LUMC’s visit to Font – 2017

17807604_888367267972635_2531081532636314783_o.jpgIn the first week of the Easter break 2017, 22 LUMC members set out on a 9 day trip to Fontainebleau in France. Widely considered as one of the best bouldering destinations in the world, Fontainebleau is a quaint French town, about 50 miles south of Paris, set amongst acres of forest. Within the trees are thousands of boulders containing countless problems, making Fontainebleau an annual pilgrimage for many boulderers. For some members this was a return trip, but for the majority of us the sandstone boulders of Font would be a brand new experience, an opportunity to venture from the Hangar and try out a different style of climbing. Although the possibility of returning with a sprained ankle (as 25% of the previous Font trip had) was very real, this was furthest from the minds of most as we eagerly awaited the trip.

At 6’oclock on Friday evening we piled into two white transporter vans, and after much faff (as much as Matt would have liked to avoid it!) set off to Font. We stopped for a short break at Andy’s house and were treated to pizza, beer and the opportunity to witness Andy act politely (I.e. minus his usual innuendos) in front of his parents! A few hours later we headed for the ferry, where we commandeered all the available sofas and attempted to get some sleep. The following drive through France passed smoothly and at 10am we arrived at our campsite in Font. Tents were constructed, and we all laughed at Kay as she failed to fulfil her boast of being able to put up a 4 man tent in 6 minutes (you can work on that for next year Kay!). Although running on very little sleep, the enthusiasm to visit Font’s famous boulders was strong, and we set of to l’elephant that afternoon. Set within a woodland area, this sandy area of boulders provided the first taste of Font bouldering. For many of us, this was the first time bouldering outdoors, and it was very different to bouldering at the Hangar. It is very difficult to see good holds (if they exist!), and often you need to trust your feet on what initially looks like nothing! Coupled by the fact that many popular routes are polished, for me at least, Font climbing was quite challenging at first! Nonetheless, we all began to get to grips with it, and had a fun first afternoon. However, after trying (and most failing) to top-out Andy’s famous traverse, we blamed lack of sleep, and headed back to our campsite for some great food and a well deserved rest.

The following day we leisurely woke up and got ready, with many setting off to the local bakery to buy fresh bread and pastries in broken French (my attempt to buy “uno croissant and dos pan au chocolate” was met with a blank stare from the perplexed baker!) The relaxed start and breakfast of fresh bread was very different from LUMCs usual regimented wake up and blurry-eyed breakfast of porridge, but a welcome change, and a sign of the week to come! We set off to (insert name), and feeling refreshed from a full night’s sleep got a real taste of Font, pushing ourselves a lot harder than the previous day to climb new routes. Many climbs were topped out that day, often in a rather undignified “whaling” manner. After a successful day we headed back to camp quite late. Alas, it was cold, and drizzling with rain, and it was only then that many of us regretted following Andy’s instruction to “pack light”, with no-one more so than Cameron, who had decided to leave behind almost all of his clothes, and instead bring a bin bag for insulation and protection from the rain! Nonetheless, the rain soon cleared up, and full from another successful dinner we all headed to bed.

Luckily the rain stayed away for the rest of the week and instead we were met with glorious sunshine. Sun cream was required on some days, and faces turned slightly pink and freckly (although Amy insisted that the bright red hue to her skin was not sunburn, “just a weird thing my skin does sometimes in the sun, but it’s not burnt!”). We spent our days climbing and relaxing in the sun in equal measures, visiting different sites (insert names). Mornings at each crag were begun by following Sam in a yoga session, or “stretchy, stretchy, bendy Wendy” as it was fondly named, to warm up for the climbs to come. We then all set out on various climbs, with Font offering all sorts of problems to appeal to our varied climbing styles and level of experience. At first, the realisation that the problem you had spent an hour trying was a 4a (and supposedly easier than the greens at the Hangar) was mildly depressing, but this soon became almost irrelevant. Over the week various problems were attempted and many projects began. For some these were completed, and came accompanied with a feeling of elation. For others, despite great effort, they remained unachievable and promises were made to smash them “next year”. Alongside climbing, time was spent slacklining, sunbathing and reading (Will eagerly took the opportunity to expand his knowledge of German culture). One afternoon we explored the beautiful French town of Fontainebleau, visiting the local climbing shop and enjoying ice cream in the gardens.

Every day we endeavoured to return to the campsite around 7, to cook and eat dinner in the light. And over the course of the week adventurous and satisfying meals were had by all, with the only exception being Amy, Callum and Tom whose meals left little to be desired (seriously, who burns couscous?!). The addition of a BBQ to the campsite this year was used enthusiastically, and following dinner became a base for a bonfire. Evenings were spent drinking wine around the bonfire, star-gazing, and watching, with confused amusement, John and Andy’s frequent role-play. Although many of us started off the week as strangers, by the end of the week we had become close (some might say strangely so, as we gave each other back massages and formed a “spoon train”!).

The week passed quickly, and soon Saturday came around again. We leisurely packed up the tents, and reminisced about the week we had had, all sore from the climbs, slightly sunburnt, but happy with what we had achieved. As we said goodbye to the campsite we headed back to L’Elephant for a final afternoon of bouldering, eager to take on climbs we had failed the previous week, and to have another attempt at Andy’s traverse. For some people, previous fears of high-ball problems went out the window, and climbs with 8m top-outs suddenly became desirable, with Joel and Lydia tackling the terrifyingly named “cheese-grater”! As the sun went down final problems were climbed and we tried not to throw up as we were treated to lap dances by Andy in his gold shorts. The final hour came, and we marvelled at our ability to escape the Font ankle curse of the previous year, and return home with only sore elbows and battered fingertips! Alas, it was not to be, and in the final 30 minutes Kay came limping around the corner, having sprained her ankle jumping down from a climb. The dreaded Font curse had struck again! Deciding not to follow (or perhaps hobble?) in her sister’s footsteps of attending a French hospital, we instead headed off to Fontainebleau for burgers and fancy French food. At midnight we begun the journey home, after parting ways with Joel, who retreated into a local forest to bivvy with wild boars. The journey back was long, but made bearable by another stop at the Ovenses, where we refuelled on tea and bacon sandwiches, trying to keep them down as Andy wafted his feet in people’s faces.

 

I think that everyone will agree that the trip to Font was one to remember! It provided fantastic opportunity to try out a new style of bouldering, in a beautiful location, with an amazing group of people. I’d like to say a particular thank you to the committee members involved in organising the trip, all the drivers, and of course the Oveneses (whose hospitality made the journeys from Liverpool to France and back much more enjoyable). For anyone questioning whether they should go, I’d say go for it! I’ll definitely be returning!

Longbottom

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LUMC’s visit to Font – 2017

Freshers Walking Day trip to Helvellyn

Somewhat to my embarrassment, I left it until my final year to get involved in LUMC, more because of my own laziness than anything else, but the last couple of weeks have definitely left me regretting that I didn’t join earlier.

Hearing that the Fresher’s walking trip was up Helvellyn was the push I needed, as I’ve always wanted to cross that one off my list, after bad weather put paid to my first attempt. So, the 8th of November found me leaving the house very early, as most people were just getting home from their Friday nights out, to board a bus to Glenridding, along with about 40 other people.

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Starting from the village, we began with a steep ascent that left me out of breath and wondering if I’d over estimated my stamina, but once we reached Red Tarn and could see Helvellyn itself; (combined with a restorative stop for water) I knew it was going to be worth it. The route we took led us up Striding Edge, an exhilarating but slightly scary scramble across a narrow ridge, completely exposed on both sides. A reminder of the risk came when we encountered another group of walkers, one of whom had fallen from the ridge and was hurt. Luckily some of the leaders from our group were able to get him down to safety. Although this was pretty nerve wracking, the view was incredible enough to make you forget the danger. Helvellyn is the third highest mountain in England and on a clear day, as this was, you can see right to Scotland.

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Waiting around while Matt and Alex treated the injured child

The summit itself is a long plateau, surprising smooth given what we had just climbed up, and I was told flat enough to land an aeroplane – not that I would want to be a passenger on the flight – but it certainly made an excellent spot to finish our lunches before we began the descent. Coming down, as always, was easier. We took Swirral Edge down, something I misheard and was under the impression that it was called ‘squirrel edge’ until I checked before writing this (oops), meaning our walk was a rough horseshoe shape around the tarn.

By the time we got back to the minibus we had walked just over 8 very strenuous miles, and stopped at the Traveller’s Rest for a well deserved pint. We weren’t the only ones to think of this however, and the fairly small pub was packed with about twice the number of people it had seats for.

As we drove back to Liverpool it was clear that although everyone on the bus was tired, we had all loved the day, and it definitely left me impatient for the next walking trip! We started as a group of strangers, but finished as a group of (exhausted) friends. Thanks to the LUMC and everyone who spent the day as our guides and drivers to make it possible.

Rachel

Freshers Walking Day trip to Helvellyn

LUMC’s Climbing Day Trips – 2016

I think it’s fair to say, my first few weeks with LUMC have been pretty eventful. As a self-confessed couch potato, that would rather be eating pizza than climbing mountains, I figured I would drag myself outside to see some of what mother nature has to offer (besides pizza). So I signed up to the freshers climbing trip to see what this couch potato could manage. After getting carried away at the pub the night before, and then waking up at the unholy hour of 6 o’clock in the morning, it was safe to say I was not on top form. But there’s no better way to quell a hangover than fresh air (apparently). After a much needed nap on the minibus, I awoke to find myself in what I thought was middle earth, but as it turns out it was actually Windgather Rocks in the Peak District.

14563484_10154054927308403_2425560262039248891_nWe really couldn’t have asked for better weather for climbing that day, and after spending the majority of the summer in front a computer, the opportunity to gain some kind of tan was definitely welcome. We began the day playing “ninja” (which I am yet to fully grasp) whilst the more experienced members set up routes. We started off by learning how to safely tie ourselves in and then were shown how to belay, after ascending my first route and despite the subsequent harness induced wedgie, I knew that climbing was for me. After a few more climbs and an overpriced Shell garage meal deal to sort me out, my hangover was cured and I had an awesome rest of the day meeting some of the members of LUMC.

After a few days off from climbing due to injury (I am very clumsy), I went to one of Liverpool’s local indoor climbing centres: Awesome Walls, to learn how to lead climb ready for the climbing day trip to Holyhead. As a North Walian (yes, it’s a thing) with so many amazing places on my doorstep to walk, climb and do all manner of outdoor stuff, I have shamefully done very few of these things.  So to get the opportunity to see where I live in another light, was definitely one I wasn’t going to miss.

After another early start, we arrived in Holyhead about 9:30 and were met with some amazing views of Snowdonia and the Llyn Peninsula. After a quick scramble up to Holyhead Mountain and some coffee, I was paired up for the day with Matt, the president of LUMC. We started off with “Wandering Primrose” a VD (Very Difficult) route which I was quite proud of having climbed fairly easily. Until I found out that means it was very difficult like a hundred years ago, and is now considered very easy with modern climbing gear.

We carried on to some of the other slabs further along the mountain, and passed some of the more hilariously named routes: “Trouser Snake”, “The Elephant’s Arse”, and “Spreadeagle Crack”. Also I want to say a big thank you to Matt, for teaching me and for being so patient whilst it took me the better part of an hour to do my first lead climb (I owe you a pint!). After watching the sun set over the Irish Sea, we made a quick stop at a pub in Holyhead for the mandatory post trip pint, before we headed back to Liverpool.

I’d just like to say a big thanks to everyone in LUMC for literally showing me the ropes, and for being so welcoming.

Conor (Bastille Dan)

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LUMC’s Climbing Day Trips – 2016

LUMC Three Peak Challenge

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13 of us signed up for this challenge; fuelled with the excitement of attempting to climb the three of the highest mountains in the UK; Ben Nevis (1,345m), Scafell Pike (987m) and Snowdon (1085m) within the time limit of 24 hours. Some were fully prepared for what this involved, for others it was a bit of a shock to the system.

From the moment the tickets were bought many of us were doing some form of training, motivated by the no nonsense advice from Matt of ‘you need to be fit’ and ‘maybe lose some weight’. The initial date set for this challenge was the 30th of April, however the elements were against us and it was postponed to the 11th of June. In hindsight this was a fantastic opportunity to really get on with some training for it, I personally did not use the time wisely.14

Friday arrived. All of us meeting at uni square at 5pm feeling relatively fresh if a little apprehensive about what the next day held for us. The drivers becoming acquainted with their new best friends (the minibuses), we set off red van and white van together as a majestic duo ready to endure the long drive up to Fort William for the first mountain; that is until our minibus had to make a detour to Matt’s house to pick up a few extras- such as pillows, hiking boots…yep, hiking boots.

The first mountain to be tackled was Ben Nevis. The drive up to Fort William was a long, monotonous one (same could be said about the mountain). Several new friendships were formed en route, dare I say a couple of potential ‘bromances’. Spirits were high, many of us celebrated that it was the furthest north we’d been at various points of the journey as we ventured further into Scotland. With reference to a favourite series amongst some LUMC’ers…we were very much north of the wall. (Sorry, not sorry)

We arrived in the pitch black early hours of Saturday morning, layers on (big mistake), and Erin making friends with a toad (typical ecology student), a few ‘pre-challenge’ pictures done, we were ready. The walk began at Achintee on the east side of Glen Nevis, our route being the tourist track or pony track – a deceptive name, suggesting ease and maybe even enjoyment. I’m just being slightly bitter here. The zig-zag path being incredibly repetitive, steep and the darkness not providing much surrounding comfort were certainly challenging. However, as the morning hours approached it became lighter and there was a definite beauty to it, we even came across a bit of snow as we walked the final few metres. The relief on reaching the summit was immense and it was truly amazing to be above the clouds and see other mountain peaks just emerging through. The descent was down the same path, aware of the time we kept a healthy pace. We arrived back at the minibuses at approximately 5am. Ben Nevis – done.

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Top of Ben Nevis

There was no chance to sit and relax after our climb; a change of clothes if you were feeling particularly speedy, grab some food and get back in the minibus. The minibus journey down to the Lake District was basically either eating some food or sleeping. See what I mean about the drivers only really having their minibus for company, we certainly weren’t good entertainment (and we can’t thank you guys enough for driving us!)

At around midday we arrived at Wasdale for the start of Scafell Pike. Known for being the smallest of the three (978 metres) but many say it is the hardest. It was steep straight from the off and a complete contrast to the almost passive Ben Nevis route. Our new walking captain, Alex, was extremely excited to be back in his homeland. His biased opinion of Scafell Pike being the best mountain of the three may well be argued by some of the team. With more people hiking up Scafell and the bizarre abundance of dogs plodding up the path, it was a very different experience to the isolated and quiet hike we had on Ben Nevis. However, the determined pace was maintained and we made the ascent, with a group selfie done at the summit, we made a swift descent back down to the minibuses. Our quickest but still a physically exhausting climb. Scafell Pike – done.

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Top of Scafell Pike

Once again it was a quick sort of stuff needed for the bus journey and back into the now slightly hated minibuses, too many hours spent in such a confined space! Again, for our bus it was mostly sleeping, or certainly attempting to sleep. Arriving at Snowdon and knowing it was the last mountain acted as a great form of second-wave motivation for us. We were nearly finished, the last one to do, and we weren’t going to let a certain 11 year old do the challenge in a better time than us (apparently he did it in 23 hours).

Snowdon, assumed to be the easiest of the mountains, the gentle giant of the three. Excellent, no struggles for anyone on this one. Not so. Without going into elaborate details ‘chunder path’ was created. We trudged on, sleep deprivation setting in and the lack of energy becoming apparent. Daylight now being gradually lost too, we were increasingly aware that our remaining time was also swiftly reducing. A quick breather once we were close to the summit, admiring the view and feeling slightly bitter at the sight of the railway tracks to the summit. Once at the summit another selfie of proof was taken, however very much surrounded by fog. The descent was fast, the last summit had been reached and we all just wanted to finish the challenge now. We were low on energy and admittedly ‘positive mental attitude’ stores were nearly empty. There were cheers when we could see the minibuses and when we could say we had officially finished, there was true relief and a great sense of achievement. Snowdon – done. Three Peak Challenge – done! Queue the celebratory alcohol.

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Top Of Snowdon

Overall, the three peaks challenge was extremely tough but strangely enjoyable. I think I can say many of us had underestimated, although to varying degrees, of how much it would push us to the limit. There are some aspects we can be incredibly proud of; such as finishing under 24 hours (22 hours and 52 minutes to be precise). Other aspects not so proud; where team spirit suffered towards the end of the challenge and focus on finishing took over. The three peaks is definitely as much a mental attitude challenge as well as a physical endurance challenge. But we all succeeded, so well done LUMC three peaks team. It was an amazing experience that I definitely won’t be forgetting.

Would I do it again? I’ll get back to you on that…

We’d still really appreciate any donations at:

https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/lumc 

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Finished!

Pamela Smith

LUMC Three Peak Challenge

LUMC- What’s going on at the start of semester one?

Take a look below for some of the things we’ve got lined up in September and October. It’s going to be a busy couple of months that offers something for the new, the experienced and those who like to socialise.

Fresher’s Fair- Thursday 22nd & Friday 23rd September

Come on down to Fresher’s Fair! We’ll be in the sports hall- it won’t be hard to miss us! We’ll be there to say hi, answer your questions and let you know about all the exciting things we have lined up for you. There might be some challenges too…

Awesome Walls- Beginner Sessions- 26th September- 7th October

Throughout the first two weeks after fresher’s week, we will be providing you with the opportunity to learn to indoor climb. Learn how to tie your knots, keep yourself safe and master the art of belaying. Learn the basics indoors so you can progress to real rock on our fresher’s climbing trip!

Uni Bouldering Wall followed by Hope & Anchor- Tuesday 28th Septemberimage5

Come get a taste of our bi-weekly bouldering sessions in the handily located uni sports centre. Whether you’ve been climbing before you could walk, or this is your first step onto the wall, we have routes to cater for all.

After a hard session bouldering, it’s always time for a well-earned beverage. Luckily, it’s a short walk to the Hope & Anchor for super cheap drinks and great value food- a great way to make some new friends.

 

 

 

Fresher’s House Party- Saturday 1st October

Expect silly games and a jelly-fuelled showdown between old and new committee members. To find out what else lies in store, you will just have to come along and find out. A fantastic way to get to know other members and let your hair down after your first proper week at uni.

 

Hangar Monday’s- Intro Night- Monday 3rd October

If you want some more bouldering action then The Hangar is the place to be. With over 1000sqm of wall to be climbed you’re never going to get bored! There are routes for all abilities and the friendly staff and club members will be on hand to give you guidance should you need it. There’s good reason so many of our members spend their evenings here!

 

Fresher’s Walking Day Trip- Saturday 8th October

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Your first chance to get out into the mountains. As always, everyone is invited and we cater for all abilities. Escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a delightful day of adventure and stunning views.

 

Fresher’s Climbing Day Trip – Sunday 9th October

Get out and use those newly learnt climbing skills on some real rock! The Peak District lies ahead for an action packed day of testing your strength and nerves.

 

Movie Night – Friday 16th October

Enjoy a nice evening in with the club and watch a few mountaineering movies. From climbing to winter walking, this night will get you psyched for the year ahead!

Climbing Weekend Trip- Fri 21st– Sun 23rd October/ Climbing Day Trip Sat 22nd October

If you just can’t get enough of LUMC and climbing, this is the weekend for you, two whole days of climbing goodness with two whole nights of LUMC shenanigans.

If you want your slice of climbing fun but can’t commit to the whole weekend, fear not! We will be running a day trip on Saturday to meet up with the weekend climbing group so everyone can get together and let the fun times roll.

Walking Day Trip- Sunday 23rd October

Those who prefer keeping things a little closer to the ground will get the opportunity to hit the hills with our second walking day trip of the year. It will promise good routes, good company and a good rest in the pub at the end. If only we could promise you good weather!

 

 

This is only a slice of what we’ve got planned in September and October, November and December promise even more opportunities to learn new skills, meet new people and try new things. To find the dates for what we have planned, such as the mixed weekend trip to Snowdonia, walking weekend trip to the Lake District and Winter Scotland, visit http://www.climbliverpool.co.uk/Calendar.html

LUMC- What’s going on at the start of semester one?

Font – Easter 2016

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The French dozen

This year, we decided to go to Fontainebleau. For those unsure of what or where that is, it’s a town just south of Paris, home to a beautiful chateau and surrounded by miles and miles of oak and pine forest. And it is what lies between those trees that makes Fontainebleau a place of pilgrimage for boulderers across the globe. Hidden in the forest are thousands and thousands of sandstone blocks, with an almost unlimited number of virtually perfect problems.

For most of us, our journey started late Friday night. After packing the van full of clothes, chalk bags and more bouldering pads than people, we set off on the first stretch of our journey. The Liverpool to Dover leg was surprising smooth, but unfortunately, however awesome your van is (and ours was bright red – thanks Arnold Clarke!), sleeping upright in one turns out to be impossible and we boarded the ferry in varying states of consciousness. Luckily, brisk sea air is a perfect cure for tiredness, and whilst on deck we were treated to a mesmerising view of the sun rising over the Channel. The Calais to France journey was equally as smoothly and we arrived at our campsite midday Saturday, ready for some French cheese and a glass (or three) of French wine.

On Sunday, full of brie and baguettes, we went to our first area, shown around by some friendly Germans that we met at our campsite. For the first few days, we aimed for plenty of mileage to get us used to the Font style of climbing. We soon discovered that the climbing is simply like nowhere else in the world. While there are lots of classic steep problems there, Font is really known for its slabs. Most of them have barely any positive holds, awful feet and the top outs often involve flopping over the top in a particularly dignified manner often described as ‘whaling’. It also doesn’t help that all the classic problems are completely polished – to the point where it often feels like you are standing on glass. Despite them being literally terrifying at the top, most of them only get a grade around the 4+ range (comparable to a green at The Hangar). Thoroughly depressing. You soon start to realise that grades in Font don’t really matter, though. The quality of the problems across the grades is amazing: the easy problems are just as much fun as the harder ones. It’s also pretty beautiful. Although it doesn’t have quite the same dramatic effect as the jaw dropping mountain vistas of the Alps or even Snowdonia, Font has a charm all of its own. Sandy clearings give way to shady forests and some of the boulders are just incredible. There is a boulder that resembles a dog in one area, and in another is a boulder that looks exactly like an elephant – trunk and all! We were definitely looking forward to a week exploring this place and all it had to offer.

Even though the sky often threatened rain, for the first few days the sun shone and we spent the time cruising up the fantastic problems of Appremont, Cul de Chien and l’Elephant. The problem with Font is that it’s just so tempting, and so, so addictive. We all told ourselves that we would take it easy the first few days so that we had enough energy to last us the week. That went out of the window almost immediately. At various points in the trip, we all found a problem that we spent far too long trying, and usually, these climbs depleted our energy and took all the skin from our fingertips. Bleeding or pink tips slowly became the curse of the group and each night we could be found sitting around our campfire, rubbing climbing balm into our sore fingers. Organised rest days were also something we failed to make happen. As we worked our way through the areas – visiting Gorge Aux Chats and 95.2 – we took it in turns with our rests, alternating climbing with slacklining or, in Will’s case, reading books on the history of engineering. And of course, the trip isn’t made up of just climbing. We spent time exploring the gardens surrounding the chateau in Fontainebleau town, we got lost in the fields surrounding the forest (we blame Joel’s Satnav), we spent LOTS of time in the local Carrefour supermarket buying food and every morning we walked to the patisserie in the village for baguettes and croissants. There was one glorious morning where we all went to what I think must be the best patisserie on the planet, in Milly La Foret. They were so good, it’s wrecked all other pastries for me.

In the second half of the week, once we’d worked out our routine and figured out the style of climbing, things got a little more serious. Projects were chosen and try hard faces were put on. Sometimes we succeeded, sometimes we didn’t. It didn’t really matter – we were having fun. However, on Friday, our comfortable, laid back routine was shattered. The day started like all the others; a walk to the patisserie, the drive to the boulders, some laid back warming up. Almost all of us had a go at the Font super classic La Marie Rose; possibly the first 6a boulder problem in the world, and certainly the first in the forest. After that, I decided to drag everyone to a boulder that I’d had my eye on from before the start of the trip. Duroxmanie (6c) is a classic shield of rock with good crimps, big moves and a slopey Font top out. It was the only problem I had on my ticklist for Font. I’d been waiting all week.

Our bad luck started when Catherine failed to listened to 7 of her bleeding fingers and kept climbing. As she slipped off the top of a boulder, her ankle went through a gap in the pads and hit the floor. Our first injury. Meanwhile, on my project, one move was starting to shut me down. I’d fallen on the same move at least half a dozen times, but the next attempt was one attempt too many. I fell, landed on the edge of a pad, rolled my ankle and ended up with a fat foot. Injury number two. With two of us now unable to climb for at least the rest of the day, most of the group were starting to finish up. Not Joel. Half way up a tricky highball slab (in the guidebook it was marked with a skull and crossbones – very encouraging), he decided that maybe this was a stupid idea and jumped down on to the pads below him. Despite all of us doing this all week, Joel’s ankle decided it didn’t like that. Injury number three. The medic, the first aider and the driver. Could you believe it?

It was at this point that we decided hospital might be a sensible option, as Catherine and I could barely walk and Joel’s ankle was probably about the size of his head. Once we arrived at the hospital, the nurses guessed we were injured due to climbing (no French required), and we were all sent for X-Rays. It turns out going to French hospital is a pretty grim experience, especially when you’re there for four hours. The diagnosis was as good as we could have hoped for, though, as we had no broken ankles, just bad sprains and Joel was given the green light for driving home.

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At the Hospital

Before we knew it, it was our last day! We were joined by Chrissy’s campervan full of sport climbers and despite the drizzling rain, we returned to one of our favourite areas, L’Elephant, so that the majority of us could climb well into the evening. After a successful day climbing, we headed into town to find somewhere to eat, and spent the night in a pizza restaurant enjoying our last night in France. Our journey back to England felt slow and uncomfortable, but it was made infinitely better by a stop at Andy’s house where we were treated to a cooked breakfast and jugs of tea. Thank you Ovenses!


Font was such an amazing trip. There were so many highlights for me. Watching Andy smash his traverse project in his infamous gold hot pants was not one of those. Good work on your climbing, Andy, but now I’m mentally scarred. The communal crushing, however, was easily the best part of the trip. The level of the ability was completely mixed, but everyone climbed so well and as a group, we all pulled each other on. For me, watching my friends finish climbs that they were working on was just as good as any personal achievement. And similarly to the week itself, highlights weren’t just climbing. Casual conversation around the campfire, picnicking at the crag and getting piggy-backed from the hospital all make my list, and I could keep listing things for pages. There are so many little things that made the trip so memorable.

I made so many good friends this trip. Thank you for such an amazing trip everyone – same again next year?

Tess (Bouldering Secretary)

Font – Easter 2016

Winter Scotland 2015/16 – Matt Dennies

It is said that most people pine for the affectionate touch of a loved one; the thought of it plagues their every aching hour and infests their dreams. These people clearly aren’t mountaineers. Only we know what it is like to have true desires, desires that torment our lives between November and March every year. The intolerable yearning for that sweet, sweet medium we call snow. There was only one way to get our fix; we’d have to leave the equable world of Liverpool and venture North beyond Hadrian’s Wall. Winter was coming.

And so it was that 14 adventure hungry mountaineers packed their ice axes, crampons and every warm layer they could find and bundled into a minibus, salivating at the thought of a journey filled with John’s library of folk rock. We knew sharpish that we had wandered across strange and mysterious lands, far from the comfort of Liverpool, when we stocked up on food in Glasgow. With only one translator among the group (Greg), it was a good job that opportunities for conversing were scarce. With the essentials of pork pies and Tennents purchased, we carried on northwards towards our home for the next week, North Ballachulish in the North West Highlands of Scotland. Perfectly nestled between Glen Coe to the South and Lochaber and Ben Nevis to the North.

The first day started, as the week would continue to go on, with a painfully early start. It’s just not true mountaineering until you’re trying to see through bleary eyes as you cook porridge at 4AM. The early morning was worth it however, as a couple of hours after leaving the Glen Nevis Visitor Centre under moonlight, we stood half way up Ben Nevis watching the sun claw its way over the horizon and mountain tops, casting a pallet of colours over Lochs and steep mountainsides. The group had decided to split, one team traversing around the base of Ben Nevis and taking the direct line up the headwall of a corrie, wading through snow and clambering over boulders. The other team continued up the more pleasant and scenic main mountain path. The visibility near the top was typically Scottish but we had enough snow for everyone to get their feet refreshed to the feeling of crampons. A successful first day, LUMC briefly becoming the highest mountaineering club in the UK. Once we were back down with grimacing but happy faces it was definitely time for tea and medals at the café in Nevis Sport in Fort William.

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Summit of Ben Nevis
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Scrambling up the headwall of the corrie towards the summit of Ben Nevis

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Our second day was a tame one as the weather was wetter than an otter’s pocket. We opted to catch up on some sleep and go for afternoon adventure to Steall falls, a huge waterfall set in the misty Nevis Valley. After crossing a wire bridge and getting thoroughly soaked at the bottom of the fall, we finished our adventure with a couple of games of Ninja. Possibly the most scenic place to play such a game.

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Steall Falls from afar
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Luke and Tom D crossing the wire bridge in the unconventional way

Another early start was called for as we set off for a big day of traversing the imposing ridgeline of Buachaille Etive Mor. As a bonus most of the group got a taste of Grade I winter climbing, scurrying up gullies with ease.  A few members of the group went and tackled the classic Curved Ridge scramble to the top of the first summit, Stob Dearg. Stob Dearg was to provide the best (and pretty much only) view of the day, looking out across the snow capped peaks of Glen Coe and the vast bogginess of Rannoch Moor. After summitting Stob Na Doire, Stob Coire Altruim and Stob Na Broige we had traversed the entire ridge- job done, so we climbed back down into the valley to finish the day in some uncharacteristically Scottish rain.

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Climbing gullies on the headwall of Coire Na Tuilach, on the way to the summit of  Stob Dearg
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Bags ditched for the push towards the final summit of Buchaille  Etive Mor
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The team making their way back down into the valley

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So for those of you that are still following, our story is now up to New Years Eve. Hoorah you may think, I can’t wait to hear about all the celebratory escapades LUMC got up to. Well you will have to keep waiting; I’m afraid LUMC members don’t have time for partying when there’s good weather upon the horizon. So it was hey ho and off to bed we go, ready for another early morning.

New Year’s day brought sunshine and fresh snow, the rarest and most sought after combination in Scottish Mountaineering. Everyone set off for Stob Coire nan Lochan, the main group setting off earlier for a long day of walking. Myself and some others started a little later, needing daylight for the climbs we had planned.

After a hefty walk in we reached summit buttress, the crags below Stob Coire nan Lochan. We paused to take on food and water, watching the main group topping out of Forked Gully (I). We waded through deep powder snow to the bottom of our climb, Dorsal Arete (II***).  Luke, Georgia and myself opted for an alternative start to this route which Luke aptly named ‘Cluster-f*ck Direct’. Luke and Georgia picked their way up sketchy terrain with very little protection as I experienced the true Scottish winter experience of my whole body uncontrollably shaking at a belay, wishing I were anywhere but on this bloody mountain, questioning how anyone finds this fun.

It was all worth it though as we joined back up with the main route and dashed upwards along the knife shaped arête, catching up with Charlie, Charlotte and Chrissy. We topped out to an LUMC party, meeting up with Joel and Tom D, and Tom D and Colin, who had all just finished their routes on the buttress.

A quick dart up the summit of Stob Coire nan Lochan and it was time to descend broad gully, swimming and sliding through powder, mentally readying ourselves for the long walk out.

The main walking party, after summitting Stob Coire nan Lochan, carried on towards Bidean nam Bian and Stob Coire Sgreamhach, before turning back on themselves and heading on down into the stunning Lost Valley, descending down to the beckoning lights of the A82.

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The climbers watch as Georgia makes her way up the crux of Dorsal Arete
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Squad goals on the summit of Stob Coire nan Lochan. A rare absense of cloud.
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Sarah topping out on Forked Gully

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On the 5th day weary bodies rose, so those who wanted to climb headed for the Cairngorms in search of short walk-ins and better snow whilst the others headed for a mountain with car parking as high as possible. With an abandoned hotel providing parking at 250m, Na Gruagaichean (1055M) was a good choice.

We were soon in thick cloud as we started our ascent, navigation was tricky and the soft snow was hard going. We found the gully we were after and set off through the cloud towards the saddle below the summit. The snow was thigh deep, sucking energy from our already tired legs, so we made sure to follow each other’s footsteps towards the summit. We eventually reached the saddle, being greeted by buffeting winds, we made the short way to the summit, took the obligatory summit selfies and quickly started our way down towards calmer weather. We eventually broke through the cloud and were welcomed by some cute deer and breathtaking views of Loch Leven.

The group who went to the Cairngorms got rained, quickly abandoned climbing and ate burgers instead. Sometimes the best mountaineering decisions don’t involve mountaineering.

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The summit of Na Gruagaichean in less than pleasurable weather
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An ethereal view of Loch Leven

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LUMC being the somewhat unconventional club it is, the 2nd of January made the perfect date for some New Years celebrations. Cue merry times, Tennents and whisky fuelled fun and a whole host of classic LUMC games. I got my first experience of ‘Battle of Trafalgar’ and the library of LUMC variations on twister may have reached saturation point. We even saw in the midnight hour with a somewhat hazy rendition of Auld Lang Syne, heartily led by Mr Bickerton. We also discovered that Chrissy makes a fantastic hairdresser and that Joel is an incredibly (if not too) trusting person.

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Tom and Charlotte  getting stuck into a game of  Battle of Trafalgar
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One of the many variations of LUMC twister

The next day was spent resting sore heads and bodies, going for a last supper in the Clachaig Inn, sampling the multitude of whiskies and ales on offer, before returning to the hut for some final trip Shenanigans.

In conclusion, we had a swell trip, got weirdly close at times (looking mainly at the Hut-Van-Life crew) and learnt new skills, whether a winter mountaineering virgin or seasoned pro. However it is apparent further research still needs to be undertaken, so come join us next year for what evidence suggest will be an absolute banger.

Matt Dennies (Walking Captain)

 

Winter Scotland 2015/16 – Matt Dennies