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Peter and Louise in Knoydart

Peter and Louise head into the wilderness

Peter Krug – December 2007

Bloody Cameron McNeish

…… I muttered under my breath as I staggered under the burden of a heavy
rucksack along the picturesque …… nay stunning banks of Loch Hourn
towards our base-camp in Barrisdale. This was the culmination of what had started, a few years ago, as an innocent evening’s entertainment watching the TGO
editor’s series of programmes entitled “Wilderness Walks”. It was a particular episode, a backpack with the late Chris Brasher, which sowed in my mind the idea of visiting Knoydart, one of the last wildernesses in this country. And now, on a sultry mid-summer’s evening, it was happening.

This was a long-planned and well thought-out trip……………… not. The
destination was decided whilst on the M6 the previous evening when we obtained
the latest satellite weather forecast from Louise’s father via mobile.
It indicated that the further north and west you went the more promising
was the weather – so that’s the way we headed. So well thought-out was it that the next day we needed to pop into Fort William for some provisions, having only just survived a MidgeCom 10 attack (on reflection later downgraded to 7) whilst
erecting our tent at the Red Squirrel campsite in Glencoe the pervious midnight.

Now we were on the way, and as we walked we came across a couple of
sights that sent shivers up my spine. We met and chatted with two sturdy
male backpackers on their way out and they looked how would you say it . . . a bit tired . . . well actually they were chinstrapped. One of them
even admitted to being “shattered” and was asking how much further there
was to go (he could be excused as he had backpacked all the way from
Fort William in four days).

The walk-in from Kinloch Hourn was, allegedly, only six miles and included,
allegedly, only about 300metres of ascent and descent, but it felt a
whole lot further.

Loch Hourn
Bonnie banks of Loch Hourn (click on any image to view in Flickr)

However, it was very pretty and the whole feel of the
place was unusual in a way that I couldn’t quite fathom. In a way it
felt almost sub-tropical, perhaps because it was a humid evening, but some
of the plants and trees really gave you that impression. You could certainly tell that they got some rain around there.

Loch Hourn 2
Walking by the Bonnie banks of Loch Hourn

As we turned the last
corner into Barrisdale Bay we passed a sign claiming that this was a busy
area and asking us to camp by the bothy a mile further, and a long
mile it seemed. Busy my arse – we reckon that there were fewer than 15
people there – have they seen the Bigg Market on a Saturday night!

We found the bothy, put up our tent and cooked some well-earned nosh; it was 8.00 pm but, being high summer, it felt like it was mid-afternoon.

Looney Bin
Looney Bin

It was a great place to be with the impressive Luinne Bhein (renamed Looney Bin) towering above us one side, Barrisdale Bay and Loch Hourn on the other. As the sun set we discussed the next day’s options in terms of what mountains to climb and by which routes, and a great philosophical debate raged over whether or not we could call
camping by a bothy with running water and a loo “wild camping”.

Home, sweet home
Home, sweet home

The next morning was bright, warm and extremely humid, and we could
see that there was a build-up of cloud. Well, “let’s go for it” we thought,
and today’s main objective was Meall Buidhe – the only
Knoydart Munroe to have escaped Louise so far. We headed up past
some woods into the valley known locally as the Gleann Unndalain and up
to the bealach (col) known as the Mam Unndalain. It was hot work
climbing to the 500-metre point of the bealach; we stopped only to store the
contents of our Camelbacks in our stomachs so we could refill the
former from the stream as we were not sure when we would next find water.

However, the clouds were rolling in and as we were reaching the bealach
some of the tops were periodically disappearing from view. We then hung
a right (turned westwards) and tried to find and follow the ridge
towards Luinne Bhein that those who were paying attention earlier will
know as Loony Bin. We had some lunch on the way enjoying the views but
as we reached the base of Loony Bin, just 90 metres short of
the summit, Louise dropped the bombshell that to climb Meall Buidhe we
would have to hang a left (turn southwards), drop 250 metres to a col
and then climb again.

I surveyed the route ahead and, after studying the nearer territory,
realised that Meal Buidhe was a very long way away, that there was a lot
of up and down required to bag this one and that we would have to
return the same way. I said, “Let’s go for it”. Now I am not sure that
Louise was too keen on this and the weather was not improving but,
nonetheless, we trudged downwards as this was the Knoydart Munroe that
Louise needed to bag. It did not take too long to get down to the
bealach and with no further ado it was up the other side passing Meall
Coire na Gaoithe n Ear (what a mouthful!) before descending and then
descending and then ascending and descending ………….. You get the drift I
said there was a lot of upping and downing and there was.

Meall Buidhe
Home, sweet home

When we reached the base of Meall Buidhe itself there was some interest with a
bit of scrambling which took us up the final 100 metres to the top of
Meall Buidhe, although naturally the actual summit was at the far end of
the top (nothing is given away easily in Knoydart).

Having achieved the top and with a bonus of some splendid views of the
hills of Knoydart and the Glen Shiel to the northeast and the Islands
(Inner Hebrides) to the west we had a snack before reversing the four
kilometre walk right back to the base of Looney Bin that we had left some
two hours previously. This was purgatory, but hey, we hadn’t come to
Knoydart expecting an easy ride. The final pull up to Loony Bin was
uneventful and we were treated to similar views to those we had enjoyed on
Meal Buidhe but there was weather in the air so we did not hang around.

We continued along the ridge rather than reversing the route for
variation and descended down to the bealach (Mam Barrisdale) heading
roughly in a northeasterly direction. We were coming down just in time
as the weather was closing in around us, and by the time we reached the
bealach it was raining. But the path was a good one and I had the shock
of my life when Louise “beep-beeped” me in Roadrunner fashion indicating
that I should speed up. This is most unprecedented methinks! As we
reached the glen I was surprised to see about a dozen deer grazing in
the field immediately behind one of the houses. “It was only about 7 pm
and the conditions were fine so why come so low” I thought!

We quickly got together our food and stove and headed towards the bothy
to cook our supper and chat with the other folk there and get out of the

We knew the next day was going to be a big one if we were to bag Ladhar Bheinn and
backpack out, and so it proved to be. Careful route-planning and debate
raged as to which route we were going to take and in the end it was
decided that we would cross the bay and find our way up Creag
Bheithe, the nearest of the two north east ridges of Ladhar
Bheinn. The next morning revealed itself to be overcast with the tops
occasionally disappearing into the clouds; after breakfast we set off,
for some reason deciding to head up to Mam Barrisdale thus reversing
the previous days retreat from the hills!

A steady pace up the easy path saw us well on the way. We were
looking for an easy route up to the eastern ridge of Ladhar Bheinn (Stob
na Muicraidh) but none of the options proved attractive so we carried on
up to Mam Barrisdale where we met a couple of chaps whom we had met the
previous day. They were camping somewhere below the bealach and had
enjoyed quite a stormy night. We briefly joined forces as we hung a
right and headed northwest to pick up the ridge below Stob a Chearcaill,
the most south-easterly of the tops around Ladhar Bhein. A
short scramble saw us skirting below this top, then we contoured
around to the Bealach Coire Dhorcaill where we finally joined the ridge
leading to the top. We weren’t quite there yet though as there was still a
fair amount of upping and downing, some mild exposure in places and not
to mention a couple of false summits before this peak was officially
bagged. We were now at what Ralph Storr writes as the best viewpoint in
the Western Highlands – yeah right. “So why does grey cloudy stuff
constitute a great viewpoint?” I grumped.

The best view in The Western Highlands
The best view in The Western Highlands

Now the fun began. The peak of Ladhar Bheinn is quite complex so in the murk that surrounded us we weren’t quite sure where the descent was.
There were some big drops around as well to add to the spiciness of the
situation. We were looking for a ridge descending in a northeast
direction, which was all very well but we couldn’t see “Jack”. We carried
on along the ridge for a while before Lou decided that the descent route
lay elsewhere and headed back past the summit before spotting it
(actually by standing above it). It was not a very enticing prospect
involving a lot of scrambling and more exposure than Lord Snowdon
could shake a lens at, but it had to be done. Unfortunately we dropped
below the murk quite soon and so we could see where we would fall, but a
steeling of nerve and steady progress saw us down safely onto more
amenable ground.

However, the day was passing quite rapidly. It was gone 3.00 p.m. and we
still had a fair bit of walking to get back to Barrisdale, and then there was the walk-out.

The long walk home
The long walk home

So we legged it back to Barrisdale in double-quick time. By now the weather had cleared but there were no thoughts of heading back up to confirm whether or not Ladhar Bheinn was the best view in the Western Highlands.

Having reached the tent the cunning plan was to drink some tea and finish
the provisions whilst packing the camping stuff into the items of torture that
were our rucksacks. We left the campsite at about 6.00 pm and the views
were even better than they had been when we arrived. Unfortunately, Lou’s toes
were giving her grief; surprising really as, after all, we had only been walking for something like eight hours and there was only about another four more to go. She had decided to break the walk-out into six stages and had rationed herself to only one strop for each stage! In spite of this we made it out in slightly less than the 4
hours. We both felt sad to leave such a remote, rugged yet beautiful
place and head back to the thriving metropolis that is Kinloch
Hourn. It was certainly hard work but every step was worth it. Try it if
you feel you are up to it – you’ll love it!

My Climbing Year: E2 to E7 – Aaron Willis

The first trip out this year was with Guy and not a great one to remember, however it will stick in my mind for a while. I think the hardest thing we climbed that weekend was an E1, but the part I will always remember is pulling Guy up off the floor during my small flying lesson on Mississippi Buttress Direct (VS4c). Thank God two out of three bits of gear held – I love number1 nuts. My confidence felt like it had had a ten-round match against a heavyweight boxer. It was smashed.

So the start of the year was not looking good.


Early on in March Gav and I travelled up to The Peaks for a weekend of hard climbing. As most people know Gav and I are always sensible when it comes to climbing, so we had a nice early night…………………….in the pub.

After half a pint each (well may be a bit more), and laughing at the drunken man dancing/wobbling on the dance floor, we decided to hit the sack. The next morning we decided to get up nice and early about 11am and shoot down to the café. After a great breakfast we jumped into the car and headed to Burbage North.

The weather was fantastic – a lovely crisp day. Perfect time for Gav to do his first E1. I took him along to Long Tall Sally. This is a great E1, however I had trouble getting the first nut in, (I think it’s a 1 or something). After a few minutes of faffing I got it to stay in the crack, and it even held the rope, so I was away. One smear after another and before I knew it I was mantling the top.

Gav and I rarely second each other’s routes. Most time we ‘ab’ down and whip the gear out so the other can still climb it ‘on-site’ or ‘red point’.

Question – what does on-site mean to you?

Lafi, a Slovak, thinks that even looking at the guidebook means you loose the ‘on-site’ which is true; you get told where the route goes, where the crux is, if it’s protected, where the gear goes and what size. Even the grade gives it away. So ask yourself how many routes have you on-sited?

Anyhow, we did a few more E1s that day, including The Irrepressible Urge and Now or Never. I think that ‘now or never’ is a great name for the route; the crux is moving off a safe, warm, comfortable ledge and you just have to make a decision. I was lucky in that just on tiptoes I could reach the ‘cam’ slot, so apart from the wind blowing around the arête I flew up the last few moves. Poor old Gav wasn’t so lucky. If Gav named the route it would be ’Up and down from now or never’.

To finish the day off we on-sited two E2s – Boney Moroney and the intimidating but easy, The Sentinel. As I managed to get up The Sentinel cleanly in my trainers, I think it should be downgraded to E1. Even Gav thought it was one of the easiest routes we had climbed all day. I think you would only have trouble on it if you hang around playing with your nuts. I put something in halfway and that was it; I think Gav managed to get a ‘cam’ in at top.

After a good day’s climbing, well three to four hours, we had to have a debrief of the day. Obviously it was too cold to sit out side, so into The Traveller’s it was.

After a few beers, the conversations started to get intense. Gav asked me a question. “What grade are you climbing?” After a few minutes of thinking I replied “HVS”. We carried on chatting then a couple of minutes later he asked, “So why do you think you’re an HVS climber?” Again he stumped me; I had to think. “Because it’s my middle grade, two grades lower than my hardest”. He then asked me how many E1 have I fallen off, and how many E2s. He was right – I had never fallen off them.

I realised I was climbing within my comfort zone.

That evening I told Gav I would keep going up the grades until I can’t possibly get any further.

And this is where my year really begun!

How many other people in the IMC are climbing within their comfort zone?

“Yet virtually all life experience shows us that we have extraordinary control over circumstances. All that stops us is taking that little leap of deciding to exert that control. Ever been persuaded to do something a little outside of your comfort zone by a friend or even been too embarrassed to chicken out and then looked back and thought ‘I’m glad I did that’. That feeling is quite refreshing isn’t it? It puts a bit of a spring in your step for a while. I think people who progress in sport, or anything for that matter, remember that good feeling and look for it. After a while, breaking out of habits, or in other words ‘personal barriers’ becomes the comforting feeling itself, rather than staying inside the safety cocoon of mediocrity.”
Dave MacLeod

Climbing Memories of 2007

This article is a textual collage of the some of our favorite climbing memories of 2007.

A year in 100 words

Guy Reid

Freezing nights,
cold, blue-sky days; early promise changed to ‘wet, wet, wet’ and ‘mud is all around’.
Summer came . . . went . . . came back. Skewed-weather year.

Log book a fine wine
-’55, vintage year; Excalibur, Count’s Buttress, The Stalk, Nifl-Heim, Moyer’s Buttress.
Spice with the odd E2. Try again: Sloth, Cenotaph Corner.

Companionship? Twigs
replace “lost” tent pegs; cold mountain route on Cloggy summits in Caribbean sun; being
part of a first E2; J7 on M5; late-night lift back to camp – twice; lolly after Chee Dale;
Hard Rock almost Hot Rock on Gogarth; Swanage night rescue; Peak Limestone – it just gets


Inspiration overcomes disappointment

Fraser Hale

Thanks to the spectre of injury that follows me around like a forlorn Labrador, the
high point of my 2007 is easy to identify – Beginner’s Weekend! Having introduced my
daughter and a work mate to the modest excitement of indoor climbing, Beginner’s weekend
was their first try on the real thing. Two great days on grit, and the usual pleasantly
laid back and welcoming atmosphere of a big IMC meet, convinced them both that the walk in
was worth it over the convenience of The Cragg. Sadly, due to an unfortunate altercation
between my velocipede and a BMW, we’ve not been back out at all this year. Still, there’s
always Scotland to look forward to, and at least one of my recruits should be up for a
trudge through the white stuff. “Bring it on!”



Encouraging two beginners up their first VS 4b. Knowing they could do it but getting
them to believe in themselves and their feet was the real challenge and the real reward.

Caroline Goldsworthy


Not perhaps one of my best years for special memories – things got off to a slow start
in the wet Spring weather. However, the highlight has to be the Fehrmann route on the
Campanili Basso in the Brenta Dolomites. Eleven 50 metre pitches of Hard Severe / VS on
continuously steep terrain. The swoop of exposure as I led the traverse on pitch 10 was
quite spectacular. Two other memories from the day were being overtaken on the route by
the “Dresden Four”, a party of amazing German climbers of average age 66, and Carol’s
comment as the full height of the face came into view on our descent to the hut – “If I’d
seen it was that big I’d never have started up it!”

Martin H


Climbing Avalanche/Red Wall/Longlands Continuation (Lliwedd) on the August Bank Holiday
proved to be a great reminder of how good climbing is in God’s Country. OK the climbing
wasn’t technically hard but there were a couple of spicy moments on thinly protected
traverses. There was interesting route-finding (OK I admit we never found the Longland’s
Continuation until we crossed it near the top and opted for an easy scramble up the nearby
gulley). As Louise says topping out after over 7 hours on route and about 13 pitches (with
a two hour walk back to Pen-y-Pass in fading light) was our climbing moment of the year.
That evening further jubilation ensued in the Vaynol Arms having learnt that the route was
now graded Severe.

Peter & Lou


My favourite climbing experience of this year was when dad and I did a seven-pitch
route on Gimmer. It wasn’t necessary very hard but wow it was high. I loved how you were
so exposed, and for once I didn’t freak out! If you know my dad you will know he likes to
push you hard, and never ever lets you give up (even if you cant do that grade he will do
anything to get you to the top). This time he didn’t need to push as I was having so much
fun; however coming down was another matter. We’d had navigational difficulties just
getting to the climb. Dad sprinted up the mountain and then we, or should I say dad, had
made some bad route decisions and we ended up scrambling up a steep wet grass bank. We
came down in similar style, sliding down a scree slope on my bum (to dad’s dismay), then
down a wet slope and finally abseiling from a tree. Of course none of this was done
without me reminding him how embarrassing it would be when I told everyone in the climbing
club, and numerous swear words (from dad obviously). When we finally got back I was
ravenous, tired, and had managed to collect a new friend (a tick). But all in all it was a
brilliant experience and dad was hilarious!!!

Isobel Chandler

Climbing on “The Gambit”, North Wales at Easter


Recipe for hypothermia turned into a fantastic
route.  Beautiful walk-in at 6 am followed by 2 hours of fabulous climbing (in the
shade) and increasing warmth from about halfway up. Incredible views (and sunshine) on the
top.  Perfect.  Must sort out this southfacing thing…….



Climbing in the peaks, leading for the first time. The climbing walls don’t teach you



During our “Summer” in April this year I spent a glorious weekend doing the back of
Skiddaw with a most memorable moment I shall dine out on for years to come.

Bowscale up to the tarn across to Blencathra to Skiddaw, Skiddaw to High Pike and back
to Bowscale. Friday night camp at Bowscale tarn and sat night at the Lingy Hut on Gt Lingy

After a long hot, sunny, short wearing saturday made it up the hill to the Lingy Hut
and what a site for sore eyes it was. Looks like an old chicken shed, wired to the hill
but a bothy is a welcome friend!

Went in and much done to keep the wind out ,gallons of expanding foam etc. which had

Trangia on and running, some superstar had left a sachet of Cadbury’s Hot Chocolate and
a flapjack bar well they were mine now and went down a treat before I made my “spagbog”
and allowed me to read thru the visitors book.

So elated at my stay in hut had a full ablutions session, and prepped myself for an
early night and a good 6am start as had to be off hill by 9.30 to pick daughter up from
uni get together in Preston at 12.

Climbed into sleeping bag for the most regal of sleeps and was sound o’ by 9pm.

12.30 am I was awoken by the door rattling (locks from inside) thinking I was under
attack by sheep! You all know that feeling! Head torches thru the slit window and I heard
” there’s no one in there why’s it locked”

Out of my dossbag, up to door, unlatch, torch on, open door, stunned silence and I say

“What time do you call this, I ordered my bloody pizza hours ago!!”

Three guys, three girls, 2 dogs RAFLAO!!  When they regained their composure “If
there’s room do you mind if we stay the night?”

Well they got themselves settled and then sat outside till 4am drinking, birthday girl
thought be great idea to go up the hill for the night, there’ll be noone there!!!

No doubt they too dine out on that one!!!

Merry Xmas to all at IMC, few words eh!!

Kevin Jarvis


Leading my nephew up a VS 6 months after getting knocked off my bicycle.



I was chuffed to lead HVS trad, 6b sport and TD Alpine this year, but my biggest feeling of accomplishment had to be finally nailing Veranda Buttress at Stanage. Hard V. Diff, and the hardest thing I climbed all year!



My 1st , and only, outdoor session of the year and 1st time on the Roaches. I found
myself on the beginners FU weekend. Under superb stewardship of Lou & Pete, I followed on
both Maud’s garden S*** & Damascus Crack HS** 4b & didn’t bottle out (although rumour has
it some less that vicar-ly language was uttered on occasion!). What a feeling

Judy Bailey


The disappointment of nearly climbing 11 pitches of stunning looking rock in the French
Pyrenees after firstly spending hours attempting to approach from the wrong side of the
mountain, then being thwarted by the kind of weather that makes the northern side of the
Pyrenean ranges so green & lush!  We’ll be back, Dent D’Orlu

Lessons learnt: Read the guidebook more carefully especially when its in French…..


Moments in Time

My memories of climbing are like frozen moments in time – usually captured feelings of
fear, exhilaration, and occasionally success.

Belaying my leader as he
traverses across Sirplum, and struggling to suppress my rising feelings of fear – “I’m
going to have to do THAT!”

Abseiling into the unseen
zawn by the remote North lighthouse. Confronted at the bottom by an awesome sea tunnel
that carves its way through from one side of the island to the other. Four seals leave the
sanctuary of their cave in a panic, throwing themselves over the rocks and passing within
a few feet of me as they try to get to the water. My feeling of sorrow at having invaded
their home is banished, first by the arrival of my friends, then by Mary Patricia Rosalea.
She’s our route out of this committing place, and takes all my concentration.

Standing at the top of the
mountain at the end of the day. The ski lifts have stopped running. It’s absolutely
silent. I’m facing my first red run.

Discovering the tranquility
of Cratcliffe, and the brutality of its routes – the jamming crack on Suicide Wall and the
thrutchy offwidth that ends Sepulchre.

The unusual feeling of
confidence as I cruze Sloth.

Leaving my friends behind on
the previously cramped belay ledge as I step out onto the blunt arete on Hangover. An even
greater feeling of loneliness as my last piece of protection recedes way below my feet –
the 5b moves being too hard for me to be able to get anything else in. Gulp.

Climbing on Gimmer with
my daughter. The seven pitches made up by White Slab and ‘B route’ being her first
mountain experience. Both of us whooping with joy at the exposure. Totally confident in
each other. Big grins all round.



Grabbing the jug after the crux on Gypsy; ½ an hour spent working out the crux move and
psyching myself up and then it all went magically smoothly…

Looking down from the
limestone pinnacles at the top of Dovedale on a crisp October morning onto the
Autumn-coloured trees below.


Gear Fondling

Rules of Gear Fondling

By way of definition Gear Fondling is relatively self explanatory. However to avoid further confusion on Sundays in Outside of Hathersage and other such establishments, it was thought that some ground rules for novice Fondlers should be laid down.

1. True Gear Fondling can only be undertaken whilst away from home for a period greater than 24hrs, on a trip involving more than one person, there being the necessity for some proof of Fondling having occurred by someone else other than the Fondler.

2. In it’s most simplistic and pure form, which requires full concentration on the part of the Fondler at all times, it can be described as entering a known and highly frequented establishment retailing in
Outdoor Equipment, spending some period of time (unspecified other than longer than 15mins) in this establishment, looking at, removing from shelves hooks and hangers, trying on over and under, talking to other Fondlers/Persons of ill repute about the Gear being Fondled and it’s quality, specification, durability, usefulness, necessity, it’s price and finishing by stating in a loud voice so that all in the shop can hear that “I can get it elsewhere for a lot less than this, even with my club 10% discount” whilst replacing the Fondled gear back from whence it came, before moving onto the next item.

3. It is especially beneficial if other members of the party are delayed whilst Gear Fondling is undertaken (Extra Brownie Points). Double Brownie Points can be earned if you are the car driver with a full payload of passengers waiting for you!

4. The Gear being Fondled must be totally technically over specified, extortionately expensive and immediately sends you scuttling off to the nearest Sunday market to pick up a bargain fleece for a

5. A committed Gear Fondler spends hours sitting on the lavatory and in bed drooling over certain gear catalogues, making ever growing lists of items they “must” have, but have no intention of buying.

6. An ardent Gear Fondler must read all technical reviews in all outdoor magazines, so that they can expound in a knowledgeable manner the fact that they understand what the Gear actually does and how it does it, even though the recipient of their great depth of knowledge thoroughly understood the technique prior to the conversation, but is now left in total confusion.

Happy Gear Fondling

Backpacking in Greenland

John Penny – May 2007

In the summer of 2006 I decided to take a slightly different trip from the past few years. Instead of heading for high altitudes I decided to try High Places’ trip “The Iceberg Trail” to Greenland. This was a two-week backpacking trip along part of the coast of East Greenland supplied with food drops every 2-3 days by boat (and in one case helicopter).

The preliminaries were to acquire a new larger rucksack as my old 60 litre one was falling to bits and was unlikely to be big enough anyway. The thought of carrying 15-20 kilos encouraged me to get training seriously, so I could be seen pounding the streets of Woodbridge for a couple of months beforehand and also taking part in some of the “Friday 5” series of road races in May and June.

After a flight to Reykjavik on World Cup Final Day I made the correct call of eating in an Italian restaurant before fortuitously finding an organ recital on at the stunning Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral. I woke after a fractured night’s sleep (it was light all the time!) to find that two of my companions for the trip were Trevor and Dave who I had met in Ladakh in the summer of 2005. Conversations ensued along the lines of who was stalking whom! We were to fly to Kulusuk from the internal airport that morning but we were delayed for a couple of hours by fog at Kulusuk. Eventually the flight was successfully made and we were met by Asty Taylor, our guide. After putting on every available piece of warm clothing (for which I as very grateful) we headed off by motorboat through the sea-ice to our drop off point for the start of the trek; supposedly a two-hour trip.


After four hours it became clear we were not going to reach our destination as the ice was too thick. This was something I learned during the trip – sea-ice moves around a lot depending on currents and winds and there are times when it is simply impossible to get through even in the summer. After a quick meal we travelled to Tasiilaq which was meant to be our final destination. Tasiilaq is a small town of about 700 people and even a supermarket.

We spent the following day climbing a small Munro sized peak behind the town whilst the logistics of our trip were revised. The first impressions of the two initial days were of a wild, pristine beauty and fierce colours. We were blessed with fantastic weather. During the previous days’ trip we also witnessed an abortive attempt to shoot a seal by the local boatmen. A catch would have been a serious reason for high spirits by the locals. I had not realized how enormous Greenland actually is – the size of Australia but with only 56,000 people, all living around the coast. The vast majority of it is ice cap, one of the three largest in the world.

Toward the Sun

The following day it had been decided to run the trip in reverse, minus the first two days. We were loaded into motorboats again and taken to the other side of the fjord, thankfully a trip of only about 45 minutes. During this trip we passed a small island where some of the local huskies were let loose. This was so they could keep exercised but were unable to escape. They were fed every day by the boatmen. Having pitched camp we headed up a small mountain at the back of the campsite for stunning vistas to the north of ranges of snow clad peaks into the distance. Not a sign of man existed anywhere. I believe that there must be many unclimbed peaks left for the adventurous in North Eastern Greenland.

On Top

The following day was the first one we had to carry the full rucksack and walking speeds were certainly sedate I was glad to find. The weather was not quite so brilliant but perfectly good until we reached the next campsite. After pitching the weather quickly deteriorated first with rain and then with wind. I think the ensuing night was the most unpleasant I have ever experienced. I kept expecting my tent to collapse but it did survive until the storm eventually, after twelve hours, blew itself out at 6am the following morning When I did eventually emerge after virtually no sleep, I found I had been one of the lucky ones. Trevor and Dave’s tent along with one of the other’s had been ripped to shreds and all their gear was sodden. They had survived the night in full wet weather gear inside their down sleeping bags. Asty’s tent had turned turtle around 5am and the flysheet was nowhere to be found. After discovering by satellite phone that there was no way that we could be picked up by boat, we had to reverse the previous day’s walk and walk round the fjord back to Tasiilaq. As someone said, it felt like being on a long piece of elastic being pulled back every time. The return journey was long and very tiring, necessitating much up and down and two serious river crossings, the latter thigh deep in places and about 100 metres across. The weather was still very overcast but it was not actually raining.

We were fortunate to be found a house under renovation (with heating!) to stay in for the next two nights whilst we sorted ourselves out (again). The weather immediately improved and remained superb for the rest of the trip. Eventually it was decided to do the central part of the trip in the original direction, so after a long (and cold) boat trip we were dropped off along Sermilik fjord. The next few days were, in many ways, fantastic. We managed to climb another Munro (winter style) height mountain and walk along “the roof of the world” a ridge at about 500 metres with quite breathtaking views, camping on it for one evening.

On Top with pack

We passed through one small settlement (great hot showers) before the final couple of days walk. We were supposed to be being picked up by motorboat from a beach to be returned to Tailed. This was the one time when the arrangements were poor. The boat (when it eventually arrived 2 hours late) was the slowest boat in the world. I have never been so cold by the time we eventually reached Tailed.

I have some fantastic memories of the trip despite the weather created problems. Whilst out on the trekking part we saw only four other people other than our food drop boatmen. The major drawback was the problem of mosquitoes that were pretty awful at times, especially at a couple of the campsites. The use of a head net was really important; I can vouch that they can bite you even through Rohan bags. If you can put up with the hardship, there is certainly nowhere else like it on earth.


Louise Burness – May 2007

Well someone was mad enough to put out an appeal for more newsletter
articles, so never one to leave people in a sticky situation here is
the best I can do. If you think you could do better, then why not try to
prove it to us eager readers!

Oh, and before I go further, I do NOT have the luxury of a spell checker
on this computer!

Each outdoor activity tends to give you a different view of the great
British countryside. Climb and you become expert in rock types, being
able to distinguish your southern sandstone from the harder Northumbrian
kind. Walk and you understand the landscape, the topology of the
countryside, the folds of the rock to build the mountains. Sail and it’s
wind and tides; mountain bike, and you become an expert in mud.

It is amazing how many different types of mud there are, so it is a sad
reflection that given the richness of the English language we have so
few words for it. After all rain, just one vital ingredient for the mud,
can be: mizzle, drizzle, shower, rain, downpour, monsoon, cats and
dogs-and that’s just for starters. However when sitting down over Christmas wine I was stuck trying to come up with many mud types even though, as any (non-seasonal) mountain biker will tell you, there is a huge variety of different types of mud, each
requiring their own unique riding style. So, with the aid of an
on-line thesaurus, I have come up with the following glossary.

Slime This usually exists as a thin but highly mobile surface on top
of a hardcore. It can often be ridden successfully – provided no change
of direction is attempted. This type of mud is particularly good for
practising your ice techniques.

Bog: Often associated with Peat, or did I mean Pete? The old (as in ex)
Pres was so enchanted when he first encountered a true Scottish peat
bog that he was not happy just to place one foot in – oh no, only a two foot
exploration would enable him to discover the true properties of this new
species of mud! I personally was rather aggrieved when, on trying to
effect a rescue, I was accused of pulling his arms from their sockets
and encouraging him to leave his boots behind! This type of mud can only
be ridden if you want to ride straight down into the depths of the

Glop: This is easily recognised as anything dropped into it leaves a
ripple rather like water, but the concentric circles expand at a much
more leisurely pace. It is typically left behind in the tread-lines of
4WD off-road vehicles after their owners have been enjoying the fresh
air, peace and wildlife in the countryside. After much experimentation
we have finally devised a suitable riding technique for the
glop-containing trenches . Firstly lower your seat, position the bike
into one of the tyre runnels, unclip your feet and place them slightly
in front of you, on the raised bollards that run on either side of the
runnel. A running motion will now see you and your bike propelled
through the mud. Occasionally you may come across a small lake formed
where the original byway has been totally destroyed. To negotiate this
requires power as well as skill, as here you will only be able to reach
one of the side bollards.

Goo: (pronounced gloo) You cycle, initially oblivious to the substance,
as it has much the appearance of reasonable earth. Gradually, you slow to
a stop. Puzzled, you dismount, and then, examining your bike to
understand the failure, you realise the danger you are in. The signs on
the bike are easy to spot – you can no longer see various components,
like brakes, wheels, or in extreme cases, the bike itself. Where they
should be, there is just a large mound of the brown stuff. Do not stand
still too long examining this problem – march those feet double-quick,
otherwise you will find yourself completely stuck in the mud. If that
does happen, the easiest way out of the problem is to give in gracefully
– i.e. lie down rather than fall over, and wiggle away to firm ground.
Unfortunately Caroline seems to have lost the pictures that were taken on
her first encounter with the goo.

Quagmire: Often indicated on a map as marshland. Totally un-cycleable.
Patches of hard tussocks of grass will encourage your bike to attempt
unauthorised direction changes, leaving you very wet indeed.

This list is clearly not complete. What for example do you call the good mud?
The sort that can keep children amused for hours at little cost to the parents other than the call-out charge to the washing machine repairman? Or the sort that people pay good money for in health clubs, for use as a face pack, but is in fact freely available – and applied for you courtesy of a good downhill slope? As a footnote to cyclists, I have
noticed that health clubs tend to only apply this stuff to the face or
naked skin. The current habit of cycling with the backside sprayed with
mud, as illustrated in the enclosed photo, is not to be recommended.

Muddy Bum

It is hoped by leaving these questions unanswered I will inspire other
mud experts to come out of camouflage and write their own answer to the

Some muddy photos from Caroline can be found here

and another here.

Lundy 2006

Alex Purser – January 2007


Perhaps stopping for a breakfast bite just off the M5 to let
the traffic subside was a poor idea. It certainly seemed one as we lurched
around the minor roads of North Devon trying desperately to make the ferry on
time. Hemmed in by caravans, stressfully screeching round corners and in
near-constant (albeit broken) communication with Simon ‘Central Command’
Chandler, the beginning of the trip seemed more like Saving Private Ryan than
Let’s Go Climbing! Nevertheless; Alexes three made it to the boat (just) in
time. [Simon’s comment – the boat waited for them!]

MS Oldenburg
MS Oldenburg (click on any image to view in Flickr)

The first good look at the island is certainly a magnificent
sight for the Lundy virgin. Rising steeply from the sea on all sides it
immediately screams, “LAND OF OPPORTUNITY!” at the approaching climber before
settling back down to its habitual impressiveness. After sorting out provisions
and gear at the barn I headed off with Alex Rigg, Simon Chandler and Bob Butcher to
Threequarter Buttress. Alex and I took in just the one route to familiarise
ourselves with the island: A deliciously tense scramble/downclimb finished at a
decent ledge for the route to start at. Alex Rigg lead the first pitch up the
edge of the slab in fine and solid style allowing me to lead the steeper but
easier second pitch in excellent position. Certainly a nice familiarisation
with the island, with the rock and (for me) with sea cliff climbing.

I am most impressed.

Alex Purser at Threequarter Buttress
Alex Purser at Threequarter Buttress
Photo by Alex Rigg

In the evening we returned to the barn to assemble ideas for
the forthcoming week. Guide books and bottles of wine were passed around and
plans were made.


Today I would climb with Simon Chandler, veritable Lundy
veteran. As a first timer, I was particularly glad of this as he knows the
island quite well and I didn’t know it at all.

We headed firstly to Beaufort Buttress, the Burbage North of
Lundy for a couple of easily accessible hits before shifting round the corner
to the less popular Freak Zawn. Finding routes here was far harder because
frankly, the guidebook isn’t much cop for some areas. Simon coolly lead an
intimidating looking fluted overhang (Dog Watch, VS we thought) before moving
round to the more wild and woolly looking South wall. Here we did a couple of
pleasant routes from wave-lashed ledges before spotting the esoteric and
seldom-travelled Dihedral Zawn to the South. Simon puzzled over the lines in
the guidebook whilst I went for a dip before joining him in scoping potential
new lines. We decided to return here the next day.


Back in Dihedral Zawn Simon and I quickly set about climbing
the lines we had looked at the previous day. They proved tricky to find because
of questionable guidebook descriptions but provided pleasant outings. Most
started steep, turning into shallow-angled grooves at about one third height
and finishing on blocky ground. The three routes, Dreaming, Illusion and
Reality were all done but I have no idea which of these were new-routed by us,
which of these we thought were new-routed by us but were in fact other routes
poorly described in the guide, which were existing routes or in fact whether
they weren’t Dreaming, Illusion and Reality after all. Simon is the chap to
consult on this matter. Separated from these climbs is a smaller slab further
towards the sea, which (according to the guidebook) had no recorded routes on
it. Named ‘Arf Slab because it’s about ‘arf as tall as the main lines in the
zawn and was under close observation from a seal (think what noise a seal
makes) when Simon and I climbed a line quite definitely not mentioned in the
guidebook. Whether it is a new ascent or just deemed too easy to be mentioned
is unknown. Very easy but with the advantage of being easily recognisable, I
can at least remember which route it is!

New routes in Dihedral Zawn?
New routes in Dihedral Zawn?
Photo by Simon Chandler.

After lunch we headed to Immaculate Slabs. Impressively bare
and with the starting ledge tucked away out of sight under a bulge, it was with
some trepidation that I abseiled in. Let’s face it; abseiling isn’t much fun
and this outing was no exception. Possibly by further guidebook error or
possibly by using too much rope to equalise the belay anchors, it didn’t reach
the necessary ledge. I had volunteered to go down first and had luckily taken
the precaution of taking some jumar equipment down with me should the rope not
reach. Had I relied on using prussic cord I might well still only be half way
up (I admit, I am painfully slow at ascending ropes with prussic cord)!

After us failing to even reach his desired route, Simon was
rightfully a bit annoyed and had to console himself with a second go at a
previous project.

Centaur (HVS) in Landing Craft Bay takes a meandering line, firstly up easy slabs, then tricky,
thrutchy and awkward chimneys before a delicate ramp system. It’s really all
about the second pitch, which Simon lead better than I could second it! Padding
up the lichenous and featureless ramps felt precarious enough seconding, let
alone on the sharp end of the rope. Tricky for HVS to my mind.

Still a little early to head back to the Barn, we climbed
the lighthouse stairs to take in the view and relax a little from the day’s
exertions. It was here that we ran into Alexes Rigg and Harpur and exchanged
stories of derring do before heading back for dinner.


Today I would team up with Andy Hemstead to take on one of
the island’s classics; Double Diamond (HVS 5b). One of the few magnificently
perched routes on Flying Buttress, Double Diamond takes in the longest length
of an impressive slab of rock suspended from the mainland offering perhaps the
finest positioned route on Lundy. The first pitch a damp affair to a belay in a
notch at the bottom of the face, which I lead. Andy lead the second pitch, the
entire length of the main face. Steady climbing laced with the occasional
tricky rockover makes for a fantastic pitch well worthy of its reputation –
I’ll certainly be going back and leading it! Well protected and not as daunting
as the grade suggests, I heartily endorse this route.

Simon on Flying Buttress
Simon on Flying Buttress
Photo by Steph Summerfield.

Both of us in an adventuring mood, we took a stroll to the
South-West of the island to the area surrounding the Devil’s Limekiln. The Devil’s
Limekiln is basically a whopping great hole in the island with tunnels heading
out from its bottom to various areas not trodden as often as many by dint of
the effort consuming approach. The scale of the thing has to be seen to fully
comprehend. However, what I reckon’d to be a fairly good description of the
size, is, “a hole large enough to fit a medium sized cathedral in upside-down.”
The mind blowing exposure of the few routes out of the limekiln is pulse
raising to merely imagine, let alone abseil into and solo back out of on a
shunt. This is of course what Andy did later in the week (onlythe E3 route though…)!

In this same area of the island is Great Shutter Rock. A
tottering pile of choss approached by slightly iffy scrambling on loose
material (alpine styled ropework helpful) and a loosely compacted bridge of mud
and rock, Great Shutter Rock rises almost vertically from the tidal boulder
field below and is not subtle in the slightest. For lovers of the perverse it
is the ideal climbing location on Lundy: imposing, loose and steep. I rather
liked the look of it and made a note to come back. Feeling that we should
probably do some climbing after all this mooching about we headed over to
Kistvaen Buttress where we abseiled down and climbed up. It was suggested that
the route taken might have been Justine (VD).


“Rest Day” my arse; Six go adventuring on St Mark’s Stone.
(See the related article)

Party to this extravaganza were Simon Chandler, Andy
Hemstead, Simon Pelly, Steph Summerside (?), John Pereira and I (Alex Purser).
We made our way to the headland and set up the long abseil onto the ledges
opposite the island. This was to be our launch platform across the sea to our
target for the day: St Mark’s Stone, a less travelled area of Lundy for obvious
reasons. Since he quite closely resembles the bald, pint racing Italian from
the Guinness advert several years ago John “Iron Man” Pereira was the obvious
choice to first send across the briny to establish advanced base camp. Our
first mechanism of transferring gear across to the island was tough at first,
trying to haul the dry-bag across, above the water. The weight proved too much
so Simon’s inflatable dingy was brought into play, making things far easier.
Luckily the sea was calm enough at this point for us to be heard on either
shore, thus allowing our learning curve. All made it safely across with
particular merit to Andy “One Man In A Tub” Hemstead for the style in which he
accomplished this (see Simon’s photos of the day).

Once on the island we set to work
in pairs climbing a good number of routes for our relatively short visit. Of
particular note was the three ascents and three different taken routes of
‘Arguably The Most Inaccessible VDiff On Lundy’ (VDiff). A guano soaked,
overhanging, blocky scramble of a meandering route leads up the shoreside
buttress of the island and was enjoyed immensely by all (in whichever form).
The more intrepid pair of Simon Chandler and Andy Hemstead also completed a new
route, the girdle traverse of the island.

Of course though (to my mind
anyway) the main focus of the trip was the getting to and from the island. The
less observant and the more intent on fitting as many routes in as possible
might have failed to notice the rising tide, increasing height and ferocity of
the waves and the somewhat important fact that the Barn and the Marisco Tavern
were back across the water.

I headed back first to man the
(now reasonably slick) boat towing system. Later I discovered this move to be
to my advantage and others’ detriment*. Climbing ashore was made a little
tricky by the swell. This is accomplished firstly by getting close enough to
the ledge to be bashed into it. From here, the swell must be allowed to carry
the victim to the apex in order to spot holds. This takes several bobs (bashes
included). When confident the holds chosen are nearly positive enough to haul
on when filled with water, one waits ‘til the next high point before grabbing
said holds. The water then drops away below you (it is standard form to fall
off at this point) dragging first one’s whole body mass, then (if still
attached) one’s legs (neat trick of scraping bare feet off their wet smears)
downwards (it is standard form to fall off at this point). There is now the
psychological issue of not being supported by the water to contend with (it is
standard form to fall off at this point). Eventually, a bloody mess will haul
itself ashore.

I think we all picked up a scrape of some kind on the return swim.

Apart from Simon (Chandler) going
for his third swim of the day after dropping his dry-bag into the sea, the rest
of the event went off without much ado. Minor rockfall down the abseil chute
sustained interest for any slacking at the back.

After congratulations and
regrouping of gear most returned to the barn for tea, medals and sleep. I quite appreciated the rest considering the next climbing several
of us (including myself) would do would be at 01:30 the next morning. Read on…

* I inadvertantly made the
self-preserving decision of going first and Steph inadvertantly the
semi-suicidal decision of going last (when the swell was at its greatest). Top
marks to her for managing to get out relatively unscathed in such difficult
circumstances. As said by Andy – “Not bad for a girl“.


My first climb on Thursday was
indeed at 01:30 but only involved getting out of bed (noisily). Apologies to
those woken by me knocking my rucksack of clink off the bed. The chilly and
breezy moonlit stumble down the island revealed to me how foolish one of my
previous ambitions had been. To my mind (I can’t remember where I got the idea
from), it would have made a far better story for the Devil’s Slide to have not
merely been climbed by the light of a full moon, but to have been climbed naked
by the light of a full moon. Alas; one can’t have

Come 04:00 it was my time to
abseil down the peripherary of the slab. I was finding it a bit difficult at
first but put this down to the weight of rope hanging below me. However. By the
time I’d winched myself further down the slab I could see the cause of the
problem was a bit more of a challenge than previously thought. The rope had
snaked off the edge of the slab and the rope bag was unfortunately hidden in
the boulder choked gulley off this side. Not too taken with the idea of
abseiling into the gulley I heaved and wiggled the rope at the bag, but to no
avail. It is here where the advantage of being 4th in a queue of
teams on a route becomes apparent. The nimble finger’d Simon Pelly climbing
from below managed to make a short traverse and help me out (much to the
gratitude of others still waiting to abseil in as well as me!).

Simon Pelly grappling with the rope bag
Simon Pelly grappling with the rope bag

The route itself is a corker and
went pretty smoothly. I led the first and third pitches with Andy (Hemstead)
leading the second. The only real tricky part of the route was the monstrous
rope drag on the top pitch (pitches three and four merged). This provided a bit
of a challenge and ensured I didn’t get cold – It really was like towing a car!

Andy and I topped out at 07:10 and
celebrated with biscuits, before heading back to the barn for breakfast proper.
Tea was taken on in absurd and necessary quantity before we could collect
ourselves for another adventure.

We had been strongly recommended
to make a trip to the Devil’s Chimney and with the tides so conveniently timed,
it would’ve been rude not to. Set against the imposing buttresses of The Devil’s Chimney Cliff
the stack (more a Dibnah chimney
than a Piggott or Puttrell y’see) jaggedly rises from the boulder shelf below.
The abseil in is from a conveniently placed flake on a grassy ledge hidden from
view from above and snakes down various square grooves to the slippery boulders below.
In fine style,
I promptly slipped over whilst fell-trained and nimble-toed Andy hopped across
unhinder’d. Andy lead the first pitch, starting with a thin, greasy and
unprotected (apart from by the bombproof pillar-thread belay) traverse to a
blocky overhanging arête. From here the route meanders back left by way of
easier ground to a large ledge (the side elevation of a small Volvo estate I
reckon). The second pitch begins from the left hand end of the ledge up two
leaning corner-slab combinations joined by a tricky block. I was leading and
found the first leaning corner pumpy (although safe), consequently slumping
onto the rope. However, after (in no better style) getting the crucial pull
over the lip the real extremis moments began. By dint of whole bodily friction
and my nipples performing cilia type functions on the slab I managed to moved
up and left to another slab and then easier ground. It is here that Andy’s
remarks on how he thought the route was a bit stiff for HVS were mainly based
(to quote Andy: “Alex does brilliantly to
stride awkwardly left onto another slab!! The Purser Udge is too hard for
). The route
finishes in fine position on steep but easy and well protected ground leading
to a cracking little summit. Guano, feather, carcass and bone matted, we stayed
awhile taking in the view and eating sandwiches before abseiling off. A pain in
the arse jumar on dynamic rope followed (possibly poor execution by someone in
need of far more tea and sleep) to get us back topside. A well worthwhile
outing on a fantastic route in a fantastic setting.

Myself and Andy atop the Devil’s Chimney
Myself and Andy atop the Devil’s Chimney

It is probably prudent to mention
that the described might or might not be White Riot (HVS), our intended route,
but was the closest we could find. Maybe this is why we found it tough for the
grade (E2 5c was reckon’d).

I can’t remember what happened for
the rest of Thursday.


Thursday night’s preliminary plans
were confirmed, and based on Tuesday’s reconnoitre Mike Bailey and I were to have
a crack at Great Shutter Rock. We approached the choss bridge; me full of
enthusiasm and dreams of derring do, Mike slightly more reserved (perhaps his
greater experience of loose rock rearing its head in the name of
self-preservation). I lead out across the bridge at first only displacing the
odd footprint of gravel but soon moving fist sized, then head sized and finally
super-microwave sized blocks. The seals watching from below were luckily at a
safe distance from my quarrying. From the far side of the bridge I could
confirm a couple of conceivable routes as doable but was unable to convince a
less optimistic Mike to follow.

Shutter Rock
Shutter Rock – Red and white helmeted Mike Bailey and I just visible

On returning to relative
terra-firma, I recalled an adage about old and bold climbers and understood.
The rest of the day was spent exploring the seawards tunnels leading from the
Devil’s Limekiln and the far North end of the island. Taking a stroll to the
far North lighthouse is a lovely outing, greatly supplemented by seal watching
from the loading platform below.

After lunch, packing and cleaning
of the barn, Andy and I found time to go for a final stride around the island.
It is here that my fitness is put to shame by that of a man’s thrice my age. No
more need be said of this…

A very enjoyable trip to a
fantastic place – I’ll certainly be going back!

Alex Purser

P.S. Alex Harpur would here
receive special congratulations for being the only one of the group to
successfully complete the mantelshelf in the Barn but forfeits for losing his breakfast in undignified circumstances on the return crossing.

Lob of the year 2006

IMC Roll of Honour 2006

Master of Ceremonies: Peter Krug

Well folks we have Kingfishered and consumed ample quantities of curry thanks to the marvellous organisation of Carol Harbottle and our hosts for the evening, The Masha, IMC’s favourite curry house! Now it is time for the IMC’s most prestigious and indeed only award! The Lob of the Year!

Before we get down to details I suppose as has become sort of customary it might be worth mentioning some notable achievements, if that is an appropriate phrase, in the past year. Firstly and somewhat dubiously we as a club have had a record year of usage of the brilliant rescue services the we as climbing folk in Britain enjoy with Guy’s experience at Swanage and the rescue of IMC’s crack(ed) team at the Beginners Multi-pitch weekend. Fortunately, all concerned are now ok but we can be thankful for the efforts of these people who risk their lives to rescue us when it all goes “Pete Tong.” Secondly, Mervvn Lamacraft and a certain Peter Krug did not get any recorded air-time this year although there are unsubstantiated rumours that the latter took a flyer from his mountain-bike just below “The Gap“ and into Brecon A & E. And off course one should remember Mervyn’s sterling efforts of raising over £ 3,000 for East Anglian Children’s Hospices by successfully running this year’s London Marathon – it would be fair to elaborate slightly by adding this was a team effort with Mervyn enduring the pain of running the course and his good lady threatening pain if the sponsors did not cough up!

Now back to main event. The first entrants in this competition in what you will see a quite disgraceful episode of back-stabbing and counter-accusation familiar with politicians and their ilk, who preach a message of peace on earth and an end to poverty but deliver neither. This is the sort of scurrilous behaviour which should not be tolerated except that this is the only way one can get material for this award!

Anyway the location Stanage Edge on a fine and sunny September Monday. Our hero, Teena Thurgood, for he it is he, has decided to round the day off with an ascent of Via Media a VS 4c finger jamming crack. He’s psyched and ready to go having lead HVS at Lawrencefield the previous day. Pre climb assessment complete he steps confidently into the fray placing the first piece of gear and moving smoothly upwards. The second piece of gear, number 2 rock, is selected but it’s not looking good as things are getting rushed and the clip of extender and rope looks hurried. The clip is achieved and preparations for further upwards movement begin. The footwork then goes to ratshit and with an “I’m coming, I’m coming, I’m coming” the leader plummets from the rock to be caught safely by the gear. The climb is completed without further drama but the eagle eyed second has spotted a camera crew on the next buttress and on the way down asks if any footage of the flight was in the can. Unfortunately the young lady had been concentrating elsewhere and could not oblige. Thurgood counters with a snide attack on Mike Hams claiming that he was trying to regain his trophy with the following report of Mike on Outlook Crack (Stanage). Honestly, the depths of depravity that some people sink to! “HS 4b” says Mike “looks like a bit of a jam fest, I’ll give it a go, how hard can it be!” Up he goes – 1st cam in the crack, jam a bit more then came the somewhat muted warning “I think I be a coming orf” – he was right! About 4-6 feet of air time and some light grit rash for his troubles. But the lad got back on and had another go at it managing to place a 2nd cam before a more controlled lower off. Thurgood also had a look but backed off as it was a bit strenuous for early in the day.

And there is more as Mike follows this up with more aerial activity on Wall End Holly Tree Crack at Stanage. Another HS 4b with 3 metres of jamming crack to gain the rightward sloping ramp followed by a rather nasty off-width number behind the holly bush. The initial crack was despatched with just some mild puffing and then a nice gentle stroll along the ramp. But, now the fun begins! It was obviously giving Mike cause for thought as he made some very careful gear choices before setting of up the off-width crack. Looking good – another grunt and stuff the leg in for a thigh jam to place a BIG cam. He’s moving again – oops, no warning this time, he’s off! At least 2 metres of air time and some proper grit rash later and he’s back at the ramp after, in his words “seeing the rock move rapidly upwards”! All credit to the lad though as he regained composure and attacked the beggar with gusto to top out.

The next entrant is none other than the current holder of this title – a certain Adrian Fagg. Once again the venue is Stanage with a dubious party of Adrian and Martin Stevens heading to the Travesties Buttress/Blurter Buttress and Fate area. Martin reports Adrian and himself had a go at Ono, Duo Crack Climb, Typhoon and Overhanging Chimney. In the latter hangs a tale. In a stunning attempt to prove that his entry into last years LOTY was no fluke Adrian, who a few weeks beforehand had declined to follow Overhanging Chimney to save it for the on-sight, tied into the sharp end and had a go.

Easily up to the beak and with a pair of runners just below the roof, then into the chimney, facing left, and onto the beak. A belayer’s query about more gear got a reply to the effect of, ‘in a minute, I feel fine’. Sadly, he wasn’t fine and with his feet some 3ft above the gear Adrian decided he could fly. Well, he can, as long as it’s downwards at 9.8 metres per second per second. A fine backwards flight, ending up inverted and spread-eagled, and performed with impeccable timing just as John and Norman walked around the corner to spectate. Fortunately with more space between himself and the floor. than last time. Furthermore, his aim has improved as he failed to hit Martin whilst in rapid descent. Apart from some bruising to his back, no harm was done although pain-pills were taken and following Duo Crack Climb proved that for him the climbing weekend was over.

Our next entrant is young Mr Culverhouse who is yet another ex-winner of this award which again begs the question of where is young and new talent? I know that some young tigers employed combined tactics in trying to conquer Frensis Crack in Brimham Rocks but there was no proper airtime involved.

Anyway Steve was on this occasion was climbing with Nick Willis who reports that he was visibly stressed from his house moving not moving but was climbing well on the Saturday at Wildcat in spite of a cold and sore throat. Sunday dawned with a wild westerly blowing and rumours that Mike Hams fancied a pop at the File, VS 4C on Higgar Tor. So, he and Steve headed up to the Tor with the intention of meeting Mike Hams and Simon Chandler at the crag. Steve was feeling even worse on the Sunday morning but on the walk in it was agreed that one of them had to get on the File. Nick had attempted this route not long after he’d started climbing but New (whilst belaying him) calmly suggested he should come down and learn to jam before going up any further. Hence his suggestion to Steve that he would be leading the File as a year later he still couldn’t jam a sandwich.

So, Steve set up the Don Whillans suffer-fest, jamming confidently and placing several pieces of bomber gear, despite complaints that he couldn’t feel his hands due to the cold. However, he seemed to be moving over the crux bulge with ease, placing another hand jam higher up in the crack and smearing feet tentatively up the gritstone. But then he fell; suddenly and with absolutely no warning his hand jam popped and he peeled off bringing the system all tight and wrenching the belayer up into the air! With the confusion over the belayer found himself two metres off the ground with Steve hanging upside down and below him with his head hovering just above the ground. Steve remained very calm, and after checking how much skin had been lost, continued up the gnarly crack, sending it easily and comfortably. Clearly there are two main contenders but one should mention a couple of other escapades. There is word that a certain bearded veteran of our club had a slip off August Angie at Swanage barely worth mentioning, which off course makes it worth mentioning. The same individual upon hearing of Guy’s accident on Friends from the Deep commented it was a pity that he had ruled himself out of the running for this year’s award as he had started the season in “flying form!” This shows his fine judgement of character no more emphasised at the July multi-pitch weekend when he commented to me that there was one party not accounted for but he was happy that they were the crack team and would therefore be fine. This was at about 8.00 pm or roughly the same time that the afore-mentioned team were calling Mountain Rescue for reinforcements!

Anyway back to Guy’s flying start to the season. On an early season visit to Devon’s Dewerstone, Guy found himself confronted with one of his least favourite climbing mediums – the fist jamming crack. The offending climb at the Dewerstone has the innocuous name “Climber’s Club Direct”. The jamming crack in question splits an overhang low on the route. Martin, in the lead, succeeded in overcoming the obstacle with a few well-placed fists. Guy, following, failed to find an adequate lodgement and was soon penduluming out from under the roof. The following day the same pair were seen at Chair Ladder, Cornwall, with the same order of play, and similar results. Martin, with the advantage of 20 or so previous ascents of this Bishop’s Rib, succeeded at the crux bulge, though not without some difficulty. Guy, having made the crux move, inexplicably lost contact with the rock and was once again swinging out in space.

Fed up with all this adventure on the blunt end, Guy was determined to make amends on the sharp end at Bosigran the next day. Suicide Wall sounded like a well-named route. Pitch 3 is the crux. The move off the stance is it, dramatically positioned centre stage on this popular cliff. Historically, this 5c move was surmounted with liberal use of the belayer’s shoulder, but Guy was determined to lead it free. Two bits of marginal gear were placed, much humming and harring took place, followed by several tentative forays upwards. Then our Guy made a determined “last attempt”, and with one bound he was off, coming to rest on rope stretch just below the tiny belay ledge. All credit to our man, however a further attempt saw the obstacle overcome and the climb duly completed

Obviously there are two main contenders for this year’s award and trying to choose a winner has vexed the judges for some time now and indeed caused much mass-debate with no end result. So a choice is down to the time honoured method of choosing a winner. The method has to be the tossing of a two-headed coin. Heads it’s Steve and tails it’s Adrian and so this years winner is………… heads! Hey this year’s winner is Steve Culverhouse for his spectacular lob from The File and the simple fact that it was deemed to be unprecedented to set a precedent for the now ex President to choose the same winner for consecutive years!

Well done mate!

Shingled Out

By Fraser Hale – October 2006

Being members of the lowest lying Mountaineering Club in Britain most of us, in search
of crags or peaks, journey in the direction of “away” most weekends. East Anglia is
largely bereft of any vertical scenery and can be seen as less than dramatic; the lack of
contours also contributes little in the way of physical challenges or testing weather
conditions. Nevertheless Suffolk holds charms of its own if you search them out.

I recently spent a weekend leading a National Trust Working Holiday based on Orford
Ness. The Ness is the largest vegetated shingle spit in Europe and is an extremely
important habitat, boasting several rare plant, bird and insect species. By contrast to
the more usual recreational haunts of club members, the Ness is the very antithesis of
‘mountainous’; the highest point barely above sea level and as flat as yesterday’s lager
it is nonetheless a beautiful and engaging place.

The spit did not exist 800 years ago, being deposited over that time by the constant
erosion and subsequent deposition of the headland to the North. Orford was once a large
and thriving port town, as evidenced by its relatively large castle complex, but as the
shingle encroached and narrowed the passage to the North Sea, so the town’s fortunes

In order to reach the Ness you take a short boat ride across from Orford Quay. This
highlights the feeling of remoteness that pervades the place and this is further augmented
as you start to unearth the history of the place.


Orford Ness has a long and intriguing military history. First used as a base for a defence against Napoleonic invasion, it was also used as a WWI airstrip where early aerial photography was developed. During the Second World War a top secret radar system was built and tested on the island and, finally, during the Cold War, atomic weapons systems were tested in weirdly shaped buildings part buried in the shingle.

The only person permanently based on the Ness is the National Trust Warden. There are very few roads and even fewer vehicles. The wind from the North Sea moans softly across the open expanses of shingle and you can quickly feel deliciously isolated and alone.

Not surprisingly the Ness has more than its fair share of ghost stories and a plethora of myths relating to its involvement in various top secret projects. Although the area is now owned and managed by the National Trust the MoD is still very tight lipped about what went on there right up until 1986, and every winter a storm unearths at least one chunk of ordnance from under the shingle.

There are a number of walks around the Ness taking in the lighthouse, the military buildings, dunes, lagoons, shingle banks and big skies. There isn’t so much as a hillock in sight but the place has an atmosphere all its own, lots of interesting flora and fauna and an awesome back-story. The castle on the mainland isn’t a bad visit either and there is a pub near the quay that does a decent line in grub. One weekend, when you don’t fancy the drive to steeper parts, check it out, it is a unique and slightly spooky place.

NB Check access details on the NT website first.


It’s not the Grade : Beginners weekend and my best day out ever

By Mike Hams – October 2006

Beginners weekend was the scene for my best ever day out in the Peak district.
Saturday dawned a tad damp and some hearing the forecast on Radio 4 went off to
Sheffield for a hard outing on plastic holds. My son Matthew and I along with
Judy, Beryl, Ian and Christina headed for the obligatory Lawrencefield trip. We
reasoned it would be sheltered, out of the cloud and may possibly dry given some
let up in the rain.

We weren’t disappointed in our guess and being a moderately concerned parent I
asked if Matthew could tag on the rope that went up Nailbane on the Gingerbread
slab. Last time out Matt had struggled and sworn at me (under his breath) all the
way up Snailcrack and I had put him off! So working on the basis that climbing
near to me but not with me would help confidence off he went. Being a foot or so
taller helped with the climb and he made a really good stylish ascent to the slab
while his dad looked on proudly. As the conquering hero returned to lunch on fine
food the heavens opened and thoughts of a trip up Pulpit Groove went out the

Matt and I went and practiced some belay set-ups alongside the climbing area as he
hoped to lead something easy at sometime weather permitting. Several belay
arrangements were tried and clove hitches became second nature. It was all going
well and rock was drying from the shower. The other teams decided that a trip to
the Frustration area would be a good idea, as we weren’t inspired by the other
offerings in the Pool area. We arrived to find a top rope on every easy route and
an abseil on the hard ones. After some muttering we crossed the road to Millstone
and the Hells Bells area.

Here I finally climbed something Giants Steps. It was green and the holds were a
touch slippery. Thankfully under the watchful gaze of my 13 year-old I managed to
climb the horror without looking too bad! Minor complaints about rope drag were
due to my belayer doing his job properly as Ian informed me. (Performance anxiety,
what performance anxiety?) Matt had a nightmare on it, as he was just too short
for the move off the block in the corner of the ledge. I had to winch him up a
couple of inches at a time.

Time had marched on and it was dinner o’clock according to MMT (Matthew Meal
Time!) A return to camp and cooking followed. Some ale was consumed (his mother
will read this gentle reader) and a reasonable bedtime followed.

Sunday dawned reasonably wetly, team wuss headed for the café and the full
Hardhurst breakfast. I was reasonably concerned that we wouldn’t be getting off
the ground after the big feed. Froggatt was to be the venue, decided between the
second and third cups of tea.

Steve Culverhouse joined us for the trip, as he was part of the lift share. The
weather cleared to a moderately good day (by Peak standards) and Matt declared he
was ready for the challenge of the first lead. What to put him on? Well it could
only be Nursery Slab (M) in the Downhill Racer area. Steve kindly agreed to solo
alongside Matt giving advice on gear placements and Matt had climbed the route
before. Success should be a reasonably sure thing. (I wasn’t going home to explain
why the son and heir was dented to domestic management!)

Steve was calmness personified as he followed the putative leader up the climb.
Gear placements were tried and rejected, the belayer (me) had to work hard at
maintaining concentration. The man at the sharp end was fully aware of the
potentially exciting time that would be his if it all went wrong (I was working
out how to drop Steve off and flee the country before word got back home). An hour
or so later the call came “climb when ready”.

I set off in big boots to see how it had all gone. The gear placements were all
top notch (well done Steve and Matt). A very proud father topped out to shake his
son by the hand in best stiff-upper lip British Mountaineering tradition (Mallory
would have been proud of our control). I then hugged the hero and let my top lip
quiver a bit in a 90’s new-man fashion (those that are too young can ask their
parents about new-man).

Time was getting on so we left after one route (in line with my Mike one-route
Hams reputation) and headed home. It was without doubt my best ever days climbing
and will unlikely to be topped even if Matt drags me up E3 in the future. My
heartfelt thanks to Steve Culverhouse for making it all possible and Pete Tonks
for superb organisation of the whole weekend. (Can we have better weather next
time please?)