Buxton Mountaineering Club East……… By Dan

This blog is the first from the Buxton MC’s newest chapter- Buxton MC East, based in Saxony.

Rob drove heroically to get me and my boxes of junk to Saxony, but after he left, I found myself alone, with no working phone or internet, and all shops closed for two days due to the Pfingsten holiday. It looked pretty bleak. I cycled through the woods and had a beer at the beer garden in the middle of it. This helped calm my nerves and inspire me to try once again with the little battery power I had left to make a phone call. As it turns out, my UK phone could make calls, but send no texts. Ulli insisted I get on the next train to Rathen, a spa town on the Elbe. One thing I have learned- with Ulli, anything is possible; Rucksack fallen over 100m onto a glacier?  No need to despair. A very long abseil should do the trick. (And he actually collected all the items that had fallen out on the way as he recovered the damaged sack!) So I went along and within 2 hours was greeting the good doctor on the platform. Soon I was at a party of people I had never met, drinking wine I never bought, and sitting around a fire outside a very large country house I had never been in. I felt like a celebrity.

The next day was sunny and warm. We hiked for an hour or so through the forest and uphill, trying to recall from memory what the guidebook we didn’t have would have told us. Wide tourist paths gave way to narrow paths for climbers, and then came a small obstacle- a bit of a scramble up some steep sandstone boulders and passages too narrow for rucksacks. Watching Ulli lift both legs and run in the air, cartoon style, while his pack held him in place will always be a highlight. We quickly set up a rope to pull the packs up and through, and even helped some other people behind us. Doing this all barefoot to save time made me feel closer to our forebears of the last century, who did all of these routes barefoot.

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One thing that has always impressed me, in fact, is the stasis of the Elbsandstein. It had not changed in the years I had been gone, and indeed it had not changed much in the 155 years since the first routes were put up. Oscar Schuster, Fritz Brosin, Oliver Perry-Smith and Rudolf Fehrmann had experienced it much the same as we did. The familiar sights, sounds, and smells of the woods and sandstone towers made me feel as if I had not been gone at all, as if the last eight years had never happened. I felt the timelessness of the place, it seemed to echo back into infinity.

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Soon we were staring in awe at Höllenhund, one of the great classic towers, some 70m high, a wall full of tiny, web-like structures, and according to the books, plenty of places for threads. I say awe, but fear is perhaps more accurate. The easiest way up is not easy at all, and quite dangerous. We decided instead on a few easier towers nearby.

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Each tower has several routes, the oldest generally the easiest, and almost always called Alter Weg (old way). Much like gritstone, the grades can be deceptive. Even theoretically easy grades can have very tricky portions. Soon we were on top of the Eule, the first I had climbed here in 8 years! Its narrow but long peak had a fantastic view. After a 25m abseil, in which we got off early on a sloping canyon, rather than descending the entire 35m or so, we walked to the Höllendhund Scheibe, which was close but in fact required an abseil from a tree on loose ground and through trees to get to, and thus was an effort of 30 minutes or so. Here we did a few more difficult routes, the last one having very marginal protection and very fragile hand and foot placements. By fragile I mean that they crumbled away in your hand.

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Perhaps most interesting here was the summit register at the top.  These are always in a small zinc box to protect it from the elements, and with a pencil which can be sharpened by scraping it along the stone. Each book stays there until it is full, at which time the local Alpine Club (SBB) collects it, replaces it, and archives it. Popular summits’ books must be replaced yearly or more often. This one, perhaps because of the difficulty of reaching the start, had been in use, in its zinc box, since 1976! And just before us, the lead climber had written that this was his final summit of all those in the Elbsandstein! There are over 1,100 such towers on the German side, and more if you include the Bohemian side.  Only a few people have done this, and even fewer have led at least one route on every summit. From the top we could also see a ring on the rock wall some metres away. Climbing on the innumerable massifs is not allowed, but the ring is there to accommodate the belaying of those who would like to jump from the massif to the top of the tower. It seems a rather large effort for something that has probably only been done once. Successfully.

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The walk back down through the fragrant forest, empty of humans, but full of birdsong and sandstone towers, was a pleasure only added to when Ulli pulled the beers out of the creek, where he had hidden them earlier, and we drank them on the ferry across the Elbe.

The Year So Far

So the news updates have been a bit lacking this season so far therefore a quick update is due after the first few meets.

The fine conditions continued and we got some good meets in. This season has seen decent numbers climbing at pretty much all the club meets with a handful of new people turning up.

 

 

 

 

Birchens, Roaches Lower and Lawrencefield have stood out for me as being meets where 15+ BuxtonMC members were climbing doing everything from Diffs to HVS (with mixed levels of success). A few years ago there was sometimes a risk of arriving at a crag and only having 3-4 members of the club there but now we always have a good show.

Even at Millstone where the weather looked menacing all afternoon 6 members risked it and had a great evening while others were climbing more locally to Buxton.

 

 

We have a had a few wet meets called off recently but now the nights are getting shorter (it’ll soon be Christmas) I’m looking forward to a string of good Tuesdays to keep things going.

Hang Tough

May Bank Holiday saw Buxton Spring Fair taking over the town once again. In the past we have attended, the first one saw me being told I couldn’t dangle from a tree! but this year we decided to either Go Big or Go Home with our very own Hang Tough competition…. basically grab hold of a horizontal scaffold pole and hang on till you can’t hang any longer

 

 

Tim came up with the ideas and did all the practical work building a scaffolding rig so much credit must go to him.

 

We were very fortunate that The Rope Race in Marple, Substation in Macclesfield and the BMC had provided prizes so we could run a genuine competition with out much outlay. We had a female, male and junior category which were all heavily contested.

It was a great day and we were busy the whole time through, often with queues of people waiting, at the end of the day we even had to turn people away….. some people hung for a 30 seconds while others, as you can see did some pretty impressive times

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The stand out performance weas a young lad called Joel who blew the competition away, staying off the ground for over 12minutes. He has never climbed but won a voucher to go to the Rope Race kids climbing session… so maybe someone to look out for in LA Olympics in 2028!

 

The competition was great fun and it was brilliant to see everyone having a go but the real reason was the let local people know about the climbing club. Only a week later we have had direct contact with 2 people who we met on the day and another 3 have joined the BuxtonMC Facebook site and hopefully will get in contact soon. We also were able to signpost people to the Substation and to The Roperace for intro the climbing tasters as well, so maybe some of those will filter through to the club.

All in all a great day, so we will be back next year… as Tim pointed out, he’s built it now!

For the many, not the few – by Ross

On Saturday I joined a hardy bunch to recognise and celebrate the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, the act that essentially allowed the setting up of the Peak National Park two years later

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The Spirit of Kinder supported by the National Trust, Peak Park, Ramblers and the BMC was due to be held in Winnats Pass, where many rallies pre-Kinder Trespass occurred. The event was not well advertised… i happened to pick up a leaflet, plus a friend works for the NT.  This poor promotion was a blessing in the end as the church could not have held many people… but if the weather had been good, several hundred people packing out Winnats pass would have sent quite a message about the value of sustainable access to our Countryside.

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Winnats Pass late 20s

 

After a few pictures were taken we returned to the Peveril Conference Centre/church for some speeches and a cuppa. Speeches were by Lord Blunkett, the CEO of the National Trust Hillary McGrady, Lynn Robinson the president of the BMC and High Peak MP Ruth George. Realistically though the most noteworthy and entertaining talk was by Pulp Frontman Jarvis Cocker.

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Jarvis

Jarvis talked about his love of the Peak District and that despite living in Sheffield it was never somewhere he and his family felt they belonged until a school trip which non of his friends were looking forward to. The Countryside is now somewhere he goes for calm and inspiration. He is currently setting up and art an discovery trail that will start and end at Edale train station as part of these 70 year celebrations.

All speakers were keen to highlight that a lot has been achieved but that there is much to do. What remains is mostly around sustainable access and use of the national park, encouraging all people to come and visit but having as little of an impact as is practicable. Issues around erosion, re-wilding (including grouse moors), off roading and litter were all raised

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The new generation

The event came to a close with a number of ‘Elders’ of Kinder’ (including BMC Access stalwart Henry Folkard) passing the mantle onto a group of young NT volunteers in the form of swapping badges. Yes it was a bit twee but you cant fault the sentiment, Conservation now needs to be thought of in 50+year plans so the young generation are going to be needed to keep the NP, the NT and the governments feet to the fires.

Two out of two

So two meets into the new calendar and we have a 100% record  (shhhhh!)

A new addition to the calendar was a early visit to New Mills. This would not be really possible if it were not for the floodlights illuminating a decent amou t of rock and mostly the bouldering and sports routes on the viaduct pillar.

We had 5 or 6 members plus a person who had planned to pop down and say hello and were even joined by a climber who didnt know we were going to be there but was walking back on his communte from work. He then legged it home and grabbed his kit.

All in all an excellent meet.

The following week was Windgather and to be fair.. it all looked rather doubtful. Even driving through Whaley bridge i was mentally planning a walk in my head, but i got there and it was dry. Andy had been there from 4 and said you could see rain falling all around by not on Windgather.

Admittedly is was cold and we did have flurries of snow but a number of routes were led and even more soloed by the 6 or so climbers there.

A good start to the year… but dont say it out loud!

 

 

 

Raptor Persecution on our doorstep – Alan and Saffra

Alan Smith and Saffra Wright attended the BMC Peak Area Meeting as we had a particular interest in seeing the presentation by the RSPB and Derbyshire Police Wildlife Crimes Unit on Raptor persecution.
PC Emerson Buckingham of Derbyshire Wildlife Crime Unit gave an overview of different types of traps which are used in the Peak District some of which are legal and some of which are illegal.The context of how the trap is set sometimes determines if the trap is legal or not. For example a wire snare can legally be used to trap foxes but it is illegal to snare badgers. If the snare is set too low (in general under 9″ is considered too low) then it is probably illegal as the intended quarry is not foxes. Snares and other traps should be checked every 24 hrs and if this is not being undertaken then again it the traps are being used illegally.
PC Buckingham also emphasised that traps, such as the Fentrap – Mark 4, which may be set perfectly legally on the ground become illegal if placed (set) on a fence post. This is all connected with the target quarry of the trap, as if a trap on a fence post is discovered it is likely that the intended quarry is a raptor. His advice was that if a trap is found on a fence post to knock it off with a stick and photograph (and an OS grid ref is probably useful also). It is very important not to touch the traps as they can snap shut forcefully and damage fingers and hands. There are traps which are completely legal and these cannot legally be unset but a trap on a fence post will always be illegal. If in doubt he stated that he does not mind being contacted and sent a photo and neither would any other staff member of the wildlife crime unit. Snares can only be used for foxes legally. It
gets more complicated when it has to be considered if the snares are free-running (legal) or self-locking (illegal – due to animal welfare). So it’s worth contacting the unit if in doubt as obviously it is quite complicated and worth verifying before taking any personal action.
Mark Thomas of the RSPB emphasised the covert nature of operations of his unit and how they work with the Wildlife Crime Unit. Most of their work comprises collecting evidence for the CPS and assisting with police investigations. Mark emphasised that ring ouzel and even dipper have been found dead in Fentraps on posts as well as raptors. Mark also pointed put the stark contrast between raptor numbers in the White Peak, where they thrive, in comparison with the dark Peak where raptors are virtually absent. Obviously the significant correlation being with the location of grouse moors being in the Dark Peak.
The evidence that Mark presented showing that gamekeepers are responsible for many raptor deaths was compelling and graphic. A very interesting example showed that raptors die of natural causes in West Africa, in very remote locations, they are always found (the body is found) due to the satellite tag still be able to transmit even when the bird has died. That has been contrasted with raptors going missing on grouse moors where the tag simply stops transmitting so that even the dead bird can’t be found. Clearly the tags are being removed and destroyed in order to hide the criminal evidence.
Both speakers emphasised strongly that wildlife crime and specifically raptor persecution was a major problem in Derbyshire, with the Dark Peak, in particular, being a hotspot for it. Many members of the audience raised examples of traps they had found and asked questions about what could be done. Both speakers were clear that 999 should be called without hesitation should a definite wildlife crime be being witnessed. If the witness is less sure or it is evidence collecting rather than an active crime happening (perhaps if you find a suspicious raptor carcass or suspected poisoned bait) then PC Buckingham can be emailed with the details (probably with photos as appropriate) or there is a confidential Raptor Crime Hotline 0300 999 0101. This is very useful for people who perhaps work on an estate already or are perhaps on the property for another reason, with landowners permission, and might not want to jeopardise their current status. This is a free number and can easily be found with a simple google search.
In addition to the above the discussion it is timely in that a new study (published in Nature Communications on 19th March 2019) has recently revealed that a 10 year study has shown that hen harriers are ten times more likely to die or disappear on grouse moors than elsewhere. The data is compelling, highly statistically significant and is considered to represent irrefutable science based evidence of illegal persecution on grouse moors. The data set comprised a suitable large sample size over a suitably long study period to show this beyond reasonable doubt. More details on this report can be found at www.rarebirdalert.co.uk  or raptorpersecutionscotland

Crazy English Summer – By Tim

Keen to make the most of the balmy or was it barmy summer weather a few hardy souls decided to head out to New Mills Torr for a rather unusual February Tuesday evening meet.

Well it certainly was a nice change to another indoor session at rope race or the substation.

Saffra & Simon took on Alcove Crack, Flake Crack.  Meanwhile after a quick warmup on Deception to Original Route Mark, Bec & Tim set their sights on the chossy delights of Deception.

As the light started to fail we all moved onto the bridge, Mark pulling out a decent lead inside & Simon on the outside, then it was headtorches on, a lot of floundering in the dark – my first time on the bridge & 1st with a torch, turns out both are tougher than I’d hoped.

 

Anyway, it might be a stretch to call it fun, but it made for some great photos

 

Tim.