Saturday, 14 July 2012

Swanage Trip - MTB: THE 'alternative' to climbing

As alternative to climbing Lee and I took our mountain bikes and headed South, on Saturday. It didn't take us long to hit an onslaught of rain. Although neither of us have any issues with a bit of rain, this felt like the heavens had opened so we decided to stop in Salisbury for coffee and await the arrival of Noah while watching a real-life version of The Jeremy Kyle Show.

We optimistically chose a 37km bike route in Blandford Forest using  "The Good Mountain Biking Guide".  We also chose a backup option (indoor climbing), which we assumed the others already at Swanage must be doing by now!

After the rains had stopped and the rivers had parted we headed to Blandford Forest and mounted our bikes. It didn’t take too long (1/2km) till we unexpectedly arrived at the UK Bike Park (within Eastcott Wood), a downhill course which we couldn't resist. We quick chat to some local riders others who gave heed of the walk up….. and decided to proceeded regardless.

Initially the course consisted of berms, but it soon changed drastically as we hair'ed down a steep course with banked curves. The local advice was severely understated. It took us over 20mins to push our bikes up the steep gradient to get back to the far the most exhausting activity l did all weekend (and for a long time too!).  But it did not put us off doing the course it again, however this time we took a sustained 4x4 route back up the hill, which was 'almost' cycle-able!  We did a few more runs, each the time hoping that we didn’t encounter and walkers or horses as we hurtled down the hill, and each time complaining as we hauled our arses back up the hill!

Having had a good 'warm up', our competitive side got the better of us and we decided to ‘race’ the next run! All was going swimmingly (also read fast) until a shallow water drainage channel crossed the path which neither Lee or I saw in time. My bike gave an awful whacking noise, which l assumed was my front chain ring protector 'giving way'..which had already lost a 'section' from a previous ride).  However, something didn't feel quite right, and was made worse when I caught the end of a tree trunk 20 meters later!

At the end of the run we compared notes.  Lee had also hit the drainage channel, but managed to stay on his bike.   A quick inspection of the bikes and we were off.....well we would have been had Lee not discovered the hitting the drain had buckled the back wheel on his fairly new bike.  We both looked in awe neither had ever experienced the rim being deformed as if someone had too a hammer directly to it!..... then Lee noticed that the same had happened to his front wheel, too. How they had both hit the ditch we had no idea. Clearly an expensive day was ahead of him at his local bike shop!

Setting off down the road l immediately noticed my bike was not 'right' either; my rear wheel had suffered exactly the same punishment as Lee’s. Crikey 3 out of 4 wheels screwed.

This curtailed our ambitions somewhat, especially as l my rear wheel was so badly buckled that l had to detach my rear brake to allow it to spin freely! We spent the next hour or so leisurely exploring the forest tracks. It was only then that l realised the extent of the damage to my bike, l had somehow managed to damage my front forks to an extend that my they were now rigid and no longer 

What a day, hey, never before have l experienced so much damage on a ride, and considering the lack of technicality, lack of impact and lack of exposure it was certainly very memorable but all for all the wrong reasons!

Monday, 11 June 2012

Mountains, Midges & Hobgoblins!

Swindon Mountaineering Club’s Jubilee Bank Holiday Snowdonia Meet Report

Mountains, Midges & Hobgoblins

The Jubilee Bank Holiday Meet arrived with a mixed weather forecast typical of any extended British public holiday. However, 20 of us made this the best attended meet of the year, so far! The early birds were on site by mid-afternoon, allowing Martin & Sid a good afternoons climbing on Tryfan Fach. The rest of the Friday arrivals pitched up throughout the late afternoon & evening, with those who had to work & then brave the weekend traffic needing to pitch their tents under the cover of darkness. Fortunately everyone made it to the pub by last orders, which were never knowingly called by the landlord for the entire weekend, allowing those brave souls amongst us to try the draught Hobgoblin.

Saturday morning brought good weather & once the effects of the Hobgoblin and previous days travel had worn off the day started in traditional SMC time. A climbing group headed to Tryfan Fach and enjoyed a good day’s multi-pitch trad climbing, which for some was their first experience of climbing outdoors & also of multi-pitch climbing. We headed back to the cars just as the weather was closing in & the midges had run out of places to bite us on! The others enjoyed a good days walking & scrambling , taking the Tryfan North Ridge then up onto Bristly Ridge & finally a more leisurely walk along The Glyders and back down in to the Devils Kitchen. We then all met back in the pub that evening for some good food & even better Hobgoblin.

Sunday came along with the promised rain that had been doing its worst for most of the night, and once 'rain stopped play' was declared most of the group then headed to Pete’s Eats for brunch (2nd breakfast for some!). Upon return, the Sunday arrivals keen to stretch their legs mustered enough support for a local afternoon hillwalk & to road test their wet weather gear. The rest of us headed for Caernarfon along with the rest of North Wales, and after looking at the queues for the castle in the rain all ended up in The Black Boy for a late lunch and a pint of something that wasn’t Hobgoblin. Returning to the campsite and seeing the walkers returned safely, we became bored of counting midge bites and so made our way to the warm and dry of the local for some liquid carb-loading for the good weather promised for the next day.   

Monday arrived with the promised good weather, so had the campsite midges! Therefore, several groups left the site early to make the most of the day. The first group successfully tackled The Snowdon Horseshoe in good time, whilst a second group set off for The Glyders circular walking route. The main climbing group went to Hollyhead Mountain and enjoyed a great day’s climbing returning with tales of climbing up an elephant’s bottom! ...maybe the Hobgoblin talking!? Finally, Martin took Tracy to The Gribbin Facet and lead 'Slab Climb' before sending her traumatised back down the M6. Good weather, a successful day out & high spirits lead to an impromptu late afternoon drink or few, followed by an instantly regrettable game of rugby thanks to George, 4 bottles of wine, a slug of Pernod & Dave’s secret stash of Sloe Gin! Somehow we all managed to follow our noses to the pub for dinner, only to find out that we had drunk the pub dry of Hobgoblin over the weekend! …only after a member who shall remain nameless had the last pint!
The rain promised for Tuesday morning arrived and then fizzled out, allowing those who wanted to make the most of the weekend a leisurely walk up Snowdon’s Watkins Path to the waterfalls. Why one member felt it necessary to wear his bright yellow B3 mountain boots for this route is best known to him… although leaving your regular walking boots out overnight in the rain might explain his lack of footwear! The rest of us packed up & started the long journey home after what was a thoroughly enjoyable and successful weekend.

Huge thanks to all those who attended and made this meet such a success, no doubt several Annual Dinner Awards were earned. If you have any good photos of the weekend and are on Facebook please feel free to add them to the SMC group. I passed on our thanks and compliments to the campsite owners, who were equally as complementary about our group and would be happy to welcome us back again next year and have promised to scare the midges away. The Glyntwrog Inn has also asked for advanced warning of our return so they can get in an extra barrel of Hobgoblin and warn the Coastguard!

Dan Collins

Wednesday, 30 May 2012


Our President Colin Beechey and Mike Porter recently completed what is widely regarded as Britain’s Finest Mountaineering challenge just before the Queen’s Jubilee Bank Holiday last year.

After two years of preparation and several weather related postponements, the two intrepid club seniors with a combined age of 125 years, managed a continuous traverse in just over sixteen hours (Gars Bheinn to Sgurr nan Gillian) with an overnight bivouac. They enjoyed cool dry weather while the rest of Britain had more unsettled conditions. 

 It may only be 12km on the map but the journey includes 22 peaks, clocks up over 4000m of up/down with lots of exposed scrambling, abseiling and four rock climbs up to severe grade, including the Thearlaich-Dubh Gap, Kings Chimney, Inaccessible Pinnacle and the Basteir Tooth by Naismith’s route.

A Zimmer Frame ascent of  Sgurr du Mor via the Dubh Slabs is planned for next year!

Bivy site

5am Wake up view

" PJs"
Sgurr nan Gillian Finish

Sunday, 20 May 2012

MTB from Ladybower

Having bought "The Good Mountain Biking Guide" I was damn well going to use it!

The route was picked for the having the most annotation, indicating the arduous/ rewarding riding for our day!

Saturday was a no-goer we realised that carrying the guidebook may have been a better option that trying the 'guess' the route..which created an arduous adventure!

After studying the route on Sunday, we headed off from Fairholmes Visitor Centre, Ladybower. The route contained some challenging and very demanding uphill sections (in the guidebook the climb from Shatton to Shatton Edge is described as "a monster"!), giving way to some excellent technical downhill trails notably along Derwent Edge (called in the guidebook "A top obstacle strewn descent) and to quarryrock-rumble trails down Pin Dale. A fine day...though must get the fitness up for next time!

Sorry about the picture...Phil got in the way! ;)

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Quiz Night

Thanks for all those that came to support the quiz evening Martin organised last Tuesday.

The winning team were The Wroughton Wrotters (Bev, Any and Gill), second were Whale Oil Beef Hooked (Sasha, Tracey and Dave), third were The Greatest (Jim and Marcus a potential new member who turned up looking for the club). There was a tie break question to separate 4th and last which was won by At Home With Wood (Andy, Chris and Saz) who beat The Undecided (Simon, James and Sid).

Monday, 19 March 2012

Famous Grouse

Not the whisky.....but where does this refer to...??

Being in Sheffield over the weekend I couldn't resist the temptation to squeeze in an early morning run prior to my friends waking up following our night out...

Thankfully no one stirred as I grabbed for my alarm at 6am (bearing in mind the last ones only hit the sack a few hours prior to which I was oblivious).

Clearly too early for many, all was quiet, all was still. Leaving Sheffield via Ringalow Road I only passed one MTBer 'plodding' it out towards Stanage.

My arrival at Stanage's Burbage parking was marred by a thick blanket of mist, making me reconsider my options and sanity, especially as my car was the only car in the car park..... thankfully I kept to my original plan. 

Without a map the plan was to run along the edges as far as time would permit to enable me to get back at a decent time to see my friends prior to heading down South for lunch with my family in Birmingham.

With poor visibility, only about 30-50m (see insert) and with uncertainty over the exact route I set off. The track was initially dry mud composite, making an easy running track making it easy to gain pace slowly.

Arriving at the top of Stanage Popular the 'track' had changed considerably. It was now the more familiar inter-dispersed small to medium boulder 'tops' that some of you will be familiar as used for your climbing anchor points. (Does anyone else always seem to find themselves doing a combo of having to use a shortened cordlette and crawling under them to thread it through?)

It was not before too long the boulderers became more interspersed by a wet mud path, though some might have said bath! Initially avoidable by choosing an offset line. Naturally I avoided the mud at all costs as one never wants to get their foot 'wet' prior to 'needing' to! This encourage me to play leapfrog between the boulders, later providing to not to be so wise!

After a while of hugging to the top of the Edge, I dropped down to make by return leg, hoping it would prove a little easier below the crag. This didn't prove to the be case...

Despite a clear path 'off'' the edge, this turned into a myraid of trails interwoved amongst the low-lying bracken. Conscious of the time, I picked up pace having the confidence of firm ground under foot, however this mean I wasn't quite so good at avoiding snagging my Helly (trouser) 'bottoms' every few meters.

As I approached the beginning of the rock-edge the bracken wasn't giving way the the trails became 'rougher' under foot. This is a photo when I arrived back on the edge, as you can see 'Full' daylight was not realised by this point despite the visibility much improving. The reverse route it seemed a slog as I was trying to maintain speed, and as previously described the path was not really suited to such intentions. An example being where my 'mudclaws' lost their traction as I was bouncing between boulders and took a slip crashing onto my knee... a stark reminder that the playground (how I love to call the Peaks) doesn't come with crash mats! 

As I left Stanage Popular I could make out two people leaving the car park, these were the first people I had seen! Were these walkers, or climbers. No knows, but it was good that others too would get to enjoy the pleasures of natures playground.

Thoroughly enjoyable, despite nursing my knee over one week on!

See my route...

Monday, 27 February 2012

El Chorro and the Caminito del Rey, Spain

Got back on Saturday from a great trip in southern Spain. Had a bit of a scare on arriving in Malaga - rain, heavy, torrential rain! Thankfully the clouds disappeared and we were left with glorious sunshine for the remainder of the trip!

It took a few days to get used to the climbing there - probably a combination of the long, steep walk-ins, the searing heat, the evening Rioja, 30m+ routes and a staple diet of chocolate biscuits and chorizo!

Eventually we did actually manage to get some decent routes done though, Jon bagging 4 or more 7a/+ routes, and me with an extra day, and extra layer of skin on my fingertips could have bagged my first 7b sport climb, next time!

On such a long trip you need a rest day, and what better way to recover than following a 90 year old crumbling footpath embedded (just!) into the walls of a 400ft deep gorge? Enter, the Caminito del Rey. Via ferrata all the way (mostly), although I wouldn't like to test the wires! A great day out nonetheless. (For a 3D guided tour, visit

What better way to escape the British winter blues?!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Back to the wall

Twas good to see a good bunch return to the wall tonight plus some new/potential new members. Good times :)

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

The goal: 7b. Onsight.

Finally got my boarding passes printed - tomorrow evening I'll be flying to El Chorro (just north of Malaga, Spain) for a week or so of sport climbing in the sun. Oh, and doing this(!) -

But first, the tedious task of packing.

Monday, 13 February 2012

While the cats away

Busy week. With Saz being away on Hen Dos the last weekend lve been trying to get out as much as pos.
Last weekend did bike ride with Mike on Fri, followed by a night ride. On the Sat a proper 20miler MTB with Mike, followed by a hardcore run against the snow. Enjoyable Curry after the Rugby with Martin, Ifor, James, Dan, Tasmin, Herman and Jim.

More details of these activates to follow.
Woke Sunday with aching legs do took day off.
Yesterday made mistake of winter run. The run was no mistake, however finishing in the dark without a head torch, and having had a beer before k started was!
Anyhows on train to Bristol to go bouldering now :)

Bouldering Competition @ TCA

Competed at The Climbing Academy on-sight bouldering competition again last week. 20 problems in 2 hours, not as easy at it sounds! Didn't do too badly considering I never boulder, but plenty of room for improvement! 


Sport climbing @ Brean

It may be January, but that's no reason not to get climbing outdoors. The crag at Brean, just south of Weston-Super-Mare is an ideal cold weather crag, it's a veritable sun-trap - climbing is possible pretty much year-round. Although there are many trad lines to choose from, the rock isn't really suited for placing gear, so it's best to stick to the sport routes on offer.

I don't think there's anything easier than a 6a or harder there, so it's not a crag for the beginner! The best lines seem to be 7a/b and harder... a great excuse to get down to the wall and start training!


Deep Water Soloing

Managed to squeeze in a days DWS off/on Poda Island, together with attempting a few bouldering problems on the beach whilst on Honeymoon :) Chris