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Ailefroide Camp-a-rooney Pt 1 – by Ross

Despite some…well one major blip, I think the re-booted BuxtonMC Alps meet can be described as a roaring success. Between the group we ticked off alpine routes, higher altitude plodding, hut stays, multi-pitch and single pitch rock routes, mountain biking, via-ferrata, lower altitude walking and the traditional consummation of beer, wine and cheese.

What more could you want?

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There was a reconnaissance mission led by Dave and Jaimella, their write up can be found here. 

Ailefroide itself is a very small village… merely a few buildings. These building however include a newsagent, a very good gear shop, a Sherpa mini market, 3 pizza vans and various bars. These are all here to service the small town that is the campsite…. home to hundreds, maybe thousands of people but while we were there it never felt busy due to its vast size and varied camp grounds….. a home away from home.

The BuxtonMC members it attendance were;

  • Alison and Darryl
  • Derek and Wendy
  • Rob, Alan, Adrian and Dec (or Margot depending on what ID you check) 
  • James, Kirsty and kids
  • and finally me.

The number of people, plus the fact that within striking distance of the camp there were so many available activities means that a full write up on the 3 weeks that people were there is a Herculean task I am not willing to complete. Therefore I have created  a list of what was ticked until I left

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Via Ferrata

I did three Via Ferrata (Via Ferrati ?), the first 2 with Alison and Darryl and the 3rd with Derek. Non really resulted in the height gain that I have experienced in previous VF’s. Others got me into positions that as a mediocre climber I probably couldn’t have done climbing free.  Whereas the first and last this trip were up canyons/ravines with limited steep ground. The 2nd was up a face and the most consistently ‘up’ but again didn’t give the exposure I have come to associate with VF…. still entertaining though.

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Ecrins Totale

What seemed like a 25 min forced march could have been a leisurely 40 min stroll from the campsite but Derek and Rob seemed on a mission. Those two went to climb another route so I teamed up with Alan and then Dec with Adrian.

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The Mountain Men

It was a 6 pitch route which Derek assured us,  as it was the afternoon would pass into the shade imminently… therefore myself and Alan decided on the ‘big drink of water before setting off and don’t carry anything’ approach.

The first 2 pitches were fairly easy going, a nice introduction for me after a while off climbing. The 3rd pitch was much harder with a optional point of aid and then, what felt like quite a necky traverse. The 4th pitch was also committing and steep but was followed by a nice scrambley 5th. The 6th was a stiffer arete type pitch but with all you needed at the right time.

 

By the 4th pitch it was clear that Derek had misjudged the transit of the sun and we were still in full glare and parched to say the least. Derek then realised that when he was climbing in the shade 2 days ago with Alison…. it was a totally different climb and a totally different face! so on we battled to the abseil station with dry throats and dreams of iced water.

As most of you are already aware, the descent is a story in its own right, and a story for someone else to tell. Its fair to say though that it was a little while before I was going to be satiating my raging thirst with the bottled water at the foot of 3 abseils.

 

…..to be Continued

Steep Stoney By Steve

The club made a welcome return to Stoney Middleton on Tuesday. in recent years the Stoney meet has usually come with a ‘softer’ alternative of Froggatt or Burbage North… but this year it was an ‘all in’ approach. I think we had 12-14 people there sampling the delights of traditional peak Limestone.

Stoney Middleton comes with its own place in the history of Peak (and UK) climbing with the stories of Windy Ledge exploits by Whillans, Brown, Allen, Birtles, Proctor and later hard bouldering by Moon and Moffatt.  BuxtonMC would be following in their footsteps once again,  but maybe at a more leisurely pace… and with probably  less smoking.

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Simon above the Trees on Evasor

 

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Steve… how it used to be done (though previously more than 7″ above ground)

 

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David and James (hiding in the trees) on…something

 

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Alan and Matt finishing Padme

How Yellow Was My Valley… By Dan V

Our trip to the Emily Kelly Hut in North Wales was like a drop of pure, refreshing water in a vast desert.

As Britain baked in the harshest heatwave since the famed summer of ’76, a small band of merry mountaineers headed to the northern Welsh countryside. Despite weeks without rain and day after day of hot weather and cloudless skies, I packed my usual rain gear. After all, we were still in Britain. How long could this anomaly last? Another several weeks, as it turned out….

City of Gold!

In North Wales, gone were the usual grey skies, wind and rain. Gone were the usual lush green valleys and fields. The sky was cloudless and bright blue. The sun beat down and left nothing but burnt, yellow ground. The hut, usually a refuge from harsh weather, was instead a heat trap, the upstairs sauna-like upon our arrival. But who am I to complain? This was going to be a brilliant weekend.

Emma and Paul cycled on Saturday, enjoying a long tour through the hills and to the coast. Despite the burning sun and exhausting heat, the two cyclists were able to survive, buoyed by numerous ice cream and pizza stops. Paul also credited his survival to powerful sunglasses, so new, he didn’t even have time to take the label off! They returned sweaty, tired, brown, and oddly not hungry.

Emma and Ghost BikeGhost BikeSunglasses and Ice cream

Jo and William went on a long walk. I don’t know what they did or where they went, but I do know that William returned tired, but carrying a McDonald’s shake cup.

Robert and I took the most sensible approach in a heatwave, venturing out in the unrelenting sun and following the water pipeline up the steepest hill behind the hut. Two hours later we arrived at the foot of Lliwedd, our shirts and hats completely soaked through with sweat.

I had already drunk one litre of water. We climbed 10 pitches of enjoyable Welsh rock and then walked back. Our glory and feeling of triumph were only increased when we learned along the way that Belgium had defeated Brazil and France had beaten Uruguay to make an all-European World Cup. Take that South America!!! Also, apparently England did well. Or something.

classic climb

After the usual rounds of beer and white wine, which (exceptionally) we were able to enjoy outside in the warm evening, we managed to get to sleep. Sleeping bags seemed completely out of place, like umbrellas in the Sahara. A single sheet was all that protected me from the midges.

On Sunday most of us expected a quiet, relaxing day. We all started down toward the lake to relax. Instead we ended up plodding for some time through the heat, until we decided to wade back through the water. A boulder field on the route back served to justify our swim, as if it was instead a minefield, and only Robert had the ability to cross it. I expected we would just go in up to our knees or so. How naive I was. The lake quickly drops off from ankle deep to chest deep. Soon, we were all swimming, fully clothed, packs on backs, along the coast and through clouds of marijuana smoke, people on kayaks, and birds protecting their nests. Luckily at the last minute before going in, we had realised that wallets and phones do not dry out as well as other things, so Robert saved the day by taking these and walking back over the scary boulder field.

Buxton Swimmaneering CLub 1

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We thought we had seen Britain at its yellowest, but the heatwave continued for weeks after our trip. The Buxton Swimmaneering Club may yet return to swim again. 

Ecrins early birds

Work commitments meant Dave and I had to head to the Ecrins before the rest of the club, arriving in a very hot Argentiere la Bessee the first week of July. We based ourselves at the beautiful Maison Abeil for the first few days while we got our bearings. After arriving Monday evening we headed to Les Collets for a bit of cragging. The next day we headed to Ailefroide to get some tips on what was in condition at the guide’s office and climb the lovely A Tire D’Aile Froide (5c).  By 10.30am  the next morning the thermometer was at 37 degrees in the valley, so we headed up into the mountains to acclimatise and read some guidebooks.

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The La Grave telephrique opened in full on Thursday so we took the first one up with the intention of climbing the west summit of the Rateau. The weather was looking unstable and the snow was hard going after the recent high temperatures, so we switched objectives and headed for the Pic de la Grave. After fruitlessly trying to find a decent snow bridge across the bergshrund we abandoned this objective and had a picnic atop of the Dome de la Lauze (F) and headed back into the valley before the bad weather hit.

On Friday we took advantage of the lingering mizzle and walked to the Pave hut. Idyllic alpine meadows full of flowers, butterflies and marmots gave way after a few hours to a monochrome slog into the cloud up a seemingly interminable moraine. After nearly 5 hours we reached the Pave hut – despite being a basic metal prefab with a hosepipe bringing water from the glacier its only luxury,  it is one of the cosiest huts we’ve stayed in. We were the only guests that night and the guardian Sophie gave us a warm welcome. After a leisurely start the next morning we climbed the Pic Nord des Cavales (PD+), a superb route on excellent rock with some amazing positions. We were lucky enough to have the whole route to ourselves and the only other voice we heard was that of a lone French paraglider. We found that a single 50m rope was sufficient for the descent. We arrived back to a hut at full capacity, with beds being made up in a little cave outside the hut and in a storage area. A new bigger hut (with the same number of beds) is to be built next year. After walking down from the Pave the next day and eating enormous ice creams in the Restaurant Les Glaciers we headed to Chalet Mournier in Les Deux Alpes to take advantage of their pool and sauna.IMG_0856.JPG

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Monday saw us walking into the Soreiller hut, nestled at the foot of the Aiguille Dibona, a perfect needle of rock which compels you to climb it. With feet in a bad way after the epic walk down from the Pave, we took the walk at a lazy pace and after 3 hours reached the hut. There we met with a French guide and the next day climbed Visite Obligatoire (TD+), enjoying pitch after pitch of astonishing rock, although some sections felt hard with a rucksack. A shoe-related incident meant that close to the top, once all the difficulties had been overcome, we ended up taking in a few pitches of the mountain’s other classic route the Voie Madier, before rejoining our route for the final hard pitch and then taking the easy ground to the summit. After returning to the hut we decided to stay an extra night to give our feet chance to recover and were rewarded by an impromptu concert by a band of travelling folk singers who travel hut to hut.

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We headed back to the sanctuary of Maison Abeil on Wednesday, looking forward to sampling some more homemade muffins and bergamot marmalade and a bit of R&R. The thermal pools at les grands bains du Monetier, a 3 hour yoga class and a 7-course meal at the tiny Les Tables de Gaspard in Saint Crepan were the perfect way to round off our trip.

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Stanage , Manchester Buttress

Tuesday 24th July saw the club heading to Stanage again, this time to Manchester Buttress area at Popular end. With 4 members still in France we still managed a good turnout to climbing and  had 4 in the walking group.

As would be expected Derek (fresh from the Ecrins granite), Chris, Brid, David, Ann and Simon all managed to climb Manchester Buttress. All doing the traverse in slightly different fashions

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Anne seconding Manchester Buttress

 

Anatomy and Physiology were all pretty popular as was Black Hawk Hell Crack

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Chris on Black Hawk Hell Crack (S4a)
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Jo on Black Hawk Hell Crack (S4a)

Tim climbed both Gargoyle Buttress (VS 4b) and Lancashire Wall (HVS-) but unfortunately I was belaying both of those so no photographic evidence. Simon on the other hand went for Gargoyle variant (HS 4b) and Tinkers Crack (VS 4c).

 

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Gemma taking her own path while seconding Simon on Tinkers Crack. David on Physiology

David led Black Hawk Traverse Left (VD) while Jo led the tricky Black Hawk (HS 4c) seconded by William and Stuart,

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Jo getting acquainted with the underside of the flake

First time attendee Kate managed to second 2-3 routes, enjoying a late night of freedom while child free. Hopefully she will return….she couldn’t have got a better introduction than a warm, midge free evening at a fairly deserted Stanage.

Karl, Steve and Dan headed off right to do some routes in that direction and Hattie got bored and took herself off to to see what was happening in the carpark.

 

The walking group of the Alps fit, Wendy, Daryl and Alison… plus Andy  set out from Hook’s car Car Park and enjoyed a short scramble up a descent route somewhere north of Robin Hood’s Balcony before heading south to inspect the climbers. They then visited Burbage North and Higgar Tor before returning to Stanage.

Andy Walk

Midges and Mayhem at the Mynydd Hut By Dan

The Buxton Mountaineering Club had another fine meet at the mythical Mynydd club hut at Blaen y Nant, Wales, in June. The weather was glorious. Sunny, warm, and not windy— just right for midges!

Mynedd Hut

The hut is set completely on its own, up a long, narrow, bumpy dirt track. It has a large kitchen and a very spacious living room. There are several rooms with bunks to accommodate many climbers. There is ample parking, and the garden consists of a huge lawn surrounded by trees. The interior and gardens both even boast paraphernalia and tributes to former Mynydd member and famed mountaineer Pete Boardman, adding a touch of mountaineering history to the mix. For most, these aspects would make it an easy sell. It is practically the Chequers Court of climber’s huts. But not for the Buxton MC! These virtues were simply not good enough. Throughout breakfast, throughout supper, throughout the day, complaints from our members raged. Too far away from the climbing. Too bumpy of a road. Not near any good walking areas. Wild horses shitting all around my camper van! And get these “&§%(!!ß(€ midges out of the room! It was like watching the Grinch rail on about how much he hated Christmas.

pesky horses

In truth, though, this opinion had a clear age-group split. Those under the age of 12 loved the hut. They loved the rope swings in the trees. They loved the wild horses walking past. They loved the space to play tag, hide and seek, they loved the giant-sized jenga blocks. They loved Brid’s magic show. They loved the view. They loved life!

Kids love rope swings!

Brid mesmerises

Saturday’s activities included a group of the climbing faithful (Declan, Derek, Alan, Saff, Stuart ….) hitting hard routes at the Moelwyns. Jo and son William had a scramble at Moel Siabod. Les n Del, grandkids, Moa (pronounced Moo-ah, for the 10,000th time) and Dan walked over to Capel Curig.

karate chop to top!!

Dec big and bold

 

ging gang gooli

A late night drinking session led, as it only could, to an arm wrestle between big guns Alan and Stuart.

Sunday was spent in the beautiful slate quarries. Mordor has nothing on this place! It’s all about the slate- walking up it, climbing on it, making toys out of it. Adrian, Robert… have I missed anyone? All had a swell time. 

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Stu let's it all out

Slippery, sharp, and short, slate has it all! Jo led her first slate sport route, and not an easy one at that. There are no easy ones.

Jo leads

Declan Grafitti King

All in all, despite the sharp split of opinion on the hut, we all had a good time. The kids more than the adults, the midges most of all. They sure had some good meals that weekend….