Inside the BMC: CEO

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Getting fit

Its been an interesting 3 weeks. On 24 June I decided to become climber again and loose some of my typical 13.5+stone frame. Three weeks of eating less, cutting out junk food and not drinking much (beer/wine) and somehow I'm down 10-12lbs. Two weeks ago I scraped my way up the recently cleaned - Mortlocks Arete – and after that I decided to become a sport climber for a while; miraculously - I've actually managed to get up two routes at Raven Tor in a week, Sardine and Tin of 2nd rp each.

Sunday was a lesson in helmets. I went to Gogarth with the Mynydd Climbing Club and after seconding Aardvark, Marcus Payne and I went to do Dinosaur. It was a perfect blue sky day but we got on the crag an hour or too soon. The first chimney was dry but the hard traverse left and up was still damp and I pinged off, ripping a No.8 rock which catapulted at speed into my forehead causing an instantaneous half-table tennis ball bump, a gash and plenty of blood. I’d taken my helmet off after Aardvark so there’s a lesson.

Anyway – the Main Cliff was buzzing with people – at one stage there were parties on Rat Race, Positron, Dinosaur, Citadel and Graduation Ceremony all at the same time – great to see. We topped out 2 hrs late and I got in trouble from ‘the wife’ and two grumpy kids who'd been sitting in the car at the campsite. waiting. All credit (apologies for sounding like a football manager) to Pete Crew and Joe Brown on the 1st ascent 42 yrs ago. Body Machine next, maybe.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


...xmas came and went with a visit to the outlaws in Essex. The kids liked it and I used my 4 days in the flatlands to go into fell running training. Having never run more than 3 miles since leaving school - even the Thames shoreline seemed a shocker. More and more climber/mountaineer types seem to be into fell running these days (Ron Fawcett and Mr Berzin's to name some notables) so if you can't beat um....

One of this years' pre-Xmas stresses was awaiting the outcome of UKC's idea of filming a BMC version of the Queens speech. Alastair Lee did the filming in a single 2.5hr session on 14 Dec and I didn't see the finished product until Xmas Eve. I needn't have worried. Despite a natural aversion to seeing myself on film - he did a great job and the 4 min 30 second film- (see or visit UKC and YouTube) - provides a perfect snapshot of what the BMC's all about these days.

The start of any new year is hectic at the BMC. This year we've got the usual changes in subscriptions rates, club renewals and literature to deal with, plus the 50% off Direct Debit membership offer AND some fairly significant enhancements to our Travel Insurance. For the 3rd YEAR RUNNING - we're holding all of our rates; there'll be price reductions on annual policies and online purchases and also 25-50% reductions for couples and 65-70 year olds; we're also introducing a trimmed down option (with medical, rescue and repatriation cover only and to be called e.g. Rock or Alpine & Ski 'Basic') with 25-30% lower premiums. Changes like this create complicated technical and administrative challenges so we'll be phasing them in over a 6-8 week period.

That's it for now. If you're happy with what the BMC's doing for you - why not get behind us and spread the word.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Owning crags costs money

...Monday night was the BMC Land Management Group meeting. This select crew of legal and property experts gets together 2-3 times / yr to oversee the management of BMC properties. The BMC owns Stone Farm Rocks, Alderey Cliff, Horseshoe Quarry, Craig y Longridge and Bwlch y Moch (Tremadog). We're also in the process of taking ownership of Harrison's Rocks from Sport England. Our policy (still) is not to actively seek out new crags to buy, but to encourage other sympathetic landlords (e.g. the National Trust, Local Authorities) to take them on instead. The reason is that land ownership is a significant responsibility. In general we'll only take places on if access is under serious threat.

In 2007 we've probably spent £25-30000.00 on our crags - the purchase and legal costs associated with Craig y Longridge being the biggest chunk of this. These costs are all covered by membership subscriptions - another example of 'where your money goes' - but hopefully you'll agree its a good cause. The cost of insurance for our crags is bundled into the premium we pay for members Civil Liability cover, so all BMC members make a small contribution to this cost through their BMC subs. We're currently investigating the feasibility of trying to take on Fly Wall & Woodcroft Quarry at Wintours Leap. Its early days on this (its not even for sale) but the SW Area have it in the menu for discussion at their next meeting - this weekend in fact I think.

Perhaps the BMC should be much more proactive in taking on new crags and properties? Sometimes I think so. Look at the US Access Fund or the Mountain Club of South Africa - they're big landowners and their members value them for it. The issues are considerable however - apart from the manageability and cost there's the fact by being more proactive we might end up attaching more value to crags. Currently crags have little or no monetary value (most of the BMC's were given to us) - if we started paying real money for crags, the word could spread fast amongst the land owning fraternity. Anyway - worth a thought...what do people think?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Lots going on

Much has been going on at the BMC of late. 2 weeks ago the purchase of Craig y Longridge finally went through after 3+yrs of uncertainty and legal wranglings. This is great news for boulderers as the developer had intended bulldozing earth up against the crag and it would it would have been lost for ever if the BMC had not stepped in. On the membership and insurance front there's been loads of things happening. We're launching a major a direct debit incentive scheme on 1 Jan '08 and also trying to set up an online DD facility. A new advertising campaign has been agreed with a series of 'Climb It, Walk It, Protect It' ads booked in most of the key outdoor magazines over the next 4 months. We met with our insurance underwriters yesterday and aim to introduce a range of improvements to our Travel Scheme from 1 Jan '08. The biggest shock however is that the members' Email Newsletter is actually happening - the first one is due to go out to 20000+ email addresses tonight. Elsewhere on planet BMC - we have sent our new Crag & Habitat Management leaflet to the printers, appointed Lucy Creamer as Competition Climbing Officer and produced a research report on the CRoW Act. Last night I was at the BMC Executive Committee meeting until 12.25am together with Pat Littlejohn, Charlie Clarke, Rab Carrington et al. In 45 minutes time Angela Smith MP is coming in to see us about Peak access and wider issues, and I've just learnt that James Purnell - the Minister for Culture, Media & Sport, has agreed to a visit the BMC office on 7 December. Oh, and there's also been the recent press report of the BMC moving office. Just to put people straight - this will only happen if there's a major benefit for the BMC and/or we get an offer we can't refuse. We haven't had that yet so it looks like Manchester for the time being.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Budget Time

...every October/November its time to set the budgets for the next calender year. This involves analysing current expenditure, identifying savings and requirements for new expenditure, as well as trying to balance the various demands for BMC resources. After the initial groundwork by the office and the finance Committee its job of the National Council (made up of Area representatives) to adopt the budget at its December meeting. So far this year we've managed to identify print and postage savings of over £50000.00. This is useful because with relatively static membership levels and insurance revenues its looking like 2008 is going to be tight year. Its always tempting in setting budgets to simply base the next years budget on the previous year budget. This is ok until it comes to aspects of the BMC work that may feel under-resourced - expeditions funding, competitions, the National Climbing Team, youth development. The BMC's resources are thinly spread but at the end of the day its a case of people making a good case.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Office

...had a Mountain Leader Training meeting in Ireland on Saturday and managed to take a few days off to climb on the Burren sea cliffs. Back in the office today to find that a. we'd managed to persuade United Utilities not to auction off Wilton Quarries (a great result - many thanks to Les Ainsworth and Bill Renshaw for their efforts on this one) and b. I had a whole lot of work to do on the BMC's Sport England grant monitoring report. On top of that was the usual email backlog. I got thought that when I could - between chairing an an Officers meeting and a series of phonecalls. Amongst my emails was a complaint from a member about the BMC spending subscriptions money to buy £10000.00 worth of bolts for Area Bolt Funds as part of the Better Bolts Campaign. I explained that the BMC covers the whole spectrum of climbing and walking activities (bouldering, hill walking, competition climbing, rock climbing, the greater ranges etc etc) and that we constantly strive to represent and support all of these interests. His main issue was that members had not had a chance to express their views before the bolts were purchased. A reasonable point I'd say. In actual fact the purchase went ahead after consultation with the Area chairs - all of whom expressed full support for the idea on behalf of their constituents. The BMC means different things to different people; not everything we do will appeal to all members but there's certainly something for everyone in our work.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Abseiling down Linden

...took a brief stroll along Curbar Edge late this afternoon with my 73 yr old Aunty. From a distance we saw a large group of people (3 identical minibuses worth in fact) at the top of Right Eliminate / Linden and someone abseiling or being lowered down the crag below. By the time we arrived they were packing up but it was clear what had been going on - abseil practice down classic routes. Further down the crag there was an unattended ab rope down the protectionless slab right of Elder Crack - Knockin on Heavens Door. Now the BMC has been banging on for years about the damage abseiling can cause - polish, breaking crucial holds or pebbles, improving holds even, changing the character of routes - so its disappointed that this sort of thing still goes on. I'd planned to have a word with the group but with them packing away as I arrived, the moment passed.

The majority of groups under instruction are entirely responsible but if you see this sort of thing going on - don't hold back - tell them the score.