The Guildford Mountaineering Club
If you're looking for people to climb with, then the Guildford Mountaineering Club could be for you.

By Chom Evans
Whilst on my last trip with Ben to Arran we discovered we had a mutual small number of annual leave allowance to use and mooted an autumn weekend somewhere. A few months later neither of us has a better offer and booked off a Monday and Tuesday late September with a destination to be decided later. The title is a bit of a spoiler, we went to Snowdonia due to an acceptable forecast and the incredible variety of climbing available. We stopped off at the historic Pen Y Grwd Hotel Late Friday despite the recent poor report I received from a venerable CMC member who last frequented the establishment a mere 40 years ago. Not the friendliest of welcome but beer and character in abundance.
During the preceding week I rather absent-mindedly suggested the Lleyn Peninsula classic Fantan B to Ben in part due to confidence instilled by recent success on Mousetrap and one of my random climbing goal of getting a list one tick in every climbing area of Great Britain (‘area’ yet to be defined but going with definitive guidebooks for now). I say absent-mindedly as Ben is when of the few climbers I know who would instantly agree to such an absurd suggestion as choss is to Ben is as bones are to dogs, chips to sea gulls or neck tattoos to chavs. Fantan B also came with the added kudos of supreme choss enthusiast Chris Woodall having failed to find the route). The absurdity was further evidenced by few of the hugely experienced Climbers Club members frequenting the Ynns Ettws hut had even heard of the Lleyn Peninsula let alone climbed there. The weather was predicted to be claggy in the mountains Saturday so Plan A was Fantan B.
Sure enough the clag was down in the pass so off to the Lleyn we went. The clouds were still a bit grey allowing me to voice some dissent as the guidebook states ‘All in all a serious proposition, where a good weather forecast is essential. It might also pay to have a couple of grades in hand, just to be sure!’. Ben was naturally keen and the classic euphemism ‘let’s just take a look’ reared its head. So we did, a pleasant ramble down an old quarry road leads unsurprisingly to a large quarry. At the back of which is an old rusty cable winding down a steep grassy bank to the sea. Option 1 is to hand over hand this down the slope but we opted for option abseil as seemed safer and less likely to trash your hands.
I went down first loaded with ironmongery including Ben’s old geological hammer and some pegs and tried to find the start of the route. This wasn’t obvious but could just spot the goal of a pinkish belay ledge amongst the guano. The first pitch traverses for 40m, the line wasn’t obvious but I seemed to find a logical way to the ledge with sparse gear along the way. The next pitch similarly traverses further rightwards but with some height gain including some nice exposure on an arête.

The third pitch is where the scale of our undertaking becomes obvious as you are finally on the cliff face proper. If a complex, guano encrusted and poorly protected face can be deemed proper. The 3rd pitch description mentions an obvious overhang and further rightwards traversing. Above the cliff is festooned with overhangs which is the obvious one is unclear to me. I quest vaguely up and rightwards the climbing straightforward but each metre gained is an extra metre committed.
With numerous ganders at the guidebook and with head slowly frazzingly I ponder the best path upwards. I aim for an obvious leftwards groove but am puzzled so far by the absence of a dangerously perched block mentioned in the route description. Has it gone?

No there it is further right. The wall to the right of the block the guidebook mentions I should climb looks harder and bolder than I fancy since I can’t spot the peg you aim for. Plus despite the limited gear I placed climbing further rightwards before back leftwards would be problematic due to the line I took and I didn’t want ropes running over the perched block. I scuttle back left and slowly climb the easyish groove to a belay of sorts where I could see the groove that surely comprises the next pitch. Whether through unconscious competence or conscious incompetence I had avoided the crux of my pitch and stayed on route!
After short pitch to a better belay Ben took on an alleged 4b pitch with more confusing description to not follow. The pitch is not supposed to climb the previously mentioned groove in its entirety but is a nice line and Ben naturally couldn’t resist. The groove contained by far the hardest climbing so far and the most pointless bit of in-situ gear clipped so far. A grotty weathered sling that was merely wedged behind a chockstone rather than the more traditional wrapping around the chockstone. After the groove there is an exciting traverse cum down climb onto the most outrageous belay ledge imaginable. About the size of decent size coffee table it was massively undercut so consequently despite the mostly rambling nature of the terrain so far there was a straight drop to the sea of about 150m. A stupendous position with the crux pitch to come.

Having had a minor freak out on the third pitch I decided to let the choss hound keep going for expedience sake though the pull through the roof above the belay looked great fun and was. Ben soon scuttled up out of sight and eventually the ropes pulled tight and I followed another meandering pitch with 2 steep pulls through overhangs the second of which protected solely by some ageing bent pegs.
I found Ben relaxing on a massive ledge enjoying lobbing rocks into the sea and waiting for the splash. The next pitch had another alleged 4b move before disappointingly degenerating into a grassy slope. The climb seemingly over I brought Ben up and he went on up the grass slope and find himself on the wonderfully gendarme ridge atop of the quarry we abseiled from. I, in hindsight, rather foolishly expected to find ourselves back on the quarry floor whence we started rather than being on top of the quarry 100m above our sacks. This was a wonderful bonus. We went into alpine mode moving together across the narrow ridge, if one of us slipped into the quarry the other would have to jump toward the sea. A cracking finish to an exciting adventure during which we had only a lone barking seal for company.

My next thought was ticking the climb in my book then burning it so I could never return! Type 2 fun for me.
We slogged back up the hill me with the ab rope again as the wily Ben having played the dodgy knee card about 10 minutes into the journey Friday before I could play my Tough Mudder rib injury card. We headed back to Llanberis and had enough time to squeeze in a couple of sport routes on the slate. I loved the contrast of the routes we did. Fantan B is a rock climb so were the 2 sport routes but that was all that had in common. The skill set and experience required for a Fantan B is far removed from the demands of a pleasant sport route.
Sunday dawned claggy again and we again went to the sea side, this time Gogarth. Ben was trying to tempt me down to the lower tier for the classic of Scavenger but I was bit adventured out and sea cliff traversing is not within my comfort zone so we went for the upper tier. I had heard that Gogarth is best avoided early morning due to sweaty rock and it was early morning. I started on the Gauntlet and found the crux starting groove very sweaty. I found cursing and whining whilst placing lots of micro wires helped me scrape up the groove. There is a peg in the groove with what I assume was someone’s shoe lace bleached white by the sun hanging from it. It held the weight of my lightest quickdraw but I’m not convinced it would hold much else. I found a semi rest before a bulge where I spent age whining about the sweaty rock and depumping before continuing upwards the crux beneath me but interest maintained to the belay. My rack emptied into the rock from smallest wires to biggest cam, a cracking pitch. Ben’s pitch was much shorter but fun. There was an insitu abseil anchor which we took advantage of saving a long walk round. Unfortunately the rope stuck on something and took some effort to pull through, HVS 5b rope pulling.
Next up was The Ramp. First pitch fell to me again more excellent sustained climbing with a few spicy run outs. The 2nd pitch has a truly out there swing across a bottomless chimney before getting established in the groove above. It was very exciting on second, on lead without a runner above would be most memorable. A good effort by Ben.
Back to the gearing up area for some nourishment with daylight diminishing we have some indecision regarding our next route. Ben was tempted by the uber classic The Strand which someone cruised up whilst we climbed The Ramp but we plumped for the more amenable Holyhead Mountain which you pass on the walk back to the car park. King Bee Crack however, is anything but amenable. It looks fine from the ground but a goier HVS is hard to imagine (Nowanda, Gardoms is one though).
Finally a cloudless morning and we could take advantage of staying in the heart of Llanberis pass. The call was the Cromlech and with only 1 route on both our minds; the peerless classic of Cenotaph Corner. The slog up to the crag was easier than I remembered and we were first on the crag. I suggested we dump the sacks before scrambling up to the base of the corner, we didn’t, we should of. After a polite discussion as to who would go first Ben went on the basis he had been waiting to do the route longer. Too late I realised we forgot the peg hammer for Ben to drop on my head in homage to Joe Browns first attempt on the route. There was palpable nervous tension in the air, not due to danger but to the reputation and history of the route. Ben made steady progress and with a few huff and puffs at the crux Ben had the route in the bag it and was soon abbing down stripping the paltry 17 pieces of gear he placed. We had more problems pulling ropes down and then it was my turn to attempt the fabled Cenotaph Corner.

The reputation of the route weighed heavy and was achey from the previous 2 days but the sun was out and the line is perfect. The rock of the Cromlech is superbly featured and the 8m crux was soon despatched. I plugged in gear with wild abandon as I bridged/smeared and laybacked upwards to the upper crux. I don’t bother to clip the ancient peg from the niche below the crux, Decent micro wire and small cam encouraged some strenuous bridging upwards to more gear. I dilly dallied on the last moves trying to find some larger dimples to pull on but none were to be found I committed and scraped my way to the finishing jugs. Hurrah!
I extracted a less than paltry 26 pieces of gear abbing down possibly some kind of record. We got back down to the sacks and for once the ropes pulled freely. Next up was the lesser classic of Ivy Sepulchre. I had the truly awful first pitch as described in the CC guide. Other guides suggest traversing from the ledge below the corner which is considerably less vegetated and scrappy than the route I took.
Ben had the main pitch and we weren’t bothering with the hassle of stripping on ab. We both enjoyed another superb sustained corner pitch. More rope retrieval hassles were endured followed by more next route indecision. Fortunately rain intervened so back to the hut for some tea and triple chocolate cake inexplicably left in the fridge.
Tuesday morning the body was weary and the weather was dreary. Not fancying a drive to coast or Tremadog we went back to slate via the multi tiered fun of Australia. Ben had done little other than the nutty scramble Snakes and ladders on the slate I had done bit more so I pointed Ben at the classic slate mixed ethic of Looning the Tube I lead last year. Gear consists of 2 bolts, a rusty chain to sling and a cam placement.

It was quite entertaining watching Ben have severe words with himself traversing across to the chain, he’s completely home at running it above rusty peg on guano encrusted choss but a few feet from a bolt on the rather unique medium of slate not a happy bunny. This may sound cruel but Ben was planning to jump on the considerably harder and bolder and classicer Comes the Dervish so experience will have done some good.

We moved to pure sport routes after. Highlight for me the tricky groove of Gaddafi Duck (6b). Ben did a fine lead of the tricky and excellently monikered Orangatang Overhang (6a+). When I huffed and puffed up a 5 I took this as a sign we should retreat to the delights of Llanberis. New harness and N Wales Limestone purchased before cheesy chip butty at Petes Eats.

A dam fine and tiring long weekend. On the drive back Ben was flicking through the Limestone guidebook and found a sea cliff HVS traverse he suggested we solo since we drive through limestone country on the way back. I laughed on the outside and cried on the inside. I’m pretty sure he was serious, my only thought was of getting home and lying down. Ben is seemingly inexhaustible and possibly worth sectioning; excellent attributes for a climbing partner to have.

The club always welcomes new members and joining the club is easy. Just follow the three steps below, and remember you are always welcome to come down on a Monday night to the clubhouse and say hello.
First off is to register as a guest on the website, all we need is your email address. This allows you access to the members part of the website where you can see the meets list and other events coming up in the future. Most importantly, you will receive regularly updates on what is going on and how to get involved.
When you see a meet on the list that is of interest and wish to take things further then we will need you to fill in an application form and part with £12 if joining between January and June, or £6 if joining between July and December. It would be better here if you came down to the clubhouse on a Monday night so that we can meet you in person and answer any other questions you may have..
Finally, after attending two meets, so that we know you are safe, you will invited by the committee to become a full member. You will then need to pay the outstanding balance of £34 minus the introductory fee. All membership levels run from 1st Jan to 31st December.
There’ll be someone at the clubhouse every Monday evening, from 8-10pm, except for Bank Holidays. You can arrange with the Membership Secretary to meet you down there, or just ask for a committee member on arrival.
Climbing in Scotland
If you’re looking for people to climb with, then the GMC could be for you. There are many benefits to joining, and here is a selection…
Get outside loads without ruining your bank balance

You can afford to get away more often because we share cars and petrol costs, and stay at cheap campsites or mountaineering huts, wherever possible.
Are you experienced?

If not then there’s no better way to get better. Although we can’t teach you the absolute basics, you’ll find plenty of people in the club willing to share their years of experience and offer help and advice. You’ll also get to climb in loads of different areas – places you might never have thought of as climbing venues. We’ll show you the good climbs, the good campsites, the good pubs.
You are experienced!

Great – you’ll find loads of like-minded people who like a challenge, as well as a bit of fun. There are people climbing at all levels (within reason!) so whether you lead E2 or Severe you’ll find someone to climb with.
Social and hut meets

As well as our regular weekend meets, we also have some annual social meets: such as at Christmas when we cook a big feast after a after a day on hill and have a party; and a barbecue meet when we hope the rain stays away long enough for us to get the BBQ fired up…
Our own clubhouse

Having the use of the clubhouse on a Monday night means we have our own bar and can hold things like slide shows. It also means prospective new members can come along and be assured of meeting club members – rather than having to go into a bar full of people and play at ‘spot the climbers’. We also have a small library of guidebooks in the clubhouse, which are for the use of members.
Cheaper gear

In addition to the 10-15% that most outdoor equipment shops will give you for BMC membership, a number of outlets give an extra discount to GMC members (e.g. 20% at Cicerone, et al!). Members also get a discount on entry to local climbing walls (i.e. Craggy Island and Surrey Sports Park).
Third party insurance

As a member of the club you will become an affiliated member of the British Mountaineering Council, which includes third party liability insurance.
Perfect winter conditions on Tryfan, Snowdonia

We are an active and welcoming club that consists of members who enjoy rock climbing and mountaineering . We have members, both female and male, with ages ranging from 20 to over 60 – i.e. we’re not all Chris Bonnington look-a-likes! We have fortnightly meets to locations all over the UK, from Cornwall to the Cairngorms, as well as trips abroad to areas such as Fontainebleau, Spain and the Alps (see the Gallery section for photos of recent trips).
Mountaineering involves many forms of climbing – from technical ‘cragging’ to front-pointing up a frozen waterfall – and at the GMC, we practise them all. Whether it’s a day of climbing single-pitch routes at a sunny crag or tackling snow and ice between alpine huts, GMC members are out there doing it.
Day out in the mountains
More locally, the club meets at the Waterside Centre in Guildford every Monday night, where, as well as enjoying a beer (the centre has a licensed bar), we finalise details for the forthcoming trip (i.e. accommodation, travel arrangements, etc.). Feel free to come down one evening to say hello. The dates and locations for meets are planned well in advance to enable people to decide which trips they can attend. Members usually share transport and we stay mostly on campsites in summer and in mountaineering club huts in the winter.
We are a British Mountaineering Club (BMC) affiliated club which means members automatically are part of the BMC. This gives you third party insurance, a copy of their Summit magazine and access to their superb travel insurance.
Our constitution sets out our objectives “to encourage the pursuit of Mountaineering in all its branches, and in particular to organise for the benefit of its members a) outdoor meets for the practice of mountaineering and b) lectures and discussions on mountaineering subjects”. In 2013 we celebrated our 40th year of doing this and look forward to continuing this for many more to come.
We welcome all climbers and mountaineers. If you’re new to climbing we can give you your first climbing experience and even have a small amount of equipment to lend you for your first few club meets. However, the club does not set out to train people to climb – very few of its members have any formal qualification in this and the club does not have the legal status and insurances to do it – and, so, if you haven’t climbed before, it is recommended that you attend a suitable course to give a good grounding in the basic skills. 
If this is the case, we can point you in the right direction. You might want a short course to learn the basics so you can climb at an indoor wall (both of Guildford’s climbing walls – Craggy Island and Surrey Sports Park – offer courses) or for those who wish to lead outdoors, a residential course at Plas y Brenin, the National Mountain Centre in Snowdonia. Plas y Brenin, and Glenmore Lodge the Scottish counterpart, also offer winter walking and mountaineering courses for those who want to learn how to use crampons and ice axes and go out in the white stuff.
As soon as you know the basics (e.g. how to belay), the club provides the perfect environment to put your new skills to work while learning from those around you. There is a great tradition in the club of more experienced members helping newcomers to improve their climbing. However, it should be noted that the ethos of the club is that of a group of friends taking on shared responsibility, and so it is important that new members recognise the risks they are undertaking, and feel comfortable in assessing these for themselves.
Struggling up in less than ideal conditions!
Here are some answers to questions we are frequently asked…
Q. I’m a walker/hiker/rambler rather than climber, is this the club for me?
A. The primary focus of the club is climbing and mountaineering. However, many of the meet venues are in areas suitable for walking, and a significant minority of the club are interested in walking rather than climbing. Also, because of the vagaries of the British weather, when it is not suitable to climb, many members walk and scramble instead.
Q. What is a ‘meet’?

That’s just our name for a trip away for members! See our meets page for this year’s meets list.
Eyeing up some routes
Q. Do I need to buy any/all of the equipment?

A. The club does now have a very small equipment list for loan such as harnesses, helmets, abseil rope, walking axes and crampons. These are intended for a beginner’s first couple of meets, and so you will then need your own gear if you want to climb. At a minimum, this consists of helmet, rock boots, harness, nut extractor, belaying device and a couple of karabiners. For your first few meets, if you don’t already possess one, it should be possible to borrow a rope (or climb as a three, sharing a rope), but you should plan on buying a rope fairly soon enabling you to contribute one half of the rope needed – as most people in the club climb on twin ropes, this would normally be a 9mm x 50m rope. As your interest in climbing progresses, you will then probably want to buy protection equipment for leading. For walking, boots, hill clothing and waterproof gear are all that is required. For winter meets, crampons, ice axe and other equipment may be required – it will be assumed that you know how to use these. For camping, you will obviously need a tent and sleeping bag as a minimum!
Q. Would I need to come along on every meet?

A. No, just pick and choose the ones you like the look of. Some members come on most meets, others will just do a few meets each year because of family, work or other commitments.
Taking a break
Q. How much does it cost to join?

A. Introductory membership is £12 January to June, and £6 July to December, both lasting until the end of the year. After attending two meets the committee will invite you to join as a full member at a cost of £34 minus the introductory fee, and this allows you to take advantage of all the full member benefits. Full yearly membership runs from 1st January to 31st December. There is a discount for joining late in the year.
Q. How much does it cost per meet?

A. In the UK, any camping fees or Hut fees plus a share of the fuel costs. Abroad, all travel, accommodation, insurance, etc.
Climbing in Cornwall
Q. I’m already a BMC member, what is the benefit of joining?

A. Shared costs and driving, cheaper gear, discounts at local walls and 70 other fun people to climb with. You can reclaim any duplication of fees from the BMC so that you don’t pay twice.
Q. I don’t have a car, is that a problem?

A. No, but you may need to get to a train station near to the person driving.
One summer’s BBQ… just before heading to the pub!
Q. How many members do you have?

A. Membership hovers around the 70′s.
Q. What is the joining process?

A. See here the best thing to do is to drop by the clubhouse on a Monday evening after 8pm to get a briefing by a committee member, meet some members and ask any questions you have.
An experimental bivvy meet
Q. What if I have more questions?

A. Either send us an email via the web form or come along in person!

30th January - 1st February
North Wales
Ty'n Lon, Nant1peris

16th - 23rd February
Glenfishie Hostel, Caigngorns

20th - 22nd February
Coniston, Lakes
3 Irish Row, Copper Mines


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