By Tim Cooper
Five days of glorious climbing, amazing weather and beaucoup de baguettes and camembert rated this as a Font trip to remember. Tim and Amanda, being the only 2 GMC-ers to sign up, found new friends (well, Tim’s friends) who happened to be there at the same time. And despite a few injuries amongst us, including Tim’s arm and Amanda’s toe, we got out climbing all day every day.
En route we stayed overnight in a “dodgy” (Amanda) “fine” (Tim) F1 hotel, and after a couple of hours driving, had a nice little warm up on the oranges and yellows at Hautes Plaines to whet our appetites.
Day 2 saw us at Rocher Fin… the clue is in the name, a bit of a walk in. But Tim’s faultless navigation (a.k.a: Q: “Do you know the way?” A: “probably”) managed to get us there with no problems. A friendly spot to spend the day and nice sandy landings. Several families had been drawn out by the warm weather and bank holiday weekend, but there was a nice atmos and we didn’t have to queue for climbs.
At Canache Aux Merciers the next day we caught up with the others, the highlight being Tim carefully picking his way up a 6a slab (with a 3b start). A spectacular picnic (photo attached) didn’t get in the way of a few tricky problems after lunch including a blue highball that Tim nailed and a delicate traverse ending with a typical Font sloper arête (if you can call it that!)
The last 2 days were spent in the beautiful forests of Isatis. We could feel the end of the trip approaching so gave it our best shot, leaving Tim with 2 bad arms by the final morning… though to be fair he had earned a rest day. The rest of us managed to squeeze in a few oranges and blues, including some delicate face climbing up a high slab, before we had to bid au revoir to this magical place.
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 Craggy Island or 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 £20 if joining between January and June, or £10 if joining between July and December. It would be better here if you came down to Craggy Island on a Monday between 7pm and 9pm, where there will be members climbing each week. Or come along to socialise at the clubhouse after for a drink on the first Monday of the 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 for our weekly climbing sessions.
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…
Regular Monday Night Climbing at Craggy Island Guildford
You can turn up any Monday evening at Craggy Island Guildford and be assured of finding someone to climb with. These sessions will help you get to know other members and discuss upcoming meets.
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.
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.
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.
More locally, the club has a weekly climbing session at Craggy island Guildford on a Monday night between 7pm and 9pm as well as at the Waterside Centre in Guildford the first Monday night of the month, 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.
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.
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.
Q. How much does it cost to join?
A. Introductory membership is £20 January to June, and £10 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 £35 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.
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.
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.
Q. What if I have more questions?
A. Either send us an email via the web form or come along in person!