Thinking of joining a mountaineering club? Why not give it a go. You may be surprised at how fast you'll progress with a little help from your new friends. Vicky Heyes tell us why joining her local club has been a good move for her.
Why did you join a club?
I tried climbing and really enjoyed it and wanted to have the opportunity to climb more often. I had been a member of other clubs – running and triathlon – but was ready to try something new. A couple of friends recommended climbing. They were right, as after my first session I decided climbing was for me – it’s mental and physical. At that stage I decided I would like to join a club, but didn’t really know how to go about it. I felt I wasn’t good enough to just go along.
How did you choose which club to join?
I am a member of the Mountaineering Club of Bury, more affectionately known as ‘The MOB’. I chose this club because the club collectively chose to take me under their wing. I first tried climbing around three years ago and did odd days here and there with a friend of a friend, but the opportunities were ad hoc and few and far between. I really enjoyed it and wanted to make it a regular thing. After about six months I contacted the club after doing a Google search for ‘Bury’ and ‘climbing’. They invited me to a meeting… but I didn’t have the bottle to go along. Then around 18 months ago I met a friend who had decided to join the MOB and was going on their first outdoor meet to Wilton Quarry. I went along and only managed one or two routes. I was absolutely petrified whilst on the top of the Prow and they had to lower me off.
It sounds like the club was very supportive?
Yes, that night at Wilton I was introduced to Derek who is the founder member of the club. I had seen him before at Manchester Climbing Centre. I did try joining the women’s group at MCC, but it wasn't for me. Mentally I wasn’t in the best place and I found going along to new places meeting new people a little overwhelming. Anyways I had also spotted Derek bouldering on occasions in Burrs near my house. So I knew his face. He was very friendly and said he recognised me from seeing me around. He was very welcoming. Not long after, I broke my hand and couldn’t really get out. Derek contacted me and invited me to come down to the mountaineering club meet. I explained the problems I had, feeling a little bit frightened about the whole thing and Derek arranged to meet up and talk it through. Then I would feel more confident on the meet night to come along. This was just what I needed and the very next meeting I turned up with my sister and my son, for support, and everyone was really lovely. I got invited on a club walk. After that I went along on a couple of walks and then, once my plaster was off, the sky was the limit. Everyone in the club has been very generous; lending me gear and spending time climbing with me indoors and out.
Was it an easy process to join?
Yes it is an easy process to join. Just come along to a club meet and go along with the arranged activities. It’s only £20 for the year including BMC club membership and you can join in as little or as much as you like.
What are the best things about being in a club?
Socially it’s great, meeting new people and making friends. There is plenty to get involved in – there's always someone doing something and they make you feel really welcome. Well-being is another thing – everyone is friendly and supportive and doing physical activity makes you feel really healthy. It also helps buid confidence; you achieve things and go places you never dreamed were possible.
Lots of people say they’d like to join a club (25% of those in our latest membership survey). Would you encourage them to take the plunge?
Definitely, you get to do an activity you like or want to try. For any sport I have done – running, swimming, cycling and now climbing – being a member of a club means you develop your skills and techniques, and achieve to the very best of your abilities.
How often do you meet up with the club?
The official club meetings are every other Wednesday night at The White Lion pub in Bury. Unofficially, we meet as often as you like. Once you are a member you can meet up with different climbing partners you’ve met through the club every night of the week.
Have you found climbing partners and made good friends through the club?
I have made lots of friends. My mobile is full of numbers of not just climbing partners but running, walking or cycling buddies and just great people to go out with socially.
Have you visited places you wouldn’t normally have visited?
Yes, I have gone to some amazing places within the North West that I never knew existed, including staying in the Don Whillans’ hut at the Roaches. There are too many to name all the great places, but I wouldn’t have been climbing outdoors at all really without the MOB and now I go somewhere different every week: Wilton 1, Wilton 3, Troy, Hobson Moor, Pex Hill, Eastby, Earl Crag, Bridestones, Brownstones, Castle Inn, Standedge, The Roaches, Trowbarrow, Froggatt, Millstone, Cows Mouth, New Mills and Windgather to name a few. Indoor climbing walls I have been to include Manchester, Awesome Walls Stockport, Rock Over, Harrogate and Kendal. I’ve also been on several walks.
Have you had the chance to learn new skills – either from other experienced members or through training courses?
Yes, I can now lead climb – in the beginning when climbing outdoors I crawled as far away from the edge as possible before untying and saying I was safe. The MOB have put up with a lot of tears and carried on encouraging me when most people would have told me to give up. I am now leading and soloing routes outdoors. Indoors I can now lead 6b.
I did look into courses, but it’s difficult to remember skills from one-off activities. Regular practise of skills is the only way to do it. The club members give me useful tips all the time… using different types of handhold and the importance of good footwork. Watching experienced climbers’ technique and grace when climbing is definitely important too.
Have you been on weekend meets?
I’ve enjoyed a couple of weekends away. One at the Roaches and one camping on Anglesey. I’ve had other commitments so I’ve not immersed myself fully in all the weekends away. I haven’t really wanted to go away on weekends as I can’t afford it, but there have been weekends away not just climbing but mountain biking, ice climbing, and walking.
How do you find the mix of ages in the club? What would you say to people who think clubs are full of old people?
I think there is a massive range of people in the MOB. People in their 20s upwards. Mostly men, but there is an awesome bunch of us women and they are good friends. I think some clubs may have got a little staid and not welcomed new non-climbers in. The MOB have been keen to welcome anyone who is keen to get started and encouraged them to improve their skills. I’d say to people they should try going to their local club; if it doesn’t suit them try a different one, because it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.
What’s on the agenda for the club this year? Overseas meets etc…
I’m not sure to be honest because I’m not involved in everything. I am going away this October to Kalymnos with the MOB and am really looking forward to it.
How do you think other clubs could go about attracting new members?
If they want to attract new members just be approachable. Have a good website and invite newbies to be a part of things. If someone has been down and not come back just be there with a friendly text inviting them on a meet. People lose touch because they are overwhelmed with work or family life and it’s always great to know someone remembers you and will ask you along to join in. The MOB encourages everyone in the club to organise meets, so it doesn’t just fall on one person to organise everything.
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