Mountaineering clubs are great places to meet new people, explore new places and generally have a great time. Coming in many guises - small, large, local, national, predominantly climbing, predominantly walking - there’s something for most tastes.
It’s Thursday evening. The weather forecast is great for the weekend. Sam is going to a wedding, Tom is working and Sarah is visiting friends. Who are you going to head to the crag with……….
Maybe you are thinking of returning to mountaineering but your walking buddies have all headed off on their own path and aren’t able to go out with you regularly………
You’ve been climbing at your local wall for a while. You’ve even done a course to climb outside but you’ve no one to climb with outside on a regular basis………
Now’s the time to join a club!
What is a club?
A mountaineering club is a group of like-minded people whose main focus is to spend time out in the mountains. Clubs started off as social gatherings where climbers and walkers planned their weekend and holiday exploits, and that hasn’t changed very much at all over time.
One of the great strengths of climbing, hill walking and mountaineering clubs is that they are full of individuals with a wide range of experience and involvement. They are great places to start planning trips abroad and to remote parts of Britain. There is often someone who has been to your planned destination, or who knows someone who has. Clubs are a great source of partners and information and, most importantly, enthusiasm.
As a general rule, clubs are open to everyone over the age of 18. Many clubs are parent friendly, which means that family memberships are available, and some meets during the year will be specifically designed with families in mind. Most clubs have some sort of “aspirant membership”, where you can join for a reduced fee and see how you get on. The majority of aspirants then stay on and become full members.
Most mountaineering clubs have a geographical base with many of its members living in the local area. Other clubs are known as ‘national clubs’. These clubs tend not to have the same programme of local evening meetings as they will have members living across the whole of the country. However it is still worth checking out what a 'national club' can offer as some will have local meetings in areas with a concentration of members. The national clubs tend to be the biggest clubs with the most members and will often own several huts for their members to use.
Find contact details for BMC affiliated clubs
All clubs have meets throughout the year varying from a Saturday walk in the local hills to a weekend in North Wales, a week in Scotland, the Alps, climbing in Yosemite or hitting the heights in the Himalayas and many other places in between. Clubs will sometimes stray a little from their main focus of climbing, walking and mountaineering by offering their members opportunities in other outdoor activities such as mountain biking and caving.
Most weekend meets that clubs organise will be held at one of the multitude of mountain huts across the UK or at a campsite with close proximity to the crag / hills. Many clubs have their own huts in mountain areas, which are not really huts at all, more like converted farmhouses and cottages. They provide a further social and outdoor focus for the club and its members, and offer cheap but quality accommodation which serves as comfortable bases for long weekends in the mountains. BMC affiliated clubs are able to hire out a hut from another BMC club allowing its members the opportunities to explore more of the UK. There are currently huts in Scotland, the Lake District, Yorkshire, the Peak District, North and Mid Wales and the South West of England through this programme.
How extensive a meets programme is will usually depend on the size of the club – the larger the club the more meets throughout the year. However, one of the big advantages of joining a club is meeting people who would be eager to go outdoors with you.
Apart from the outdoor experiences that club membership will give you, clubs are a great social scene too. It’s not always fleeces and big boots, as many clubs have annual dinners, film nights, talks and presentations, and non climbing/walking nights out and days in.
Members are likely to meet regularly on a weekday evening, usually at a local drinking establishment, will often climb at the local indoor climbing wall(s), and then head outdoors at the weekend.
More and more climbing clubs are willing to take on inexperienced climbers, although some prefer you to have some experience and equipment. There is a time honoured system of informal, hands-on instruction from the more experienced members, and it is a system that works well.
If your local club requires you to have some basic skills, you may wish to consider attending an outdoor rock climbing course through your local climbing wall or a BMC subsidised outdoor course at Plas y Brenin, before going outdoors with club members.
Also try our climbing outdoors advice page
If you would like to take advantage of the support that clubs can offer it is best to talk to your local club to see if their offer matches your need.
The BMC provides training opportunities to club members throughout the year via the Clubs Workshop Programme. Workshops include winter skills, navigation, first aid and climbing self-rescue. As a club member you would be able to access these subsidised courses.
Clubs charge an annual fee to their members. The club will pay the BMC for your annual BMC membership which entitles you to a raft of benefits and then there will be an amount to cover the running costs of the club. Each club sets its own annual fee. BMC club membership is currently only £13.25 (£9.75 for students and £8.00 for under-18s).
Meets are also excellent value as there are usually three main components to consider: travel, accommodation and food. The meets organiser will try to arrange for people to share transport thereby saving our planet alongside saving your pennies. Accommodation, whether camping or in a mountain hut, is usually around £4-£10 per night (less if wild camping!), and food costs are only limited by your own choice. Clubs don’t place a charge on attending a meet, so usually the only other costs are beer and those fateful trips to the local gear shop!
As with any adventurous activity there is an element of risk in mountaineering that you need to accept. Take responsibility for your own involvement and read the BMC's participation statement.