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

Day trip to Fairy Cave Quarry by Paul Nicholls

With the weather looking decidedly wet for the Gower weekend meet a few of us opted for a day trip on Sunday instead. I suggested Fairy Cave Quarry, a disused quarry in the East Mendips not too far from Shepton Mallet.

Many of the Quarry’s routes were established as recently as 2011 although it was Mike Raine, who was involved in numerous first ascents and who wrote the Fairy Cave Quarry chapter in the 2004 Avon and Cheddar guide, who in 2002 was the driving force in establishing many routes and the Quarry’s climbing ethics (not just bolt-free, but free from in situ gear of any kind). I’ve met Mike a number of times, he’s a lovely chap and a very enthusiastic mountaineer, climber and instructor.

Fairy Cave Quarry

The quarry is home to a number of water-formed limestone cave systems and the entrances can be seen at the foot of a number of the climbs. It’s down to lengthy negotiations by the BMC with the owners of the fenced quarry that climbers and cavers now have access to the site. Access details and the gate padlock combination can be obtained from the BMC by contacting Ian Butterworth at fcq@btinternet.com

There’s a fair bit of greenery to be negotiated at the foot and top out of many of the climbs, and as often experienced with limestone in the area there’s a fair bit of loose rock too. But once you’ve found your route they’re fairly solid.

So, having negotiated the padlock we got in to the quarry around 9.30am and for an hour or so we had the place to ourselves. Mike Chapman and KJ and set off to climb The Con Severe 4b whilst Boyd and I discussed the best way to re-order his rack so it made sense to the both of us, before Boyd lead up Back to Basics a one star 35m VDiff (with the obligatory rather loose looking refrigerator sized block at the top). Both were good warm up routes and the search for decent anchor placements at the top was ‘interesting’. Descent was a scramble down via The Alpine Ridge and I was ‘thrilled’ to find that the lovely jug I put my weight on just pulled out of the rock, amazing how long one swear word echoes around a quarry! Fortunately my balance was good.

Now, fresh from some indoor coaxing from Mr Seabrook and assurance from Mr Proudfoot that the best way up was “just to push through the move” I offered to lead the next route (I know, I know!) So, with enough gear to weigh down a hot air balloon I lead up the 20m VDiff Cristel Wall. A great route, plenty of good gear placements, with a nice little move at the top “which I pushed through” on to the top of the Alpine Ridge. It took me longer to find an anchor point than it did for me to climb the route!

Whilst we climbed Cristel Wall, and unknown to us at the time, the others had been called in to assist in a bit of a cave rescue! Some silly sod, apparently 80 years of age, had decided to climb in to the tiniest of holes at the foot of a climb and promptly got himself jammed. Mike and KJ, without any thought for their own safety, dived in to the cave (well about 6 foot in at least!) and managed to get a rope round the octogenarian and yank him out. Cave rescue had been called but were asked to stand down. Drama!

Following their stint as cave rescue Mike then lead Anty Matter 35m HS 4b, a reasonably protected slab and an enjoyable climb by all accounts. Then KJ, in his own indomitable style, chose to lead Ants in my Leg Loop, a 30m VS 4b, a ‘horrible, poorly protected climb’ according to Mike and with words in the guide book like ‘sparsely protected’, ‘choss’, ‘overhanging block’, ‘escalating difficulty’ and ‘gnarly holds’ I imagine that the ants were the least of their worries.

Following Boyd’s lead up The Con (S 4b) accompanied by a little shower of stones onto his belayer (me!) we all gathered at the foot of Balch’s Slide HS 4a (VS if you take the superdirect line) to watch Mike lead. Now, I’m sure Mike said to me that he wasn’t going to lead today having only just recovered from a long line of injuries, this only occurred to me as I watched him put his first bit of gear into the featureless slab at about 18m! I followed KJ up the route and as slabs go it was quite a challenging climb, really smooth and very few options for gear. The guidebook said well-spaced protection, yeah, one at 18m, one at 36m then top out! But paraphrasing Mike, “who needs protection anyway?”

Mike leading Balch’s Slide VS 4a                       Paul following on Balch’s Slide

Time was getting on now and it looked like we all had time for one more climb. Mike and KJ dared each other to lead Om Puri, a VS 4b 40m with two pitches (the trickier pitch is subject to which one of the guys you ask about the climb).

I chose to lead Pueblo an 18m VDiff. The guide book said it had a “a couple of thin moves”. I’ve always thought ‘couple’ was two, ‘a few’ was three or more and above 5 or so it was just ‘some’. So, let’s say there are ‘some thin moves’ on this climb, tough slab for a VDiff. I opted to position myself in the middle of the climb and show off my disco legs as I threw half my rack down at Boyd (someone’s got to do it) and then lunge for the only real gear placement of any value, a small ash tree half way up! Didn’t really bother with gear after that, but was a little dismayed to find that there was a six foot stretch of mud and grass at the top, before the tree used for a belay anchor, that ran at the same angle as the climb. How big a handful of grass is considered a safe hold? Boyd and I abseiled back down, and I congratulated myself on my extremely neat rope-work on what was essentially a hanging belay from the tree. Mind you, Mr Raine would have been disappointed as there was some robust ‘in situ’ gear around the tree (very useful though).

All in all a great day of climbing. We enjoyed the venue, the weather held and the climbing was fun. Mike overcame injury, KJ was bold (as always), Boyd held it together and I offered to lead (twice!). Can’t ask for much more than that really.


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

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!

5th - 6th August
South Coast Day Trip
Day trip weekend

19th - 20th August
South Coast Day Trip
Day trip weekend

26th - 28th August
Pembroke North


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