Once again huge apologies that this edition of the LMC news is late, preposterously so in this case! "What's new" I can hear you say. Hopefully the thing is worth waiting for because, if nothing else, it shows how active the club is with members doing interesting mountaineering things all over the world.
In the time that I have been doing the editor's job, it is noticeable that the quality of photos has significantly improved. There are some absolute crackers in this edition. Unfortunately publication tends to detract from their quality. I hope we can do them justice.
Needless to say the newsletter is only as good as its content. I want to thank all the contributors for taking the time and trouble to get things "down on paper" as it were. I think the membership really appreciate your efforts. Anyway I hope you find it worth reading. It has got to be infinitely more enjoyable than all the crap produced by political half-wits that is currently pouring through our letter boxes; only a thought!
Please send info to the Newsletter Editor, Roger Finn email@example.com (tel: 01600 773203)
So summer is here; let us hope it lasts till Autumn.
I have not really started rock climbing this year (yet) as I have been doing other things (e.g. ski touring) and I have a damaged knee. I am hoping the knee will recover soon.
In mid July we are going to Switzerland (Zermatt area) to climb some 4000m peaks and other lesser but also interesting ones. There are 18 people who have confirmed they are going and a few others thinking about it. Send me an email it you are interested.
Approaching the summit
of the Matterhorn
We continue to improve Cae Ysgubor (the Beddgelert hut) with additional beds, out side storage and more toilet/showers. The Air Source Heater should be operable soon which will save us money on the electricity bill.
As you will probably know, at Blea Tarn we have taken over the lower floor (the Byre) and hope to start improvements soon. This will take more money than we currently have 'spare', so if you have any to spare you now know what you can do with it! We also need people to offer their services to help on the improvements which will require building, plumbing and electrical skills, so if you have these and are willing and able to help, please let me know. There will be a new tenant in the farmhouse soon, which may provide some opportunities to be explored.
The Wasdale Meet is planned for June 10th/12th this year and I am told by the organiser that he booked good weather. I hope to see you there.
As the third longest serving member of the club (after Jim and Walt) I feel that I am entitled to a rant.
I have repeatedly pointed out to the young upstarts who now run the club that, for a number of years, there has been a persistent error on the club card. Do they take any notice and put it right? Do they hell. Perhaps they think that I am a senile old fool who does not know what he is talking about. They may be right about the first but not the second.
On the front of the membership card, it states that the club was founded in 1967. Wrong. The inaugural meeting was held in County Hall, Preston, in November 1966.
As I am not a founding member, having joined the club in the autumn of 1967, how do I know I am right? A few years ago I checked my facts with Tony Sainsbury who was at the meeting and he confirmed that he also had spotted the error.
Will someone put it right? I doubt it. These days accuracy seems to be unimportant.
End of rant.
John Burrows, Cheltenham
One thing I'd welcome from the LMC is an article on avalanche awareness... I was recently in Meribel and took this picture of a group above us that were avalanched, If you look carefully you can see the head of the guide who got caught in it! All 3 slides went simultaneously.
Ed: For those with a magnifying glass or 20:20 vision, you can just make out a black dot, the unfortunate guide, in the middle avalanche
No buggers sharing my shelter!
Eight hardy members of the LMC met at Wilf's Café at Staverly for breakfast before making our way to the start of the walk at Kentmere.
Despite a reasonable weather forecast, the clouds got thicker with fog turning to rain as we got to the top of Yoke. After Ill Bell and Foswick, we contoured round Thornthwaite and made our way through patchy snow and ice to the Nan Bield Pass.
Due to the inclement weather, it was decided to miss Harter Fell and Kentmere Pike and take the low level route back down the valley to Kentmere. Below the 2000 ft cloud base, views re-appeared and a pleasant walk in the dry was enjoyed back to our starting place, making a total round of just over 10 miles.
Due to poor mobile phone reception, we failed to meet one of our members at the start, so hoped to meet them either at Nan Bield or on the way down. However they had sensibly decided to stay at a lower level and were enjoying a walk in the dry around Kentmere reservoir.
The group reconvened at Hawkshead Brewery in Stavely for a well deserved pint or two. Whether due to the experience of the inclement conditions on the hills or the proximity of the brewery, the Windermere Pale was quite exceptional and enjoyed by all!
The Grey Man of Scafell
approaches the summit
Josie - a maiden bowled over
At the instigation of two of the elder statesmen of the club a midweek meet was arranged at Brackenclose, a Fell and Rock Club hut in Wasdale, this January. Having negotiated the re-surfacing of the approach track senility reared its ugly head as Brian attempted to drive up the Scafell path to reach the hut. The weather was appalling as is traditional, so the meet was inaugurated by a walk to the Wastwater Hotel. A rather noisy crowd arrived back to the culinary delights of a three course dinner prepared by Kevin and his team.
Wedesday dawned so a Wander was compulsory despite the attentions of storm Gertrude, or Matilda or some such. We dispersed in various directions, each group in search of some insignificant tick. Illgill Head, Whin Rigg and several tops of Seathwaite Fell were visited in wind, rain and mist, all of which were deemed to justify another over-convivial evening. The drying room was in overdrive. Brian had undertaken to cook the dinner but had cheated and bought it at Booths.
The weather on Thursday was even worse so, defying logic, Scafell and Scafell Pike were thought to be worthy objectives by some, whilst the relatively sane sought out lower hills in Ennerdale. The wind was such that Josie was bowled over on the descent from the Pike. All returned wet and thirsty and awaited the Finn extravaganza, his trademark corned beef hash. There was a hushed silence as it arrived and then an explosion of cheers as he hurled it onto the table almost taking out Graham, who of course scraped it onto his plate with relish.
Friday was home day so the sun appeared to mock us as we cleaned the hut. 16 members in all attended a Reet Gud Doo.
26th February was Andy Bond's winter mountaineering meet in the Cairngorms, and what a weekend it was. Friday morning was an early start from the bunkhouse in Kingussie and got us to the car park at Abrader before 7am. As walk-ins go it was a very pleasant two hour walk in the sunshine to the gearing up point at Lochan a Choire.
Easier angled slopes
leading to steeper ground
Untangling the gear
The route we climbed was Nordwander (IV 4) a 1000ft 7 pitch meandering route on Pinnacle Buttress and my second ever winter climb. Mark and Andy did all the leading and I can't say I envied them as conditions were less than perfect. The first three pitches were a mix of unconsolidated snow, neve, and frozen turf but finding anything solid to whack our axe into was challenging. Undaunted I set off up the first pitch that involved crawling under an overhanging rock then a very sketchy traverse. I arrived at the belay with hot aches in my hands but a change of gloves sorted that out. The climbing was easy angled snow slopes with steep challenging climbing to access the next snow field.
Confidence was high as I was last up what was probably the crux pitch up a steep narrowing corner or snow and ice giving way to an easy neve approach to belay 6. After untangling ropes we set off on the final pitch as the light was fading rapidly so removing gear and ropes was done by head torch, with just a 20m slope to the summit that I really struggled on. We topped out at 7pm and a then had a three and a half hour walk back to the car getting back to the bunkhouse at 11pm. What a day!
Sunday was spent at Coire ant Sneachda after a rest day on Saturday, climbing hidden chimney (II,III) with a very short walk in. The climbing was good, the conditions were great and we topped out just before midday. Very pleasant and straight forward after Friday's epic. A short walk back to the car then dinner in the Pine Martin bar in Glenmore then off back home.
Fantastic weekend climbing cheers Andy and Mark. Next year has got a lot to live up to.
Watch me but keep
your hands off my arse!
On Saturday 19th March, I held my first official meet of the year at Thorn Crag in the Trough of Bowland. The conditions were close to perfect and several members turned up to enjoy the delights of Thorn, many for the first time.
Jonny and Pete both managed a very tricky f6b, Dimple Dance, which was their hardest problem to-date. Stuart enjoyed the delight of Burnt Heather, another F6b and a classic line, and then took a bad fall off Jalapeno Arête, a high ball F6a, but a sterling effort nonetheless.
Dave T showed his skills on Mother Ship, f7a, very hard this, I tried it myself a couple of years ago and still can't get off the ground. Myself, well my intention was to get some mileage in, of all grades, but did One Eyed Willie which I didn't get on my last trip there. Also bagged FA at f5, probably done before but not recorded, and continued working a new problem within the region of f6c.
All in all this was a cracking day out. I think we will head back there again in the New Year but probably at a different section of the Trough.
Rab Carrington, ex-President
of the BMC and ex-Chair
of Mountain Training England
presented Ciaran with his certificate
Ciaran Clare was a day over his 14th birthday when he started and successfully completed a two-day mountain skills course as a junior member of the Lancashire Mountaineering Club.
The two-day course, certified by Mountain Training Cymru, saw Ciaran, and all other attendees, go through their paces in preparation, planning, navigation and general mountain craft around Cwm Llan and Crimpiau, Snowdonia in some of the worst weather of the year.
As part of the LMC programme of training for members and sponsored by Sport England, the course was organised by Mike Rosser, an MT Cymru provider and run by course director Barry Lynn.
'I really enjoyed it, it was a big mix of stuff and the weather was awful but that was part of it - having our sandwiches inside an emergency bivi shelter just to get out of the wind and the rain,' said Ciaran. His father, John Clare, also attended the course as did seven other members of the Lancashire Mountaineering Club.
Inmates of Chipping
asylum gather to watch
the passing of the
Well who ordered that!
What you might ask, are they? It stands for the Worst Organised Walk Award. Maybe inspired by the much maligned Enema Awards which have been a tradition in the club, this latest award also rewards poor performance.
Following on from the club dinner, the Christmas pie and peas, the Rock Jocks dinner & the Pensioner's Do, the Wednesday Wanderes felt the need to assert themselves. Accordingly after a walk round Chipping a meal was enjoyed at the Cobbled Corner Cafe, following which was the award ceremony. There were 3 nominees who would probably prefer to remain anonymous. I am sworn to secrecy. However I feel it my duty to reveal the winner. For the wade around the Wigan slag heaps in dreadful conditions the award went to Richard Toon. Described by one member as " with absolutely nothing to recommend it, completed in appalling conditions".
Ed's note: this refers to the walk and not Richard
The occasion however was graced by Derek, the original wanderer and was enjoyed by 18 latter day disciples. Thanks to Mary Ledwick for instigating the event. Remember-" All who wander are not lost!"
Signed: A Happy Wanderer (name and address supplied)
It all began with my first baby scan. The images seemed to cause some excited discussion amongst the hospital staff. It came to light that never had they seen an image where it was clear the baby was complete with harness, crampons and ice-axe. Surprisingly I was feeling a little unnerved about the birth.
Since Liam spoke his first words "below" he has shown an innate love of the great outdoors
So it came as no surprise that when the Lancashire Mountaineering Club, sponsored by Sport England, was organising another golden training opportunity to learn winter mountaineering skills in Scotland, January 9th 2016 to January 10th 2016, that Liam wanted to pack his winter gear and head off in search of more mountain adventure.
The Saturday Liam met the instructors, Steve and Stu, who provided voluminous learning about winter walking conditions, avalanches, preparation, self-arrests, use of ice-axe and crampons, ice scrambling and down-climbing. Liam was in his total element, even managing to implement the effectiveness of the self-arrest technique when he lost his footing.
That evening the group met to take over the local Indian restaurant in Fort William, probably boosting their profits considerably, discuss the day's events and more importantly where everyone was going later for a beer and game of pool. This is probably not the forum to discuss who won at pool, but without naming names, I'm feeling silently smug.
Sunday, brought about navigation and everyone had a chance to lead a section of the walk. Safely at the top it was butty and brew time. The remainder of the day involved practicing some more scrambling of various complexity, belaying using only the rope, digging out bucket seats (or in Liam's case a bucket lounge chair where the only thing missing was the remote control and a cold beer), belaying from a bucket seat, stomp belays and various other belay techniques and belaying each other from these as a means of explaining the necessity for such variation.
Liam, another scan
It was during this section that Liam got to use the ice axe that Adele Pennington (the other group's instructor) had summited Everest twice with. As Liam touched the ice-axe we all heard the angelic orchestra strike its crescendo. It genuinely was a touching moment!
After another successful day it was back down the mountain to the carpark where it was time to say our "Thank yous" to the brilliant team that took us out for the two days and the fabulous instruction we had all received and a "fond farewell" to old friends and new ones made.
As Adele peeled back Liam's fingers from his vice-like grip on her twice-summited ice-axe and as he reflected on his experience in the snow-filled Scottish Highlands, Liam knew that he had been born to winter mountaineer
Please note that any names used in the content of this article are all spot on and no identity has been saved the shame, namely Liam (sorry son). Although some poetic licence had been given to the scan photo for entertainment purposes only.
All in all
another 'reet good do'!
Several LMC members enjoyed a few days at the Ochills MC cottage in early March. Despite the changeable weather they managed a few fine ascents; Meall nan Tarmachan from the Ben Lawers car park and Meall a' Bhuiridh from the White Corries car park, both of these ascents being on skis; and for the walkers the ascent of Meall Dhuin Croisig and Beinn Chuirn, plus the round of Meall Taribh and Ben Inerveigh from Forrest Lodge. A good few days in a good cottage with some very good home cooking, delightful wine and excellent company.
Thanks to the organiser who couldn't attend due to his alternative visit to Norway, the traitor! and to his deputy who had to miss out due to medical reasons.
The aim of this year's Alpine Ski Tour was to traverse the mountains between the Furka Pass and the Susten Pass, starting in Andermatt and finishing in Engleberg. Six of us met at the youth hostel in Hospental, a small village not far from Andermatt at the foot of the St. Gotthard Pass.
We caught the train to Realp from where we were to start our tour. The initial ascent to the Albert Heim hut followed steeply along the line of the Furka Pass, touching the road from time to time. We laboured uphill getting used to heavy packs under a burning sun. We arrived at the hut for lunch and a very welcome beer. It's a well-appointed hut perfectly situated for a number of day tours.
Ascent of Lochberg
A short descent the following morning took us onto the glacier, the ascent of which was a very straightforward skin to the col "Winterlucke", on the ridge above. We followed this ridge, first on skin then on foot to the summit of Lochberg, a fine peak of 3,074mts which, with views of the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc, made a perfect lunch spot in the sun.
The guest house at Guoeste, which is normally the next overnight was closed for renovations necessitating a descent of 2,000mts all the all the way to the valley at Goschenen where we had cunningly left a car with supplies for the remainder of the trip. In perfect snow this would have been heaven but we experienced a mixture of good, bad and abominable with a preponderance of breakable crust. Various skill levels at coping were demonstrated by the team, but all survived to the road which was followed to our hotel in the village.
As there was no restaurant open in the village a short drive to Wassen was needed for an excellent meal which set us up for the big ascent the following day. The state of Bernard's knees necessitated an early bath for him at this juncture, reducing the team to five.
The merciless sun continued to shine all day making the 9 hour ascent to the Chelenalp Hut a nightmare of sweat and aching backs culminating in a steep climb on foot and on skis which would have been better done in the cool of the morning. However we were rewarded at this unmanned hut by the discovery of a cache of beer and wine and an honesty box. It was voted the best winter room ever. Our only companion was a mouse which seemed to appreciate the company.
Dehydration is never
a problem with the LMC
After a good night's sleep we were faced with another steep ascent in the morning which tested some people's technical ability to the limit. Having gained the high glacier above, the original plan to climb the Sustenhorn was abandoned in view of the state of the snow, the extreme heat, and tired legs after 3 hard days. It was a shame because it looked like a straightforward climb. We had reason to be thankful for the good clear weather because the ski down the Steingletcher required careful navigation. Again we suffered from very variable snow conditions making the skiing quite demanding. However we were rewarded by a comfortable night including a hot shower at the Steingletscher hotel near the summit of the closed Susten Pass. The beer wine and hot showers were very welcome and we were the only guests, maybe because of the snow conditions.
Breaking and entering
An early start the following morning saw yet another steep icy ascent on a mixture of ski and foot to regain the road higher up. The going became easier and was much cooler due to the early start. We gained a col "Obertaljoch" by midday, where we settled down to a hot lunch courtesy of Mark's jet boil. We moved across to a steep descent over ice rubble onto a glacier from where we could see our ascent to the Sustli Hut across the valley. It looked very steep and almost impossible without a carry.
Approaching Mt Titlis
The access to the hut looked horrendous but in actual fact turned out to be quite gentle and straightforward as we got nearer. We arrived in mid-afternoon just as the weather closed in. The hut had just opened for the season and the only access to the terrace was through a window as the door still had to be dug out. We had to be careful not to spill the beer. Today was Duncan's birthday and he treated us to chocolate cake and cream, resplendent with candle.
The following morning the helicopter arrived with the warden's husband and supplies, ninety percent appeared to be beer so we enthusiastically helped them to unload. As the weather was deteriorating a decision was made to abandon the final day to Engleberg and return to the Susten Pass a matter of 3 hours down and across steep frozen rutted ice and old frozen ski tracks plus avalanche debris. It became apparent why the pass was closed as the banked out road was also covered in avalanche debris. Fortunately we had Bernard on the other end of a telephone and he picked us up in Roger's car. After collecting Mark and Duncan's cars from Hospental we reconvened at the St. Jacob hotel in Engleberg enabling a day on the piste and an optional ascent of Mt. Titlis (32383.3mtrs) on skins with excellent views all around, which rounded off a hard but satisfying tour in good company.
What an amazing
The first Progression to Rock event of 2016 took place at Wilton on Saturday 23rd April. An amazing 68 keen climbers attended with lots of newbies gaining great experience in trad climbing.
Many thanks to all who helped.
What a weekend! Thank you to everyone that helped out for the LMC 2nd Progression to Rock for 2016 based at Cae Ysgubor in Bedgellert. Wales turned it on with stunning sunshine all weekend, and all had a fabulous time climbing. On Saturday there were 49 climbers plus 4 of us extras.
A big thank you also to all that have helped with the building of the hut over the last few years. The facilities are brilliant and at full capacity it all worked really well. It was a thrill to see it full and buzzing with atmosphere and climbing chat- humorous stories of the days climbing adventures and planning for the next day.
For those on their first LMC meet, we would love you to join the club as we are always looking for new members. You can sign up online through webcollect.
You can then get a key to use both the huts, one in Wales(Cae Ysgubor) and the other in the Lakes (the Loft) On webcollect when you choose your subscription for membership, there is also an option for hut key deposit which is £20. Once we have the payment we will send out the electronic key and you can go when you want. As a member it will then only cost you £7 a night to stay. Just check the website to make sure no group has it booked out.
The 3rd and final Progression to Rock meet for 2016 will be on the weekend of the 14/15th of June. It will be based in the Langdale Valley in the Lakes. A fortnight before I will send out an email with more details. But in brief it will be the same format as this weekend. The Prog2Rock meet will be on the Saturday and then people can do as they wish on the Sunday. Keep that weekend free and hope to see you there.
Remember, you are welcome to attend any of the other LMC meets. Just contact the meet leader if you are keen.
"Are we going to Norway this winter? And are you organising it?" asked Bernard. Then a few weeks later: "Flights to Oslo are cheap at the moment so I've booked them. You owe ....." So our trip to Huldreheimen was initiated. Sometime later: "Jim would like to try nordic touring, can he come?" "Yes if he can get himself some suitable kit."
So at the end of February we all assembled at the Anker Hostel in Oslo: David, Pat, Bernard. Josie and Jim ( who had acquired some ex-Norwegian Army skis, boots and poles very cheaply), and the next day we left early to catch a train north to Vinstra.
Jim sporting his flash new gear
Huldreheimen lies north-west of Lilliehammer and immediately south of the Jotenheim. It is a relatively gentle rolling area, with several unmanned (but provisioned) huts. Ideal country for those wanting an easy time. Especially, since, at that time of year, all the ski trails are marked with birch wands.
We travelled to Huldreheimen from Vinstra by taxi. 40 km of luxurious (and expensive) travel to our trail head at Finnbøl. From here we skied on good snow and in cold bright weather towards our first hut. Jim struggled to get to grips with this different kind of skiing, and fell over quite a bit. However, the eight or so kilometres was a good introduction for everyone.
Mountain huts in Norway are run by The Norwegian Touring (DNT) organization. Essentially there are three kinds: manned which are very similar to Alpine huts; unmanned which have gas cookers, beds with duvets and wood burning stoves with plentiful wood and food - payment is by an honesty system; and a third kind that are unprovisioned. These are usually small and have no food or duvets, but are otherwise similar to the unmanned huts. Usually, unmanned huts are unlocked, but in this area they were all locked with the very substantial DNT padlock. Fortunately, we had a key. (List tickers may be interested to know that if you accumulate visits to 100 DNT huts, you can claim your Golden Key.)
Our first hut, Storholiseter, was not one of the better huts we stayed in. It was unmanned, but the food available was a bit limited, and it was cold.
Next day we skied 14 km to Storkvelvbu. Initially through woodland, and then more open country. We enjoyed good skiing and beautiful countryside. The hut at Storkvelvbu was much nicer than the previous one and we soon had it warm and cosy. In the evening we saw a large herd of reindeer on the hill above the hut.
Bernard enroute to Storkvelbu
We decided to stay a further night at this hut so that we could explore, practice our skiing and rest. It proved to be a very pleasant spot.
Haldorbu was our our next objective. We woke to wind and mist, and so delayed our departure until 11 to see if it was going to get worse. It didn't so we set off on the 11 km journey. The trail had some quite steep sections, but because it was generally undulating, we herringboned these rather than use skins. The route rises to just over 1200m at the unprovisioned Langsuba hut. At this point the wind was much stronger and it felt much colder, (The hut thermometer at Haldorbu had shown -11℃ that morning.) and so the hut was a very welcome lunch shelter. Afterwards we had a long gentle descent to Haldorbu.
Although the wind had dropped by the next morning, light snow was falling and visibility was poor so we decide to ski the 7km to Storeskag, since the distance was short and the route was flat. Disconcertingly, the marked trail deviated markedly from the one marked on our map - we followed the wands. The hut at Storeskag was the best furnished of all the huts we stayed at, but we couldn't find the toilet!
Next day the weather started poor but improved as we skied the 12km from Storeskag to Skriurusten. This route took us past the delightful Plankebau, a small unprovisioned DNT hut, where we had lunch.
Pat, Bernard and Dave
We stayed at Skriurusten for two nights allowing Pat to have a rest day while the rest of us followed wands towards the unprovisioned at Hersjobua (according to the map) but in fact the wands took us on a loop to the settlement of Oyvassbua which consisted of hundreds of holiday homes, and a trail signposted Hersjobua. There is supposed to be an other unprovisioned hut at Oyvassbua, but we couldn't find it. We returned to Skriurusten by our outward route. The winter route marked on the ground was very different from the one shown on our map. (I've encountered this twice before, once where the route on the map crossed a frozen lake and warning signs in the huts showed an alternative route and on another occasion, the normal route was threatened by avalanche and an alternative was signed and marked in the ground.
On our last full day we skied the 12km from Skriurusten to Storhøliseter in bright sunny weather on good snow with great views.
At the end of our trip we skied out to Finnbøl by a different route from our inbound one, and arrived about midday after just over two hours of skiing. We phoned for our taxis to take us back to Vinstra for a pizza lunch. Then train to Oslo; check in at the Anker hostel and out for a celebratory beer and hamburger. Pat and I had the day following in Oslo which we spent mainly at the Fram Museum, but the others had an early flight back to Manchester.
Overall a very good trip. We had mixed weather, but most days had some sunshine and some had lots. No real storms and the temperature stayed below freezing ensuring good skiing conditions. By the end of the trip, Jim seemed to be getting the hang of it.
It was the Country Diary column at the back of the Grauniad supplement wot started it off. Titled, Boys' Zone, Tony Greenbank reminisced over his early days as an instructor at Eskdale Outward Bound Mountain School and the capers they got up to in those days before life became so organised and safety-conscious.
It rekindled long dormant memories. How, as a lowly apprentice I was despatched to the Lake District in late December of 1958, just after the Christmas festivities. The slow, jolting journey by train hauled by a smoky steam engine, stopping at remote stations lit by oil lamps; the black fells, looming high, blacker than the sky on one side and the sea, sometimes lapping up to the track on the other. The inside of the musty compartment as dark as the outside: the light bulbs had long gone out of the window - the waiting lorry at Ravensglass.
The shock of that first morning: the agonising ten second, cold shower at 06.30 and still dark outside! Then the kitting out with heavy nailed boots, the wooden pack frames and army kit bags for the two down sleeping bags each. The tough physical regime on the assault course in the woods above, especially the dive; fully clothed through the water pipe. It was a terrific and as they say, a character-forming experience of twenty-eight days altogether, tramping the hills, bivvying under a nine by nine foot tarpaulin in the rain and snow, sometimes on the tops, sometimes in the valleys; learning to cook on a Primus stove.
I remember marvelling at the line of the Roman trod over Muncaster Fell; bivvying in the ruins of a farm by the River Esk, just as a sea fret rolled in from the sea like a smoke screen and in the eerie half light, listening to a lament played on the pipes drifting down from the battlements of Muncaster Castle.
I remember battling in wind and rain under an enormous pack over the Corpse road to Wasdale Head. Struggling with a reluctant tarp on the open windswept, stony ground, where the river emptied into the lake. And, next day, like the Grand Old Duke of York's army, being marched with full kit to the top of Styhead Pass and back down again, then once more plodding reluctantly up Black Sail Pass and down into the empty fasts of Ennerdale and another wet, lonely bivvy.
Later, with Ken Ledwood leading our patrol, we took possession of Keswick Mountain Rescue Club's Dubbs Hut (now an MBA bothy) in the Honister Quarries for a few nights. A rather basic drystone building, it had a sack for a door, bunks six high and a very hard slate floor: there was much weaving of climbing ropes up at the top! Toilet was a swift scrape of the turf with the adze of an ice axe in the icy cold air.
Two of us were sent off to Keswick via Buttermere: we were to report to the Oasis Café (still there today). It was on Scar Crag I learnt about hound trailing, when a pack of baying hounds burst suddenly over the summit ahead and raced towards us. We stood paralysed, ice axes in hand, but they bound past, following the hidden scent, leaving us to silence once more, in total shock!
But what I remember as if it was yesterday is the buzz and exhilaration of those first rock climbs on Shepherds Crag. Every summer as a family we had returned to our roots in the Scottish Highlands, but never before had I stood on tiptoes over a sheer drop, looking down past my feet at the broken rocks and the road below. With Tony or Ken pointing the way I was led up into the heights and delights of a vertical world of exposure and spectacular views - I was hooked!
The finale was to be let loose in small groups, without waterproofs, insulating mats or tents; just the basic bivouacking kit. We tramped the tops, the ridges and dales that form the hub of the Lakes District, rendezvousing at given grid references to sign into a book, bivvying when we ran out of energy or daylight. A drystone wall was often the only shelter with the tarp hung from the capping stones and secured on the ground with more heavy stones: why we never got one of the capping stones on the head still surprises me. Underneath, in the warmth of our two down bags we cooked up on the Primus and repelled fat, greasy woollybacks trying to push their way in out of the deep snow.
We not only survived, but thrived on the experience. Young, extremely fit by today's standards and impressionable, we were an assorted cross section of 50's youth: apprentices, police cadets, public schoolboys, borstal inmates and others. Like it or not, and I did, those twenty eight days left an indelible impression, which marked the course of my future direction and passion for the Great Outdoors; ignited an obsession with vertical faces be it rock or brick!
Looking back I've often wondered how we got away with it, but it was a different world then. None of that modern high-tec, lightweight equipment, none of that obsession with safety and certainly not a solicitor in sight, offering a no-win, no fee deal!
One of the longest and most regular contributors to the Country Diary was the late Harry Griffin
The LMC welcomes contributions to its newsletters. Please send text and photos to Roger Finn firstname.lastname@example.org. Copy for the next newsletter should reach him by the end of September, 2016. Very grateful thanks to all those who have contributed to this newsletter.
Roger Finn, Newsletter Editor
If you would like to contribute to the newsletter or e-news then please contact the editor.