Images, from left: Daniel Grammatica jumping 'Adam and Eve' a rite of passage for Tryfan (Wales); Mark Peck on the descent of Cadair Idris; and Mark climbing on Gimmer Crag in the Lake District.Images, from left: Daniel Grammatica jumping 'Adam and Eve' a rite of passage for Tryfan (Wales); Mark Peck on the descent of Cadair Idris; and Mark climbing on Gimmer Crag in the Lake District.
Images, from left: Daniel Grammatica jumping 'Adam and Eve' a rite of passage for Tryfan (Wales); Mark Peck on the descent of Cadair Idris; and Mark climbing on Gimmer Crag in the Lake District.

GALLERY: Mountaineering club from the flatlands set to mark 70 years of successful climbing

Despite being one of the flattest areas of the UK – Peterborough has its own mountaineering club where locals can share their passion for peaks.

And now Peterborough Mountaineering Club (PMC) is set to mark its 70th anniversary with a special get-together in Wales.

The club currently has 40 members, with ages ranging from the youngest at 23, to climbing veterans in their 70s. They have tackled peaks from the more modest hills and crags in the Lake District to some of the world’s tallest and notoriously-dangerous mountains including Everest in Nepal and Denali in Alaska.

Being based in the flat fens hasn’t deterred climbing enthusiasts, with the club achieving much success over the years – even boasting a high of 200 members at its peak.

"I think its because it’s so flat here that people have a desire to get out into the hills,” said club president Clive Osborne, 75. “They want to get away from the flatness of the fens for a while.

“While our membership has dropped since the pandemic, we’re hoping to gradually get back to our pre-Covid numbers.”

To mark the club’s historic 70-year milestone, members are holding a special gathering at their cottage in Wales from today (Friday) to Sunday (June 21-23) followed by a climb.

"All members, old and new, have been invited to the event which will be a mass ascent of Tryfan by lots of different routes,” explained Clive. “On the summit we will toast ‘To the Hills and the PMC’ followed by a barbeque in the evening with a celebratory cake.”

Along with climbing, members enjoy activities including walking, caving, scrambling, plus visits to indoor climbing walls and various social events. Each summer, many travel to the Alps, Fontainebleau and to the sunny crags of Spain and Southern France. In recent years, members have also been as far afield as Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand and Central Africa in search of adventure.

Clive, a member of the club since 1973, explained how it came about in 1954 when a group of eight people gathered for a lecture on mountaineering that didn’t go as planned.

"The lecturer failed to turn up, so Bob Shaw (of Shaw’s Insurances) stood up and said ‘I know a bit about mountaineering - I’m a Commando’. He proceeded to lead the group over the following weeks. They quickly became friends and began travelling to North Wales for camping weekends in a local farmer’s field and quickly formed a club.”

A year later the club bought a derelict miner’s cottage, just outside Bethesda in north Wales.

"It cost £60, leading the locals to say, ‘you was done boyo!’,” said Clive. “After this, each weekend visit consisted of one day climbing the mountains of Snowdonia and one day doing renovations to the cottage. Over the years it has improved enormously.”

In 1975, the club organised a lecture by the first Britons to climb Mount Everest – Doug Scott and Dougal Haston – at the Stanground School, raising around £15,000 with the help of the Wellingborough Mountaineering Club.

"This sum paid for a large toilet and shower block,” Clive adds. “A huge new kitchen diner was added, and later came central heating. It really is a great place to come back to after a hard day in the hills.”

Speaking about one of his most memorable experiences in mountaineering, he went on: “Going back some years, I was involved in a helicopter rescue at around 2500ft up Tryfan in north Wales. I was climbing with my friend Robin and he was on a rope above me when he suddenly came falling past me. I still have this vision of him now upside down on the rope. He hit some rocks below me very hard and broke his leg. We called the rescue service and a helicopter came out from RAF Valley. I can remember waving an orange cagoule so they could see us. It hovered above us and they lowered one of their team members down with a stretcher, hoisted Robin up and flew him off to hospital. They left me on the side of the hill wondering what to do, so I started tidying up the ropes and preparing to descend, but the helicopter later returned and dropped me back near my car!”

Club member Daniel Grammatica also describes a hair-raising moment on a winter climb of Ben Nevis in February where he and members Tim and Harry got stuck behind a party of slow climbers as the darkness rolled in.

"I had to lead the top pitch in the dark when my head torch fell off,” said Daniel, 30.

While fumbling around in the dark with thick gloves on Daniel also dropped all but one of the climbing huts needed to fix secure ropes to the crags.

"I really wanted to protect having to go through the cornice in case it collapsed and caused an avalanche,” he explained. “But I dropped the set of nuts and they slid down to Tim who was belaying me over 50m away. I was left holding a single nut. Luckily I managed to place it and finish the route.”

By the time the three summited Ben Nevis, Daniel said it was “pitch black and freezing”. The whole ordeal resulted in the three spending 18 hours on the icy mountain, after leaving their climbing hut at 6am and not returning until midnight.

Despite a few dramatic experiences, Clive says many people wrongly assume mountaineering is all about bottomless crevasses, avalanches and death-inducing 8000m peaks seen in Hollywood movies. “Mountaineering is much more mundane in real life,” he laughs.

The club says it prides itself of welcoming newcomers, and supports novice weekends and training courses where people can learn the ropes in several related subjects such as climbing and rescue techniques, first aid and navigation.

For more information about the club visit peterboroughmc.co.uk

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