Freshers’ week ushers in an awe-inspiring choice of clubs and societies for new students to join. Rob Greenwood gives us some top reasons to join a student climbing/walking/mountaineering club and recounts why he’s never looked back after joining Bangor BUMS.
Ten years ago, almost to the day, I made my way to the Freshers’ registration desk at Bangor University. Alongside over 8,000 other students I was about to embark on a journey that would change my life.
I would be lying if I said that my reasons for choosing Bangor were entirely down to its place within the University league tables. Since childhood I had an interest in the mountains, but due to growing up in the South of England my experiences had been limited to family holidays and long weekends away.
By moving to North Wales I was hoping to address this and soon upon arrival I set about exploring Snowdonia National Park. From the bounding tops of the Carneddau to the rocky scrambles of the Glyders, it was everything I had hoped for.
In Bangor I was on a quest to take advantage of the many new things on offer and in doing so I ended up visiting the university climbing wall. I had never climbed before, in fact I’d not even considered it, but something about it appealed - it seemed like another way in which I could appreciate the mountains. The only issue was that like many people starting out indoors I didn’t know how to go about acquiring the skills necessary to move outside.
In my second semester I joined the University Mountaineering Society (the appropriately named ‘BUMS’) and learned skills through more experienced members like how to place gear, build a belay, and generally look after myself. It was an active club and it wasn’t long before I had engaged in my first trad leads.
Twelve months later I had completed my first ice climb and six months beyond that my first 4,000m peak – it was unbelievable. If somebody had told me at the Freshers’ fair I was going to do that I simply wouldn’t have believed them – that’s what ‘other people’ do...
Over the course of the next two years we made weekly trips to climbing venues across North Wales, meeting mid-week for indoor climbing and social session afterwards. Each semester we would aim to visit somewhere further afield such as the Peak District and Pembrokeshire, but being based in one of the one of the hubs of British rock it was quite easy to get lazy when it came to visiting other areas – there was so much on our doorstep.
That said, I remember going to the Roaches one weekend and meeting a highly motivated group from Imperial College. They had travelled up all the way from London and I remember feeling inspired by the levels of effort they had put in, it just goes to show the lengths clubs go to get out week in week out.
Looking back now I realise just how much joining the university mountaineering society changed my life. The skills I acquired allowed me to explore the mountains and sea cliffs in a way I had ever imagined and the friends I made back then are still my best friends, and climbing partners, today.
Nowadays I have more of a vested interest in club membership due to my role as Regional Development Officer at the BMC, but with so many positive memories I couldn’t let Freshers’ week come and go without one piece of advice: join your university hill walking, climbing, or mountaineering society, you won’t regret it!
Top reasons to join a student club:
Opportunities to climb/walk/go mountaineering – you may never have the chance to climb so much in your life
Broadens your horizons beyond the campus. Gives a refreshing break away from studying and gets you into the outdoors
Chance to meet climbing partners and make friends with like-minded people
Learn skills from experienced club members
Shared kit – clubs usually have pooled kit so you don’t have to buy all the kit for yourself
Shared costs (sometimes subsidised) for trips and meets
Great social scene
And last but not least… there are over 70 student clubs affiliated to the BMC. Check whether your university has an affiliated club and if you join it you can reap the benefits of BMC club membership. Benefits include Combined Liability insurance, discounts in outdoor shops, opportunity to book many mountain huts, access to mountain training awards and much more. Find out which university clubs are affiliated to the BMC.
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