The sun shone, barbecue grills glowed, climbs were cruised, stories told and a good time was had by all at the four climbing festivals organised by BMC volunteers last month.
If you didn’t make it to one of our September climbing festivals, here’s a report on what you missed.
Cornish Climbing Festival (6-8 September)
Report by Gareth Palmer
This year’s festival was held in north Cornwall, based at the Woodview Campsite in Morwenstow, with evening activities at the Bush Inn. Apart from the weather turning poor for the Sunday we had a very good turn out with over 40 climbers enjoying the attractions of the Culm coast.
The festival kicked off with a very good barbecue on the Friday night at the campsite, with a little bit of beer on hand but not too much to affect Saturday’s plans. Most of the climbing on the Saturday was on the very sunny nearby Vicarage Cliff, but a few did make it to the new Hartland Quay area, and also to Blackchurch.
On Saturday evening Iain Peters gave a fantastic talk in the Bush Inn about pioneering on the South West’s sea cliffs, and a great raffle with lots of top gear helped to raise over £235 for Climbers against Cancer. Sunday saw lots or rain and a few sore heads but a BMC breakfast of sausage, egg and bacon baps helped to kickstart the day, and everyone had a fine time, Roll on next year.
Gower Climbing Festival (6-8 September)
Report by Stuart Llewellyn
With a somewhat bleak and miserable forecast for the weekend, the campsite was rather quiet on the Friday night to kick off the 5th BMC Gower Climbing Festival, but for those that made the journey to the peninsula they were rewarded with sun all day Saturday, giving us probably the best weather the festival had ever seen. After local volunteers served up breakfast baps and climbing recommendations, with the tides ideal for late morning access, quite a few climbers headed to the beach crags at Rhosili to sample the new sport venue of Shipwreck Cove, and walking further in the afternoon escaping the tide via the pleasant trad crag of Sheepbone Wall. Other teams of climbers made the best of the tides by visiting King Wall and the classics that Lewes Castle has to offer. Just round the corner four teams made the most of lifted bird ban restriction and headed to the premier trad venue of Yellow Wall.
The Saturday evening was jam packed in itinerary and people, with 46 people at the Countryman pub at the peak of the evening. Young local climber Chris Shepherd gave a presentation on behalf of the youth climbing team based at Dynamic Rock in Swansea, sharing with us their highlights over the last seven years, which included numerous trips to the local South Wales gems, further afield with Euro climbing trips, and a team member, Rhoslyn Frugtniet winning the BMC Youth Climbing Series; and a big thanks from the kids to their head coach Simon Rawlinson. The inaugural Gower Climbing Festival Pub Quiz and Raffle ensued, with the evening culminating with a slideshow talk by Nik Goile sharing photos and stories of his team’s ascent of the Nose in Yosemite earlier this year.
With slightly sorer heads the volunteers fired up the pans for the Sunday breakfast bar after which some people went climbing, while others struggled to get excited by the forecast. Festival goers managed to raise £114 for the BMC Access and Conservation Trust, through donations for breakfast baps and raffle tickets. Thanks to the BMC office for supplying prizes, Piton Cross Campsite, and of course to locals who volunteered to make the festival happen: Matt Woodfield, Liz Collyer and Jacky Tyrie in particular. After organising five of these events in conjunction with the BMC since 2009, this year’s was likely to be my last. If all goes to plan I’ll be trekking in Nepal and who knows what from there in September 2014. At a quick count since the start we’ve had in excess of 270 people attend, if you’ve come along to any of the weekends, thanks for your support and if it was your first time experiencing the stunning Gower Peninsula, I hope you make a return visit.
Crag Lough Clean-up Festival (7-8 September)
Report by Mark Anstiss
On Saturday 7 September a team of volunteers armed with their climbing gear, trowels and patio knives made their way to Crag Lough, Northumberland for a spot of much needed gardening in a continuation of last year’s sterling work.
Despite the poor weather forecast the turnout was excellent and fifteen volunteers worked hard to return another clutch of excellent routes to their former glory. In addition, a few overlooked gems were brought back from obscurity and two previously overlooked lines were cleaned. Amazingly the forecast deluge never materialised.
The day was rounded off by a huge and well deserved barbecue courtesy of the BMC, washed down with plenty of ale in the local inn. The fruits of all this effort were enjoyed the following day with plenty of folks out climbing. Some routes were ascended for the first time in years and two first ascents were made.
Crag Lough does not lend itself to climbing in the colder months. However, the vegetation will not return before next year and the winter weather will finish off the cleaning nicely. The routes will be at their best next spring and many North East climbers are already eagerly looking forward to their first visit next year.
The day was organised by Mark Anstiss with the assistance of the BMC and both he and the BMC would like to thank everyone who helped out and the National Trust and Natural England for their permission and support.
WiltonFest (14-15 September)
Report by Nick Bond
The first WiltonFest arrived to sunshine, which helped to bring out over 90 climbers during the course of the weekend. Climbers came from as far away as Spain, France, Scotland and even Yorkshire. Many routes were climbed, with teams on some esoteria that may not have been climbed for years!! Feedback from festival goers was really positive; one local climber was heard to comment that even in the heyday of the 1960s he hadn’t seen so many climbing at Wilton at the same time. There were also many comments about the great condition of the crag, thanks to the amount of cleaning that has gone on.
All the food from the barbecue (black pudding barm cake, anyone?) was eaten and beer drunk. “Spurred on by the BMC’s WiltonFest burgers”, Jordan Buys completed some unfinished business from many years ago with an ascent of Strawberry Kiss (E7 6B). As the organiser of this event I slightly underestimated how popular it was going to be and struggled to keep the kettles boiling all day.
A big thank you goes out to all the volunteers that made this event work, especially the team who carried up the barbecue equipment and took it all back down again; there was no mess left. Special thanks go to my long suffering partner Bev who put up with me, helped me organise the food, and spent most of the day helping out. Thanks also to Rob Dyer and Jane Edwards at the "office" for their support.
The prize raffle went down well and although it did take slightly longer than expected we raised £225 for any future Wilton projects. All in all a fantastic day, thanks to everyone who turned up, helped and had a good days climbing at the BMC’s “premier” quarry.
Roll on next year, bigger and better?
And for 2014
Climbing and walking festivals couldn’t happen without the enthusiasm that BMC volunteers have for their local areas and the hard work they are prepared to put in. So it’s good to know that the organisers of this year’s festivals are already looking forward to putting on bigger and better events next year.
No dates have been set yet, but keep an eye out for news about next year’s events in the south west, South Wales, the north west and the north east, as well as other established events such as TremFest in North Wales and the Lakes Mountaineering Festival. There's also the possibility of a Stanage Climbing & Walking Festival in 2014 as part of the BMC's 70th anniversary celebrations - watch this space.
If you’d like to get involved in helping to organise an event that’s already established, or think you’d like to start a new one in your area, BMC area meetings are the best place to take your ideas and enthusiasm.