Running a student climbing club is fraught with complications, like making sure your ‘fresher meet’ is alcohol free! Introducing people to climbing can be incredibly rewarding, but there are a number of pitfalls to avoid – here’s our how to guide for running a successful student climbing club meet.
It’s that time of the year again when new students, fresh from home and rosy-cheeked, begin their new lives free from parental shackles. And it also means a fresh influx of new members for clubs.
Student climbing clubs are perfect for providing that heady mix of new friends, exhilarating adventures, adrenaline, and lots of fun. But make sure you run the perfect freshers’ climbing meet by following these essential steps.
Step one – safety
Make sure your new potential members are in it for the long run by taking steps to avoid any injuries. Of course, accidents can and do happen – you can’t plan for everything – but measures can be taken to make things as safe as possible.
Sending representatives from your club to attend events such as the BMC Student Safety and Good Practice Seminar is a great way to ensure safer enjoyment of our cliffs and mountains. Learn all the best practices with a variety of practical workshops, discussions, and lectures.
WATCH: The Student Seminar on BMC TV:
Step two – minimising impact
Taking a large group of freshers and commandeering an entire section of the crag often doesn’t sit well with other climbers; but it needn’t cause any big issues.
Rob Dyer, access and conservation officer at the BMC, says: “In the past, student clubs gained a bit of a poor reputation for taking over crags, but thankfully, the majority of clubs now do their best to minimise their impact.”
So how do they prevent pissing off people?
Think about your choice of venue carefully – obvious things need to be considered like the number of easy routes available, but also think about the size of your group and whether it’s appropriate for the size of the crag.
Rob Dyer says: “The best solution could be to split into two or more smaller groups and each visit different crags. Although you won’t all be together during the day, it provides a great excuse to socialise after climbing on a night out.”
Check out the BMC’s Regional Access Database (RAD) for full and up to date information on all crags with access considerations across England and Wales. You can also download an iPhone or android app to give you access to RAD on the go.
If possible, organise yourselves into small rope teams at the crag and spread out, with an experienced club member showing novices the ropes. This gives them more of an ‘authentic’ day of climbing, rather than top roping as a group. However, this does require more resources and experienced climbers – if you don’t have enough equipment or people, be sure to think of other climbers when setting up top ropes.
Rob Dyer says: “There’s nothing wrong with top roping if it’s done sensitively and considerately. The key to this is understanding that other climbers might want to use the routes you have top ropes rigged on, so be prepared to allow them on the route in between top rope ascents. Also, try to avoid rigging up large areas of crag with large groups waiting beneath – if possible split into smaller groups and spread out.”
Use our Green Guide booklets to find out more:
Step three – protect the rock
Make sure that all climbers clean their footwear before stepping off the ground. This not only helps your shoes stick to the rock better, but also means that grit and mud aren’t being ground into the rock, causing wear and leaving the route dirty for the next climber.
One method to combat this is to kit your freshers out with rock shoes rather than trainers and show them how to move properly on rock. Less slipping and thrashing around will also allow them to enjoy the climbing more and, through being more precise, reduce wear on holds.
Use our Green Guide booklets to find out more:
WATCH: How to boulder responsibly on BMC TV:
Step four – communication
Talk to other climbers! If you see anyone getting visibly upset or casting annoyed glances your way, try to explain to them who you are, what you’re doing, and that they’re welcome to climb in between top rope ascents. Out of the problems we hear of, 99% of them could have been solved by having a friendly chat with the other climbers around you.
Rob Dyer said: “We’ve all got something in common so why not get chatty with your fellow craggers? You never know, one of you might have some useful beta or you could even make new friends and ultimately that’s what it’s all about – having fun in a beautiful place.”
Step five – advertise your plans
Lastly, make sure to let everyone know what you're planning. Something that has worked well in the past has been a single online thread where student clubs can post up their plans for freshers meets. This allows other climbers to plan accordingly and, if they prefer a quieter climbing experience, avoid particular crags on days when they might be busy.
Unfortunately these threads have sometimes descended into general criticism of student clubs, which isn’t what we’re trying to achieve. This year we’re hosting the thread on the BMC site where all comments are moderated.
Post up your freshers meet details using the comment box below and help inform other climbers of your plans.
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As the climbing walls, crags and mountains start to open, we wanted to say thanks to every BMC member who supported us through the Coronavirus crisis.
From weekly Facebook Lives and GB Climbing home training videos, to our access team working to re-open the crags and fight for your mountain access, we couldn’t have made it without you.
If you liked what we did, then tell your friends about us: www.thebmc.co.uk/join