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Peak District Meet (April 28 - May 1)

posted 13 May 2017, 15:38 by Andrew Dennis   [ updated 29 May 2017, 06:36 by Swindon Mountaineering ]

by Ben Fitzgerald

A select band of SMC members answered Bernard’s call to rise to the gritstone challenge of the Peak District’s Stanage Edge over the bank holiday weekend.

Keen Friday night arrivals at North Lees campsite made it before darkness descended and were able to set up camp in the luxury of daylight.Later arrivers Sarah and Mark set themselves the fun challenge of finding the others via a series of cryptic text messages and then threw themselves into the amusing task of erecting their tent by head torch - something I can only accomplish with a stream of grade one swear words - so well done to them.

I on the other hand had pressing business back in Swindon (involving sleeping in an actual real bed with pocket sprung mattress) and after getting up at a mind-numbing five o’clock in the morning, blindly followed the smug voice of my sat nav up the spine of the country towards my destination; not entirely achieving full consciousness until Leamington Spa. By the time I arrived at the loose cluster of tents surrounding Rick’s canvas semi-detached Oztent fun house, plans were already in place to take a hike around the nearby peaks.

We meandered through the beautifully bleak open moorlands before scoffing lunch amid improbable protrusions of rock boiling out of the landscape. At this point, Natalie declared that everyone should discover the joys of weaseling (is this even a thing?) - which apparently involves squeezing yourself through the tightest possible gaps in the rock. She met skeptical looks with an assurance that it was perfectly safe and that she had even encouraged children to take part during school trips - with only the occasional youngster becoming permanently wedged and needing to be freed using a combination of diamond tipped cutting equipment and olive oil. We rounded off the stroll with a visit to Derwent Reservoir (famously used by the Dambusters for bouncing bomb target practice).

By the time we arrived back at camp, the drizzle had eased off enough to heft ropes and metalwork up to the ‘popular end’ of Stanage Edge - where even late in the day climbers were happily pushing themselves to their personal limits up every available stretch of gritstone with cries of ‘that’s me’, ‘climb when ready’ and ‘are you really sure you’ve got me?’ echoing around the rock.

After attempting a few aptly named v.diff climbs and suffering from increasingly cold hands it was generally agreed to take the shortest possible route to the pub for an evening of pie-based food and a cheerful argument about Brexit.

Ed, Pet and Rick, who stayed back at the campsite, insisted that they had been visited by a cohort of caterpillars, a newt and possibly a talking dodo in our absence - however it has been shown that even slightly out of date food can produce some quite vivid hallucinations.

As if we had not risked life and limb enough - the following day saw most of us hit the grit with renewed determination, proudly sporting our SMC branded hoodies and t-shirts - representin’ the Swindon massive.

Bernard appeared to be in several places at once, scampering between climbs - guidebook in hand - fearlessly leading some ridiculous routes, absent mindedly shoving in a bit of protection here and there. My fellow climbers Ross, Natalie, Pet, Ricky, Emily and Ed made it look easy - their climbing experience shining through.

As a relative newcomer, I managed to slay a few demons, thanks to the support of Ricky and Emily who encouraged me up a variety of vertical nightmares and revealed the secrets of hand jamming and lie backs. Amazing weekend - thanks Bernard for organising!