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

 

By Jonathan How
The idea of a trip began with Jen’s brother getting married in the Czech Republic and a subsequent appeal for ‘a Coupsy walker’. Jonathan was interested in returning to Austria and the Stubaital was readily identified as a base that would offer a range of mountaineering opportunities. The party would be Coups, Jen, Jonathan and Jack (Coups and Jen’s young collie).
The trip began with two extremes of weather: on one day Coups, Jen and Jack were being poached in the van driving through the Czech Republic and Austria and less than 24 hours later were on a very wet and rather cold campsite in the Alps.
Base Camp
Prior planning had identified Camping Edelweiss, Volderau as a picturesque venue and it proved to be well located for the mountains, with good washing and drying facilities and plenty of shade, and a new wooden shelter for cooking and eating which provided a place to meet fellow campers. It is a site at which you can just turn up and then register when the office opens in the morning. A good pizzeria opposite adds to the virtues of the site. It is, however, next to a river (more a raging torrent at 63dB than a babbling brook!) and substantially wetter and colder than a small and very smart campsite (Sonnencamping, Telfes) lower down in the valley next to the Stubay swimming pool.
Volderau and Camping Edelweiss are 6km up the valley from the village of Neustift which functions as the main centre in the Stubaital, offering a good tourist office, gear shops and supermarkets. Alpine club maps can be purchased and klettersteig (via ferrata) kits hired. There are two buses an hour from Innsbruck which run the full length of the valley, making the area easily accessible. Innsbruck itself is a small city, well equipped with gear shops. Detailed Austrian Alpine Club guide books can be purchased at freytag & berndt in Innsbruck. While written in German, they provide more current info on the less popular peaks and routes and descriptions can be reasonably accessed with the help of Google Translate.
Good information on the huts, lifts and klettersteig can be found on the Tirol website. The tourist office were very happy to ring and book huts for us. The weekends were fully booked and some walkers we met advised booking in April if you wanted a room!

In contrast with Swiss mountaineering the main mountain activities in Austria seem to be hut to hut walking and klettersteig. This gives the huts more of a family holiday feel – indeed as we left an English family were setting off on a tour with their children, aged 4 and 7. Do not, however, be deceived. While well way-marked, many of the routes are steep with exposed sections, and very loose rock and scree are not unusual such that good footwork is rightly valued as a skill even on fairly basic routes.
Mountain Days
Coups and Jonathan managed three high mountain trips.

Traverse of the Grosser Troegler.

Uplift to Dresdener. (€6.60) Drop down (signage not clear). Steep climb. Ridge. Views. Drop to Sulzenauhutte (good base for klettersteig & routes on other side.) Snow had fallen previous day and night down to around 2100m but was clear by the evening. The walk out from the Sulzenauhutte goats too us through a field of sweet chasing goats. They were very used to walkers and tourists and had acquired a taste for sugar. Ascent 740m, descent 1440m, in guide time of 6.5 hrs.


Attempt on the Lisener Fernerkoegel.

On the Friday we headed up to… Oberissalm. The route was rather difficult to find as tourist walking maps don’t seem to distinguish between roads and tracks across fields. The road goes up from Milder, not Neustift. There is ample parking for €6 per day and a taxi service is also available. Its not the greatest walks otherwise.
We spent the night at the Franz Senn Hutte. A large 250 bed hut on 4 floors. The fact that there are free hot showers and drinking water in the taps immediately tells you that this is a different environment! Hut fees were €46 half board. A normal BMC card was accepted for the usual members discount. The food was good and substantial. Breakfast the next day was a very substantial buffet with as much bread, meat, cheese and jam as you fancy and the usual flask of hot sweet fruit tea to take away. It was clear that, despite our initial concerns, it would not be busy on our route the next day. In fact a look at the hut book seemed to suggest last ascent was a month earlier. We took breakfast at 6am (which the huttenwirt thought was quite early enough!), aiming to depart 6.30 in order to be back off the glacier by 2pm. There was a long walk to col above glacier (which should have been 2½  hours but took a bit longer, being slowed down by verglass on the boulder field around the Rinnensee. We geared up and descended onto the glacier, seeing feint signs of only one of one previous party through the thin covering of snow (it is probably dry after a period of sustained warm weather). The glacier showed little sign of crevassing. We traversed across to 2950m (some 50m lower than guidebook, suggesting a drop of some 50m in the height of the glacier over the last 30 years) and scrambled up the Plattingenwand, aided by a few small but welcome cairns to pt 3045m. It was now 12.30 and clear that would need another 2 hours at our pace to reach our objective so took photos and set off back on the descent past hut to Oberissalm. The warden had warned of rockfall risk on the upper glacier and inspection suggested it was steeper and more technical than the very straightforward Ferner glacier. In all a very pleasant day out, the variety of terrain and lack of other parties (we saw only two others In that open valley all day and they were not on the same route) making this a route of quality and one to return to. We had climbed some 1100m and descended 1500m. A guide time of 7 hours is probably more realistic, other than for the superfit, and once back I have seen it on one or two web sites. The long walk before getting onto the glacier also suggests bringing your own breakfast and making a proper alpine start of 4.30 or 5am, contrary to the more relaxed Austrian approach.

Elferkogel Klettersteig.

A first experience for Coups and Jon. Kit was hired in village (€10/day), the route in the guide published and freely available at the tourist office. Took the cable car up and ascended the ridge. The start lies beyond Elferspitze. The route follows mainly scrambling terrain, but includes shorter passages which would be graded climbing were it not for the aid of the cable and/or pins. The quality of the limestone was not dissimilar to that in the Wye Valley or at Swanage and the cable provided welcome safeguard on what was often quite chossy rock. We enjoyed the experience and would be happy to include it as part of an alpine trip, but not enough to want to make it the main activity.
Other Activities
The small lake at Kampl provided an excuse for sitting in a sunny valley swimming in the open water. The Schlick cable car leads to some easy and pleasant walking, including a curated flower trail and views of some very committing klettersteig.
Maria Himmelfart (the Assumption of Mary) on the 15th August is a major holiday in the more Catholic parts of Europe and culturally only a little behind Christmas and Easter. The morning celebrations centered around Mass, a procession with the various village groups (brass band, mothers Union, young farmers, schnitzel battalion (rifle brigade firing volleys from time to time)), all in traditional dress and lunch washed down by copious quantities of pork, cake, beer, and schnapps. While Jonathan went to church Jenny, Jack and Coups trekked up to farm above the village for a couple of rounds of cake and coffee. An interesting break in the middle of the trip.
Food and drink
Tirolean cooking is perhaps best described as hearty and substantial. The following were sampled during the trip and should be tried as part of an Austrian Alpine experience.

Bacon dumplings, served either in a beef broth or on a bed of sauerkraut. Also made with spinach or with cheese.
Kaiser schmarren. Shredded pancake, dusted with icing sugar and served with either apple purée or a cranberry sauce.
(Chanterelles?) these wild mushrooms come into season in August and some of our fellow campers were collecting them by the bucketfull. They get served in a cream sauce with dumplings, with meat p, pasta or even on pizza.

The discovery of the trip however was the Banana slice. It was the last bit of cake on the counter at the end of the day and, while it looked lonely and forlorn, once shown a fork it revealed layers of sponge with a chocolate and banana filling topped off by a thin soft layer of marzipan.
Most of the beer in the valley is Zipfer, which is very welcome indeed after a good day on the mountain, but is not really a worthy representative of the Brewer’s art in German speaking lands.
An excellent wine merchant (Vino Ribis) was found in Telfes, and worth a visit if looking for best quality Austrian wines and spirits to bring home.
Other advice.
In keeping with much of the Alps remember that shops are usually closed on Sundays. English is pretty widely spoken, but words of German are always appreciated. It can be cold and it is worth taking a 3 or 4 season sleeping bag.
Some other campers reported that screw fix gas canisters are not always easy to find.
 
Two Guide Books to the area are available in English and supported planning. The information was checked for currency against the OAV guide obtained in the ground.
Allan Hartley, Hut to Hut in the Stubai Alps. Milnthorpe: Cicerone, 1990(?)
Dieter Seibert, Eastern Alps.  London: Diadem, 1992.
Walter Klier, Stubaier Alpen. Muenchen: Bergverlag Rother, 2013.
JOIN US

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 £15 if joining between January and June, or £8 if joining between July and December. It would be better here if you came down to the clubhouse one Monday night but check the calendar first because we only meet there once a month.  This means 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 £35 minus the introductory fee. All membership levels run from 1st Jan to 31st December.
There’ll be someone at the clubhouse on the Monday meet evening, from 8-10pm, but check the Club Calendar first. On other Mondays, it is possible to meet at Craggy Island, but best to arrange with the Membership Secretary beforehand where to meet.
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
MORE INFO

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 and Surbiton’s White Spider – 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!
APPROACHING MEETS

11th - 12th March
North Wales
Ceunant MC Hut Nant Peris

1st - 8th April
Sicily

2nd April
South Coast Day Trip
Day trip

UP & COMING

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