The Anabasis Mountaineering Club celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year.
Formed in Liverpool in 1961, the club’s hut and spiritual home is at Garth Farm, near Capel Curig in Snowdonia. The founding of the club was itself a small wave in the tide of change that eroded the climbing world establishment as Britain emerged from the austere years that followed the Second World War.
Ian Cass and Keith Britton, arriving at Langdale on a freezing night and by motorbike, found that an established club was ‘not able to offer us any accommodation (at their hut) despite the fact that we were frozen and they had plenty of room’ (Ian), because ‘it had become their policy to refuse anyone not from a BMC affiliated club’ explicitly superseding ‘the long tradition of giving aid to mountaineers in difficulty because of weather or other unforeseen circumstances’ (Keith).
Ian recalls that they ‘were incensed by this and decided that we would try to start a new club on Merseyside hopefully free of all the mumbo jumbo that surrounded the traditional clubs’. An advertisement inviting people to a meeting was placed in the Liverpool Echo and about 50 people showed up. Among them was George Murphy (already a B.E.M. holder for R.A.F. mountain rescue heroics) who later enjoyed the honour of becoming the club’s Honorary President. He remembers being much impressed by the ‘savage verbal assault’ on the organisers, a ‘form of entertainment that became an odd tradition at Annual General Meetings’.
The new club duly came into being with the classical allusion name ‘Anabasis’ (from the Greek meaning to ‘go up’ and more generally used to describe any journey from the sea coast to the higher lands of the interior). On a more practical level, the barn which was to become the club’s hut was stumbled upon by an off-route member coming off Moel Siabod. The hut was named in memory of Peter Llowarch, a member who died trying to help a climber in difficulties on Cryn Las. Ever since 1962 the club has been proud to be associated with the Jones family who farm sheep on the rough mountain land on which the hut stands. Over the years, the club has been well-served by members with the practical skills necessary to maintain and improve the hut, the price for the magnificent views of Snowdon being that it stands in the path of weather of unimaginable fury! The hut is now regularly let out to other groups.
In keeping with the founders’ intent of opening up access to the climbing world, the club’s membership has always been a good social mix, bringing together artisans and professionals, scientists and poets, women and men, the young and the old. The club would not claim to have fielded ‘big names’ in climbing, though many people will know our Rob Hastings and Mark Hounslea. The absence of rockstars reflects an inclination always to social inclusion over ‘grimstone’ individualism, though many members have and continue to climb at high standards, winter and summer. Meets have been held in exotic places such as Czechoslovakia (as was), Yosemite and the Alps, as well as at a variety of locations in the UK. The club has never focused solely on climbing, with walking, pot-holing, fell running, and mountain biking – and indeed welly boot throwing, kite flying, hotpots, fireworks and singing - featuring regularly on the menu of activities. For four decades a club offshoot has ‘practised’ on Thursday summer evenings at Liverpool’s ‘local’ outcrops, Helsby and Frodsham, and each year the Anabasis enters a team in the Penmaenmawr Fell Race in November (it was won by club members a couple of times in the 1980s).
A Dinner to celebrate the half century was held in Liverpool on May 7th, with over 60 people attending, including some of those who brought the club into being. As with many other clubs, a challenge now is an ageing membership, and adapting to a world where the inter-dependence and need to belong that are the foundation motives for a ‘club’ count for less, and individualism and cyberspace communities appear to count for more. But, and as everywhere in the climbing world, we are enriched by relationships forged in adventure, and by the maturing of those relationships over time to make our ‘Anabasis’ an indispensable part of our lives.
For general enquiries about the club, contact Dave Atkinson: firstname.lastname@example.org
For enquiries about membership and hiring the hut, contact Bill Murphy: email@example.com
Or go to the Tuesday evening gathering at the Railway Hotel, Tithebarn Street, Liverpool L2 2DT.
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