Newbury Mountain Club Journal 2007

Click on any photo thumbnail to see the full picture.

6 Jan - AGM
12-14 Jan - Exmoor
9-11 Feb - Black Sail Hut
23-25 Feb - North Wales
10 March - Crocus Walk
16-18 March - Borrowdale
20-22 April - Quantocks
4-7 May - Yorkshire
12 May - Ridgeway 40
25-30 May - Fontainebleau
8-10 June - Plynlimon
29 June-1 July - Wilderness Camping
6-8 July - Peak District
14-18 July - Slovenia
3-5 August - North Lake District
10-12 August - Southern Sandstone
11-18 August - Austria
24-27 August - Pembrokeshire
5-7 Oct - Cornwall
13-21 Oct - Mallorca
19-21 Oct - Peak District
2-4 Nov - Tyncornel, mid-Wales
16-18 Nov - Kendal Mountain Film Festival
15 Dec - Christmas Walk

6 Jan - Annual General Meeting

Back to the Chequers again for the AGM, and what was possibly the quickest dispensing ever of the formalities - half an hour or so!  The new committee was unanimously elected as follows:

President: Dan Unwin
Treasurer: Richard Spraggett
Secretary: Martin Butler
Committee: Sarah Davies (Webmaster), Keyna Garner, Emma Gray, Bob Hotchkis, Callum Ings, Andy Miles, Claire White

The meeting included discussion of items such as plans for the website redesign and running multiple trips on weekends, after which the meeting was closed and dinner was served.

After dinner the President's speech ran through the events of the year. The Club ran a number of successful trips and events in 2006, most of which have been written up in last year's Journal.

Dan then presented the following awards:

Best Trip: Richard Spraggett, for Black Sail Hut.
Absolute Altitude Award: Lee Farmer, for getting 7200m up Cho Oyu in Nepal.
Cumulative Altitude Award: Steve Venton, for logging an impressive 17,800m of height gain during the year.
Golden Underpants: Steve Climpson, for his nasty accident in Austria (from which, thankfully, he is making a full recovery).
Navigation Award: Alan Tinkler, for his plunge off the side of Kinder Scout on a navigation weekend.
Girl Guide Award (for being unprepared): Andy Miles, for failing to book a campsite and trying to cancel his trip at the last minute.
Mountaineering Achievement: Dave Hall, for barely breaking a sweat while completing the Bullock Smithy.
Sartorial Elegance Award (for interesting items of clothing glimpsed on Club members): Catherine Conway - if you were in Pembrokeshire, you'll know why...
Most Trips Award (for most meets attended during the year): Bruce Wilson, who managed 17 trips out of a possible 24.

Dan also presented Rhoda with a thank you gift for all the hard work she has done as Communications Director over the years.

Finally, just when Dan thought the awards were over, Claire surprised him with one more:

The St Bernard Award for Mountain Rescue: Dan Unwin and Malcolm Spence, for pulling Steve up on the via ferrata in Austria and administering first aid until the rescue helicopter arrived.

The party then continued with a DJ and a selection of (mountain-themed) music, before a brief foray into Bar Cuba and for those still conscious, drinking well into the early hours. Photos, courtesy of Martin, Claire and Catherine, can be found here.

Sarah Davies

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12-14 Jan - Exmoor

Present: Sarah D (organiser), Bruce, Dan, Beckie, Sarah M, David M, Andy L, Belinda, Dave H, Maggie, Maika, Malcolm, Louise, Mark, Marion, Debbie, Richard N

Location: Exmoor Basecamp, near Lynton/Lynmouth

The first trip of the year was to the National Trust "Exmoor Basecamp" perched above Lynmouth on the northern edge of Exmoor. 17 members were due to arrive and over the course of Friday night they appeared in the Sandpiper Inn, which is rather conveniently located 50 yards from the bunkhouse. The bunkhouse carpark was full so the late arrivals had to use the pub car park - that distance became the cause of some concern to certain members who felt 50 yards downhill in the dark was just too much.

Saturday was overcast and threatening rain. The forecast was not good, but with everyone well equipped with the best coats technology can provide, staying in was not an option. Beckie and I had bought our bikes so opted for a 22km circuit along the coast and then inland. Malcolm and Louise went off across Exmoor and Andy L went to a different part of Exmoor, his intention to get some navigation practice in sadly thwarted when he managed to forget both map and waterproof trousers (an early contender for the Girl Guide award?). The rest of the group followed Sarah D in a large loop along the coast path in an easterly direction and then along the valley and over the hills behind the bunkhouse.

It rained, but our spirits were not dampened (well, maybe a little). The bike route was boggy, muddy, wet and very hilly. Short sharp 1:4 gradients over loose rock and rutted track - where the reciprocal downhills were is anyone's guess. Is it possible to climb for most of the day and not descend? Beckie got a puncture and we were forced to repair it when the valve on the spare tube snapped off. A few more very muddy fields and we were almost back, catching the main group after they'd stopped in the Staghunter Inn (where Sarah M had the "best hot chocolate in Devon" - fact) and as they made the climb from the Lyn valley to the bunkhouse.

After a shower and spruce up, some of us went to the pub and had a Guinness or three. Maika and Sarah M cooked a superb diner of Chilli with guacamole followed by a rather nice chocolate yoghurt desert. The wine flowed, and we all played Jenga, Scrabble or a rather infuriating Maze game which had been left to test one's dexterity. Did anyone get to 101 (other than Malcolm, who turned it upside down)?

Sunday was a much brighter day. The main walking group headed for Lynton, and a circular walk taking in the Valley of Rocks. Sarah D and Bruce went walking on Exmoor. Beckie and I rose last and found everyone gone (thanks for tidying up - we were trying to find something to clean but the job had been done too well). We went off on our bikes again, along the A39 and then down into Doone Valley. This was followed by another bog trot across the top of Exmoor, before returning to the bunkhouse and home.

Dan Unwin (with a few additions from Sarah Davies)

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9-11 February - Black Sail Hut

Present: Richard (organiser), Andy M, Martin, Olga, Louise, Dan, Andy McLay, Keyna, Shaun, Rhoda, Dave W, Paula, Maika

Horrendous traffic and snow around Birmingham meant those in Louise's car spent 10 hours getting to the Lakes. It was impossible to get over Honister pass in the snow which meant a long drive round to Ennerdale before walking in, in a blizzard.

Meanwhile, having arrived and there being nothing to do in the hut, Richard and Dan decided to walk the short distance from the Black Sail Hut over to Wasdale Head - partly to have a pint and partly because this is where the late arrivals were supposed to be walking in from. They set off from the hut as the sky was finally becoming black and headed up the Sail Beck. Route finding was not too hard, and although the ground was frozen solid they were able to make good time. Once over the pass they had a better trail, but it was now totally dark and headtorches were making little impact in the inky blackness. The lights of Wasdale seemed a long way off.

Eventually they reached the pub. While ordering a drink (or three) and a jacket potato, the barman asked where they were staying. The reply 'Black Sail Hut' was suitably mad to be met with a few raised eyebrows. Andy McLay arrived, and they had another pint. Having brought his Sigg bottle over, Dan then managed to get a Southern Comfort & Coke to go.

The others, who they called from the Wasdale public telephone, announced they were coming in via Ennerdale and other alternate routes, so the three of them left to make the 3-mile return journey. The snow meant that what was already a tricky proposition was worse, and the wind blowing down from the pass made it hard to stand at times. In the pass it was a blizzard, and finding the right path down was impossible, so they just headed down, following the Sail Beck (trying to remember where the cliffs were) and were eventually guided in by the lanterns Martin had placed outside the hut. A mini epic.

Coming back from the pub (Dan)

Words to live by (Dan)

In the end, most people arrived around 2 in the morning. Dave H and Emma abandoned all hope of getting there and stopped in Redditch (where you could probably abandon all hope...)

The blizzard continued Saturday morning and over the course of the first hour several people turned back from the walk towards Great Gable. Martin, Olga, Richard, and Andy M did a short walk towards Haystacks. Shaun, Keyna, Dave W, Kiwi Andy, and Louise walked on around Great Gable and got to Wasdale Head Inn for a pint before coming back to the hut communal meal - Flopsy, Mopsy & Cottontail were made into a meat paella by Martin.

On Sunday most of the snow had gone overnight and everyone walked out from the hostel and headed home.

Snow on Saturday morning (Keyna)

The Blue Team (Keyna)

Hard going (Martin)

Martin and the bunny rabbits (Andy)

Andy Miles, Dan Unwin

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23-25 February - North Wales

Present: Andy M (organiser), Paul W, Martin, Olga, Sarah D, Bruce, Alan, Claire, Keyna, Shaun, Si, Ali, Sue, Steve V, Steve C, Graham W, Phil D, Andy L

The club stayed in the Emily Kelly Hut owned by the Pinnacle Club. As befitting of a club not run by men the hut was clean, warm and comfortable! Although a sign said otherwise, Andy M claimed in his professional capacity (after a few drinks - Ed) that the hut water was perfectly safe to drink unboiled, and wasn't the slightest bit ill afterwards (he says - Ed again).

Being North Wales we arrived in the rain and it pretty much stayed that way for the rest of the weekend. This didn't stop anyone from getting out and actually doing anything. Si and Ali still had some energy left from their week at Plas-y-Brenin and along with Phil Dickins went up the Miners track on Snowdon, scrambled up Y Cribin ridge and returned over Y Lliwedd. Sue, Steve V and Graham launched themselves into a 'Tim Macartney-Snape' style assault on Snowdon by walking from the hut (100m above sea level) over Y Lliwedd to Snowdon and then descending the S Ridge before taking the Watkin path back. Early contenders for the cumulative altitude award.

Claire, Alan, Sarah, Bruce, Andy L, Keyna and Shaun went in the opposite direction, for a stomp over Foel Goch and Yr Arddu. The route didn't quite go as planned, due to foul weather and featureless terrain; eventually Bruce roused himself from his epic hangover to enquire, "Haven't we seen that copse before...?". Nevertheless the group took this small anomaly in their stride and arrived safely back at the hut for a paddle in the river to wash all the mud off.

Bruce and Alan, honest, on Yr Arddu (Claire)

Paul and Andy M took Steve Collard out on his first rock climb outside. OK, so it was a bit damp but they raced up Ordinary Route on Idwal Slabs (Diff, 425ft and in parts like a waterfall) and then scrambled up into the Nameless Cwm to reach the base of Cneifion Arete late in the afternoon. Ignoring the time, the weather and the fact Andy was chef for the evening, they completed the fantastic 'alpine' Cneifion Arete (475ft, Mod, gusty!) and got most of the way down before darkness overtook them.

Paul high on Cneifion Arete (Andy)

On Idwal Slabs (Andy)

Steve on Cneifion Arete (Andy)

That evening a communal meal was cooked by Graham and Andy. The hot curry was described by Alan as a "cheeky little number" so more curry paste next time! This was followed by a school dinner-style apple crumble and custard cooked by Steve V. At that point everyone was too stuffed for the cake in honour of Sarah's birthday.

Sunday was equally wet. Steve V and Sue went out for some micro navigation practice. Most people opted for shorter, low level walks before heading home.

Andy Miles

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10 March - Crocus Walk

Present: Rhoda (organiser), Richard N, Alan, Claire, Jo, Steve, Andy Mc, Katherine, Mike, Gaby, Steve C

It was a beautiful spring day, the sun was beaming from a cloudless sky, and everybody met up at Kintbury station on time. Despite Rhoda's valiant efforts at train times etc, everybody actually had opted to drive.

The group set off along the canal and through Kintbury Churchyard into a beautiful and freshly rinsed countryside, which made for a number of very muddy patches along the way, demanding precarious balancing on logs or mighty jumps over quagmires. We took the long way round to work up a healthy appetite for lunch, and took in some large houses with hosts of golden daffodils, punk chickens with mohicans, llamas, a herd of deer in the wood, some friendly horses, and several kestrels and buzzards.

Lunch was taken at the organic Swan Inn, with the healthy-salad-ordering people gazing in poorly disguised envy at others' steaming sausages and mash, and steak and chips... not to mention the red cabbage! So fortified, we took to the mud again, making our way ever closer to the elusive field containing 400,000 Crocus vernus, to cries of 'Are we nearly there yet?' As we approached the field, we happened across a number of walkers coming the other way, some of them ominously equipped with spades! The crocus by the way are rumoured to have been brought over as a substitute for saffron by the Knights Templar, other origins are possible but this seems the most romantic. They have been there for at least 200 years, possibly over 700 years. Having finally made it to the field our expectations of a dazzling unbroken carpet of purple crocuses were quickly replaced by the green vista of a small field which did, indeed, contain a lot of beautiful purple crocuses, albeit somewhat spread out. After taking photos of some fine examples, including a few white variant crocuses, we made our way across a spring fed stream, to the other side of the field, and back over the stream to exit the crocus field where we had entered. But it was well worth the detour as we found a Cumberland sausage ... sorry I mean a grass snake sunning itself on the heath - sadly, it disappeared before we could take a picture of it so beautifully curled up in a spiral (there was no mash this time!)

(Photos courtesy of Rhoda. Click on a thumbnail for the full image.)

We then made our way across Inkpen Common and nature reserve and headed back toward Kintbury. On the way we happened upon... wait for it.... the opportunity to purchase a Helter-Skelter! We passed on this for some reason (although club funds would have covered it) and made our way past a mysterious office like house, a grey wagtail momentarily showing us the way. The rest of the walk proceeded well, with the most muddy bit right at the end, we all then arrived back in Kintbury in glorious sunshine (and that's the first mention of sunshine this year - Ed).

Gaby Broadfoot

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16-18 March - Borrowdale

Present: Martin (organiser), Olga, Sarah, Bruce, Sue, Steve V, Andy M, Si

Only 8 people made the journey to the Lakes and Bowderstone Cottage; on the positive side, it meant we had plenty of room to spread out all of our wet gear in the hut. This was a necessity right from the start: the previous week's springlike weather meant nothing as it started to rain the moment we passed the "Welcome to Cumbria" sign on the M6. Those who arrived first got the fire going, which was an excuse for Si and Bruce to get all back-to-basics with an axe and some wood. Steve was last to arrive at about 1.30am; lugging all his gear 600m up a track in the wind and rain wasn't enough for him, and he opted for some night navigation practice and a long route in.

On Saturday the rain had temporarily ceased, so we had a bit of a play on the Bowderstone (getting all of two feet off the ground; the steps were a much easier option) before setting off on various walks. Steve had another day of navigation in the Borrowdale Fells (you'd never guess he had his ML test coming up), while Martin and Olga walked up and over Catbells from Rosthwaite. Everyone else drove to Seathwaite and walked up to Styhead, where the group split. Sue, Sarah and Bruce went up to Sprinkling Tarn, looked at where Glaramara would be if not for all the cloud, and came back down via Grains Gill. Andy and Si picked up the climbers traverse path on Great Gable, which should have taken them to Napes Needle but the weather clagged in and they missed it, having traversed too low. They then cut down to Wasdale and came back up to Styhead pass, thoroughly drenched. Occasional gusts were almost taking them off their feet and the waves on Styhead Tarn made it look like an average summer day in Margate. The final stretch down to Seathwaite was tiring, and they appreciated Bruce and Sarah sacrificing a potential few hours in a tea shop pub drying off and patiently waiting to provide a lift back to the hut.

Despite the weather, there were quite a few people out, some of whom weren't exactly equipped for the elements. Our particular highlight was on the way up to Styhead, when an elderly chap and his wife asked to consult one of our (five) maps, because they wanted to go up Glaramara but had lost their map...

The evening was quiet, as we recovered from the day and attempted to dry out and keep warm in the hut, and it wasn't a particularly late night. The weather got worse during the night, and the hut's shutters got somewhat active, especially the one right next to Si's head.

Sunday brought snow, the most vicious downpour saved especially for the 10 minutes when we were taking all our gear back down the track. There was still an opportunity for another go on the Bowderstone, though.

Photos are all courtesy of Andy M; click on a thumbnail to see the complete picture.

Cold and wet at Sty Head

Nurse, we've got a bleeder!

Scrambling on Climbers' Traverse

Andy on the Bowderstone

Bruce, cranking hard

Si on the Bowderstone

Sarah Davies, Andy Miles

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20-22 April - Quantocks

Present: Dave W (organiser), Paula, Sarah, Bruce, Alan, Claire, Dan, Beckie, Rhoda, Bob, Gary

Never got a full trip report, but suffice to say: great weather, great mountain biking (apart from the long uphill slogs), great cream teas, and a great big fire pit that you could almost get a whole tree into (well, it seemed a good idea at 2.30am!).

And here are a few photos:

Cycle convention


Sometimes the legs are just a better option

Keeping warm, any way possible...

4-7 May - Yorkshire

Present: Sarah (organiser), Bruce, Alan, Claire, Paula, Dave W, Maggie, Gary, Pokey, Annie, Ange, Mick, Ayla

On Friday evening we congregated at a packed campsite in Horton-in-Ribblesdale - fortunately, thanks to Ange and Mick arriving early we managed to secure a group of pitches together. As usual, once all the tents were up (even Maggie's) there were a few drinks before bed.

Saturday morning was an early start for Alan, Claire, Dave and Paula, as they set off to do the Three Peaks. The route, which takes in Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough, is 26 miles long - or 27, if you take into account Alan's "shortcut" to get up Pen-y-Ghent. Rather than treating it as a time trial, they decided to make the most of the sunshine and the Old Peculier on the way round, and returned to Horton 13 hours later with a few aching muscles.

The rest of the group, citing lack of fitness/ability/inclination to get up for a 7am start, did a 12-mile walk up Ingleborough, over Little Ingleborough and down via Gaping Gill. Mick carried Ayla all the way in her sling, which generated a few comments from people we passed - the most baffling of which was "Is that a real baby?". The top of Ingleborough was busy, with lots of people taking advantage of the good weather, but the chosen route down was delightfully quiet (up until the path into Horton, where we were overtaken by a small horde trying to hit the 12-hour cutoff time for the Three Peaks Challenge). We had a couple of drinks in the beer garden at the Crown Inn at the end of the walk, and then returned to the site which by now was taking on the appearance of a refugee camp. We still had space for the traditional Saturday night BBQ and campfire, though.

One peak is quite enough

Maggie contemplates the quick route down (Ange)

Sunday morning brought the forecast showers, along with some very un-forecast 30mph gusts of wind. Bruce woke up several people at 7am, hammering in some very heavy-duty tent pegs that would have been more at home in an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The majority of the group embarked on a 10-12 mile walk along the Ribble Way to Helwith Bridge (spotting an unfortunate tent in the river en route) and then up to Pen-y-Ghent and Plover Hill. The evening was spent in the Crown, and involved delicious food, Alan keeping himself to a strict quota of 4-and-a-half pints of OP, and a salutory lesson for Maggie: never go to the bar with your boot laces undone, especially when Pokey's around...

Monday was showery again, and we packed up in a much quieter campsite. Some of the group diverted to Malham for a walk to Malham Tarn and Gordale Scar, before heading back south in (typically) steadily improving weather.

Sarah Davies

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12 May - Ridgeway 40

Entrants: Richard N, Keyna, Mike, Gaby, Steve L, Richard S, Dave H, Kiwi Andy, Marion

We set out bright and extremely early from Newbury to get to Streatley Youth Hostel by 6.45 in time to take the bus all the way back to Overton (near Avebury). There we met up with Andy, and Marion, who had decided to come along, "just for fun". El presidente Dan was notable by absence, apparently suffering a bout of hydrophobia or simply unable to get out of bed at 5.30am. (Editor's Note - he has an excuse, but why let the truth get in the way of the story?) The weather forecast had threatened heavy showers, but as yet, the sun was shining. After a happy "before" group photo, we started the walk at 8.06 with an immediate uphill - to warm up those legs. This had the immediate effect of separating the racers from the steady walkers, and Richard N, Steve, Mike and Gaby forged ahead at a positively breakneck 4.1 mph.
The "before" group photo (Keyna)

Waterproofs and even outer jumpers were shed, and the brisk tailwind undoubtedly helped! A strong south wind blew the rain clouds quickly over us, so when it did rain it was only for a short time. Frustating, because as soon as coats were taken out of bags and put on, the rain stopped.

Checkpoints were passed, and in time the average slowed down to a meagre 3.7 mph, caused by a slow slog up 100 metres straight to a big antenna. More hills followed, despite Richard's previous assurances that the Ridgeway was more "undulating" than hilly, and it was thirsty work in the continuing sunshine. Gaby slowed the team down further by feeding the pretty shire horses, and Steve was so intent on reaching the lunchtime pub that he didn't even notice the car hanging in a tree on the opposite side of the road when crossing the M4 (using a flyover).

Both teams met up briefly for lunch at the Shepherd's Rest, the first leaving as the second settled down for a well-deserved sarnie/pasta/etc. Nobody complained of blisters at this stage but there was emergency cutting of toenails by Dave while others ate their lunch. No crunchy bits added!

The morning's punishing pace took its toll, and the average was reduced to a paltry 3.5 mph. The midway checkpoint at the Uffington White Horse was reached in a respectable 6 hours, by which time Gaby was rather losing the fun aspect of the walk, and was looking forward to retiring at the next checkpoint! The weather was turning as well; heavy showers were racing up from behind. Drenched trousers and slippery wet chalk sticking heavily to boots made the walking rather miserable. Gaby and Marion retired at 23.5 miles due to blisters, and congratulated themselves on their wise decision when they were driven home by Marion's obliging husband Mark through a deluge of biblical proportions. Alas, no such luck for our intrepid walkers!

At 4 p.m. the heavens opened on the remaining gallant crew and they got an hour of torrential rain. Luckily Steve, Richard N, Dave and Andy arrived at the 28-mile checkpoint during the hour and got some shelter. This is probably the last point where a competitor may be tempted to drop out voluntarily, so it was equipped with hot tea and homemade cakes to fortify the spirit.

Richard N doesn't eat cakes, so 4 of them later, he and Steve set off on the last 12 miles. The pace dwindled further, but luckily the batteries of the GPS gave out so they couldn't tell how slowly we were going. Eventually the A34 was crossed and the finish beckoned. Throughout this time Steve and Richard were dogged by a St John's Ambulance which kept turning up at checkpoints just as they arrived (was this a sign?) and it appeared again where the Ridgeway track turns into a tarmac road 2 miles from Streatley. Half a mile later, Dave and Andy breezed past them as fresh as daisies, to achieve a finish time inside 13 hours. Steve and Richard N finished in just over 13 hours (so average speed down to about 3.0 miles an hour), with Keyna and Richard S finishing in just over 13.5 hours. Mike had finished at 7.45, slightly chilly and suffering from trenchfoot after walking 17 miles in soaked boots, vowing never to be so stupid again.

Everyone got a certificate, tea, more cakes and a chance to seize up at the end, making the procession of Keyna and the 2 Richards back to the car look like one of those old films about First World War soldiers staggering off the battlefield. "Never again" was not heard to be muttered, but several of the competitors have formed a steely determination not to be foolish enough to try the Bullock Smithy!

Gaby Broadfoot, Marion Foster, Richard North

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25-30 May - Fontainebleau

Present: Bob (organiser), Rhoda, Paul and Tao, Maggie, Steve, Steve W and friends, Fiona and friends, Julie and family, Marion and Mark. And some more friends.

The trip started inauspiciously with Julie and family getting the inner of their Millennium Dome wet in a sudden downpour as they were erecting it, leading to emergency use of all their dry towels to mop the floor before the kids could be put into sleeping bags, and Paul, Maggie and Tao returning to their tent that evening to find that their front porch now opened directly onto a wonderful lake view.

Despite the initial soaking there were enough dry and sunny spells to allow some glorious days spent bouldering at various sites throughout this beautiful forest, with its fragrant pines and amazing white sand. Granted, some of that time was spent sheltering under rocky overhangs whilst sharing sandwiches, but not much. The rest was spent drinking hot chocolate in the local bar.

Bob led us to some areas undiscovered on earlier trips, always managing to locate great spots with a range of problems to suit all tastes and abilities and the usual scenes of quiet desperation when people discover that the only way down is the way they came up. Although this dilemma does not appear to apply to Steve W, the big show off.

Marion and Mark unfortunately were unable to stay for longer than the weekend but seemed suitably impressed with the ultimate climber’s playground. The rest of the group stuck it out for most of the week, with the odd visit to Disneyworld and/or Parc Asterix thrown in to keep the kids entertained. Not that they needed it really – some of them were better at this bouldering lark than the adults, with 6 year old Ed in particular ticking off yellow problems in his bare feet.

Special mention goes to Fiona’s friends for inventing the disposable-barbeque-under-seat heater for the chillier evenings, a nod to Rhoda for her “stable table”, a shout out to William for his crappy French disposable barbeque blower, and respect to Steve for wearing a cagoule identical to the 6 year old’s.

Julie Carlisle

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8-10 June - Plynlimon

Present: Claire (organiser), Alan, Sarah, Bruce, Gaby, Mike, Pokey, Annie, Keyna, Laura, Gary, Dave H, John

The weekend started promisingly, with bright sunshine lighting the way into Wales on some exceptionally pretty (single-track) roads between desolate sheep-covered hills and abandoned slate quarries. Upon arrival, everybody indulged in a game of 'my tent is bigger than yours', with the upshot that Keyna and Laura could have pitched theirs in the porch of Alan and Claire's 2 bedroom mansion. Bruce and Sarah carried the highest tent award, with Mike and Gaby winning the prize for instant tent - just undo the zip.

The campsite was idyllic, next to a stream, but unfortunately also hosted an international midge convention over the weekend. Despite the warm temperatures, everybody sat round the BBQ in long trousers and tops (and balaclavas, in some cases). Still, it was reasonably late before we gave up and retired, in view of Claire's proposed 9.00 start on Saturday.

Amazingly, we all set off not long after 9.00 and drove to a reservoir in the Plynlimon hills. The plan was to take in the 5 Plynlimon peaks, arranged in a horseshoe around the reservoir, and the sources of the Wye and Severn. The weather was unrelentingly hot and sunny, and we were all glad we had packed full waterproofs - it is Wales, after all!

After a hot, sweaty and breathless ascent of the first 2 peaks, we settled down to lunch with a magnificent view of (nearly) Cader Idris and Snowdonia, but for the haze. The source of the Wye was found to be somewhat disappointing - basically a dry gully on an unremarkable hillside with a little plaque. Whereas the source of the Severn was much more impressive - a largish stagnant algae-covered pool with a large signpost pointing out its significance in Welsh and English. And it had a lovely big path going right to it! Paths, although clearly marked on the map, had been conspicuous by their absence from the actual landscape, and the walk had taken in a lot of tussocks interspersed with the occasional (very unexpected, judging by the exclamations) bog.

At Llyn Rheidol

The Wye, allegedly

More worthy of photographing

On we went to bag the last 2 peaks, and then it was downhill most of the way over an unlimited supply of ankle-turning tussocks great and small, bogs, downright swamps and a few river crossings. Wearily, the intrepid explorers struggled on through the afternoon heat, inviting visions of cold pints of beer/cider/Pimms tantalising before their eyes. We arrived back at the cars by 6pm, and the well-deserved pints materialised shortly afterwards in the Devil's Bridge Hotel. Aaaah!

Back at the campsite, the midges were, if anything, even more numerous and hungry than the night before. We doused ourselves in all available insect repellent sprays, but discovered that these midges seemed to actively like DDT. Bruce was dispatched to the forest with Gary's saw and instructions to bring back some wet wood to smoke them out, but only succeeded in smoking ourselves. Nevertheless, Alan kept our spirits up with a nice campfire sing-along. As we finally retired after 11, we can proudly say that the midges didn't win.

Citing weary ankles and friends in Shrewsbury, Gaby and Mike departed the next morning, still scratching. Other people went on short walks and in Gary's case, a small outing on his road bike (the clothing matched the bike, which we found most impressive). Claire, Alan and Keyna stuck to the intended Sunday walk and drove even deeper into Wales to a starting point near Strata Florida. As with the rest of this part of Wales, the well defined path from the road dissolved into bogs and tussocks after a few miles. We were delighted (not) that the midges decided to join us for lunch on our nameless peak, with views down to the Elan Reservoirs. Then it was on to the Teifi Pools - actually quite big scenic lakes rather than the even bigger bogs we imagined - and the scenery was dramatic, very reminiscent to the wilds of N.W. Scotland, which certainly came with a 'wow' factor. It was well worth the long drive back to civilisation before commencing the journey home.

Gaby Broadfoot, Claire White

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29 June-1 July - Wilderness Camping

Present: Claire & Alan (organisers), Bruce, Keyna, Paula (plus Laura and Andy H for the Saturday night booze up)

Location: Black Mountain, Wales

Following the wettest June on record, the forecast for the weekend was dismal – with yet more severe weather warnings, but perfect for testing the waterproofness, stability and durability of our kit. "Unexpected last minute business" to attend to meant some members were unable to join us as planned.

The journey down the M4 was in glorious sunshine, and it was still dry when we set off from the car park. After crossing the road, we found our intended path closed due to an unsafe bridge, and a diversion was in place. A 40 minute detour found us on the correct side of the bridge, and so we at last set off at 9.30pm (having already walked 2 miles).

By the time we had climbed onto the Black Mountain ridge, a thick damp mist had set in, it got very dark, and we stumbled blindly on until we eventually reached our lonely camping place beside Llyn y Fan Fawr just before midnight. After erecting the tents, we stood with our drinks, peering into the mist looking out for Bruce, who due to his late departure from work, was to join us via a shorter route in. There was much excitement when we spotted a light moving erratically about the mountainside, so we made lots of noise to attract it – and luckily it was indeed a slightly off-target Bruce, and not something more sinister. The rain started, as forecast, at 3am, sending the last of the revellers (Alan and Bruce) to bed.


Sheltering from the rain

In the morning we were very surprised to find 3 other tents camped just 50 feet beside us; how they hadn’t been disturbed by our evening activities was a mystery. When we finally decided that the rain was here to stay, we packed up our soggy belongings and headed cross country (rather than up the mountain), and went to see where we would have camped on Saturday night had it not been for the risk of flash flooding. Small streams were now raging torrents. At one stage Claire disappeared up to her waist into a bog, and Keyna jumped in to rescue her. Neither noticed a difference to their level of wetness (even the best Goretex doesn’t work in these conditions). After a visit to some impressive swallow holes, and to the site of a crashed wartime Wellington Bomber, we arrived at Dan Yr Ogof Campsite at 4pm with the promise of hot showers and dry clothes (which didn’t stay dry for too long). Gourmet meals of several courses were consumed along with copious amounts of wine, huddled together in the porch of Alan and Claire’s tent into the early hours – and still it rained and rained.

Drowned rats

Not rain, but still soaking

We finally gave in and headed for home Sunday lunchtime, but not before a final soaking at the spectacular Henrhyd Waterfall. Believe it or not, a great time was had by all… and we hadn’t let the rain win!!!

Claire White

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6-8 July - Peak District

Present: Bob (organiser), Rhoda, Simon, Julie and 8 year old Tom.

Dreadful weather conditions in the previous week together with localised flooding in the South Yorkshire region saw a much reduced number of precisely 4 and one child travel up to camp at a charming farm with minimal home comforts. Keeping the faith paid off big time as Saturday was spent at a very dry (you could almost call it hot) Lawrencefield warming up on Snail Crack and other easy grade climbs with “athletic” (translation: “mind where you put your thumbs”) starts, and then glorious evening sunshine for Bob’s crank up Great Portland Street on London Wall at Millstone Edge, followed by a well deserved mega meal at the Robin Hood in Hathersage. By the time the party arrived back at the camp site we had the energy only to admire two of Jupiter’s moons through Bob’s snazzy hi spec binoculars before crawling into bed.

We were breakfasting in fantastic sunshine when Julie got a text from local friends suggesting a meeting at a wall because of the rain. “What rain?” she unwittingly texted back. Most of Sunday morning was then spent drinking pints of tea in the Outside Café and affording newcomer Simon a chance to purchase brand new boots and harness, which he may not get a chance to use again if this dreadful summer continues.

“Keeping the Faith” won through again in the end though. Where lesser mortals may have headed back down the M1 the party headed for Stanage on the premise that the wind would dry it out faster, and lo! more climbing was done.

Julie Carlisle

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14-18 July - Slovenia

Present: Claire (organiser), Richard N, Sarah, Bruce, Paula, Dave W, Rhoda, Bob, Sue, Si, Laura, Andy H

The Julian Alps of Slovenia were a new destination for NMC, although not at all new to "tour leader" Claire, who was on her third visit in three years. On Saturday morning, 12 people assembled at Stansted for full English breakfasts and a "who has the lightest backpack" competition. Si lost, his bag weighing in at nearly 10kg ("I don't know what I've got in there..."), while Paula had managed to pack everything into a 22l rucksack - apart from the few things that Dave was carrying on her behalf.

On arrival in Ljubljana, the heat was immediately noticeable; not just because we've had hardly any summer here, we don't often get 33-degree-plus temperatures anyway. We caught a bus to Bled, where our first night's accommodation was in the Youth Hostel. The lake at Bled is almost unbelievably picturesque, with its castle on an island in the middle. When told that the planned dinner location was an hour round the lake in one direction or 10 minutes in the other, hunger won over any desire to stretch our legs, and we swiftly arrived at a local pizzeria for food, beers, and a chance to watch several hundred runners in head torches circumnavigate the lake. On our way back to the hostel, Rhoda decided to join in with the runners and got a few cheers, possibly because she was also carrying a pizza box. Many of the group diverted to a bar to end the evening with a few local schnapps.

Sunday morning required a prompt start: the 8.15 bus to the lake at Bohinj, which was the start and end point of the walk. Once we'd acquired a few 1:25000 maps of the area (which served to remind us how spoilt we are by having the Ordnance Survey in the UK) and taken a few photos while we were all still pristine, we set off on a long, hot and sweaty ascent which ultimately took us to Dom na Komni, a nicely appointed hut at 1520m. The hut is approximately 1000m above the lake, but there was a lot of ascent and descent on the route - Claire swore that the walk was 15km, but due to the temperatures and the backpacks, it felt more like 15 miles. There were a couple of huts on the way for beer stops and water refills; at the first hut Rhoda became convinced that she'd left her passport in Bled. Two phone calls to the Youth Hostel later, it turned up in her bag.

The first day's route also took in the summit of Prsivec (1761m) and Crno Jezero, a high-level lake. As the day wore on, the group spread out: Andy turned his ankle, and Laura fell twice on the downhill section by Crno Jezero - no injury, but all we could hear was hysterical giggles as she attempted to get the better of her rucksack and recover from her "upturned beetle" position. Richard was first to arrive at the hut, shortly before 8pm, and the rest came in over the next 45 minutes, more than ready for dinner and a few drinks. The dinner menu seemed to revolve around cabbage soup and tripe, but the apple strudel was much appreciated and nobody had much room for Richard's birthday cake, which had survived Easyjet baggage handling and being dragged up into the mountains. It wasn't a late night for anyone - the dorm rooms were comfortable, although Dave did complain about being kicked in the head by Bruce during the night.

At the start.

Paula descending from Tolminski Kuk.

On Monday morning, Andy's ankle had swelled up, so he and Laura set off on the downward path to Savica. The remaining walkers split into two groups of five. Claire led Dave, Paula, Richard and Si on a high route over Bogatin (1977m), Tolminski Kuk (at 2085m the high point of the entire route involving a slightly exposed scramble) and from Skrbina pass (1910m) down a nasty scree path leading eventually to the hut. The entire route gave us superb far reaching views and spectacular mountain scenery, with a welcome cooling breeze accompanying us along the way. Dave didn’t let us linger for long, determined to beat the other group to the hut.

Meanwhile, Bruce led Sarah, Bob, Sue and Rhoda on a lower route, through high Alpine meadows and valleys with plenty of opportunity for flora and fauna spotting. Bob was convinced he'd seen a bear in the mouth of a cave through his binoculars, but further scrutiny established it was probably a deer. Once again it was very warm, and we were quickly all dripping with sweat in a very attractive fashion. Every piece of shade and breath of breeze was welcomed with relief, and reaching the Globoko pass at 1828m was extremely refreshing. From there the route dropped down to Koca na Planini Razor at 1320m, and the group succeeded in their aim to reach the hut before the others, by a mere 30 minutes or so.

Koca na Planini Razor is an Alpine cottage in very pretty surroundings, and even had a boulder for us to play on. After relaxing (recovering) in the sun and demolishing the remains of Richard's cake, we availed ourselves of large amounts of goulash washed down with local wine, and then attempted to play an over-complicated card game called Backpacker, which Sarah regretted carrying in because it really wasn't worth the effort! Later on Bob and Rhoda disappeared on a bear hunt, and there was some star-gazing before going to bed.

10 remaining at Razor

On the summit of Vogel

On Tuesday the whole group ascended Mount Vogel (1922m), reaching the summit in less than the 1-and-three-quarter hours stated on the signpost at the hut. On the way up Paula spotted a family of marmots which seemed to be waving at us. The descent from Vogel was slightly exposed, which is always interesting when you're wearing a heavy rucksack which seems to have a mind of its own, and there were a few other sections of scrambling on the ridge walk to Mount Rodica (1966m) and finally Dom Zorka Jelincica na Crni Prsti (1835m).

By this time four members of the group had taken a different route, to Orlova Glava, and then the cable car down from the Vogel Ski hotel - Sarah was worried her knackered knees wouldn't like Wednesday's descent to the lake, Bruce accompanied her, and Bob and Rhoda fancied trying out some of the activities around the lake (not just drinking, really). They all met up with Laura and Andy in Ribcev Laz for a meal and some more star-gazing, and at the end of the evening Bruce and Andy met their alcoholic match in the form of some wormwood-flavoured liqueur.

The six at Crni Prsti enjoyed the evening views from the summit accompanied by a few beers to celebrate another superb day in the mountains. Apart from another English couple we had befriended along the way, we had the hut to ourselves, but only had the choice of cabbage or barley soup for dinner, followed by some wafer biscuits (luckily Paula didn’t open the text from Rhoda displaying a photo of their dinner). It filled us up though, and we spent the remainder of the evening drinking more beer and playing cards by candlelight. Although a stunning location, the hut is basic, without even water, so the wet wipes were put to good use before going to bed.

On Wednesday the remaining walkers descended from Crni Prsti in very good time, and met up with everyone else at the lake for a much-deserved swim. Temperatures by this time were definitely in the mid-thirties, and it was slightly bizarre to look up at the mountains from the lake and realise just how far had been walked. After a good lunch, it was time for a bus journey back to the airport and home, not to mention an opportunity to compare bruises, scrapes, insect bites and sunburn.

The Julian Alps turned out to offer fantastic scenery and a few days of challenging hut-to-hut walking, with significant amounts of ascent and descent. Everyone had a great time, and the trip felt like much longer than five days, because we packed so much in.

Sarah Davies, Claire White

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3-5 August - North Lake District

Present: Richard S (organiser), Martin, Dave H, Bruce, Si, Claire, Alan, Simon H

It was the first weekend in August and with it a promise of a break in the rotten weather that the summer had brought so far. On the Friday morning, Richard, Dave and I left behind a Berkshire basking in early sunshine that was to turn out – for the southern part of the country at least – to be the hottest day of the year so far. But for us this was not meant to be, because by the time we arrived in the Lakes, the skies had greyed and brought forth drizzle.

After taking in the Whinlatter pass and a rather narrow road across the fells we arrived at the camping barn which is situated at the northern end of Loweswater. Here the rain had settled in for the day, and the night and what we thought was to be the weekend too, therefore after bagging bed space in the largest (if airiest) room (we did leave the two smallest rooms for the couples arriving later) an early visit to the pub was called for. This was described in the official brochure as being just over a mile away: well I suppose 1.8 miles is still less than two. A wet walk back found us united with the rest of the party who had arrived at the barn.

The rain was still falling at breakfast the next morning, which left enthusiasm for the high fells in short supply (I had at least a small excuse in that it was my first trip since a knee operation in April), so a low level walk was planned along Loweswater and over some low lying fell to drop into Buttermere and the Bridge Hotel for a pint before walking back along Crummock Water. However, this plan was soon modified when the rain stopped and the cloud lifted to above the summits. Grassmoor became the target instead, though I decided that its slopes were a little too steep for the first test of my repaired knee. Therefore at the northwest end of Crummock Water we parted company; I to continue along the eastern shoreline of the lake, and the others onwards and upwards to brilliant views of Grisdale Pike across to Keswick. We arranged to rendezvous 3 hours later in the Bridge Hotel.

Following a leisurely walk that was frequently interrupted whilst I stopped to take photographs, I arrived in Buttermere village and proceeded to the shore of Buttermere for lunch and more photographs. I was sure that three hours had passed since I left the others so fully expected them to be sampling the local brew when I arrived back in the village, but they weren’t. They arrived a little later than planned explaining that navigation wasn’t easy on top as the cloud had returned. We had a couple of beers in the pub before setting off for the walk back along the western shore of Crummock Water. Not too long into this and the rain returned, continuing all the way back to pub of the night before, in which we all dined on fabulous fare.

Sunday morning and it was still raining whilst we breakfasted, but by the time we had packed the cars blue skies were breaking through the cloud, which brought about calls for an assault on Blencathra via Sharp Edge (not my idea for a change). Off we all went (all minus Bruce that is) up the long plod from Scales in what was by now glorious sunshine. This wasn’t to last as by the time we reached Scales Tarn it had clouded over and turned chilly in readiness for wandering up Sharp Edge. The two Simons made short work of it breezing up the rocks; I followed behind them with Richard and Dave following nervously behind me. We then had two refusals (three if you include a Labrador, which was eventually coaxed up by its owner) with Alan and Claire deciding to return to the tarn and take the sensible path around the other side. Then a quick descent to the cars and the long journey home.

Martin Butler (words and pictures)

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10-12 August - Southern Sandstone

Present: Andy (organiser), Rhoda, Julie, Young Ed, Mike, Gaby, Graham, Young Michael

As the destination was so close, everybody decided to spend Friday night in comfy beds and drive down the M25 on Saturday morning. We all arrived in good time, pitched our tents and put rubber to the rocks by lunchtime (some people decided to sit in the dappled shade and have lunch first although somebody forgot to pack the cutlery!!). Harrison Rocks is an exceedingly nice setting, the sandstone cliffs are shaded by open deciduous forest teeming with wildlife - woodpeckers, little doormice eager to catch a crumb of biscuit, numerous bunnies... plenty to watch whilst having lunch.

Missing Cutlery 1

Missing Cutlery 2

Mike & Gaby

While some of us relaxed, Mike and Andy set up the top ropes and got ready for some trial climbs up featureless slabs to show us how it's done. For those not in the mood for slabs, there were plenty of cracks and chimneys demanding a variety of different body parts to be jammed - ankle and bottom being favourites; however, Ed managed a spectacular head jam while negotiating a cave behind a boulder. Luckily he was wearing a helmet! He certainly wasn't put off by the experience as he repeated it 3 more times, the last time in order to free the snagged rope...

Both Ed and Michael were throroughly filthy and happy after exploring a number of caves, nooks and crannies, and by 7 in the evening, we were all righteously exhausted - far too tired to cook, really, so off we went to the pub for a massive plate of food and some nice Sussex ale. The night was cool and clear, and Mike spotted a number of shooting stars, as Earth was entering the Perseid meteor shower.


Rhoda at Bowles Rocks

The next morning, we upped sticks and went to Bowles Rocks. Here, the ledges were even more rounded, the slabs even steeper and the chimneys contained a good number of brambles, trees and bushes to make life interesting. Having tired ourselves out the previous day, we gave in to aching muscles at 3 in the afternoon, had a lovely picnic on the lawn and headed home

Gaby Broadfoot, photos by Andy Miles

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11-19 August - Austria

Present: Dan (organiser), Beckie and bump, Bruce, Pam, Andy (and Kate, down in the valley)

Day I – Saturday

As Andy and Kate were already abroad, only one full car was waiting for the 6:00am ferry at Dover this year. After a large English breakfast onboard, we were in Dunkerque by 8:45 and into Belgium by 9:30. Once around Brussels we stopped for a coffee at the Barchon Services (almost a tradition now) and then headed off into Germany. Once there the roadworks were terrible and for a while continuous. Time was slipping, and even the German attitude to speed limits was not going to help make up time. We stopped for lunch above the Mosel and after a slight detour via Nürnberg (apologies, I was asleep) we were past München and into Austria. It was soon obvious that we were not going to make Hinterbichl that evening, so we looked for a guesthouse in the town of Mittersil. Teutonic efficiency meant this was easy, even at 9:00pm and we were soon in the Gasthof Haidbach having a wash in preparation for hitting the town. Pizza and a few beers later we were all tucked up in bed, sound asleep.

Day II – Sunday

Up early and breakfasted, we set off to do the last few miles to Hinterbichl. Barbara, the woman who runs the hut we were to be staying in, called and invited us for coffee at her house. So we called in and watched the world go by over coffee and tea, whilst chatting and trying to stop Peter, Barbara’s 18 month old son, from drinking and spilling the coffees. But we had mountains to conquer, so we left and parked the car at Hinterbichl. Leaving a car on the side of the road for a week is possibly not to be advised in the UK, but fine in Austria. The walk to the Johannis Hut is a 3 hour plod mostly along a gravel track, but there is a convenient 4wd minibus service to take you all the way. At 10€ per person for a 10 minute ride it is not cheap, but having done the walk several years ago I can confidently say it is worth it. Our original plan had been to stay here on Saturday night - the Johannis Hut was originally built in the 1850s making it one of the oldest huts in the Alps. Modernisation a few years back has robbed it of some of its charm, but it remains a venerable hut. We had another beer (good thing, these mountain huts) and a bowl of soup and then left the warmth of the hut for the overcast afternoon outside, ready and primed for the 850m ascent to the Defreggerhaus. Having everything for the week on our backs we decided to use the cable car. Whilst people cannot ride in it rucksacks can, for a small charge. So, with a spring in our step we climbed to the hut unburdened in a leisurely 2-3hrs. The hut is in a fine position at 2962m, quaint inside with much panelling, and small cosy rooms on the first floor. We had dinner and were in bed early (well, there is not much to do once the sun goes down).

Defreggerhaus 2962m (ascent 850m)

On the Mullwizterkees Glacier, Tuesday

Looking at the way ahead, Wednesday

On the Venediger Summit, tea time, Wednesday

Day III – Monday

We were up late. It was 7:30 when we went down for breakfast, the last in the hut to do so. But there was no rush. By 9.00 we were kitted up and ready for a day in the mountains. The plan was to head onto the Mullwitz Glacier and up to the Hoher Zaun. We roped up at the top of a rocky rib of rock called the Mullwitz Adler and set off on the glacier. Although late in the season, the ice was covered with snow making progress a little slow. A large crevasse had appeared in the glacier, meaning we needed to make a slight detour around it. The summit of the Hoher Zaun is a fine viewpoint, the mountain an easy dome on the one side but a steep jumble of rock and ice on the other. We were able to see the Neue Prager Hutte away in the distance and had a good view of the surrounding peaks. As Andy was not with us we decided not to do too many peaks without him, so it was an easy decision to return to the hut for a beer. Or two. After dinner we went out onto the ridge behind the hut and spotted a figure, the last to be doing so, making its way to the hut. As we watched it became clear that it was Andy.

Summit – Hohe Zaun 3457m (ascent 495m)

Day IV – Tuesday

Up a little earlier today and a more challenging target – the Weißspitze. This would mean a loop traverse on the Mullwitz Glacier, steep climb to a col and then a scramble to the top. According to Barbara the route had not been done much this year due to poor snowfall making the climb to the col particularly tricky. Still, to quote Hans-Ulrich Rudel - ‘Verloren ist nur, wer sich selbst aufgibt1. The initial trek over the glacier was easy. The route went over the lower part of the glacier which was free from ice and only at a slight angle making the chance of a crevasse low. We crossed a rocky outcrop and gained a little height before dropping back onto the ice to begin the last part of the loop around to the col. A large amount of stonefall onto the ice meant we had to lose some height and the steepness of the ice meant crevasses were more frequent, requiring numerous zig zags. Resting on some boulders, the way to the col looked steep, but do-able. There was a bergschrund to be crossed but it did not look too wide. So we climbed up to below the col, which normally, when there is enough snow is about 30m higher than the top of the glacier up a steep gully. This year the col was 70m higher and the extra height made up of ice with a thin covering of pulverised rock and grit. At a 50° angle just to make it more interesting. Undeterred, we crossed the bergschrund and using ice axes scrambled up to the bottom of the gully. Here the going was off the ice, but steeper and requiring care. We gained the col which is a much easier proposition on the east side and were afforded views towards the Eisee and Eicham. Bruce decided to wait at the col whilst the rest of us headed for the Summit. The cloud was down, so views were not going to be good. Beckie decided that bagging summits for the sake of it was not her thing, so went back halfway up to join Bruce. So it was that three of us stood on the top, wishing for views (which are superb). But the day was only half over. We had to return the way we had come. This meant descending the 50° ice slope. The top bit was not too bad, but the last 5m, above the cold maw of the bergschrund was a more tricky proposition. Having quite a lot of gear between us we decided to belay the last section from a pair of ice screws. It was good practice. All of us below the gap we headed back taking a more direct route over the ice to arrive back at the hut, sound in the knowledge - Venit, vidit, vicit.

Summit – Weißspitze – 3300m (ascent 470m)

Leaving the Venediger Summit, Wednesday

Descent of the Rainerhorn, Wednesday

Pam on the Kristallwand,

Day V – Wednesday

The weather today was forecast as being very good. The hut had filled up on Tuesday afternoon as the climb of the Venediger is a popular 2 day outing for Austrians and Germans (the Venediger can be seen from Munich). We were up at 6:00am, several parties had been up earlier, but many were still in bed. We ate a quick breakfast and headed off for the hills. The voie normal on the Venediger is a climb done by many thousands each season, meaning the route is well worn and easy to follow. At the roping up point there were already 20-30 people in various groups on the ice. It was going to be a busy day. Despite the forecast, the top was shrouded in mist and fog. We plodded along on the ice and snow going at the same pace of the other groups, occasionally overtaking and being overtaken. There is a steep section below the Rainerhorn which is crevassed, but other than this the route is without technical difficulty. After yesterday’s exploits, anything was possible for the NMC. At 3400m the Glacier flattens out to a plateau with the final 250m climb half a mile away over the ice. Groups from two other huts converge here, making it even busier. The last 50m to the top is a fine narrow crest leading to the large summit cross. (Only the summit of the Gross Geiger and Rainerhorn seem to be without a large cross in the immediate area.) We crossed this, glad the wind was not too bad (it is a real ‘if I fall into France, you jump into Italy’ snow crest) and made the top. At 3667m this is possibly the highest point reached on a club trip. In old money the height is 12030ft. We had a brew, stove fiercely roaring away whilst we (and the other 15 or so on the top) milled about and wished for a better view. After 30 minutes we decided to head back, but as the weather was still good we could not pass up the chance of climbing the Rainerhorn. It lies only a short distance from the main Venediger route and is a fine tooth shaped mountain, its central position in the range making it a good all round viewpoint. From the top we retraced our steps to the main trail over the glacier and romped back to the Rocky ridge above the hut. Here we stopped and enjoyed the view of the mountains we had climbed. Back at the hut we ate dinner, Bruce lit the little cast iron stove in our room and we watched the sun set over the mountains – climb the mountains and get their good tidings2.

Summits - Groß Venediger 3667m
Rainerhorn 3560m (ascent 880m)

Pam & Andy on the South Summit of the Kristallwand, Thursday

Andy doing a bit of glacier potholing, Thursday

Bruce's birthday cake,

Day VI – Thursday

Only Pam, Andy and I were up early today as Bruce decided as it was his birthday he was having a day off and Beckie was giving her heels a day off – her new boots having given her a blister or two. Today’s objective was the Kristalwand, from the north a soaring 3000ft wall, nicknamed the Eiger by the locals and the Direttissima the hardest rock route in the area (first climbed in 1933 and little repeated). Our route was from the south, over the glacier and a much gentler proposition. The first part of the route was as Tuesday, but once on the first rocky section we trended north up very steep ice to gain the upper part of the glacier. From then on it was a straightforward glacial route, although open crevasses meant we spent some time threading our way along. There is a ridge here which although shallow on the right is steep on the left side and traversing along this, although some way from the edge we approached the summit of the Kristalwand. It has two crosses and is a remote and little traversed peak. The view from the top over the north face is quite spectacular and owing to the loose and rotten rock, somewhat dangerous to view. No wonder the route up the face is seldom repeated. We could have descended to the Badner Hut and called in on Eric, but the weather was unsettled. We ate lunch and with the words of Uncle Monty in our minds - “Come on lads, let's get home, the sky's beginning to bruise, night must fall and we shall be forced to camp” we began to head back. The steep descent to the rocks was not as hard as we were expecting, crampons working well and biting into the bare ice, so we stopped and looked a while at the view, the clouds and the glacier. Back at the hut Bruce regaled us with his epic day down at the snout of the glacier evading quicksands and wondering if glacier caving was a wise idea. Beckie had made the most of the sun reading and chatting to Barbara on the benches outside the hut. We had a few beers, watched the weather get steadily worse and celebrated Bruce’s birthday (his 3rd in Austria).

Summit – Kristalwand 3329m (ascent 450m)

Day VII onwards – Friday - Sunday

The weather was bad when we got up. There were only a handful of people in the hut so we had a late breakfast, paid the bill (190€ each for 4 of us and 160€ for Andy – for 5 days in the hut including all food and drinks) and after a long goodbye we headed off for the Johannis Hut. Kate arrived up from Hinterbichl in the valley so we had lunch together before waiting in the light rain for the 4wd minibus. Pam decided to walk down and with perfect timing arrived at the trail head after a 6km descent just as we arrived in the minibus.

Andy and Kate headed back to their car and Bruce, Pam, Beckie and I headed off for Lermoos on the German border, just south of Füssen. It claims to be one of the best mountain bike areas in the Alps with many miles of trails – possibly worth a visit one year. We stayed in another fine guesthouse for 25€ each and had a good inexpensive dinner. Saturday was an 8-hour drive across Germany and into Belguim where we decided to stop at Aalst, a few miles north-west of Brussels. At first it looked like a pretty dismal industrial backwater, but after we actually found the centre it turned out to be a pretty cobbled town with some fine architecture and fine cuisine. We stayed in an accommodating hotel who went to the trouble of getting extra beds (although the lack of a door on the toilet in the room Pam and Bruce were sharing must have made for an interesting night). The following morning we were back at the ferry and home for lunch.

1 "Only those who themselves give up are lost."
2 John Muir

Dan Unwin

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24-27 August - Pembrokeshire

Present: Keyna (organiser), Shaun, Joanne, Steve L, Sarah, Bruce, Dave H, Lee

One of the last camping trips of the year before the barn and bothy season begins.

Well we had pack leader Keyna, her gorgeous much-better half Shaun the biker, nimble and brave Joanne and her rucksack-carrying gentle long legged partner Steve, Lee Lee the walking machine, the tall dark and handsome Dave Hall with the sexy Essex accent, Scottish Bruce with his face painted blue like Braveheart, and Sarah, the girl with the red hair and the sweet smile.

Quite a nice little group to be getting away with.

All arrived on Friday night and some drinking was to be had which is the norm for the NMC upon arrival at any weekend venue. Joanne and Steve were sporting their new luxo-berg tent that is a dead ringer for that of the club's Webmaster Sarah. Good advice Sarah. Bigger than their house and great for a party.

The weather was awesome. On day one we did a walk around St David's, taking in some beautiful coastline, stopping at a pub and for ice cream on the way and spotting wildlife such as seals and a little adder. I am pretty sure we saw some of those little black slugs you get in Wales as well. Almost forgot - we saw porpoises as well. Brilliant.

On the second day most of the group did a walk around the local headland straight out of the campsite while Keyna and Shaun went gallivanting off on their roadbikes.

Check out the fine shots:

Taking a break


A bit of scenery

The gallivanters

Keyna Garner

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5-7 October - Cornwall

Present: Rhoda (organiser), Bob, Keyna, Melanie, Bruce, Sarah, Maggie, Emer, Richard N, Paul, Dave W, Paula, Mike, Gaby, Mark, Marion, Dan, Beckie, Claire, Alan, Joanne, Steve L, Steve W, Julie & family, Graham & family

A total of 25 existing/prospective Club members, 4 friends/spouses, 4 children and a dog made it to Kelynack, near St Just, making this the most well-attended trip of the year so far. The journey down on Friday evening was remarkably trouble-free, and took a lot less than the predicted 6 hours to get to the far end of Cornwall. Most people had a glass or two of beer or wine before turning in, and it's believed that getting 18 people into one static caravan might be some sort of record.

On Saturday morning there was a very early start for those who had opted to climb Commando Ridge at Bosigran: because of the tide times, the group left at 7.15am. Commando Ridge was recently featured on the BBC's "Ultimate Rock Climb" - the sight of a TV-presenter climbing novice completing the route, plus its VDiff classification, made it an attractive option for both experienced and inexperienced climbers, as well as some people who haven't been spotted on outdoor routes for a few years.

Those on the climb were Bruce, Bob, Paul, Dan, Rhoda, Emer, Mark, Paula and Graham - nine people with only seven ropes! The route took longer than originally planned, but the plan was flexible: the group did one long pitch at the start and thus avoided the difficulties on the first three pitches and the risk of getting swept off the base by the sea. Then at the end they descended one pitch instead of tackling the top two harder pitches. The first major pitch was really exposed and not suitable for beginners as it turned out, but on the other hand it was brilliant and the exposure was amazing! Bob, leading, took the most direct and hardest line instead of the easier line to the left (it was noticed at Bosigran on Sunday that most parties seem to be taking the line to the left, but when he looked at it, it didn't look as good so he went what seemed to be the most interesting way). Everyone took care to ensure that everyone else was safe, by back-clipping the ropes, making space at belays and clipping each other in to safe anchor points. Because of the group size, there was a lot of hanging around (no pun intended), which became quite sociable when groups from Wessex MC caught up. One Wessex club member promised to salute Newbury every time he went past because we let him climb through us. Another two joined Bruce as he made the final descent of the exposed pitch 4 and collected up the gear.

Bob, Emer and a spaghetti junction of ropes (Graham)

Paul on pitch 2

Bruce collecting the gear

It was a great team effort, with lots of patience and good humour being demonstrated throughout, and a lot of fun. For Emer and Mark this was their first outdoor climb, so well done and also well done to Paula who hasn't been out for some years but did the exposed pitch with only a little "disco leg". The group finally finished, starving, at 3pm, and some went off for a swim.

The walkers set out at the more civilised hour of 9.30am. A group of eleven, led by Claire and Mike, took two attempts to locate the right exit from the campsite and then walked through St Just, up to Cape Cornwall, and along the South West Coast Path to Sennen. The Cornish coast path should not be seen as an easy option: the SWCP website describes most of this north coast stretch as "challenging" and "rugged". The excellent weather made for wonderful views, which took our minds off the numerous ascents, descents, and rocks to clamber over. At Sennen, the group split: some had a great time in the pub watching England win against the odds and the Aussies (Alan), and others didn't want to let a brilliant surf go to waste and braved the decidedly refreshing sea with full wetsuits and bodyboards. Apart from William who was tough enough to go in with only shorts on! After a good two hours battling the waves, the surfers were all thoroughly exhausted, with barely the energy to give Tom and Ed a boost over the waves. After toes had started turning blue, even Beckie, Marion and Julie gave up and retired for a well-deserved cream tea. Meanwhile just four people - Claire, Sarah, Maggie and Mel - were left to fortify themselves with pasties and ice cream (with clotted cream AND a Flake!) before continuing on the final stretch of the walk to Land's End. From there they caught the open-top bus back to the campsite, a somewhat breezy experience.

Look at all those sunglasses... (Claire)

Richard, Keyna and Dave walked the other way along the coast path to Zennor and then returned to Kelynack on the same open-top bus (although only Dave braved the rapidly cooling temperatures on the top deck). Steve W and friends opted to climb at Sennen, before joining the surfing group in the afternoon.

Saturday evening brought much consumption of gourmet meals or takeaway, depending on people's preferences, followed by another party in Caravan 1 with plenty of bizarre spirits on offer...

Sunday morning followed tradition with a more leisurely start for most. Steve, Leigh, Heather, Gaby and Ness the dog set off early (before 10am) to the crags at Bosigran. Commando Ridge was obviously out, due to the dog, but there were plenty of single- and multi-pitch options available on the other side of the zawn. After a few goes at lifting Ness over huge boulders, we settled down at the bottom of Alison's Rib - a wonderful 2-pitch 3* VDiff with brilliant views over the sea. After everyone (apart from Gaby) had donned enough gear for an assault on Annapurna, Steve led the classic crack line, enthusing about the quality of the rock and the great holds. The others followed (apart from Ness, who was left at the bottom crying for her daddy), and everybody agreed that this was simply excellent fun - who needs to wrestle with an E3 when you could enjoy yourself? By the time they were finished, the rest of the climbers (Bob, Maggie, Paul and Graham) had made an appearance as well, and Gaby liked Alison's Rib so much, she decided to do it again; this time on the much more exposed arrete. Steve, Heather and Leigh went off for an afternoon's surfing (with Ness), and Gaby caught up with Mike, fresh back from a 30 mile bike ride with Dave and Keyna. Rhoda, Paula, Richard, Mel and Emer walked from Porthcurno round to Whitesands Beach; and Alan, Claire, Sarah, Bruce, Steve and Joanne walked from Zennor to St Ives, where they rewarded themselves with cream teas before the long journey home.

A combined effort from Rhoda, Gaby and Sarah

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13-21 October - Mallorca

Present: Bob (organiser), Rhoda, Sarah, Bruce, Catherine, Pam, Richard N, Paul, Cliff

In the beginning was the Plan, and the Plan was Bob’s. All things were included in the Plan, and the travellers viewed the Plan and saw that it was good.

Shame that Luton Airport, Monarch Airlines and BA weren’t informed of our intricate schedule, though.

We eventually arrived in Mallorca nearly three hours later than planned – the fire alarm at Luton was only an inconvenience which deprived us of a decent breakfast; sitting on the tarmac for ages while waiting for the plane’s refuelling problems to be fixed was slightly more annoying. We met up with Pam (minus her luggage, thanks to BA – spot the irony) at Palma and acquired our hire cars for the week before setting off across the island like something out of the Italian Job. Except, in Spain. And with Ford Fiestas.

Our first location was Alcùdia, in the north-east of the island. The hotel was firmly in the British-influenced area, so we went down to the port for an excellent meal and a few bottles of Rioja.

On Sunday the climbers went to La Creveta, above Port de Pollença, to start the week off gently with a few short, easy routes. This was slightly thwarted by the sheer number of German teenagers on the main wall, and it was also noted that some routes were a little harder than the grading suggested – a 4+ in Mallorca isn’t necessarily the same as a 4+ in the UK.

Meanwhile, the walkers set off along the nearby Boquer Valley, with the intention of getting up on to the ridge and walking along it as far as was feasible. As there was no obvious path up to the ridge and the Cicerone Guide was nicely vague on the subject, we decided to take the most direct route through what looked like long grass. Twenty minutes later we were nursing our scratched legs and cursing the gorse and rosemary that had impeded our progress. In the end we didn’t get to the top of the ridge, deciding to back down after scrambling about a third of the way up the steep, grippy rocks. That same rock proved to be a bit of a hindrance to people using the “bum-slide” method to get back down again: in the battle of rock vs seat of pants, the rock prevailed. Once back on a path, we walked down to Cala Boquer, where Cliff quoted poetry to an inquisitive goat.

The whole group met up at Cap Formentor in the late afternoon, for a half hour forest walk down to Cala en Gossalba, and then a swim. Rhoda made friends with some Germans on a boat in the bay, mainly because they wanted to know how their football team were doing (a quick thanks to my mum here for texting us football and rugby scores all week). Paul decided to swim out to see the sunset and for a while, we thought we’d lost him. For some, the evening meal was in the Ivy Garden in Port de Pollença (Rhoda’s favourite of the week); for those who couldn’t be bothered to venture out again, it was pizza and an “ironic” tour of the bars local to the hotel. The Stagger Inn, anyone?

By Monday morning, everyone was comparing mosquito bites: in terms of numbers and severity, Catherine definitely won (or lost, depending on how you look at it). We all drove through Artà to the Serra de Llevant, where the climbers spent several hours getting in some routes at El Calo de Betlem before a coastal walk. The walkers had a long day, with 3-4 hours added on to the original walk because the road up to the start point was inaccessible. Nevertheless we successfully completed the walk up to a former pirate lookout, with Cliff and Rhoda spending a lot of time looking for booted eagles. There were also several Eleanor’s falcons and peregrine falcons spotted throughout the week. After everyone met up for beers in Artà, we returned to the same restaurant as the first night, finishing off the meal with shots of the local liqueur.

Group meal on the first night (Catherine)

Catherine and Richard at Cap Formentor (Sarah)

Checking map against signpost (Catherine)

On Tuesday we packed up and headed for Pollença, where the majority of us were staying in the centre of town. Pam stayed at the Ermita de Nostra Senyora del Puig, a former monastery south of town with fantastic views. The day’s walk for everyone started from Lluc, for an ascent of Puig de Massanella – at 1367m, the second highest peak on Mallorca. (The highest, Puig Major, has a military base and hence is out of bounds.) The terrain was steep and mostly in the shelter of trees, but paths were clearly marked (although it proved a little too easy to take the wrong route on the way down). The top of the mountain is supposed to have wonderful views, which were unfortunately hindered that day by the volume of cloud; some of the group then came back down via the same route, while the rest took on a slightly different descent to get back to the cars.

In the evening we found a restaurant in Pollença, Ca’n Costa, which served us possibly the best food of the week (in this writer’s opinion, anyway) and also had a guest book for Rhoda to scribble in. Quote of the evening: “You’re getting a bit Ann Widdecombe, you know”. Yes, you probably had to be there.

On Wednesday, it rained. And rained and rained and chucked in a bit of mountain thunder for good measure. (Still, could have been worse: Palma had a tornado, and that was the second one of the week.) This put paid to any thoughts of climbing, and walking would have been a depressing option as well. Instead, Bob, Rhoda, Cliff and Pam went birdwatching at Albufera Marsh, and were followed around most of the day by an explosive little song bird called a Cetti’s (or should that be Jetty’s?) Warbler. They also saw lots of other birds including the rare red knob coot and purple gallinule. The huge storm in the afternoon saw them holing up for a good while in one particular bird hide right on a small lake in intense rain, thunder and lightning. Rhoda felt like she was in Noah's Ark, and half-envisaged the hide breaking free and floating off! Luckily the sky did brighten again and the sun came back out.

Everyone else explored Pollença, climbing the long flight of steep stone steps (the Via Crucis) to the viewing point and in Richard’s case, almost getting as far as the monastery before the rain sent him back. Meanwhile Paul found himself a bar where he could drink wine and continue reading the novel he bought for the Malaga trip two years ago. The eventual bill, when it was finally time to leave and consider dinner in a local Italian place, came close to 100 euro – but by that time Bruce, Richard, Catherine and I had joined him for a few drinks, honest...

Thursday, according to the Plan, meant the walk along the Torrent de Pareis: a stunning gorge which would require ropes to get down some of the steeper parts. Unfortunately this adventure wasn’t possible because of the recent volume of rain – however, the Plan was flexible, and instead we drove to Soller and walked along the coast to Deia in far better weather than we’d experienced in Pollença. Deia is well-known as the home and final resting place of poet and writer Robert Graves, and both village and beach were very picturesque. We saw hardly any other people... until we reached the bus stop for the return to Soller, and encountered an absolute scrum. Richard and Pam’s decision to walk back was possibly more sensible.

Once we got back, Bob and Paul checked out the short climbing routes available at Port de Soller, and Rhoda, Bruce and Sarah went for a swim while Catherine lounged on the beach and took the occasional incriminating photo. We then had the first of a few tram rides back to Soller – great fun, even if it was a little shaky for decent photos. The restaurant for that evening was in Soller’s main square, and a few things seemed to get lost in translation: don’t ask Bruce about the blue cheese sauce...

In the cloud at the top of Massanella (Catherine)

On the way to Deia

A well-earned beer after a walk and a swim (Sarah)

Friday was the big day for the climbers: Bob, Paul and Rhoda successfully completed the 7-pitch 4+ Albahida route at Sa Gubia, a “spire-like ridge” (Rockfax) which is reputedly the most popular long route on the island. It started with a 45 minute walk in up a dry river bed, which was hot but easy to follow. They then met a friendly dog, who left with Cliff and Pam on their walk. The climb started at 11 and they finally got to the summit at 7, for a simple hour and a half walk down a windy track. There was some great leading and route finding from both Paul and Bob, Paul not having done many large multi-pitch routes before. More booted eagles were spotted overhead as they climbed. Apparently Bob didn't shout too much (the likes of 'get a move on', 'come on', 'no time for that' etc), except when near the top of the climb and starting on the Alpine finish - roped up with slings over prominent bits of rope just in case, it took an hour to get to the top of the mountain from the end of the rock climbing. Belay stances were very small but with a great view. Afterwards they celebrated with plates of Iberico ham and cheese and beer in the bar at the end of the walk.

Everyone else took the Soller train through the mountains to Palma for a day of sightseeing and café culture. The train line was opened in 1912 and still retains its original character; the mountain views are more than worth the journey. Catherine’s “interesting” luck continued in Palma when a horse pulling a tourist carriage managed somehow to walk into her outside the cathedral – fortunately no serious injuries on either side.

By Saturday, that café culture was beginning to pervade – or maybe the climbers were just knackered after the previous day’s exploits. Only Richard, Pam and Cliff did the long circular walk from Valdemossa up to the Puig del Teix (1064m). Bob, Bruce, Rhoda and I took the boat from Port de Soller round to Sa Calobra, to approach the Torrent de Pareis from the opposite direction. We walked and waded in as far as we could, before time and water levels got the better of us. Catherine did the same journey, but on a later boat: on arrival she was immediately soaked through by a freak wave (see what I mean about the interesting luck?) and by the time she was due to return the seas were too rough, so that meant a bus ride up the most challenging road in Mallorca, which at one point swings round 270 degrees under itself. Paul, meanwhile, was checking out the quality of the wine in various Port de Soller hostelries...

In the Torrent de Pareis (Sarah)

Getting her feet wet (Sarah)

The restaurant for the final night was chosen from the Rough Guide, which yet again proved that it is only a guide, and not always an entirely reliable one. Suffice to say the food was very traditional – for the first time all week, vegetarian options were non-existent and Catherine ended up back in the previous night’s Italian place (much friendlier!). The waiter was a cross between Manuel and Basil Fawlty, and not typically Spanish at all. There was a diversion to a bar on the way back, to finish the evening off for those who hadn’t already had enough to drink.

On Sunday Pam left early on the train for her flight back (it’s not yet known if her luggage got back with her), and the rest of us had a leisurely morning exploring the remainder of Soller, including the Botanical Gardens which was a very educational experience if you had Rhoda with you. Bob and Catherine walked out towards the village of Biniaraix. Three guesses where Paul was… We then met up and headed for Palma and the airport, stopping off en route for a final lovely meal with accompanying local wine. The flight was on time, the temperature at Luton was a nasty shock, and yet another Bob trip was over. To shamelessly copy from a similarly epic trip report of several years ago: gracias, Señor Bob!

Sarah Davies, with contributions from Rhoda Bashford

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19-21 October - Peak District

Present: Pokey (organiser), Annie, Maggie, Paula, Beckie, Dan, Charlie, Martin L, Simon H

This year’s autumn trip to the Peak District saw us returning to the Thorpe Farm bunkhouses near Hathersage. A short hop across the hills for us, but a bit more of a slog for the poor souls that live down south. Martin arrived first to get the lights on and heating turned up, with us arriving shortly after. The bunkhouse was clean, warm and, once over the initial hit of ex-cowshed odour, quite pleasant. After a bit of dinner we headed into Hathersage for the usual Friday pint, Beckie and Dan were already there having a curry. Luckily Simon arrived just as we were leaving. That left Maggie, Paula and Charlie to arrive; it was a small but elite group as some of the softer NMC members were in the Mallorca sunshine. Everyone finally turned up in the Little John pub, once a rough and ready pub, now oddly refurbished with leather easy chairs. We had two designated drivers for the weekend, Beckie and Annie both being pregnant (is this a first for a club trip?).

Saturday was supposed to be a crisp sunny autumn day, so the plan was to do a walk that took in the autumn colours of the woods surrounding Chatsworth. We parked up at Baslow and walked through Chatsworth park along the river. The views were limited at first due to the thick mist, vague tree shapes could be seen. With a bit of effort you could almost imagine the wash of different colours. Luckily the Peak District calendar hanging on our kitchen wall had such an image, so I didn’t have to imagine too hard. By the time we had got to the other end of the park the mist had lifted and it became the lovely sunny day which was forecast. The walk took us along the Derwent, through Calton Lees to Rowsley, then up over the top towards Bakewell. We had lunch in a nice spot with the spire of Bakewell church in the distance. After lunch we dropped towards Bakewell and picked up a disused railway line. At the old Bakewell station we parted company with the pregnant and infirm (Annie, Beckie and Maggie). They headed into town to find a warm teashop (with a toilet). The rest of us carried on along the railway towards Great Longstone, where we were forced by mutinous action to have a pint in the Crispin Inn. Suitably refreshed we then walked up the ridge of High Rake and Bleaklow, before heading back down towards Baslow, narrowly avoiding death by a prat in a Range Rover. The sun was just setting when we got back to the cars, and we drove over to Bakewell to pick up the others. After a freshen-up we headed out for dinner in the pub: we were aiming for the Little John but it was packed out with expectant rugby supporters for the World Cup final. We ended up in the Millstone, further up the Sheffield road, for a hearty meal and a few nice pints.

Chatsworth in the mist

Hathersage and Hope Valley in the mist

Sunday was a very cold and misty start. Once the bunkhouse was empty, clean and tidy, Beckie and Dan went off to meet some relatives, while the rest of us headed off for a walk. We dropped Charlie off in Hathersage; she was feeling the effects of Saturday’s walk and had opted for church and gear shopping. As we drove up the hill towards the car park at Millstone Edge, we came out of the cloud to a splendid sunny morning with hot air balloons drifting around and the Hope Valley shrouded in mist. Sunday’s walk was a bit shorter and took us along the top of Millstone, to Higger Tor, then down along Burbage, where we stopped for a spot of lunch. We then dropped down along the pretty wooded valley of Burbage Brook and up across Lawrence Field back to the cars. After an ice cream we went into Hathersage for a cup of tea and a spot of gear shopping, where Maggie bought a new climbing helmet (no longer will we see that famous ‘pink’ helmet on the crags). After brief farewells we set off for home, feeling revitalised after two days of nice autumn walking.

Ian Pocock

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2-4 November - Tyncornel, mid-Wales

Present: Dan (organiser), Richard S, Martin B, Alan, Claire, Sarah, Martin L, Marion, Alison, Paul H

Tyncornel (or Ty'n-y-Cornel, depending on your language preference) bunkhouse was booked on a last minute whim for the same weekend last year, and proved to be a surprise outside contender for the Trip of the Year award. So we booked it again. Ten people set off for the depths of Wales on Friday evening, a journey which progresses from motorway to A roads to country lanes to farm tracks. The occupants of Richard's and Dan's cars met up at the last outpost of civilisation (Llandovery) for a meal - and for Sarah and Claire, a swift bottle of red which went down far too easily. On arrival at the hostel, we discovered two wardens in residence, which at least meant the fire was well established and we could all crowd into a nice warm room for more red wine and a few beers. The traditional late night ensued for several people - well, if you stoke up the fire at close to 3am, you have to make the most of it...

On Saturday morning, we almost achieved the miracle of a 9am start. It was just ten minutes later when we set off down the track with a full day's circuit in mind: across country, around the western end of the Llyn Brianne reservoir, and then back past Craig Ddu and Foel Fraith. Shortly after reaching Soar y Mynydd the track branched, and there was a lot of discussion over which route to take - Dan and Martin L eventually settled it by stating firmly "We're going this way". Not ten minutes later, they were battling their way through some hefty undergrowth on a precipitous slope, trying to work out if the river was crossable. Only one mutter of "...told you so" was heard as the rest of us watched and then tried to locate a better path down. Dan, Paul and Martin L got across the river first, and then waited, camera at the ready, as everyone else faffed, swore and in some cases started removing boots and socks. Claire and Sarah went for the "trust the gaiters and wade" route, while Alan was last across having considered all his options several times, finally plunging into the water with a cry of "For England!".

Map faff 1...

... and 180 degrees around, map faff 2.

Paul makes the slippery stones look easy...

... but Sarah takes the wading option.

Richard's expression suggests the water was cold.

Alan contemplates the stepping stones...

... before taking it at a run.

Our lunch stop gave us a lovely view of the reservoir framed by autumnal trees, a good excuse for Martin B to get his tripod out. The sun came out properly for the first time as well, which made us wonder if it was actually possible to get sunburned in Wales in November. Most of the rest of the walk was on clear tracks, but we saw no other walkers all day, only two mountain bikers who seemed to be doing the opposite circuit to us as we passed them twice. We got back to the hostel at 5pm, just as it was beginning to get dark, having done somewhere in the region of 12-13 miles.

The evening basically involved food, drink and firewood - Dan had forgotten his MP3 player, so no eclectic music collection this year. In a fine example of teamwork, Alan produced vats of mulled wine to his own special secret recipe, Dan served up carrot and cashew nut soup without grating his fingers into the pot as well, Sarah and her excellent sous-chefs cooked chilli con carne (with an extremely spicy veggie option which also went down well), and Claire provided treacle tart and custard. Everyone else washed up, and we were far too full for the After Eights and chocolate orange which were then produced... although we had a damn good try at polishing those off as well. As the evening wore on we entertained ourselves by taking photos of Richard when he fell asleep in front of the fire, and the last people went to bed at about 1am, when the alcohol supplies were running out.

On Sunday we were ready to go before 10am, which is another near-miracle (OK, only five minutes before 10am, but still worthy of a mention). Again, we decided to walk straight from the hostel, and after more adventures in barbed wire and river crossing, embarked on the sort of uphill that almost requires you to grab onto the grass to haul yourself up. It certainly got the circulation going: on reaching the top, Alan announced that he was sweating red wine. At that point the last of the morning mist cleared and the sun came out... and we realised that actually, we should have been on the next hill over - but no matter, we did our best to pick up the path (on the map, if not in actuality) past Bryn Gwyddel. Although a much shorter distance than the day before, the terrain was more challenging: a lot of knee-deep grass and those infamous tussocks. Richard nearly had to take a compass bearing on a number of occasions.

Up the hill from the hostel

Battling the tussocks

Horse? Mammoth?

A bit of extra weight

We stopped for lunch at the standing stone at Cefn Cnwcheithinog, which also had a large skull and several other bones balanced on a nearby cairn - outsized horse or woolly mammoth, we couldn't decide. More tussock- and bog-hopping then ensued before we found the path into the forest, which was gloriously gloomy and atmospheric. The logging track, with its two-foot-deep muddy tyre tracks, was less so, although Dan picked up a large slice of tree trunk which he carried for the remainder of the walk. The final descent at the edge of the forest was the one we'd been trying to avoid because Claire and Alan did it last year and didn't recommend it, but we missed the turn and ended up skidding down a grassy, muddy drop. At least half the group fell, some several times (was Dan encumbered by the weight of tree trunk in his rucksack?) and gained varying marks for artistic impression and technical merit. After that it was a short distance back to the hostel for tea and clean clothes. Again, we'd seen no other walkers all day, just four muddy quad bikers who we'd encountered three times.

We set off for home in the late afternoon, once again having thoroughly enjoyed our stay in the Welsh wilderness. No doubt we shall return...

Sarah Davies (words), Dan Unwin and Claire White (pictures)

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16-18 November - Kendal Mountain Film Festival

Present: Dan (organiser), Beckie, Sarah, Alan, Claire, Bruce

"I seem to have misplaced Ambleside."
"This hostel costs how much for a dorm place?"
"Call this a pub?"
"No sausages. Again."
"How on earth did they complete that climb/ski that mountain/survive that fall?"

The above quotes pretty much encapsulate another visit to the Kendal Mountain Film Festival, that annual extravaganza of adventure films and lectures from well-known and less-well-known figures in the world of mountaineering. There were just six of us this year: Sarah set off from Newbury at the crack of dawn on Friday with the intention of getting a walk in, but her route up to Fairfield from Ambleside was curtailed by low cloud and rain - unable to see more than 20 metres in all directions, she came back down after three hours and took refuge in a gear shop or two instead. Everyone else set off later and got caught up in a variety of traffic problems. Again, we were staying at Kendal YH, but somehow the booking for a 6-bunk room made by Dan five months ago had mysteriously changed into three places in a men's communal dorm, and three places in a women's dorm... Dan, Beckie and Sarah went for a curry on arrival; the others managed to find a pub which apparently didn't stock beer, white wine, grapefruit juice or water, a turn of events which just about made Alan's evening.

On Saturday we were all up promptly for a full English breakfast (minus sausages), before the first of several walks to and from Kendal Leisure Centre. A number of talks were taken in that day, including the "big-screen premiere" (because it's been on Channel 4 about three times recently) of "The Beckoning Silence", a retrospective on Peter Boardman and Joe Tasker 25 years after they disappeared on Everest, and Ranulph Fiennes (twice, for Alan and Claire). We also adhered to a few NMC traditions while in Kendal: counting the down jackets on display, the annual visit to Bargain Booze, and playing pool into the early hours of the morning while letting latecomers into the hostel.

Sunday was predominantly the film-watching day - everyone was quite tired after two late nights and not much sleep in communal dorms (especially the men's dorm, where Dan demonstrated a novel way to deal with a heavy snorer). Recommended films include "Psyche" and "King Lines", both of which won awards at the festival. Claire and Alan then stayed in the Lakes for an extra day, to do a walk up to Helm Crag and Easedale Tarn from Grasmere, and a bit of gear shopping of their own.

During the weekend we did start wondering if NMC should make and submit a short film from one of our trip weekends for next year... anyone interested?!

Sarah Davies

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15 December - Christmas Walk

Present: Claire (organiser), Alan, Bruce, Sarah D, Bob, Maggie, Dan, Marion, Mark, Beckie, Paula, Si, Ali, Maika, Alison, Dave W, Richard N, Jim, Belinda, Rhoda, Ange, Mick, Dave H, Sarah M, Dave M, Gaby, Mike, Simon H

Although the day of the walk didn't dawn as sunny and clear as earlier in the week (or indeed, the day after), it was still dry and crisply cold when everyone gradually assembled at the Wharf for a 9.30 prompt start. Well, OK, actually 9.40, after the stragglers had been rounded up and certain people had purchased their caffeine fix. We set a brisk pace along the canal, picking up Mark, Marion and Alison at Greenham Mill and Dave H close to Thatcham. At Midgham Lock we stopped and used the lock gate as an impromptu bar for the serving up of mulled wine made by Alan (in full "Swedish Chef" mode) and Sarah D, and mince pies made by Sainsbury's (and supplied by Dan).

Serving up the wine

Wading through the mud

Small gaggle, heading for a pub

Thermos flasks empty, we then left the towpath and headed south-west, to tramp through some very muddy fields (was it really mud?), skirt the edges of Brimpton and walk in a cross-country loop to our lunch destination at Crookham. Everyone was full up after the three-course meal, especially those who ate the "spare" food, and the walk back across Crookham Common and Greenham Common was possibly a little slower than the outwards journey. It was completely dark by the time the advance party reached Sarah's house, and 20+ people crowded in for more mulled wine, mince pies and stollen. Although the option was offered to stand outside with a fire like last year, strangely nobody was willing to leave the warmth of the house and all the muddy boots (and bubble wrap - Maggie!) stayed piled up in the hall until it was time to leave. The attempt to drink Sarah's wine supplies dry had sadly failed, but the pile of empty bottles was nevertheless impressive. So was the stack of pizza boxes, for those who got peckish later. A few hardy souls then finished off the evening in the Dolphin - or perhaps it finished them off, if you believe the rumours...

Thanks very much to Richard N, Mark & Marion, Bruce, Maggie, and Mike & Gaby for contributing to the mulled wine.

Sarah Davies (words), Claire White (pictures)

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