There was an excellent turnout for this meet, which was based in a lovely area of the UK, rightly famed for its crags, but also offering wonderful walking.
Paul and I drove up on early and spent Thursday and Friday walking as it was too cold and windy for us to take pleasure in climbing (I wouldn’t call us ‘Southern Softies’, but we don’t qualify as ‘Rufty Tufty Mountaineers’!). I particularly recommend the walk down Dove Dale from Hartington to Ilam Rock – the footpath accompanies the river, through pastureland and gorges, with lots of birds and wildflowers. Most of the others in our group arrived on Friday evening, with just three latecomers driving up on Saturday.
Saturday started off windy with low cloud, but conditions were good enough to give climbing a try. After some debate we decided to go to Bamford and, as there was no-one else climbing there, we had ample choice of routes. Bridget Weston (a member back in 2008, currently based in Manchester) and her family joined us for lunch. I must say that Bridget and Jim are bringing their girls up well – both are under five and already hill-walking and scrambling.
When the forecasted showers arrived we took the traditional and sensible option and retreated to Hathersage to warm our hands round mugs of hot chocolate and check out the gear shops. The skies cleared late afternoon; some of us went for a walk up the nearby Win Hill, whilst others went climbing at Stanage. The walk gave excellent views over Hope Valley, and was also a good opportunity for navigation course graduates to practice their skills, and for budding alpinists to get in some training by carrying heavy rucksacks. That evening we sat around chatting and drinking whilst Venus rose above a crescent moon.
Toby tried to persuade someone to go for an evening climb with him – there were no takers. Then Helen tried to persuade someone to get up early the next morning to watch the solstice sun rise – there were no takers. I actually think Helen missed a trick here – she should have taken Toby up on the offer, benighted them on the crag, and waited for the sunrise …… (Which might have proved disappointing – see next paragraph.)
On Sunday we woke to wind with occasional rain (I’m beginning to sound like a weather forecast!). A decision was made to go to Rivelin Edge, and Trace, John, Kurt, Toby, and Brian set off as soon as their tents were packed. Now, Wessex members discussing climbing options are not hasty and have been described as a ‘Wessex Stone Circle’ – the advance party were relatively new to our ways and rather quick off the mark. After a little more discussion it was decided that Birchen Edge would be more suitable, so texts were sent to the advance party and the rest of us got on our way. ‘Birchens’ is a lovely location, with plenty of climbs in all the grades, even though they aren’t very long! It was quite warm sitting below the crag, but you needed that wind-shirt whilst belaying at the top! The advance party wasn’t seen again, couples splintered off during the afternoon, and late in the day the final five packed up and headed back south.
It was a good meet, and showed how much fun you can have in convivial company even when the conditions aren’t perfect. It is worth noting that of the 17 attendees, 10 have served on the WMC Committee, many in more than one role. Maybe the other 6 are potential committee material?