loose ground all
the way to the top. By and large it’s more of the same down the
other side although the path has been partially made up. From
leaving Black Sail Pass, it takes something like two hours to get
back to Styhead Tarn. By now we’re both pretty tired and Martin is
also suffering with a dodgy ankle. An emergency Genoa cake, saved
for just such an eventuality, lifts our spirits and provides an
energy boost. An hour or so later we’re back at the car, some 12
hours or so after starting out. A long day but what a day!

Back at the campsite it seems as though we had the best of the
weather and I believe the words “However good your day has been,
ours has been better” were uttered. Adrian and Kearton arrived back
even later having had a standard issue IMC adventure on the Corvus
that involved Kearton falling on the crux traverse.

An altogether easier day was called for on the Friday so Shepherds
Crag is in order. Martin points me at the first pitch of Donkey’s
Ears before he takes the second pitch. Then it’s back to me for the
3rd pitch, which I make a complete bollix of. The guidebook
description is vague so I first try a low line that is far too
hard for the grade. A quick retreat allows me to try a higher line
but that isn’t going to give in easily either. That leaves the easy
option to the right at more like diff than severe but given the
fatigue from yesterday I’m really not bothered. With the security
of a top rope, Martin tries the possible lines and finds an option
that largely fits the grade but would be very bold on the lead.

By now it’s gone lunchtime so we sort food out. Having done so, the
wind picks up and a rain shower rolls in so a massed retreat to the
café takes place. The rain continues for a while so we have an
early retreat to the campsite. Remarkably we’ve been here a week
but haven’t made it to the pub so that evening we endeavour to put
some more money into the local economy. The hotel in the village of
Grange is only open to residents so we wander up the road to The
Leathes Hotel, partway to Shepherds Crag. No problem with letting
us into their very warm lounge but at over £10 for four drinks we
only stay for one round.

That evening saw the arrival of Bob, Simon & Karen and Steve &

Saturday sees us heading for Raven Crag for the well trodden route
of Corvus, hopefully avoiding the falling off the crux traverse and
descending in the dark experiences of recent ascents by IMC teams.
Parking by the roadside isn’t an option and we have to use the NT
car park at Seatoller – I’m still reeling from having to pay £4.50
to use their patch of tarmac for a few hours. The walk up to the
crag is uphill but steady and somewhat surprisingly there’s no one
else around. I get the first pitch, just to one side of a gully.
It’s pretty wet and as a consequence a good deal harder than the
grade – diff. By accident rather than design, I run the first and
most of the second pitch together, not stopping until a dry belay
ledge arrives. Martin than leads through and so we continue to the
top. The crux pitch comes at about halfway; Martin leads it and I
second but fail to find any difficulty in it but then we have been
climbing routes a good deal harder earlier in the week. Almost
before we know it we’re at the top and making our way back down.
With the exertions of recent days, every step is hard on the legs.

A fine, sociable evening follows with previously hidden skills at
juggling and with a Diablo being demonstrated by Simon.

Sunday starts wet and after extended faffing we undertake a mass
exodus to The National Mountaineering Exhibition at Rheged near
Penrith. The exhibition is OK, mainly about British attempts on
Everest. One of the exhibits is preserved frostbitten toes. Hmm,
nice. We also took in an American film about one of the climbers
who lost their lives on Everest in 1986. It was so good I can’t
remember the name of the climber! Whilst it was dry at Rheged, it
certainly wasn’t in Borrowdale and another less than sociable
evening confined to our tents ensued. Nick, Simon & Karen and Steve
& Caroline all decide enough is enough and head for either home or
sunnier climbing venues.

But wouldn’t you know it, the following day, when we are due to
come home, was bright and sunny. We walk up to Shepherds Crag again
and launch up the three pitches of Ardus. Martin gets the first
pitch and after the rain of the previous day it is greasy and
slippery. I lead through for the second pitch, starting with some
awkward bridging off the stance before tackling the corner crack.
It’s a bit strenuous and technical but that’s fine with me. Martin
then leads through for the third and final pitch, an interesting
traverse across a slab before taking a crack to the top. Although
the line looked a bit greasy and polished, it proved to be all
there and with sufficient protection.

Time for one more route before departing. Keen to end on a high
note, we tackle the V diff route of Brown Slabs Direct in glorious

Meanwhile, Simon and Bob, taken by tales of grand adventures on
Tophet Wall, opt for the big walk in and by all accounts weren’t
disappointed. They also got to see Dave Macleod cleaning and
working the moves on Breathless, an E10 on the wall above Tophet

By the time we’ve been to the café and pack up at the campsite,
it’s about 4pm. Keen to avoid the jams on the M6 of previous years,
we head across to Scotch Corner and then down the A1, arriving in
Ipswich at about 9.30 – a most satisfactory end to a great week.

New Year At Black Sail

Way, way back in the middle of 2004, I was invited to see in the New Year at
Black Sail youth hostel in the Lake District. Pushing all thoughts about the
lack of winter walking equipment to the back of my mind, I accepted. Anyway, I
was assured I could borrow all the items of kit I’d be likely to need.

For those who don’t know Black Sail, it is a converted shepherd’s bothy located
at the head of Ennerdale and is one of the remotest YH’s, only being accessible
on foot. It lies on the route of the coast-to-coast walk and is surrounded by the
fells of Great Gable, Pillar, Green Gable and Haystacks. Fortunately, we are
allowed to take 1 vehicle to within 500 metres for transporting the heavier

Black Sail youth hostel
Black Sail youth hostel (click on any picture for image in Flickr)

So, the months rolled by with vague mutterings about carrying in a couple of barrels of beer and dividing up the food responsibilities. With a week to go, organiser Andy has two firkins of beer (Nelson’s Revenge and Roaring Meg), cooked breakfasts for all 4 mornings and food for 3 evening meals in hand. I volunteer to bring red wine, Port, chocolates and fireworks. Well, there are going to be 16 of us there for 4 nights and it wouldn’t do to go thirsty or hungry. Finally it’s all coming together, except that I haven’t been able to borrow any boots. Lee tentatively offers a pair in size 43; if only. A swift post work trip to Field and Trek sees me flexing the plastic and walking out with a pair of suitably stiff boots. Hopefully not so stiff that they rub my heels but only time will tell.

By the time we meet in Ennerdale Bridge, make our way to the car parks to re-distribute kit and supplies, it’s dark, lashing with rain and there is a strong wind blowing up the valley. During a lull in proceedings, two of us decide that the quickest way to the hut will be to shoulder our packs and walk up. As soon as we leave the lights of the cars and buildings, our worlds are defined by the area illuminated by our head torches. I find the wind swirling the rain in the light of the head torches quite bizarre and somewhat claustrophobic.

The walk in is only about 4 miles but carrying a load and being predominantly uphill it seems to take an age but eventually we arrive at the hut. By this time the car with the supplies has arrived and we trudge back down the path and start moving its contents. I lose count of how many times I did this but it was bloody hard work; the track dips and rises and twists and turns and with the rain it is running like a stream in places. Payback comes a little later: kicking back in front of a roaring fire, pint in one hand and ginger wine in the other.

We awoke on New Years Eve to grey skies and the tops in cloud. After much faffing, a group of 6 of us leave just before Noon intending to walk up Black Sail Pass, onto Pillar via the scramble of Pisgah then off the other side into Wasdale for a pint in the Wasdale Head Inn before returning over Black Sail Pass. It takes a couple of hours to get onto the top of Pillar but after some dodgy route finding coming off the top and some prolonged lurching down a scree slope it’s fairly evident that making it into Wasdale just isn’t going to happen. By the time we’ve circled around the back of Pillar and made it to the top of Black Sail Pass, the light is going and the rain has started again. By the time we return to the hut, it’s virtually dark and the rain is well set in.

A splendid evening followed. There was more than enough food and drink for everybody and the alcohol fuelled post dinner game of Cranium was very entertaining. We had fireworks and champagne at midnight and then played Trivial Pursuit. I went to bed at about 3am and at that point the scene in the lounge was best described as one of carnage.

When I re-surfaced later on New Years Day, the scene outside the door was one of rain, sleet and hail. Nobody did much and my exercise for the day consisted of another trip to the car to collect more fireworks for the evening’s entertainment. We all drank rather less over dinner but the levels of pent up energy were such that our post dinner game of Diplomacy became very heated.

Overnight the rain stopped, the temperature dropped and we awoke to an icing sugar dusting of snow on the tops. Although there was an icy wind blasting up the valley it was at least dry. Lee and I set off unfeasibly early, at just after 11, for a ridge walk taking in Brandreth, Green Gable, Great Gable and Kirkfell before returning via Black Sail Pass. We gain the ridge fairly easily and take in views of both Ennerdale and Buttermere.

Black Sail2
The head of Ennerdale with Kirkfell on the right,
Great Gable in the centre then Windy Gap and Green Gable to the left

On the early parts of the ridge the wind was behind us, providing a gentle push in the back. By the time we cross Brandreth and get onto Green Gable, it’s coming from the side and on several occasions we’re nearly blown off our feet. Coming off Green Gable, Windy Gap certainly lives up to it’s name. In addition to the fresh snow, the route onto Great Gable is rimed with ice and is
treacherously slippery. Leaving the summit of Great Gable, we have the wind in our faces and it’s a struggle to avoid being blown backwards. Rather counter intuitively, I find it easier to lean forwards and keep moving rather than remain still and fight the wind. Whilst descending, we get views down Wasdale and see the sun glinting off Wastwater. No photos though; the camera was left in the hut.

Kirkfell is crossed without incident and with a sense of deja vu we reach the top of Black Sail Pass as the light is beginning to go. Another descent in the gloom and return to the hut in almost complete darkness but a grand day out.

The evening saw another heated game of Trivial Pursuit but probably the less said about rude word Scrabble the better. The following morning it was clean up and clear out time and eventually everyone was out but it was still 2pm before we hit the road out of Ennerdale.

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable few days and certainly one of the best New Year celebrations I’ve had. The final tally on the booze front was 144 pints, 4 litres of mulled wine, 11 bottles of red wine, 4 bottles of port and 3 bottles of champagne. Which leads nicely to the first of my resolutions for 2005 – no more booze during January. And yes, the new boots did rub but, bizarrely, only my right foot.

In Search Of An Azure Shimmer

Our hot rocks trip to the Costa Blanca started off a few weeks earlier with a meal and planning
faff at Caroline’s house. We met the night before the flight at Karen’s house for dinner. We arrived at the designated hour and were greeted by the sound of Simon crushing ice for Margaritas. In no time at all the Margaritas were drunk and this set the tone for the evening with much beer and wine quaffed.

Somehow we all arrived at Stansted at the designated hour of 8am, each of us suffering from a hangover to a greater or lesser extent. For some reason, Steve was very quiet….

Our first day, Sunday, saw us climbing at Toix West, a popular venue just a short walk from the car. Karen, Simon and I teamed up and started on a couple of 3’s (Severe ish), moving up to 5+ (HVS ish) by the end of the day. Amazing what you can do on warm rock with big, shiny bolts! We finished the day feeling well chuffed and confident in our abilities. On only her second day out on rock and her first day sport climbing, Karen finished the day leading an HVS slab consisting of a good deal of delicate, balancy moves.

Monday was Caroline’s birthday and the day started with cake, cards and presents. The overall temperature of the villa was raised by a few degrees with all the candles! The day also started wet on the coast so we headed inland to the Echo Valley with multi-pitch routes on leader placed gear and bolt belays. It didn’t look too encouraging on the drive over with more rain and wet roads but things improved after lunch.

Karen, Simon and I teamed up for Scorpion (4+/HS) with Steve and Caroline sharing the leads on the adjacent line of Wasp (4+/VS) with Caroline sporting the birthday tiara (a present from Karen and Simon) which looked very attractive attached to her helmet with bright yellow gaffer tape! I led the first 3 pitches of Scorpion steadily enough before handing over to Simon for the fourth and final pitch. After a good look round at the holds and the alternative finish of Wasp, Simon was unable to make the moves. We knew that Steve was already on the top and called furiously for a top rope but to no avail. The only thing to do was for Simon to climb down and for all of us to abseil off.

No problem for Simon or me, but Karen hadn’t abseiled before. But it’s amazing what you can do if you have to and we were back on the ground in two abseils although I will acknowledge some anxiety with all three of us and the ropes being tied off to a single bolt.

That evening we drove up the coast to Moraira, intending to eat in a restaurant Caroline knew from previous visits. But wouldn’t you know it – it was closed that evening! A suitable alternative was quickly found and we had a very pleasant evening.

Tuesday started slowly due to hangovers (again) but eventually we start climbing at Toix East, a scruffy roadside crag. I try a route supposedly graded 4+ but back off before the first bolt, finding it steep and awkward. I just didn’t feel comfortable on it. Simon was similarly struggling on an adjacent 4+ and it fell to Steve to lead and get a top rope up for the rest of us to have a
go on.

Seeking a confidence boost rather than continue the beasting, the afternoon saw us back at Toix West. Steve and I team up for Ana, a two-pitch route of 4+ described in the guidebook as ‘very pleasant’. And it was. Meanwhile, Caroline’s hangover has diminished and she’s found some beta on a 6a route which is very amenable. Steve led the way very smoothly before Caroline and I followed. It would probably be fair to describe the route as 5+ with just one 6a move and it’s another confidence booster.

The following day, Wednesday, we head inland again to Sella, described in the guidebook as the most important, extensive and popular area in the Costa Blanca. We start in a bay close to the parking area. Things don’t start that well with Caroline and I wobbling on a 4 route that should be well within our capabilities. Then Steve backs off a 5+ route. What’s going on? Simon & Karen
opted for an easy start on the 3’s & 4’s.

Sella - Divino Face
Sella – Divino Face (click on any picture for image in Flickr)

After lunch, we head for another bay. I volunteer to belay Steve on a tricky 5+ route and get well cooked standing in the scorching afternoon sun for what seems like an age. Eventually Steve finds a high sequence for the crux moves and is soon at the chain to lower off. Not soon enough as far as I am concerned. Almost before his feet are back on the ground he’s off belay and I’m retreating to the shade of a nearby bush. Whilst I’m recovering, Caroline top ropes the
route and finds a low sequence for the crux, which looks so much more straightforward. So straightforward in fact she opts to do it again on the sharp end. Confidence returns!

Simon & Karen concentrated on the next bay, taking on some fantastic, long & sustained 5’s & 5+’s. While climbing, a local pointed out a 6a+ climb next to them and with a little encouragement, Simon proceeded to make the tricky start then lead the sustained climb to the top of the route. This was then lead again by Steve, after putting on his extra small shoes (size 11 can you believe it?).

Simon concentrating hard at Sella
Simon concentrating hard at Sella

Driving back, the boundaries of automotive engineering are explored in an experiment to see if the Ford Ka hire car can be wound up to 100MPH on the motorway. The answer is yes it can.

Thursday was a big day out on the Penon D’Ifach, the big plug of rock that sits in the bay. Steve, Caroline and I team up for Polvos Magicos 6a+. I lead the first pitch and then Steve takes over for the 6a+ (E2 5b ish) crux pitch. Steve had tried this pitch previously and found the top to be slippery and strenuous; this time was little different. The difficulties accumulate in the last few metres and various combined tactics, including vigorous swearing, were brought into play to overcome the difficulties. Caroline went next and got to the final moves with much undignified grunting and with a little assistance from the top bolt she was at the top. Then it was my turn. I found the pitch to be fairly straightforward, if strenuous, until the top bolt. I ended up standing on the bolt to make the move and I’m not sure if there was any assistance from the rope but I was pleased to have got as far as I did. It was, after all, the first time I’d been on an E2!

The following pitch, graded 5+ (HVS 5a ish), is used by many of the routes on the face and there was a bit of a jam with two teams ahead of us. Fortunately there was a capacious ledge where we could anchor and have lunch. To kill time, we then play I-Spy with Sarah and Linda, two Yorkshire women of a certain age. Sarah took the prize for most obscure clue with AS for azure shimmer. Well, at the time it was bright and sunny with the sea, err, shimmering.

Eventually, the teams ahead of us were clear of the pitch and Caroline takes the sharp end. Caroline makes it to the jammed, in-situ gear and clips it but is unable to make the next move and has to back off, despite successfully having led the pitch on a previous ascent.

I take over the lead and with the benefit of not having to stop to clip/place gear and using that greater reach again, make the next move and clip the in-situ tat. From there it’s a tenuous, slippery and thrutchy struggle and I’m very pleased to get to the sanctuary of the belay bolt. Steve and Caroline then follow, both finding the pitch very awkward. We had all done the pitch
previously but none of us recall it being that difficult.

Steve dispenses the next pitch and then it’s my turn again on a 30m of 5. I climb it without a problem although some of the placements are a bit spaced out. I also provided some entertainment to Sarah and Linda who were on an adjacent pitch. Some of the gear was leader placed and I was using some of the biggest Rocks going. So big I was unable to use the usual method of selecting the nut I wanted with my mouth. In extremis, this led me to shout “Caroline, I can’t get your f***ing nuts in my mouth!”

At the top of the pitch we reckon the trad grade would be VS 4c so I’m well chuffed. The pitch took us up to a ridge from where we were able to look out over Calpe; the extent of development since my previous visit in 1993 was quite staggering. Once again we had to wait to get onto the next pitch and undertook a controlled experiment to establish just how big a nut could be selected using the time proven mouth method. For the record, #12 for Caroline and #13 for me but for some reason Steve declined to participate.

The final pitches are fairly straightforward and I no time at all we’re at the top, some 8 hours after starting up the route. What a relief it is to take our rock shoes off! We scramble over some very polished rocks to the summit before tackling the very rocky and polished descent path. An hour later we’re back at the car and there’s another collective sigh of relief as we take out
harnesses off. Then it was time for a quick paddle, beer and tapas. It wasn’t until we sat down that we realised just how tired we were but what a great day out.

Meanwhile, Simon and Karen had spent all day back at Toix West, playing on the multi-pitch routes Steve and Caroline enjoyed on the first day. After a long day multi-pitching, a great deal of beer disappeared with little effort!

Friday started grey and overcast with rain in the air. After much do we/don’t we climb faff, we decide not. With the intention of climbing later in the day, Simon and Karen head off for Moirira for present buying whilst Steve, Caroline and I head for the Mascarat Gorge to look at the scene of some mad bridge swinging and take in the general atmosphere. We also checked out the, ahem, uniquely shaped starting holds to Lubricante Vaginal en Uno!

Bridges in Mascarat Gorge
Bridges in Mascarat Gorge

Then we too head off for Moraira and the weekly market where our purchases include a particularly fetching straw hat for me; a bargain at just €15. We then meet Simon & Karen in a very smart waterfront bar for lunch.

A drive along the twisty coast road brought us back to Calpe but earlier plans for an evening climb were thwarted by a thunderstorm. Instead, we had to stay in the villa and make a valiant attempts to consume all the remaining food and drink; we very nearly succeeded, despite Caroline buying another couple of bottles of wine!

Saturday started remarkably promptly and not having climbed the previous day there was much frantic clearing up activity to get a couple of routes in before heading for the airport. Well, everybody except me was frantic; still feeling trashed from the day out on the Penon, sitting in the car and reading a book seemed like a much better option. We drove to Toix West but it soon became apparent that climbing wasn’t going to happen as it was just far too windy so the plan quickly changed to visit the Alicante gear shops.

Simon leads the way under the guidance of the stern lady in his GPS. In no time at all after leaving the motorway we’re driving through what seems like a residential area and pulling up outside the first shop, only to find it closed. So, onto the second gear shop; again under the guidance of the stern lady.

This takes us into the depths of the city centre and its busy Saturday morning traffic but very soon we’re pulling into a narrow side street then lo and behold there’s the gear shop. Parking in the street clearly wasn’t going to happen and we have to go round the block again to find a car park. Parked up, we make our way back to the shop. I’m able to resist the temptations of the shop and make do with a few fondles but apparently Steve has to have a new chalk bag
and Caroline can’t resist yet more clothes.

With gear shopping out of the way it’s time to find our way out of the city and to the airport where we have a quick juggling lesson (thanks Steve) and a bit of a picnic lunch in the departure lounge, including a couple of litres of San Miguel that we’d failed to drink the previous evening. In seemingly no time at all, we’re back at Stansted and it’s all over ’til the next time.

Newsletter – December 2004

Editor’s Erratum

Firstly I would like, on behalf of all the members of the IMC, to say a big thank you to Mike Bayley for all his hard work as Newsletter editor over the last two years.

I hope to be able to continue the high standard but I will need your help.

Many thanks for all the contributions to this issue. The response to my first call has been fantastic: long may that continue.

All contributions are welcome, of whatever length and subject but preferably related to any of the many activities that the club members undertake: it has been said that if every member submitted just one article a year every issue would be a bumper bundle of fun.

Please email to: or post to

Guy Reid, Falconhurst, 27, Bath Road, Felixstowe, Suffolk IP11 7JNJ

As ever, photographs are particularly welcome. The next newsletter will come out at the end of March, so please send your submissions by March 10th 2005


From the out-going editor

It’s been an interesting and enjoyable, although at times stressful, couple of years at the helm of the newsletter. However, it’s now time for a change and Guy has stepped forwards to take over the position of editor. So, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the many contributors to the newsletter over the last two years. The success the newsletter has enjoyed in that time is due to your contributions and I hope you will give the same support to Guy.

“Without you there would be no Newsletter.”

President’s Prattle

A new year but the same old regime as I begin my first prattle of another year in orifice. I suppose it is most appropriate to start with the AGM that was recently held at The Dove Street Inn. I haven’t read the Minutes yet but I believe that I was re-erected as El Pres in the face of massive opposition (slightly less than one person). Similarly, Dave Scott, Mervyn Lamacraft and Simon Chandler saw off equally stiff competition to maintain their lofty positions as Treasurer, Secretary and Webmaster respectively.

There was, however, one change which was the position of Newsletter Editor that became vacant as Mike Bayley decided to step down. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mike for two years of sterling effort in the post. It is not an easy job to produce an entertaining Newsletter four times a year and Mike has done a great job in this regard. Cheers Mate!

Our new Editor is Guy Reid, who bit the bullet and, in the face of ferocious competition of a similar scale to the other posts got lumbered with the job. I might add that unlike our compatriots in the Ukraine, we in the IMC can run a proper election procedure where there is little doubt as to the outcome as there generally is only one candidate (much like to old Soviet Union). I hope you will send him articles, items of interest etc, as the Newsletter doesn’t write itself.

Getting down to the nitty gritty of IMC life there hasn’t been that much in the way of formal IMC activity since the last Newsletter but that doesn’t mean that nothing has been happening. Mike Hams organized the Swanage Meet and then found he couldn’t make it! There were quite a large number of club members involved in the Felixstowe Half Marathon and James Calvert showed us all up by finishing third (at least he finished unlike me). Good effort.

I am sure that there us been much other activity – certainly I have been traipsing the country with whoever is willing to put up with me. Team Wuckfit (Mike and I) has made several trips to the Peak District, when amongst gear fondling we did manage a couple of climbs, whilst Louise and I have had enjoyable weekends in the Lake District (where we almost got sunburn) and North Wales (where we almost drowned) in October and November. In addition, Steve Culverhouse has recently returned from his trip to Ecuador where he was attempting Antisana and the other day I spotted Patrick Meehan in our staff canteen looking lean and mean which is the natural consequence of a trip to Nepal.

As the days get increasingly shorter (does that make sense?) thoughts are turning towards our Winter Meets, which should if, everything goes to plan, be attached to this Newsletter. If it doesn’t (go to plan) please check the website. As usual we are looking for people to volunteer to organize them and the proposed destinations are merely suggestions so if you have a hankering to go somewhere please feel free to step across the line and put yourself forward as the organizer. At least that way you can guarantee going to where you want to go! One thing that is currently in the planning stage is an Advanced Rope Work for Climbers course at Plas Y Brenin so if anyone is interested please let me know ASAP. (See below for further information, and under Diary Dates for suggested date. Ed.)

Finally, it is that time of the year when the Winter Solstice is nigh upon us and Christmas follows hot on its tail and naturally one’s thoughts also turn towards Christmas Curry mmmm curry and beer. Two of God’s greatest gifts to mankind. We are fully booked for this event, which represents the climax of the IMC Year, and in any case it will, in all likelihood, have been and gone by the time you read this but nevertheless I thought I would mention it. The chief thought is who will win this year’s Lob of the Year – you’ll have to turn up or wait until the next edition to find out! (Oh no you won’t! See below. Ed.)

All that remains for me to say is have a Joyful Christmas and a Happy New Year. Stay safe on the hills and come back to write about it!


El Presidente



This months articles can be seen on separate webpages. Just click the title to go there … For other articles see the articles index.

In the Bleak Midwinter: Team Wuckfit on Patrol

By Peter Krug

Mid-November and IMC’s two rufty-tufty mountaineer types decided to head off up North for a bit of action in spite of dire predictions of extreme cold. Metcheck alleged “feels like temperatures” of minus 12C during Saturday dropping to below minus 20c at night but nonetheless we were undeterred. It was, however, very cold Friday night as we hurriedly erected the tents and dashed of through the snow to the pub.

Saturday morning was cold so off we went into Hathersage to fondle a bit whilst the rock was coming into condition and our feet were thawing out. I bought a book and a pasta-strainer and Mike showing unusual restraint bought a book. We then bought, sensing good photo opportunities, a disposable camera because Team Wuckfit having mentioned bringing cameras both forgot them but just to emphasise the team-spirit that existed within the team one of the Team found his camera when unpacking his rucksack at home!

Then it was up to Stanage and the cunning plan was to head for the Black Hawk areaand slip in a few quick easy grade routes before getting down before it got dark. There were a fair few folk out there braving the cold. We geared up in the snow and then main decision as yours truly was taking the honour was what footwear to wear on the climb. We knew that that descent would require walking boots as the comment heard from descending climbers was the “descents were lethal!” I opted for a natty pair on “Meindl Perus.”

Anyway the chosen route was Black Hawk Traverse Left (3* VDiff). In the meantime Mike was rapidly changing his mind about leading Black Hawk Hell Crack (3* Severe) owing to a suspicious looking cornice that he would have to break through in order to top out.

I set off confidently in boots reaching a ledge in swift time and then was delayed by the “Bishop’s Stride” which involves a huge step around a block onto a ledge on the other side. I swear it was longer than me legs would go (a good six feet). Nonetheless after a great deal of nerve-summoning the move was made (me groin is still complaining) and then it was onto easier ground although my nerve was frayed by the move so there was much fannying around placing gear to soothe the nerves! Mike followed but had to seek an alternative move as he couldn’t get his leg over the block on the “stride” but nonetheless made it up in reasonable time.

We trudged back to our sacks ignoring the comments being made by various walkers questioning our mental state (I had already got this enquiry at work so it wasn’t new news). We had some lunch and then sought a route for Mike. Much fannying about ensued yet again as we weren’t sure what to do given the conditions, the cold and the other worry which was the state of the top outs and finding belays which were not buried by snow. So we hunted around for a while discounting Hollybush Crack amongst others before settling on Sociology. Mike got his climbing shoes on and eventually decided he was not up to the tricky unprotected moves at the bottom so we headed left and did Physiology and it wasn’t until he was one-third of the way up he remembered the route was a shocker!!! After much flowing of the brown stuff he topped out and then it was my turn and up I trundled (innocently) and confirmed his opinion – it was a shocker! Nonetheless I thrutched my way up and by the time we got back to our sacks it was 3.00 pm and we decided to go back into Hathersage. We were aware that the temperature was dropping and I wanted to avoid the pleasures of driving down freezing water so down we went into Hathersage for a cuppa and then off to High Peak for some more gear fondling-cum-staying-warm.

Back to the campsite and immediately started cooking dinner – there was no time for idle banter as it was chucking filly. Meals were cooked, served and consumed in next to no time before it was off to the pub for warmth and libation.

The natural consequences of the libation affected me twice that night as I had to extract myself from the warmth of my down sleeping bag but each time it seemed warmer and at 6.00 am there was the hint of drizzle. This affected our plans as the original intention had been to take a peek at Dovestone Tor (more of a walk although we did think of taking some gear). Now it was murky and wet. So instead after breakfast and decamping we headed to Ladybower and went out for a two and a bit hour walk including going up Crook Hill where Mike showed some exceedingly worrying knowledge of rare sheep species when he pointed out the existence of “Jacob’s” Sheep! The back to Hathersage for a brew and grub and finally Mike wilted in the face of some gear fondling and bought some gaiters in spite of my attempts to dissuade him by saying that he looked like a rambler!

Then homewards it was! Cracking weekend – two routes!

Name that Route

route 1

route 2


Poetry Corner

One of my favourites and one I plagiarised cf. The owl and the cragrat

The poem that took the place of a mountain

There it was, word for word,
The poem that took the place of a mountain.
He breathed its oxygen,
Even when the book lay turned in the dust of his table.
It reminded him how he had needed
A place to go to in his own direction,
How he had recomposed the pines,
Shifted the rocks and picked his way among clouds,
For the outlook that would be right,
Where he could be complete in an unexplained completion:
The exact rock where his inexactnesses
Would discover, at last, the view toward which they had edged,
Where he could lie and, gazing down at the sea,
Recognise his unique and solitary home.

Wallace Stevens

from ‘A Peak District Lad’

Through my hair an air that chills
From Stanage moor it blows:
What are those effs and bees and jeezes,
What curses, what shouts are those?
They are the words of lost content
As you plummet expecting pain.
Those bloody hard moves as you climbed up
And will soon have to try again

With apologies to A.E. Housman


Into the wild by Jon Krakauer

This is the story of the unusual life and early death of a young chap named Chris McCandless whose emaciated body was found in an abandoned bus, which was used as a shelter, in the wilds of Alaska. He had for many years been fascinated by the wilderness, and had made a number of solo journeys into such areas and into himself. He would take the minimum of gear and food, supplementing the rice he had taken with him with food gathered from the wild. Interspersed within McCandless’ tale are stories of others who have lived, and sometimes died, trying to find out what wilderness means for them. This book sparked some controversy with some feeling he was a deeply spiritual chap trying to find his place in the world whilst others thought he was simply a foolish boy who died needlessly through his own stupidity.

Also by Jon Krakauer – Into Thin Air: A personal account of the Everest disaster

Any submissions for this section gratefully received. What books have you read recently? Send in a review.

Odds & Ends

Youth Hostel Association (YHA) group membership

The IMC has group membership of the Youth Hostel Association. The relevant information on the membership card, held by the IMC club secretary, is as follows:

Name: Ipswich Mountaineering Club
Membership No: 018-7653317
Category: Group
Expires end: Sept 05.

This enables us to use the 230 Youth Hostels in England and Wales, and the network of 4,500 Youth Hostels in 60 countries worldwide that display the Hostelling International sign. You can also enjoy exclusive offers and discounts on key attractions, receive discounts on Youth Hostel visits at selected times of the year and receive free mailings of Groups Away and YHA newsletters.


Contacting the IMC

All enquiries and correspondence should be directed to the Secretary.

Mervyn Lamacraft,
11 St Georges Road,
IP11 9PL

Tel: 01394 277050 or send email to

The Committee

For a list of committee members, see the contacts page



IMC Webpage News

The IMC webpage address is

Contact details for all members are now available on the IMC website

These details are password protected. If you don’t know or have forgotten the password, email for a reminder.

All the photos from our adventures on Bosigran Ridge can be viewed at More members photos would be appreciated for the website; either send them electronically to or post to Simon Chandler, details can be found via the contacts page.

New to the site is a weather page at, which provides a convenient place to look up weather forecasts for places where we often go climbing..

Diary Dates

See our Club Meets page for up-to-date details.

The above is to help get dates in your diaries, however, we are looking for volunteers to coordinate some of the events and for ideas of where people would like to go. Please contact the meets coordinator if you are interested in helping to organise any of the above or to make suggestions for future meets.



Newsletter – September 2004

Editor’s Erratum

Welcome to another issue of the IMC newsletter. Once again, thanks go to all the contributors.

Articles or items of interest are always welcome, whether they be related to mountaineering or not. Please email your contributions to or post to

10 Princeton Mews, Colchester, CO4 9SJ.

The deadline for the next newsletter is 10th December 2004.

The post of newsletter editor will be up for grabs at the AGM. If there’s anyone thinking of taking it on, I’m more than happy to answer questions or gradually introduce a replacement to the role. Go on, you know you want to ….



President’s Prattle

Well it looks like summer is over although there could be a case for (mass) debate as to whether it ever really started!

To be fair, whilst there was an impression that it never seemed to stop raining nonetheless there was a lot of activity during the summer months albeit there might have been an element of shower dodging at the meets in the Peaks and Roaches that I attended at the end of June and beginning of July. I remember Louise and I getting up extra early on a Saturday morning to get to Burbage at the unprecedented hour of 8.30 a.m. and we got a couple of climbs in before it rained. Thanks to Ian Thurgood for organising the Western Grit Weekend at The Roaches and apologies to whoever it was who organised the earlier meet in the Peaks (I am allowed senior moments).

Whilst I was away in Peru on expedition apparently the girls managed two consecutive weekends away in the Peaks in perfect weather conditions (perhaps even too hot) so it wasn’t all bad! Mind you reports that reached my ear suggested that the Lakes crew had mixed weather in the Lakes over the August Bank Holiday weekend. In fact, I understand that Martin Stevens did not go to the pub some evenings owing to inclement weather which is unusual (!) and thanks go to Martin for organising this particular meet.

In amongst all of this we celebrated Steve Culverhouse’s 40th Birthday with a surprise party at Thai One.

I was pleased to see that quite a few members – too many to mention – helped out at the Hospital Abseil and I am sure that the organizers were grateful for your help. I thoroughly enjoyed my day of throwing ’em off the top and felt entirely justified in doing so as I personally tested two of the ropes first thing in the morning! What was I thinking of? Talk about “walking the talk!”

I thought the Beginners Follow-Through Weekend went pretty well with virtually everybody who put their names forward making it there despite the utterly dire weather forecast. It was not perfect but most of the rain happened whilst we were in the pub which was a result! Thanks go to Dave Tonks and the Bluebottle clan for sorting this one out.

Looking ahead as the nights start to draw in there are some meets still in the pipe-line but there does not seem to be much in the way of meets in the calendar for the period up to Christmas which is not too unusual. I would suggest that if anyone wants to go away that they use the e-mail list to gauge interest.

Nonetheless there are things happening. In particular, I am hoping that we can put a lean mean IMC athletic team into the Felixstowe Half Marathon on the 3rd October and am working on a Bonfire Night get-together providing there is enough interest. The slideshow season will have started by the time you read this, and indeed the IMC invasion of the Ipswich Beer Festival will have taken place without hopefully too severe after-effects! Mmm, beer.

Don’t forget that the AGM is due to take place on Thursday 18th November at The Dove Street Inn, so if you have any issues that you would like to be discussed, or you would like to stand for a post (I believe that there are some posts up for grabs), please let me or Mervyn Lamacraft know.

Last and definitely not least Christmas Curry has been booked for Friday 10th December at The Masha and places are going fast. Please contact Louise Farr or me if you want to go. Furthermore, I the jury, need details of any lobbing activity (yes Steve I know I had some airtime on or rather off Right Unconquerable!) for the Lob of the Year. I am aware of several lobs but not much in the way of detail has come my way so I would appreciate it if the reports are sent to me, the jury, as soon as possible!

That’s all folks! Stay safe!


El Presidente



This months articles can be seen on separate webpages. Just click the title to go there … For other articles see the articles index.

Secretary’s Stuff

Current membership is 128 including 67 new members this year.

A ‘flyer’ was received from a spanish outdoor company for winter mountaineering and alpine courses. See or telephone 0778 651 6388 for more details.



Contacting the IMC

All enquiries and correspondence should be directed to the Secretary.

Mervyn Lamacraft,
11 St Georges Road,
IP11 9PL

Tel: 01394 277050 or send email to


Odds & Ends

Youth Hostel Association (YHA) group membership

The club’s group membership of the YHA has been renewed to 30/9/05. The relevant information on the membership card, held by the IMC club secretary, is as follows:

Name: Ipswich Mountaineering Club
Membership No: 018-7653317
Category: Group
Expires end: Sept 05.

Anyone wishing to take advantage of this should quote our membership number when contacting the YHA. This enables us to use the 230 Youth Hostels in England and Wales, and the network of 4,500 Youth Hostels in 60 countries worldwide that display the Hostelling International sign. You can also enjoy exclusive offers and discounts on key attractions, receive discounts on Youth Hostel visits at selected times of the year and receive free mailings of Groups Away and YHA newsletters.

IMC Sprogs Go From Strength to Strength!

Hi folks. It is with great pleasure that I can announce the proud addition to the family of a longstanding IMC couple. Darren and Clare (Dazza and Clazza as I know them) Lambert recently produced a bouncing girlie sprog Milly (or is it Millie) May weighing in at around 7lbs 12 oz on either Friday 17 or Saturday 18 September. Apologies to the happy family for the vague details. Mother and baby both doing well and no doubt Milly will happily be climbing E10 by the time she is 10!


Can you identify the routes?

Congratulations to Martin Hore and Peter Krug, who were the first to identify the route in the last newsletter as Left Unconquerable, Stanage. Continuing in the same vein, can you name the routes below?

route 1

route 2

No prizes, but the first person to email the correct answers to is the winner.


This is something we can continue, so please submit your photos to


The IMC Webpage and Mailing List

The IMC webpage address is:

New to the site is a weather page at which provides a convenient place to look up weather forecasts for places where we often go climbing. The page currently shows 5-day forecasts from BBC, Met Office and 10-day forecasts from

Newsletter – June 2004

Editor’s Erratum

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 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,


President’s Prattle

“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.


El Presidente


(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!

Peter Krug


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.

Commando Style!

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 ……

Mike Bayley

Poetry Corner

First off, from

Hi Rock
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

Your compatriots
Have seen you age
To reveal
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

Our Gritstone
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
with tradders
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.

Newsletter – September 2003

Editor’s Erratum

Welcome to another edition of the IMC newsletter. Once
again, many thanks to those who have contributed material.
It is particularly encouraging to receive articles from
members who have not previously contributed. Long may it

However there’s no such thing as too much material to work
with and articles are always appreciated. Please send your
articles, of whatever length and however tenuously
associated with the IMC, either by email to
or post to:

10 Princeton Mews, Colchester, CO4 9SJ.

Photos are particularly welcome to add a splash of colour.



President’s Prattle

Hello folks. Well hasn’t time flown? Here I am sitting at the keyboard
at the back-end of summer with the nights drawing in rapidly and I am
trying to remember what has been going on!

Well actually … loads. Personally, the highlight of the summer was a
wonderful week on Lundy [A gallery of photos is will be available soon – webmaster]. The climbing was excellent with Shamrock,
Formula 1, Albion, Satan’s Slip, Roadrunner and The Devil’s Slide
being favourites of mine. Not only that but the scenery was stunning,
the wildlife plentiful and the generally ‘chilled’ atmosphere on the
island was “Just what the doctor ordered!” I am sure that there are
articles in the pipeline. My thanks go to Simon Chandler for all his
efforts in organising the trip. I certainly hope to go back at some

Apart from that there has been the usual flurry of climbing trips as
we enjoyed a very good summer and some new territory such as Yorkshire
Grit (I don’t think I will forget ‘Great Western’ in a hurry) and the
Wye Valley being visited. A crack team of IMC personnel invaded the
shores of Spain to enjoy the delights of The Picos de Europa and it
sounds like they had a splendid time! My thanks go to the organisers
of these trips.

The Ipswich Mountaineering Club once again provided help at the
Hospital Abseil in early July and I think we all enjoyed the
experience and did not manage to drop anyone! Phew! Thanks to those
members that helped at this event.

As noted earlier in my column the nights are drawing in (full marks
for observation) and it is time to start thinking of activities for
the autumn months. Traditionally this period appears to be a quiet
time for club activities in terms of scheduled activity. There are
ideas in the pipeline and it seems that the time has come to get those
mountain bikes out and I certainly intend to try and get out on the
rock in the next few months. On top of that I think we will be
new-routing to the Ipswich Beer Festival (IBF Direct) and it looks
like a Base Camp is being established at the Fat Cat which is fast
becoming the pub where various schemes are hatched by IMC members. If
you have any ideas for trips or suggestions please don’t be afraid to
let us know.

That’s all folks. Enjoy the remainder of the summer and stay safe!


El Presidente



This months articles can be seen on separate webpages. Just click the title to go
there … For other articles see the articles index.


Notice of AGM

Thursday 20th November, IMC AGM at The Brewery Tap. Further detail closer to the time.


Contacting the IMC

All enquiries and correspondence should be directed to the Secretary.

Mervyn Lamacraft,
11 St Georges Road,
IP11 9PL

Tel: 01394 277050 or send him email.


Diary Dates

See our Club Meets page for up-to-date details.

Further winter climbing/walking meets are in the pipeline for January,
February and March. The long haul to Scotland has been suggested to
bag some of the classic winter routes. Please contact Steve
Culverhouse (Tel 01473 625901 or email if interested.

The above is to help get dates in your diaries, however, we are
looking for volunteers to coordinate some of the events and for ideas
of where people would like to go. Please contact Steve Culverhouse if
you are interested in helping to organise any of the above or to make
suggestions for future meets.

The Brewery Tap is in Cliff Road, Ipswich, adjacent to the brewery.


Odds & Ends

Recycle your old rock boots

Do you have a pair of worn out rock boots and don’t know what to do
with them? Then bring them along to Copleston Centre and donate them
to the Junior Club for the youngsters to try them out before buying
their own. Any condition accepted, they will do fine for the purpose.
But please bear in mind not many of them are size 10 !!!! The smaller
the better. Many thanks, Keith Lodge

Courtesy of comes this climber’s A-Z.


Just overhanging enough to be annoying, while not
overhanging enough to be spectacular. Hard on the arms, hence the


To improvise in the face of disaster. “I had to Burbage some
prussik loops out of my shoelaces and the elastic off my pants”

a type of small semi-camming nut with a distinctive oval
fish-piece and knurled wings. “There’s a bomber Crafnant in that

the classic flat-on-back pratfall resulting from slick
rock shoes on wet grass.

the classic navigational error in which the wrong end of the
compass needle is lined up with the wrong place, the resultant bearing
being 180 degrees out
Froggattthe small downward bounce just before the giant upward dyno
Great Wanney

one who lets loose rock and absent protection become an
excuse for not doing the route “Gerron up it you Great Wanney!”

a particularly sling-eating chockstone. “We got the
rope stuck in the Hardingstone, and it took us four hours to get it

worryingly thin, to the point of non- existence “Watch me!
It’s a bit Ilkley up here!”
Jack Rock

to gently trundle small stones onto one’s belayer for the
purpose of attracting his attention. “In dire need of slack, Angus was
forced to Jack Rock onto the snoozing Gerald”.

To make moves whose precise nature one cannot subsequently
remember when queried by one’s second. “How the f*ck did you get up
this?” “Eh? You what? Oh, I dunno, I just sort of Kepiered up it.”

the area below the crag containing mud, sheep, and
boulders which turn out both to be deficient in worthwhile problems
and be completely useless to bivvy under.

the flood-prone boggy bit at the bottom of the campsite,
to which the warden exiles school parties, boy scouts and anyone
arriving after the pubs have shut

any crag which would be famous were it not for the
vegetation, lack of height, lack of gear, lack of climbable rock, lack
of any rock etc. “Finedon’s a bit of a Nesscliffe, but it’s in the
Leicester guide so there must be something there.”

an unattractive mixture of rain, mud and slime. “Eurrgh! This
ledge’s all covered in Ormeand there’s a dead pigeon on it!”

to climb on domestic objects when no more conventional
climbing is available. Examples include the undersides of ladders, the
outsides of bannisters and the world-famous Pontesford ‘skirting-board
traverse’ at 221a Pitt Street, Slough.

the interesting effect of new rockshoes on sweaty feet.
“Proudly sporting a new pair of Kamets, Will had a glorious case of
green Quayfoot by the end of the evening”

of ropes, to tangle deliberately in order to exasperate their
owners. “Wilfred found that his grandson had left the rope covered in
mud and badly Reiffed”

the small rocks at the bottom of the crag that always
cause more injuries than the actual climbing “I solo’d the route OK,
but I fell over a Slipstone at the bottom and took all the skin off my

The stone compound in which the campsite owner keeps the
dustbins. “The bogs? Over there behind the Thrunton.”
Untitled Boulder

Got some excellent problems on ita bold arete, a
lovely smeary slab, a powerful dyno up the back. Unfortunately it is
only six inches high and being used to hold the gate open.

The green slime that turns out to be several inches deep on
the crucial holds.

What looks like a nice solid chockstone but turns out not
to be. “Sh*t! It’s a f*cking Wainstone! Watch me, this is f*cking
Crag X

It’s on the map. It’s in the guide. So where the f*ck is it?
It must be round ere somewhere . . . is that it? No, we went past that
bit half an hour ago . . .

a crag containing many easy short routes with good top
belays, hence usually infested with topropes. “Burbage South’s a bit
of a Yarncliffe at weekends”

the frantic scream of a beginner plummeting six inches onto a

And from the on-line pages of The Telegraph comes the following via
Martin Stevens with the comment “E6 need no longer pose a problem”:

Thanks to the sticking power of the gecko, scientists have shown that
“Spider-man gloves” could soon be used by rock climbers and window
cleaners to scale walls and hang around.

Inspired by a discovery three years ago that hairy feet helped the
lizards to scurry across ceilings, Prof Andre Geim and colleagues at
the University of Manchester have developed a hairy tape, the first of
a new generation of dry adhesives, as reported in the journal Nature

His students have even volunteered to do Spider-man stunts with the
tape. But he says: “It would be a waste of resources. I don’t mean of
students but of tape. It would cost tens of thousands of pounds
because it is a prototype.” Each gecko foot is packed with about half
a million fine hairs. The tip of each hair has thousands of
projections, which measure about 10 millionths of an inch across and
can get so close to a surface that weak interactions between the
surfaces become significant.

The interactions – due to traces of water that cause a “capillary
force” and short-range atomic “van der Waals’ forces” – can add up to
a strong attraction. While a single gecko hair, only one 10th the
diameter of a human hair, could lift an ant, a million hairs covering
an area the size of a 5p piece could lift a child of about 45lb. So,
the Manchester team launched an effort to make a strong, yet dry
adhesive out of artificial hairs.

“The new adhesive (gecko tape) contains billions of tiny plastic
fibres (less than a millionth of a metre in diameter), similar to
natural hairs covering the soles of geckos. The work shows a way to
manufacture self- cleaning, re-attachable dry adhesives,” said Prof

Using the gecko principle was not however straightforward, he said.
Real surfaces are always uneven and, after many attempts, the team
found that tiny plastic pillars – used to mimic individual gecko hairs
– have to be flexible enough to attach to any surface but not so weak
that they bunch, curl or break.

The team also thought they could improve on the gecko by using
water-loving hairs, rather than the water-repelling ones. But the
hairs became too sticky and bunched together, decreasing the overall
binding power.

“Nature is smarter than we recognised – our ‘improvement’ was not one
at all and the gecko outsmarted us.” Prof Geim calculates that it is
already possible to suspend a human from a ceiling by covering just
one palm with the prototype tape. “The durability is the only obstacle
– cheap mass production will not be a problem.”

Newsletter – June 2003

Editor’s Erratum

Welcome to another edition of the IMC newsletter. Once again, many
thanks to those who have contributed material; it’s particularly
interesting to get two perspectives of the same meet in North Wales and
contributions from different members. I’ve even taken heed of my own
words and written an article myself.

However, as I’ve said before, there’s no such thing as too much material
to work with and articles are always appreciated. Please send your
articles, of whatever length and however tenuously associated with the
IMC, either by email to or post to:

10 Princeton Mews, Colchester, CO4 9SJ.

Photos are particularly welcome to add a splash of colour.



President’s Prattle

Blimus to quote the legendary Sid James in “Carry on Cleo” it seems like
only yesterday when I was “Dreaming of White Horses” and now summer has
been thrust upon us and indeed I have now enjoyed the “Dream” and what a
climb it is too (thanks Martin and Guy).

As the days have drawn out club members have already been putting in the
miles getting around the country to go walking or climbing, amongst
other things. Easter saw big parties enjoying the delights of Cornwall
and the Peak District. We nearly had a meet in Pembroke (sorry Mervyn)
on the May Day weekend. A few of us were to be seen in Wales over the
Whitsun Bank Holiday. Thanks to the organizers of these trips.

In between all of this we held our Beginners Weekend and enjoyed the
traditional weather! For the newcomers to the club it really is not
always like this. We have been known to climb on dry rock! If you want
to have a laugh I can tell you that following the beginners weekend I
spent four days in the Lake District and then a couple of days in North
Wales and got a soaking on every day! Anyway, my thanks go to Dave Tonks
and Christina Ennis for the efforts they put in to arrange the event.

The next major event in the IMC calendar is the Hospital Abseil on 5 and
6 July which as I have said before is an enjoyable event. Furthermore,
it is our way of saying thank you to the organizers as they lend us the
helmets and harnesses which we provide at the Beginners Weekend. I hope
to see as many of you there as possible. If you are willing to help
please contact Dave Tonks and let him know when you are willing to help.

Naturally, there are a number of other proposed weekends and many them
have no organizers as yet – so don’t be shy. The venues are only
suggestions, so if you want to go somewhere else that weekend that’s

It looks like this year’s “Lob of the Year” is going to fiercely
contested with several notable efforts already put in. It might be a
shock to you but even the President has been putting in some airtime!

Anyway that’s all for now. Enjoy yourselves out there on the hills and
crags, and stay safe.


El Presidente



This months articles can be seen on separate webpages. Just click the title to go there …


Notice of AGM

Please make a note of this date in your diaries.

Thursday 20th November, IMC AGM at The Brewery Tap. Further details closer to the time.