Since going indoor climbing twice a week with Climbing Society folk at uni (and spending many a long hour in the pub with them most weeks too) just wasn’t enough, I decided to spend the entirety of last weekend with these people in the Lake District! The society organises a trip called the ‘Annual Dinner’ every year, which revolves around a three-course meal to which current and ex-members are invited, and normally people get some climbing in too.
We set off around 6 on Friday evening, my friend Becca and I squeezing into Pete the Vice-Pres’ car which was choc-a-bloc with stuff that apparently couldn’t fit in the boot due to the (prioritised) crates of beer. Luckily, we managed to offload a few bags into the minibus before we left the climbing stores, meaning that Becca and I could actually move our limbs during the four-hour journey. The drive didn’t take too long, (thanks to Pete’s loose interpretation of speed-limits) and was broken up by a welcome McDonalds in a service station along the way.
The sleeping arrangement for the weekend was the wooden floor of a little village hall, into which all 32 of us were crammed with all our stuff. The result was a pretty snug bundle of sleeping bags and roll mats. It was late by the time we’d all settled into our cosy accommodation, but we chatted for a while before getting ready to sleep, and cracked open a couple of cans of Pete’s warm Red Stripe lager (I believe it improves the more you drink). The chat died down as people started to nod off, and eventually someone turned out the lights. However, just when we thought we’d finally settled down to sleep an unidentifiable distant voice piped up ‘Night Ed’, which inevitably turned into a chorus of ‘Night Becca!’ ‘Night Lee!’ ‘Night Su!’ and so on for a good few minutes.
After a not-so-refreshing night’s sleep, we woke up on Saturday morning to chilly weather, sparking discussion over the risks of outdoor climbing (since snow was predicted). In the end we all wimped out of that option, not fancying removing gloves and dealing with trad gear in those kinds of conditions. So we split into groups- those who wanted to go indoor climbing, those who were up for a high hike (and had the right gear) and the group I was in that wanted to do a less intense hike. This turned out to be a great choice; we went on a stunning walk through the hills, and the snow just made everything look prettier. It was windy and cold, but we all wrapped up warm and I slipped on some waterproof trousers my friend lent me, which were really cosy if huge on me.
“Someone didn’t skip leg day” – Will Townsend
Our hike ended in the little village of Grasmere, which is famous for its ginger bread, fudge, and more. We all sampled the non-alcoholic ginger wine, which was rather potent to say the least. After a short pub trip, we returned to the hall to get dressed up for dinner.
The dinner event was held at a hotel not far away, and some of us began the night testing some fun cocktails, such as a red pepper flavoured G&T! We then took our seats in the main room and tucked into three delicious and long-awaited courses. General exhaustion together with half a bottle of wine made keeping my eyes open a little tricky but when the incredible and crazy Pete Whittaker stood up to give his talk we all woke up to listen to his insane climbing stories including rope-soloing up El Capitan in California in under 24 hours.
The talk was brilliant and was followed by the President’s speech which of course got our attention, especially since it was preceded by the arrival of 15 shots of whiskey placed purposefully in front of Anthony the Pres. As Anthony (known by many as Banthony) mentioned the names of various other climbers in his speech, they had to step up and do a shot of whiskey with him, as per the tradition of the society. Shot number eight left Anthony a little pale and unsteady on his feet, but the brave lad completed the challenge and wandered calmly back to his table, looking just slightly queasy and still smiling. The evening concluded with all the ex-Presidents standing at the front to jointly deliver ‘The Ballad of Idwal Slabs’ which was very entertaining, if perhaps a few stanzas longer than necessary.
By this time the snow outside had piled up considerably and we clambered apprehensively into the minibus, unsure whether we’d make it back to the hall. Luckily Paul managed to drive us within 200 metres of it, meaning we only had to walk a short way in the cold, which wasn’t too bad for everyone but Su with her fancy open-toed shoes, however being tiny she ended up getting a piggy-back to the hall! Shattered by this point, most of us got straight into sleeping bags or lounged around- apart from Anthony of course, who seemed very up for wandering around the room and chatting away much more than usual to anyone who would listen.
We got up around 9 on Sunday and began packing everything away. Anthony (a little less chatty but not too worse for wear), Becca, Pete and I all headed over in the car to Kendall climbing centre for a few hours of indoor climbing before setting off home late that afternoon. It was fun to climb somewhere new, and in the last half an hour I somehow got talked up a 25-metre lead climb, with a massive over-hang section half-way up, which was terrifying, but really rewarding to finish.
Mini me top right
Finally we all got back in Pete’s car and drove home, us three passengers falling asleep for most of the journey.
(Photos 1, 3 and 4: credits to Paul Joseph Druce/someone using his camera!)