Down the years, family and "friends" in the LMC have advised that I might benefit from taking a navigation course. Although kindly intended, this is a message that I have ignored and put down to ignorance and jealousy. However, this year they clubbed together, paid and arranged for me to attend one of the LMC's training courses, you know the ones sponsored by Sport England and focussing on navigation. What a great course it was, well taught, thoroughly enjoyable and I am now fully certified for something. I will never again lead my lady wife astray.
This edition has a number of references to the training programme plus updates on some of the clubs other activities. There is a magnificent poem by Marcia Henshaw and two splendid articles featuring ventures in Africa and Greenland. This really is a very active club. However, from a newsletter point of view, we could do with more rock climbing articles and photos! So come on you rock jocks, put "pen to paper" and share you experiences with the members.
Please send info to the Newsletter Editor, Roger Finn email@example.com (tel: 01600 773203)
Below is a list of the Lancashire Mountaineering Clubs training courses supported by Sport England. These courses aim to improve your rock climbing, mountain navigation and safety awareness skills. Your contribution to each course is £10 per day - payable to the LMC. This is amazing value, probably never to be repeated and you need to take advantage while you can. Interested?? Then drop an email to Mike Rosser ASAP to confirm your interest and he will send you details. Mike's contact details are: M: 07767 386470 or E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mountain Skills - A two-day course accredited by Mountain training (so you get a certificate) covering navigation, mountain safety, weather and how to make the most of you day in the hills
North Wales - Cae Ysgubor Booked
Rock Skills/Learning to Lead Outdoors Confident climbing indoors but need a few extra skills to top rope or lead climb outdoors? Then this day is for you - belays, belaying, movement skills, abseiling
North Wales - Cae Ysgubor Booked
Mountain Scrambles - A day in the Lakes taking the interesting route up a mountain and working up an appetite for the Dinner
Lakes - Dinner Weekend
Rock Skills/Leading - There's rock and then there's Grit - improve your rock skills and confidence in belays, belaying, movement skills, abseiling
Peak District - Stanage Area
Winter Skills - Take your first steps in winter mountaineering in the company of two time Everest summiteers Adele Pennington - equipment, safety, navigation, rope work
Fort William Area
Just wanted to say many thanks for organizing our trip to Torridon. I didn't send this earlier as I thought I would let the dust, mice droppings, shower spray and evening meals on the floor settle and avoid this e-mail being trashed with those you might have received from those ungrateful buggers berating you for the choice of the Ling Hut. From my perspective I found the choice of hut enlightening and educational. So much so that I have made significant changes to my domestic arrangements. truly, many thanks, I enjoyed it.
Yours from the garden shed,
John O' Groats,
the end in sight
My ramblings over the summer have been fairly limited although I have been enjoying the 'Indian Summer' weather over the past few weeks. I have done some rock climbing and walking and been on a couple of meets including the 'new/prospective members' meet in late September where we saw a number of new faces down at Cae Ysgubor, our Welsh hut. I did some cycling when I joined Bernard for the last three days of his 'end to end' i.e. Lands End to Jon O'Groats. I cycled from Ballachulish to the top. The first day was 87 miles, mostly in pouring rain, was nevertheless enjoyable and was twice as long as I had ever biked before! I am looking forward to doing a bit more.
We had the AGM on the 6th October which passed without any riot.... the existing committee were voted into post and so I will continue as chairman for yet another year!
Everyone who visits Cae Ysgubor hut is impressed by the facilities and comfort. Work is continuing on a few items and after we have installed the new shed, we will be able to clear the back room and hence make more beds available.
Progression to Rock
at Little Tryfan
We are still seeking to develop Blea Tarn, our hut in Langdale, and are looking at plans to incorporate the lower floor (the 'Byre'). We estimate that we may need £40k to do a proper job, but are considering a phase one which would address some of the major shortcoming of power and heating. If you have any ideas on fund raising, or want to contribute the odd few quid, please let me know!
After the 2015 Progression to Rock finished with an excellent day at Idwal slabs, we have continued with our Sports England funded training programme which covers satellite clubs and our existing members. The membership for the club has risen to 228 including 52 new members in the past 12 months. Much of this increase has come from the 'progression' programme, which we will run once more in 2016.
I am looking forward to the club dinner in Kendal, the photo competition on November 3rd and the "festive" pie and peas do on December 1st (both these at the Belmont Bull). I am also hoping for a good winter. Bye for now
An article in a recent Summit magazine drew attention to the decline in BMC club membership and asks the pertinent question "are clubs dead?" In 2014 the LMC, with only 12 members under the age of twenty five and membership flat lining at about 190, began to question its own position and concluded that a metaphorical kick up the arse was in order. The club's answer was to introduce a training project designed to develop membership and, also, better retain existing members. "Is it working?" I can here you ask. Well the results are interesting.
The figures above illustrate the significant increase in membership that has taken place over the last two years. It now stands at 232 with 18 members under the age of 25. This is impressive particularly in that the club had a clearout of none-payers in 2014. In the last twelve months the club has gained 52 new members but, disappointingly, 27 members have not renewed demonstrating that membership retention is still an issue.
Progression to Rock
The vast majority of new members have come from Progression to Rock which will continue in 2016. As yet other initiatives like the Satellite Club scheme have made no contribution to membership numbers but this never was never going to be a quick fix and will take time to produce results. All in all the picture is very encouraging but there is recognition that more work is required to sustain the club into the future.
Rob and Lee
tackle the arête
Once found the start of the gully and split into groups I was tied up to Rob, Lee and Tom, the instructor and guide for the day. Having done a few easy scrambles I don't think any of us was prepared for what was coming. The start is pretty much a vertical wall with limited hand and foot holds, a statement of what the route line towards the summit in the North ridge of Tryfan would be like.
Tom set up a belay in the small plateau and we went behind with around 5 metres separation between us. The key was to get used to moving in a coordinated way, feeling the tension of the rope, listening to the guy just behind and reading the route as the three of us passed through easier and more difficult areas. The worse scenario was to be stuck in an awkward position with the climber behind unable to progress, or even being dragged down by him if he fell.
Sometimes Tom would reach the top of a difficult area and would start smiling, his eyes popping out in amazement. What does it mean we would wonder, is the next bit easier or another tricky vertical slab?
We did in total around 8 pitches with at least 3 moves of close to VD difficulty. The route pattern is similar to a staircase, with mostly small plateaux connected by very steep, if not vertical boulders.
Tommo leads up the arête
Ok, we will not appear in the National Geographic and for many of the readers, seasoned in far more difficulty undertakings, a scramble, whatever grade, would probably send them to sleep.
But for the three of us, and I would even say for Tom, it was a great experience in which we learnt new forms of progression on rock, acquired team working experience, Rob got some more nice pics on exposed terrain and we all had great fun.
Ed's note: The following article should have appeared in the July 2015 edition of the E-news. Apologies to its author, Dave Sudell for my maladministration.
The Wanderers assemble
outside the Ling hut
A party from the LMC's Wednesday Wanderers group had a very pleasant few days in Torridon during May staying at the Ling Hut. This was by courtesy of the Scottish Mountaineering Club.
Graham and Roger S
approaching the summit
plateau of Beinn Dearg
Tuesday saw an ascent of Beinn Dearg (a Corbett at 914m and not a Munro) a very fine hill with a steep ascent from the Bealach a'Chomhla via Coire Mhic Nobuil in hail and rain showers made for a fine 'Scottish welcome'. Thankfully the cloud cleared as we summited and magnificent views were to be had all over Torridon and the Western Isles.
Wednesday was the day of Beinn Damh (902m) from the Torridon Hotel. A lovely dry day and again we enjoyed excellent views all around us. Our ascent route was via Drochaid Coire Roill and the very steep grass slope of Stoc Toll nam Biast. The original intent was to ascend slightly to the west of this via a 'fine scramble' as per a description in Ralph Storer's guide book but we couldn't find the start of the route!
Thursday was forecast to be wet and by eck it was! The burns were up and swollen so we opted for a low level walk along the coast from Lower Diabig to the bothy at Craig. Despite the Ling Hut being basic by today's standards (think the LMC Loft at Blea Tarn with a 300m carry in) a very good time was had by all and more escape days in a similar vein are already in the planning stage.
The Castle from the
summit of Beinn Dearg,
with Liathach in the background
Thanks go to those who kindly booked the hut, planned the routes, shopped for food, cooked, washed up, removed rubbish and empties, ironed dinner suits etc. drank the whisky and provided the pot (that's another story folks but think along the lines of Hungarian, Chef, Spanish restaurant in Glasgow and Cape Wrath) and finally a very special thanks to the landlady of Roger S's B&B for remaining so polite in our company. There are no showers in the hut and she joined us all for dinner at the Torridon Hotel on our final evening ....... phew the pong must have been long and very strong!
Tommo, Lee and Roger
"smugly rested in the
sun with a butty and brew"
Our adventure to North Wales began on 25th September 2015
When we set off in a car of naivety
Expectations were high and excitement clear
A weekend of friendships, navigation and of course beer!
We arrived at the hut to be met with red wine
I'd managed to arrive a day earlier and actually on time!
The hut was buzzing with friendships old and initially new
But with traditional LMC warmth boundaries merged and became askew
Chatter, discussion and laughter floated high and filled the air
Stories shared across the table, no adventure spared
The young pup, Liam sat and absorbed all he heard
More for ammunition later when it all became blurred
Saturday morning arrived with a smile and a brew
Which is a perfect time to introduce you to the crew
We had Mike, Jason, Roger Gott and Lee
Liam, Clare, Roger Finn and of course me
Our instructors, Barry, Paul and Tom arrived to take us through the day
We all listened intently to everything they had to say!
Off in the cars to a secret place
Then out with the maps, group together and pace
The theme of the day was to all navigate a leg of the walk
For the leader of the group this meant total concentration and very little talk
So many things to consider when undertaking such a task
Features, contours, bogs, pacing and oh yeah...maps
Between the team we got to the summit of Cnicht
Beautiful weather, 360o panoramic views not a euphoric moment was missed
Time to descent and pass to the ML trainee
Cool, together and calm he led the clan to where we needed to be
Down to the pub to watch Wales' glorious win
Don't you all sigh and tut, it's my poem but sincere apologies to Roger Finn!
Beer flowed as did the banter
Hey England lost to Wales but honestly does it matter? (LOL)
Sunday and back to navigation
Thinking we know where we are on the map and occasional frustration
Pacing and micro-nav was the order of the day
Each group given an instructor to guide us on our way
As Tom and I stood in the Welsh hills
Proud heart and song "Land of my Fathers" spilled
After such a patriotic moment we returned to the team
We shared our delay and they tried not to heave
Mike, Roger Finn and Me
Had to find where a wall met a stream
Experiential learning this was called
And to be fair after traipsing through fields of gorse we found the bloody wall!
We decided navigation via gorse was the future you see
So we walked uphill through loads more, cuts, scrapes and sore knees
Eventually we navigated to the rest of the crew
Who smugly rested in the sun with a butty and a brew
With our newfound skills we "navved" back to the car
Having a rucksack full of knowledge, some new friends and a few scars
An awesome weekend was had by all
With hugs all round home now called
So "thank you" LMC
You're a very special club
And now we all feel truly initiated
We'll see you down the pub!
Where the f--- are we?
Marcia, Paul, Liam,
Jason, Roger G and Lee
get to grips with the
We spent the weekend in Wales on a hill and mountain skills course was a fantastic weekend topped off by a brilliant night in the pub being entranced by Wales in the rugby World Cup. On the hill we started out doing legs of navigation, taking responsibility for the group, noticing features and using those to work out where we are specifically on the map and it was great to get the confidence to walk off the path and find tarns and all the small features.
We also worked a little bit on pacing micro navigation and realising that features on the map like walls might not necessarily still be there. Working on a bearing it was also important to realise how easy it is just sway away from that and get lost!! All in a fantastic weekend and has inspired many of us to want to learn more.
The Wednesday Wanderers,
This carry on had seemed like a good idea when most of us seemed to be a little plastered the previous evening. Captain Keene's (Grahame's) cunning plan was to lead the motley crew (some more motley than others) up to the summit of Yr Aran, the nearest peak visible through the front windows of the hut via a slightly dodgy path up through the Craflwyn Estate that went only partly up Yr Aran and then went down again to the Khyber Pass (aka the Watkin Path) before taking the east ridge up to the summit.
Y Lliwedd ahead as
we head towards Yr Aran
Early on the morning of the march, Private Widdle (Brain Gargoyle) had bemused the upstairs dorm by parading around in his underpants, whilst outside was a cold, crisp, frosty and misty morning and nothing could be seen of our summit. However by the time we left the hut at the crack of 10.40, the troop of 9 were soon in bright sunshine, climbing through the woods by waterfalls and later by old mines. There was nearly a rebellion when we began the descent to the Kyhyber Pass but this was quickly quelled by Sergeant Major (Ian) MacNutt.
After the pass, Captain Keene took a wrong turning that went steeply up to an old mine spoil heap. However two of the party took the intended easier path to Bwlch Cwm Llan. As luck would have it, after the mine, a good path led up to a fine ridge taking us up on to the summit of Yr Aran.
A late lunch was taken there enjoying the splendid far reaching views in all directions including Snowdon, Crib Goch, Y Llwedd, the Glyders, Moel Siabod, Cnicht, the Rivals on the Lleyn Peninsula and Moel Hebog. You could even see the Cae Ysgubor.
Who says we don't need
a sugar tax; the editor on the
summit of Yr-Aran with the
Nantlle Ridge in the distance
After making a steepish descent to the bwlch, the party regrouped at the old mine workings before continuing down the mine track into Rhyd Ddu and all enjoyed refreshments at the Cwellyn Arms.
Rogers G and F, Grahame,
Bernard and Josie by the
"Great Mountain Days in Snowdonia" by Terry Marsh states that "In the whole of North Wales, the Nantlle Ridge is surpassed in unadulterated ridge walking pleasure by only the Snowdon Horseshoe. The dubious talisman of height gives Snowdon a degree of magnetism, but for superb walking without the drama and the crowds, nothing beats the Nantlle Ridge" He is not wrong!
Snowdonia's bigger hills are crammed into a small area of the National park along with most of the crowds. In contrast the adjacent Nantlle Hills feel like a neglected backwater but in a good way. The traverse of the main ridge, linking all the summits on the range, is a classic Welsh walk with a rare sense of peace and with spectacular seaward views of Cardigan Bay and the Irish Sea.
Inspired by the guide book and the superb autumn weather, five Wanderers (Josie and Bernard Smith, Grahame Watson, Rogers Gott and Finn) set out from Maen -Llywd to walk eastwards to Rhyd Ddu. What a superb day. The ridge ticks all the boxes being a comfortable day's walking (5 to 6 hours) and offering a grassy stride along elegant, curved ridges. There is some mild scrambling moments along the way but they are unlikely to tax even the most nervous of fell walkers. Bernard gave it a "gibber" factor of minus one.
The only downside to such linear walks is the problem of not finishing where you started from. This was solved by leaving cars at Rhyd Ddu and using the club's chauffeur, one Brian Guilfoyle, to kindly ferry the party to the starting point - thank you Brian. The bonus, at the end of the walk, was a visit to the Cwellyn Arms, in Rhydd Ddu; an excellent pub with a range of great beers!
The good life, Greek style
It is as if Kalymnos was created as a paradise for climbers. Perfect weather, warm Mediterranean waters for swimming, abundance of good restaurants, lovely people and of course sector after sector of amazing limestone routes of every grade. Possibly every crag has views out to the sea and islands. The LMC group of 15 took full advantage of it all.
Each morning Max and Willy were first off the mark, heading out a dawn. Lucy and Tom were the afternoon shift. David and I searched out nothing less than 3 star routes on the steep sectors. Whilst David, Cathy, Nigel and Richard toured the island exploring new sectors as well as heading over to climb on the nearby island of Telendos. My Mum, Marie, with Emelia and Jane Lyle hunted out the best beaches and shops and became known by all the locals. We were met by new members David MacGregor and Anne Marie who were living on their boat, sailing between islands for 2 months. Living the dream of an ideal retirement!
The climbing is long, taxing, but on mostly big holds. It was essential to be in the shade. Sunshine time was ice-cream time. We found a few routes were enough for each day. After a fight on some of the monster 35-40m steep pitches I was done in for. No more so than on the huge cave that drips with tufas and stalactites, the Grande Grotto. David was on fire crushing some amazing 7c lines, whilst highlights for me was battling, but ticking some 7b+ such as Spartacus, St Savvas and Lulu in the Sky.
One of the best days we had was touring over to Sikati cave. Once convincing the scooter-man David knew how to ride one, we headed to the other side of the island to what was essentially a massive hole in the ground. With no air-flow it was a sweat-box, but the huge steep lines were sensational. My favourite being a 35m 7b 'Armati Sikati' whilst David a steep 7b+ 'Morgan'. 5min down the hill and we finished with a dip in clear waters of a little secluded beach.
We were based in Massouri and stayed at the centrally located Fatolitis studios, which has fantastic balconies and pool overlooking the water. Rest days are what you dream of, long lunches with water lapping at your feet and lazing around on beaches. Every night was a different restaurant, with the seafood amazing. So as well as the super climbing, time on Kalymnos is not just about that, it is a proper holiday!
Dave disappears into the distance
The Alta Via (High Way) trails runs roughly north-south through the Dolomites. There are three trails (AV1 to AV3), with variations on each. The nearest airports are Venice and Verona, with trains and buses which will get you onto the trails in half a day or so.
Three years ago I walked AV1 with Dave Fisher and this year we did the AV2. It is possible to walk both trails without using via ferrata gear, which we chose to do. Everything brought on the plane must be carried for the duration of the trip and we decided it was not worth carrying the extra weight of harness, helmet and cow tails for a few hours' use. Our packs this year were below 10 kg - easy on the airplane and easy to carry.
For the AV2 we flew to Verona and next morning caught a train to Bressanone. A local bus and a ski lift brought is onto the AV2. We were immediately in spectacular country and walked for about 4 hours to Rif Genoux - very comfortable with a beautiful location, a choice of food, wine and beer for about 60 euros. The route was very well signed and each day we passed several rifugios, where we could have stayed - handy for lunch.
We walked for 6 days this year, always though fantastic scenery, though not perfect weather. About 4 inches of snow fell one night, though it soon cleared in the morning. We came off the mountains a day early because of forecast storms.
Walking maps are needed and Cicerone publishes a guide which we found useful. It is very easy to organise however. We had a few days in Verona and Lake Garda at the end.
Kili from Moshi
It all started when Alec suggested that we should climb Kilimanjaro to celebrate my 70th year. Unfortunately it all fell throuh so instead, I had my party to celebrate this dreadful milestone, on my final Corbett. However the idea didn't go away, so a year later we found ourselves on a flight to Tanzania. Claire, Josie and I were met by Alec Berry, who was working out there, and whisked off to Weru Weru River Lodge, near Moshi, a luxurious hotel owned by Alec's friend Cuthbert, who turned out to be " the man " to know.
After a few days sampling Kilimanjaro beer and lazing around the pool, under the guise of getting organised, we were finally ready for the trek up the hill. It is a completely non-technical ascent and as such attracts hordes of charity raisers. There are, of course, many regulations to observe. It is compulsory to have a guide supplied by a reputable company (owned of course by Cuthbert). There is also a substantial fee to enter.
Enter the park all adding up to about £1500 pp. This covers all transport, food, porters, cook, tents etc., guide fees and park entry. We were now a group of six having been joined by Mike, an Aussie, and Rob, a British student.
Day 3 to Barranco Camp
Of the many routes on Kili we had chosen the Machame route which takes seven days and uses tents not huts. The Marangu route has huts but is very busy and not very hygienic I believe. Other routes take different times depending on your state of acclimatisation.
Day 4 Scramble
up the Barranco Wall
As usual we were part of a job creation scheme employing no less than 19 staff of cooks, porters etc. Formalities over, we set off in the rain on a good path through the forest. Most of the porters were carrying huge loads, in true African style, on their heads. As the rain eased we emerged from the forest onto moorland where we were to camp. We were now at 3000m, an ascent of 1200m.
The cloud which had dominated the sky over Moshi was now below us and the following day the sun shone as we followed a rocky path up through scrub for another 800m to Shira camp. We were gaining height rather too quickly for my liking but that is how it is done. These are designated camping sites with toilet facilities, which is essential in view of the number of charity raisers. Our tents were up and tea brewed and we were rewarded by extensive views across the cloud to Mt. Meru. This is a mountain, which at about 4500m could tempt me back. The watchword was "pole pole" or slowly slowly as we wandered round the campsite. However we were treated to a sumptuous meal of chicken and chips followed by fruit salad and tea which helped to ease the headaches, and that was only lunch!
Having gained 2000m in two days the third day was marginally more sensible. From our camp at 3800m we plodded, pole pole, across dusty Alpine desert to a Lava tower at 4600m, but then descended to Barranco camp at 3900m to sleep.
A leisurely afternoon allowed some respite but there were some noticeable absentees from dinner, nursing aching heads. The situation of the camp was impressive being dominated by the Barranco wall which glowed pink in the evening sun.
the summit team
The lack of porridge for breakfast was a disappointment. We had to manage with pancakes with orange segments, sausages, beans and eggs, it's a tough life! However we were allowed to lie in till 6.30am. A wonderful scramble up the Barranco wall got the day off to a good start.
Then, with Kili towering above, the path undulated, past the last water source, to Kerrango camp and a lazy afternoon. Our jaded appetites were, once more, stimulated by chicken and chips. We couldn't fault the cuisine.
Another short day lead to Barafu camp, at 4600m the highest on the mountain, which means you have a 1300m ascent on summit day. In my humble opinion this is too much for most people but there is nowhere else suitable for large numbers of people to camp. We tried to improve acclimatisation a little by an afternoon stroll to about 5000m. Then after dinner attempted to grab some sleep before being roused at 10.30pm for breakfast.
We were away by 11.30pm on a very windy, very cold night. The way was rocky and quite steep and loose, and progress was slow in the dark. By now the altitude was really making itself felt and one of our team, Rob, turned back. We eventually crawled to Stella Point where we were welcomed by one of our porters who had carried up a flask of hot tea--heaven! Five of us slowly made our way round the crater rim to the summit at 5895m to witness a glorious sunrise. Photos were not easy as both hands and feet had lost sensation hours ago. We were probably under equipped but hey, we were near the equator.
The 1200m descent was basically a very dusty scree run through volcanic ash and we were back at camp for a second breakfast by 9.00am. Our day was not over however as we had a further descent of 700m to Millennium camp where we could finally relax in the sunshine and snatch some sleep.
After being treated to a superb song and dance performance by our crew all that remained was a stroll through the forest down to the park entrance to sign out and enjoy a couple of well deserved beers.
It had been an extremely enjoyable week culminating in the ascent of the highest free standing mountain in the world. Our experience had been much enhanced by the fact that Alec, having worked in Tanzania for many years, has all the contacts to make thing run like clockwork. Anyone considering this trip should contact Alec.
Greenland is cold! We jumped out of the Twin Otter plane which had ferried us from Akreturi in N Iceland to Constable Point on the east cost of Greenland, into Arctic cold and mist. Up to that point, our expedition to search out new mountain tops had been leisurely and comfortable. We'd taken an EastJet flight from Manchester to Reykjavik and then travelled, on the following day, up the western side of Iceland. Comfortable B&bs and plenty of hearty meals dulled the senses.
I'd spent much time writing lists of gear, checking stuff, buying some extra items, packing a load to travel by charter plane several weeks before we departed, and finally assembling the remainder to carry with us to Greenland. But somehow despite the meticulous planning, I arrived in Iceland having left a couple of warm jackets behind. A late night walk around Reykjavik's very expensive shops took me to a fairly reasonably priced around-town jacket which sufficed.
We'd been told to wear warm stuff on the flight over from Iceland. Sure enough, it was cold, misty and spartan at Constable Point. We were expecting to set off for our base camp on skidoos the same day but they had been delayed by poor visibility bringing another party back. Time to pitch the tents, check out if the sleeping bags were warm enough and delve onto the food store. It really was the Artic!
Tangent Expeditons were providing the logistics for our trip. Their organisation was superb. We couldn't have easily put all the elements together ourselves - trip wires, a Winchester rifle, flares and stun guns to guard against polar bears; a sat phone, marine-band radio and a VHF radio on aircraft frequencies to keep us in touch with the outside world. And we had several occasions when a significant change in our timetable demanded a quick change of plans as the weather dictated travel plans. Tangent were quickly able to call up a charter flight or scrap hotel reservations or fix hire cars in Iceland with very minimal fuss for us.
So we had to put up tents at Constable Point for a night as the skidoos we were waiting for had been delayed by bad weather as they were evacuating a party who had been avalanched. The sleeping bags were warm and the MSR stoves worked well!
Next morning we helped load the sledges and wrapped up warm, with face masks and as much down as we could wear, ready for the 50 mile trip to base camp. Four lucky folks were in a closed sledge. Two of us were pillion on two of the skidoos. We set off at a fine pace, only to stop after a couple of miles as one of the runners had broken off one of the skidoos. Back to base for spares and a few hours of mechanicing! Starting late in Greenland doesn't matter at that time of the year as there is almost 24 hours of daylight.
After tracking North alongside, and sometimes over, the frozen sea, we stopped below a steep slope up to the glacier. The skidoos unhitched all the gear and two of them roped up like climbers, in case one fell into a crevasse. They climbed the hill onto the glacier, scouting out a safe route and returned after an hour or so. The routes was crevasse-free - indeed on the whole trip, we never encountered any real crevasses and only saw a few where the glaciers dropped into the sea.
We were hitched up again and the skidoos slaved up 500m onto the wide flat snow dome, form which several glaciers ran off through the mountains. Our camp was to be close to the spot used the previous year by Jim, our leader. He was keen to use the GPS to avoid camping over the previous year's latrine! We were 50m or so away!
Setting up camp is quite a performance. There is the latrine to dig - a splendid mansion tall enough to keep the wind off bare backsides, constructed from nice blocks of ice and snow using a snow saw. The whole edifice was marked by a large windsock - useful at the end of the trip. Around the perimeter, we set a trip-wire connected to a couple of high-pitched alarms, in case a polar bear stumbled into camp. There was a briefing about polar bears and some practice with the Winchester rifle, taking pot shots at the latrine walls! It was very cold and misty, with lots of spin drift blowing around. Not a time to venture out.
The weather cleared gradually and we could appreciate what a magnificent location had been chosen for base camp. All around were magnificent peaks, many unclimbed. Peaks were reached on ski, with climbing gear stashed into sledges, better known as pulks. These are easy to pull on the flat. Pretty terrifying to ski downhill with. But just very hard work on any upward incline.
Part of the Seven Dwarfs
showing the route up Dopey
So what were the highlights? Well we did four first ascents and climbed another couple of hills that had only seen people on them once before. We had some day's ski touring in excellent snow conditions.
The backdrop to our camp was a lovely range of mountains across the glacier about a mile or so away from us called the Seven Dwarfs. Jim had climbed one of these on a previous trip and a couple of Australians had made an attempt at the biggest one. We climbed two of these on different days. In both cases, after an easy approach up steepening snow gullies, there were tricky ridges up to the summits.
Dopey was the first to be ascended by the two of us, whilst the other three were on the next peak. We abseiled a couple of rope lengths to avoid difficult down climbing. Later, we climbed Sleepy where we encountered a really demanding final rope length up a ridge of extremely loose rock. The weather never shifts the rocks which are broken through intense frost damage. We named this route "Attishoo, Attishoo, all fall down". An abseil off the summit block, next to the residue of small bones left by carnivore birds, helped us to avoid the worst section on the way down.
Roger had had a sad message that a family member had passed away whilst we were in Greenland. So it was fitting to name the next of our peaks in his memory. Lewty is a fine peak where we followed a steepening snow ridge until it turned into a steep head wall of hard neve. The views from the top were stunning in all directions.
We could see where the glaciers dropped into the sea off the East coast. To the north of us was a panorama of fine peaks, the majority being unexplored.
The biggest peak we reserved for later in the trip. We had to wait unto the sea mists were clear of the glacier. It was a long approach, maybe around 10km away. We dropped down almost to sea level before a long climb up steep snow slopes, an excellent ridge and some tedious upper slopes. It seems like a long way!! It was just over 1000m high - a good Munro! I'd decided to call the peak after the Club. But as its in Greenland, I wanted some semblance of the location as well, so came up with the name "Lancstuk".
Lancstuk from the glacier
It's a sort of Lancashire version of Inuit! The return back to the camp with some 500m of ascent up the glacier was eternally long. We witnessed the sunset - and an almost immediate sunrise!! We were approaching 24 hours of daylight. The round trip had us away from camp for around 21 hours. A pretty long trip which deserved a leisurely rest day and food indulgences!
Lancstuk from the west
The final memorable day was quite unexpected. We'd decided to skin over towards a very modest peak out of sight of the camp beyond a glacier to our North. We set off at a brisk pace and got about a mile and a half from camp when I came across a long meandering line of fresh foot prints. These were certainly from a passing polar bear. I didn't take too much persuading to turn around and race back to the camp. Being a bear's breakfast was not on the agenda. At least back in camp we had a battery of weaponry to deter any beastly attacks. Roger patrolled around for ages with rifle in hand but we never caught sight of the beast.
We were now towards the end of the trip and awaiting the arrival of the skidoos for the long trip out. But a message told us that, in addition to poor visibility, the skidoos were experiencing fuel problems. An alternative was being looked into! It was hoped that a twin otter could be landed on the glacier close to our camp - it would be the first time any plane had landed there. We were a couple of days later departing than expected. But on the appointed day, we cleared the camp and packed everything. It was clear and their was little wind. Just after midday, I saw a tiny speck in the sky, flying low down coming from the direction of Constable Point. Soon the plane flew over us and did a couple of turns to check out the landing area and to confirm the wind direction. Jim had marked out a one-kilometre track with black plastic bags. The plane dropped in over out heads, landed, turned and taxied back to within a few feet of the camp. We quickly loaded the kit and then we were ready for take off, roaring engines taking us along the glacier strip. We soon lifted off, over the long endless line of the bear footprints and flew at a just few hundred feet back to Constable Point. I think I enjoyed the flight much more than the I would the skidoo trip!
We had expected to transfer straight to Iceland, but the pilot was out of hours so we had a pleasant overnight stop at the "Hilton" (!!!!!), a very basic but welcome hut which serves as a transit stop for workers. Just one more dehydrated meal and then the following day we flew slowly away from Greenland and its acres of mountains and glaciers towards Iceland and the trip home.
For me, it had been one of the best and most memorable climbing trips ever. We had managed to climb new peaks; I'd learnt a lot about Arctic conditions and survival; the weather had been extremely kind; we'd shifted gear using pulks for the first time; we'd had excellent company; and the food was excellent and beyond expectations.
So that was Greenland 2015. The verdict - I'd go again and would recommend anyone to take the opportunity of a trip if the chance arises! You could go and do the second ascent of LMCs very own mountain!!
Richard Toon with Roger Gott
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