Reports from 2012

Tarbet Meet, Scotland, October
Beer meet, East Devon, September
Alpine Trek, Karwendel, Austria, September
Camping Alpine Meet, Innertkirchen, Switzerland, July
Hotel Alpine meet, Gressoney la Trinite, Italy, July
Britannia Hut Centenary Celebrations, June
North Wales Meet, May
Derbyshire Meet, May
Scottish Winter Meet at Inchree Centre, Onich
Annual Dinner Meet, Lake District, February

Tarbet Meet - The Tarbet Hotel, Loch Lomond, 19 to 22 October

Thirteen intrepid (or optimistic) souls congregated on Friday evening for this weekend meet in the Arrochar Alps. Although there had been significant precipitation in the area over the previous few months, the forecast for the next couple of days was actually quite good. Great plans were therefore made for Saturday over copious quantities of house red and other liquid refreshments.

Saturday started foggy, but groups set out in all directions anyway. Successful ascents were made of Beinn Ime, Beinn Narnain, Ben Arthur (The Cobbler), and Ben Vorlich, as well as trips across the loch to explore the nearest part of the West Highland Way. It has to be admitted, though, that while at least one party managed to ascend a path which has been out of use for some time (since a replacement was built), others managed to miss the start of this completely and never got onto the mountain.

The Cobbler
The Cobbler (Ben Arthur), photo by Jim Strachan

On Saturday evening plans were again made for the morrow, some of which were truly frightening – 5 Corbetts in one day? Perhaps we ought to plan before opening the whisky bottle!

Sunday again dawned misty, but this time the mist broke earlier in the day, allowing An Caisteal, Beinn Odhar, Beinn Chaorach, and Cam Chreag, to be conquered with good views. Other groups explored lower walks in the area, and one (nameless) party got as far as the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar by car.

John Dempster climbed An Caisteal with the Fosters, and announced that this was his first successful Munro ascent since the initial knee problem which removed him from the hills twelve months ago. This event was of course suitably celebrated during the evening!

Overall, this was a very successful meet with much better weather than last year, but with a lot of water underfoot after the wet Summer.

Meet Report by John Foster. Meet photos.

Beer Meet, East Devon, 14 to 16 September

This year was diminished in numbers but we enjoyed the best weather. Antonia Barlen, John Dempster, Dinah Nicholls, James and I made up the group on Saturday. The five of us were joined on Sunday by Anne and Mike Goodyer.

On Saturday we set off from Beer Hill inland going through woods and fields in a roundabout way to Branscome, a sprawling seaside village, where the Napoli came to ground. It must have been the hottest day of the year in East Devon, which meant we took a long picnic break looking out to sea beside an old quarry watched over by Devon Red cattle. We descended to the beach, which had everyone out to be beside the sea. We took another long break over a cup of tea before wending our way through the Underhooken, which is a long up and down path through a nineteenth century chalk landslip, which leads to the cliff top path to Beer. The lovely weather made it a slow and enjoyable day. We tested a new venue for supper and it was counted as a success.

The cars were out on Sunday taking us to Abbotsbury, where we were joined by Anne and Mike. We climbed to Saint Catherine’s Chapel before taking the South West Coast path westward along Chesil Beach. We ascended before going eastward along the Inland Coastal path. How can a coastal path be inland? Well this is a much pleasanter route than struggling along the shingle of Chesil Beach. It provides amazing views of the lagoons and the Isle of Portland and although the day was over caste the air was crystal clear.

View from Hill Fort
View of St Catherines Chapel and the coast fom the Iron age hill fort, photo by Mike Goodyer

We picnicked on an iron-age fort and walked past numerous stone barrows. John and Dinah had to leave a bit early as there was a train to catch, whilst the rest of us walked on to Hardy’s Monument. This is the Thomas of Nelson’s ‘kiss me Hardy’ not the author. We ended the meet with a welcome cup of tea back at Abbotsbury. We had managed 23 miles over the weekend with over 600mt. of climb each day. So they were not climbing days as expected of a climbing club but two very satisfying days out.

Meet Report by Belinda Baldwin. Meet photos. Alpine Trek, Austria - 1 to 8 September, Over four Karwendel ridges

You would think we were a set of hobbits. We have been walking through the tunnel for 10 minutes, and emerge into the daylight to the sight of the Dammkar valley sweeping away below us. This is a different start to a trek, riding the Karwendel cable car to nearly the top of the Karwendel Spitze, before the passage through the mountain.

Dammkar Our first afternoon sees us descending the screes of the Dammkar, over terrain that will become very familiar to us over the coming days. What is it about Dolomitic limestone scree that gives it such good ball bearing characteristics?

View into the Dammkar.

With the sun shining, we drop slowly down and then across the valley,our backs adjusting to the unfamiliar weight of our packs. We ascend a slope over an overhanging set of crags and emerge at the cross on the Predigstuhl, where the character of the route changes abruptly. We are now on the north side of the Tiefkar Spitze, and the route crosses the mixed ground with a series of protected wire paths, interspersed with our favourite (not) sloping scree, all of which is still dripping after the rain of the previous few days. For anybody who has descended the waterfall at Goredale Scar, you will have a good idea of what this is like. Eventually, we emerge out onto further simple scree slopes and a simple traverse into the Hochland hut. Over evening meal, we contemplate what is in front of us, if this is just the first sample.

misty start The next morning establishes the weather pattern for the next few days. It's misty and cool, and we slowly wind our way up to the Wornerkar saddle, on the Gjaidsteig. For the first few hours, it's traversing the northern flanks of the Hochkar Spitze, across the by now familiar scree slopes, with short interludes as we negotiate rock spurs.

Heading towards the Wornerkar Sattel.

Then comes the interest of the day. To cross over the Baralpl, the path has to gain significant height across a large set of crags, which tumble several hundred feet down to the valley below.

misty start The most exposed parts of the route are protected by wires, but in places the wires are over our heads, at full stretch, with wet greasy rock to boot. Ho hum. By lunch time, the weather is sunny, we have reached the saddle, and our path then has a deceptively long descent to the Karwendel hut.

Along the wired path.

In many places, the paths are covered by masses of tree roots, which makes it more like a session in the gym. Part way along the path I come across an adder basking in the sun. Fortunately, it obliges by winding slowly off the path. The Karwendel hut is large and welcoming at the end of the day, with views of our route tomorrow. There is still snow on the top part of our route, but the warden is optimistic that it will have cleared by the morning.

The next day starts with cloud over the tops, which gives us a refreshingly cool climb up through three sets of cwms, towards the Birkkar Spitze, the high point of our trek, and the highest peak in the Karwendel.

misty start The ascent of the third cwm, to the summit saddle, is the steepest, and the most ball bearing like for scree. We are treated to great views across much of the Karwendel, and many of the team make the short excursion to the summit of the Birkkar Spitze. Now for the entertaining part - the descent.

Birkkar Spitze from the col.

Initially down the familiar ball bearing scree with your pack pushing at your back, before we are on a set of wires which wind down several hundred feet of rock rib, before emerging on to less taxing ground. The dangers from loose rock on this section are brought home as another party dislodges a rock and it is only our timely warning to people below that averts something serious. The route continues to descend slowly for several hours to the valley floor, passing a number of side streams on the way, one of which we use as a cooling balm for our feet. All around, the power of the water is evident, be in in great gouges in the hillside, or pools and falls carved into the rock. We eventually reach the valley floor after being out for seven hours. Only another two to go to complete the day. Luckily, the path is a graded vehicle track, which takes us slowly but surely up to the Hallerangerhaus. The beer on the balcony was very welcome, and the sunset down the valley later that evening tops a long but enjoyable day off.

Sunset from Hallerangerhaus, photo by Ed Bramley

We're back to the misty start the next morning, slowly climbing up the Lafatscher Joch. On our way we pass sheets of limestone standing up, almost like sails. We also marvel at the accompanying rock walls on the Spekkar Spitze - everything from severe to E numbers - the walking alone seems hard enough at present. Crossing over the col, we then join the Wilde Bande Steig, which traverses across to our next climb up to the Stempeljoch. It must be some of the steepest scree I've ever been on that we ascend next, held in place by sets of rubber rings for much of the way, with some parts still having old and distorted logs in place. When we reach the col, it's a relief that the far side has a simple descent and it's less than an hour to the Pfeis hut.

wet day A rest over the afternoon sees us set for the next day, but the weather has other plans for us. Heavy rain in the night, and it's still hard enough in the morning to need all our waterproofs on. A discussion with the warden about our intended route makes it clear that we need to switch to the low level alternative for the day.

Wet start at Pfeis Hut - where is Snow White!

This sees us walking along the Samertal for a couple of hours, before then starting the climb up to the next hut.

weather clearing Fortune favours us, as not only has the weather cleared, but we've also found a delightful little alm, where coffee and damson cake are the order of the day. Our ascent to the Soltein hut is straightforward and we are able to spend much of the afternoon in the sun, and getting the clothes dry as well.

view upwards the Solstein Hut.

Our final day starts off spectacularly. We are above the clouds, and the air is cool and crisp. As we move towards our first col, the trees are casting Brocken spectres onto the clouds.

the route
The route towards the Eppzirler Schartze, photo by Ed Bramley

We pull over the Eppzirler Schartze into the next valley, and shortly afterwards come across a great herd of over fifty chamois on the hillside. Our traverse takes us round to the penultimate pull up to the Ursprungsattel, from where we can see the finish of our route. After a short snack, where the unwelcome chuffs start to announce themselves, we contour round to the final ascent to the Nordlinger hut. A few steep pulls and a couple of wires see us on the ridge and then at the hut, where it's celebration beers and strudel.

the top We take in the Reither Spitze on our journey to the funicular down, and we all make it in time for the last descent of the day.

Steve at the summit of the Spitze.

We all agree that the guidebook was right. This was a strenuous trek, but boy, was it worth it!

Participants: Ed Bramley, Andy Burton, Steve Caulton, Anne Jago, Ian Mateer, Myles O'Reilly, Marian Parsons, Mike Parsons, David Seddon, Marcus Tierney

Report by Ed Bramley. Meet photos.

Complete set Picasa photos from Ed Bramley and Ian Mateer.

Camping Alpine meet, Innertkirchen, 14th July to 4th August

The meet was held jointly with the AC, CC & Wayfarers’ and based at the Grund campsite. A special price was arranged for the campers. Unfortunately the meet co-ordinator was not sufficiently switched on to sort out a similar deal for the campervans. For high season the campsite opens a second field. With 47 attendees in week 2, the majority of users of the site were on the meet.

I approached Innertkirchen from across the Grimsel pass, just having had a week in Arolla. I was somewhat surprised and alarmed to see icebergs on Grimsesee, not a good sign! On the initial Saturday some went for a walk above the campsite, one of those “we will just go a bit further”. This took them past a high alp and goat farm, recently populated for the summer to a high point of 2061m, over 1400m of ascent and a 7hr excursion. It rained much of Sunday but in the afternoon some ventured up the Urbachtal valley, behind the site.

The forecast for the first part of the week was good and hoping Sunday’s precipitation had not put down too much snow, most attendees headed up to a hut on the Monday. Many went to the Oberaajoch hut, climbing the Studerhorn (Tuesday) and traversing the Oberaarhorn-up west and down the south ridge (Wednesday) before returning to the site.

Traverse of the Alpistock, photo by Mike Pinney

A number of others went up to the Bachlital Hut (climbing at Azalee Beach, which had dried and was in the sun, on the way). One has become increasingly nervous of what routes are still getting done!

traverse The Bachlital Hut guardian was happy with our plan, traverses of the Alpistock (2877m) and Gross Diamanstock (3162m). Both ridges were clear of snow. However, from the top of the Gross Diamanstock we were rewarded with views of the still snow covered Scheckhorn-Lauterarhorn and Finstraarhorn.

Traverse of the Gross Diamanstock, photo by Mike Pinney.

Thursday started dry with many rock climbing in the Susten pass at Steingletscer, then on Friday when the rock had dried at a lower venue to the east Interlaken. Saturday was wet!

Sunday should have been dry so parties got wet going up to huts. From the Tierbergli hut traverses of Gwachtenhorn and Sustenhorn were made.

Later in the week several parties went up to Salbit hut for the classic south ridge and others to Concordia for the Gross Grunhorn. Others climbed at Mittagfluh and in the Engelhorner- Klein and Gross Simelistock.

Following the pattern of previous weekends, Saturday was again wet. In week 2/3, mountains climbed included the Wetterhorn, Finsteraarhorn, Monch and Jungfrau,from Monchjoch hut and the Schreckhorn, SW ridge; now sufficiently clear of snow.

There were a number of thunderstorms during the week, not least on Swiss national day when the fireworks had to be abandoned! In all, a successful meet with plenty achieved.

Report by Mike Pinney. Meet photos.

Hotel Alpine meet, Gressoney la Trinite, Italy - 7 to 21 July

This year’s hotel meet was based at Gressoney at the head of the Lys valley, just below the summits of Lyskamm, Monte Rosa and Castor. It was the last meet that Alasdair organised and we all agreed that it was an inspired choice of location, with superb views in every direction. We had first visited it on the Tour of Monte Rosa in 1999 and he had always wanted to return, so he was delighted to find the Hotel Dufour in Gressoney-la-Trinité on our recce in February 2011. But with the Dufour covered in scaffolding, our reservation was changed at the last minute to the family’s other hotel, the Nordend higher up the valley at Staffal.

dinner Emanuela and her team looked after our every need, and we enjoyed large breakfasts and delicious dinners, with a mouth-watering choice of home-made desserts.

Photo by Sue Coates.

We quickly realised that the change had been to our advantage for Staffal, at 1823 metres, was in a better position for access to an enormous variety of walks and climbs, and we just had to cross the road to get to the lifts going up on either side. Most of us used these on a daily basis to avoid the steep grind out of the valley; some purportedly went up and down all the lifts in one day to get the best value from their seven-day pass, while only James, Belinda and Antonia added several more metres to their walks by not using them at all. Perhaps because we were south of the Alps there was sunshine almost every day, and we made the most of it.

Lys valley A favourite walk for the first day of the meet was up to the Sorgenti del Lys, the source of the River Lys as it trickled out of the glacier. This was a lovely walk up past a waterfall, with several different varieties of orchids in the fields and woods at the side of the path.

Photo by Morag McDonald.

It was then that we discovered the inaccuracy of the maps, for the high point marked at 2161m turned out to be 2417m, an ascent of 600 metres above the hotel, not what we had intended on leaving at 3.30pm after our drive from Geneva. But the paths were all clearly numbered, which did coincide with the maps, and from then on there was talk not of places but of numbers to explain our routes. Descriptions like ‘We went up 7a today’ were frequently heard at dinner times.

lake sketch On the east side of the valley was Lake Gabiet, and several different walks were made in this area. An exceptional viewpoint achieved by many of us was Alta Luce, or Hochliecht (3184m), a steep ascent from the lake, then a scramble up the rocks from Colle Salza to the summit, complete with summit book and bell.

Photo by Sue Coates

The views were glorious as we were right beneath the Gnifetti and Mantova huts looking up to the peaks of Monte Rosa, Castor and Lyskamm, with Mont Blanc and the Grand Paradiso further west. Just below the summit was a herd of large male ibex with enormous horns, so tame that they just carried on grazing as we approached. And, as on most of our walks above 2600 metres, there were ‘King of the Alps’ (Eritrichium nanum) in abundance, unmistakable in their brilliant blue and equally blue trumpet gentians. A variant of this walk was up to the Lago Blu (‘But it’s not blue,’ was heard afterwards) and from there up Punta Telcio, or alternatively Colle Salza could be reached directly from the hotel, 1000 metres up a stony relentless path. Some contoured along the lake and up to the Bivacca Gastaldi, a steep path protected by chains, while others wandered down the flowery paths to Gressoney-la-Trinité, past Alpine rhododendron and a lovely pale blue aquilegia. The higher lift to Passo dei Salati was a good jumping off point for the Corno del Camoscio or a scramble beside the Stolemberg, with an even higher lift going to Indren at 3200 metres, mostly used by those going up to the Gnifetti Hut.

Ibex On the west side of the valley was the small chapel of Santa Ana from where there was a lovely walk past small lakes and edelweiss up to the Rothorn Pass, and higher was the Bettaforca Pass, attainable by lift or up a steep path from Staffal. This was the home of another herd of tame ibex, mainly females with young, and even more ‘King of the Alps’. The path to the Quintino Sella hut started here, at 3585 metres a more difficult undertaking than we had envisaged, though the many agile young Italians racing down the track clearly did not find it so.
Photo by Carol Saynor.

The ascent was steep and rocky, ending just 80 metres below the hut in a knife-edge ridge protected by ropes; it was only on reaching this point with Mark and Jeff on my second attempt that I noticed the map had marked this section as ‘Via Ferrata’. But I felt a real sense of achievement having got even that high, and I was grateful to them for accompanying me.

There was a frequent navetta-bus down to the lower villages, as well as a delightful though rather undulating walk, enabling us to explore the walks from the chair-lift above Gressoney-St-Jean. From here we took a circular route to a wonderful ‘belvedere’ with views up to the entire Monte Rosa chain, then via two cols up to the Punta della Regina, looking down into the Ayas valley. Tolstoy had crossed here in July 1857, commemorated by a plaque with a quotation from his diary. Those with cars were able to drive further down the valley to Gaby, then up a narrow winding road, with steep hairpin bends and precipitous drops, to the old Walser village of Niel. Whether the drive was worth the end result is a debatable point, but James & Belinda did it twice, the second time to check out where they had gone wrong on their first walk. Two cols could be reached from here up an old mule track, one with prayer flags on the top, and James & Belinda had made the mistake of crossing over to the other side to make their walk longer; this they succeeded in, returning to the hotel after a nine hour day. A rarely seen flower we found in great quantities in this valley was the perforate bellflower (Campanula excisa) which I had seen for the first time on our earlier Tour of Monte Rosa. John & Marj Foster drove to other side valleys in the Val d’Aosta, and had walks from Valnontey in the Gran Paradiso National Park, in the Valpelline, and above Courmayeur, all with splendid viewpoints.

A well earned beer after a day out on the hills, photo by Sue Coates

Most of us were content to stay below 4000 metres and just reminisce about past climbs; only Mark Davison and Jeff Russell put on crampons and ascended to the heights They climbed the Pyramide Vincent (4215m) from the Gnifetti Hut, and Castor (4228m) from the Quintino Sella Hut, both two-day exploits which they achieved in clear weather with dramatic views of the nearer peaks and from Monte Viso to the Combin in the distance. Jeff reported that the wind was a problem on Castor, and care was needed on the narrowest part of the summit ridge as some of the gusts were violent. They made a good team, and Jeff was obviously a good influence as Mark broke his record by not being late for a single meal. They joined the rest of us for some of their other walks, though on what he called a ‘day off’, Mark wandered up Testa Grigia (3315m) from Gressoney-la-Trinité, a 1700 metre ascent.

Gressoney St Jean We all found time to visit Gressoney-St-Jean and the turreted Castello Savoia, built in 1904 for Queen Margherita of Italy, with a beautiful alpine garden in front. Her rooms commanded a spectacular view of Monte Rosa and the entire valley, which she loved. She spent many summers here walking in the mountains, and had even climbed as high as Punta Gnifetti where the Rifugio Margherita, at 4554 metres the highest hut in Europe, was built in her honour.

Photo by Ruth Greenham.

She also stayed at the large hunting lodge at Staffal, a guest of Baron Luigi Beck Peccoz. Some of our group had rooms in this lodge, and we were intrigued by stories of the relationship between the Queen and the handsome baron, ancestor of Giovanni who now runs the lodge.

But for me this was a very personal pilgrimage, as this was the valley where Alasdair and I had met, and which we had planned to re-visit together. I wanted to repeat the walks we had done back in 1999 on both sides of Gressoney, when we had crossed from the Ayas valley in the west to Staffal, where we had stayed one night in the hotel opposite the Nordend, and had then crossed east to Alagna Valsesia. We had come from St Jaques d’Ayas over the Colle del Pinter down to Gressoney-St-Jean, and I was determined to walk up this route. There was no lift to help gain height, and as the total ascent was 1350 metres I had no idea when I started whether I would be able to reach the top. The first hour was a steep path up to Alpenzü Grande, a delightful village of old Walser ‘stadels’, but then the path rose more gently through flowery meadows, with Alpine rhododendrons, gentians, orchids, campanulas and asters. I passed a few small farms, and gradually gained height until I was so near the col it seemed a shame not to go on. I finally stood where we had crossed in 1999 and looked down onto St Jaques and the route we had taken on the first part of our tour from the Théodule Pass above Zermatt.

Going eastwards from Staffal was easier as it had been cloudy on the day we had been there in 1999, and we had taken the lift up to the Passo dei Salati. I did the same thing, and from there walked up the Corno del Camoscio as we had done then, and where I had seen the ‘King of the Alps’ for the first time. They were still there, and the whole slope was a veritable rock-garden. The views were better this time, and I was able to see our onward route after leaving Alagna the next day when we had crossed the Turlo Pass to Macugnagna. Before walking down to Alagna we had stopped for a drink in the Rifugio Guglielmina, and I wanted to revisit this. But it had been burnt down last winter, so I continued to the Colle d’Olen and this time down to Lake Gabiet and back to Staffal.

birthday girl
Pam celebtrates her birthday in style at the start of the meet

These were days filled with memories of our first meet together, on this my first meet without him. But during the two weeks I had had the support of many good friends, and for that I am grateful.

Participants: Pamela Andrews, James & Belinda Baldwin, Antonia Barlen, Geoff & Janet Bone, Derek Buckley & Ann Alari, Geoff & Pauline Causey, Edward & Sue Coales, Sheila Coates, Mark Davison, John Dempster & Dinah Nichols, Niels & Guni Doble, John & Marj Foster, Peter Goodwin & Ursula Woodhouse, Ruth Greenham, Richard & Katherine Heery, Wendell Jones, Morag McDonald, Dick & Lin Murton, Roger Newson, Jeffrey Russell, Rick & Carol Saynor, Terry Shaw, Elizabeth Wells, Bill & Rosie Westermeyer, Dick & Karen Yorke.

Report by Pamela Harris-Andrews. Meet photos.

Britannia Hut Centenary Celebrations - 22 to 24 June

The Centenary of the opening of the Cabane Britannia was celebrated by the Geneva Section of the SAC in June this year. Since Dr. O. K. Williamson, the Vice President of the ABMSAC, formally handed over the keys to M. Meisser of the SAC at the inauguration of the Britannia Hut on 17th August 1912 we have had strong links with the hut and Saastal.

Many of you will remember the ABMSAC Centenary Celebrations in the Saastal in 2009 when we had a special meal at the Hut. At significant anniversaries of both the Hut and the ABMSAC we have donated money for the upkeep/refurbishment of the Hut and presented various paintings of British mountains to the Geneva Section. For the Hut Centenary the ABMSAC continued this link with the Hut by raising a sum of money to enable seven state of the art solar panels to be fitted on the outside of the hut for heating the water in the hut (donations were also received by the Eagle Ski Club and the Ski Club of Great Britain).

plaque A delightful plaque to mark the donation has been sited in a prominent position in the reception of the Hut.
Photo by Mike Goodyer.

In response to the our continuing support for the Hut the Geneva Section Committee invited the current President, Ed Bramley, and the previous President, Mike Pinney, and guests to the weekend of Celebrations. In total 11 members of the ABMSAC, plus two guests attended the weekend.

On the Thursday, 21st June, Ed Bramley, Mike Goodyer and Julie Jones flew out to Geneva.
ABM President The next morning Ed and Mike G met up with Mike Pinney and Julie along the lake at Aigle after a night of developing international relations and a restful stay at the Youth Hostel. Jon Halliday, from France, also joined us at Aigle.

Ed on second breakfast, Friday morning in Geneva, photo by Mike Goodyer.
After a leisurely picnic lunch we drove up to Täschalp. From here we walked up to the Täsch Hut to meet up with Paul Everett and his friend Alex, from Geneva.
welcome! The bright sunshine and blue sky were in stark contrast to the weather back in the UK. A copious amount of Teewasser was drunk while we swapped travel stories and finalised plans for Saturday.

Photo by Ed Bramley.
After a well needed dinner we watched a glorious sunset over the Weisshorn and then turned in for preparation of our early start.

Sunset looking towards the Weisshorn from the Tasch hut, photo by Mike Goodyer

Our plan for Saturday was for Julie to return to Täschalp and drive to Saas-Fee and met up with Ed and Carolyn Hammond, from Verbier. They were to go up to Felskinn and walk across to the Britannia Hut, where we would all meet up again. The remaining six planned to get to the Britannia Hut via the Allalinhorn or the Allalinpass, depending on the snow conditions. In his rucksack Mike Pinney was carrying the banner presented to the ABMSAC by the Geneva Section to commemorate the opening of the Hut. Our aim was to celebrate the banners centenary by unfurling it in the mountains and photograph it. (Editors note: The banner was last in Switzerland for our Centenary in 2009. Since its visit to the glacier in 1912 it had not been back into the mountains.)

The day was bright and clear and when we reached the snow line we were surprised to find the streams icy and the snow frozen. Donning crampons and ice axes we continued at our individual pace towards the Allalinpass. We all made our way up to pt 3753m on the South West ridge of the Allalinhorn.

ABM Banner
Mike G, Ed, Paul and Mike P with ABM banner, photo by Mike Goodyer

After photographing the team with the banner we split into two groups. Mike P, Jon and Alex carried on up the SW snow/rocky ridge to the summit on indifferent snow and some loose rock. They descended by the normal route and while Alex returned to Geneva for a concert on the Sunday, Mike and Jon walked across from Felskinn to the hut. Ed, Paul and Mike G descended towards the ridge, traversed round and over the Allalinpass and descended the Allalin glacier to the Hut. We arrived mid afternoon in glorious sunshine and blue sky - although the last 100m ascent from the glacier to the Hut was unwelcome.

We were now eight. After we had all checked in we settled down to enjoy the view over a couple of beers. Nesrin, Paul’s daughter, walked up to the Hut from Sass-Fee, much as the visitors did a century ago, and joined our table for the evening.

Nesrin+Paul Mike+Julie The Eds Jon+Carolyn

Paul and Nesrin, Mike and Julie, the Eds and Jon and Carolyn

During the late afternoon several members of the Geneva Section arrived to spend the night in the Hut before the Sunday celebrations. Christiane Ody invited the ABMSAC contingent to join the Swiss in one of the dining rooms for aperitifs before dinner. After giving interviews to the Geneva Press and toasting each other with local Fendant wine we, much to the surprise of the Swiss, unfurled the banner. This gave rise to several photo opportunities for various committee members to pose with the star of the show – the banner! Ed Hammond gave several pictures of Saastal, taken by the famous Abraham brothers of Keswick, as a personal donation to the Hut. These delightful pictures were eagerly accepted. We were also fortunate to be introduced to Yvette Vaucher, an Honorary member of the Geneva Section and the SAC. Now in her eighties, she is one of Switzerland’s most celebrated women climbers; she was the first woman to climb the North face of the Eiger (Schmidt route) back in the 1960s. Yvette was a lively character. Now in the party mood dinner was served. We were all presented with a book and a DVD on the history of the Britannia Hut and a commemorative Swiss Army pen knife.

place mat
Signed Centenary Meal place mat, photo by Mike Goodyer

Coffees and grappa/absinthe completed a long eventful day. We were ready for bed and a lie in on the Sunday – but no; the latest breakfast was at 6.30am so that the Hut staff could get ready for the Celebrations!

On the Sunday we were all up bright and early, breakfasted and packed rucksacks for leaving the Hut later that day. Mike G, Jon, Paul, Ed and Carolyn H were staying up until Monday, but the rest of us were returning to the valley. Another perfect day was forecast. We sat at a prominently placed table on the patio in readiness for the official proceedings.

During the morning people had been arriving via the Felskinn uplift and walking across to the Hut on the new path. However many people don’t like the paths descent from Felskinn with the subsequent climb up; especially on the spring snow.

walking the new path the easy way
Photos by Mike Goodyer, Pamela Harris-Andrews and Ed Bramley.

Several die-hards braved the potential rock fall and used the old path. Several other guests and dignitaries arrived by helicopter, courtesy of Air Zermatt.

Pamela Harris-Andrews arrived with Bill and Rosemary Westermeyer from Saas Almagell via the uplift and walking. Now we were eleven. Many of us were wearing the ABMSAC Centenary polo shirts and all looked very smart; Paul donned an ABMSAC bow tie.

cheers! To prepare for the coming proceedings coffees were being served on the patio – many of us indulged in the house classic “Kaffee Britannia”.

Photo by Julie Jones.
The hut guardian, Thérèse Andenmatten and her husband, Marc Renaud, and their staff were busy preparing the hut. A “soup kitchen” was set up in front of the hut for the informal lunch for visitors – soup, sausage, bread and salad. By now over 200 people were at the hut awaiting the start of the Centenary Celebrations. All were enjoying the magnificent views and the warm sunshine.

Thérèse Andenmatten Marc Renaud Dario Andenmatten

Thérèse Andenmatten, Marc Renaud and Dario Andenmatten

At 10.30am, with Swiss timing, the formal celebrations began (The formal programme). All the speeches were from the top of the steps outside the modern entrance to the Hut (The 1912 entrance is now the way into the boot room on the side of the hut). The Master of Ceremonies was the Hut guardian’s son, Dario, dressed in 1912 climbing gear. He kept the proceedings running smoothly throughout the day and he even displayed the now familiar banner to everyone.

The speeches started with a welcome from M. Legast, President of the Geneva section, followed by welcomes from the Mayors of Saas-Almagell and Saas-Fee. The British Ambassador to Switzerland, Mrs Sarah Gillett gave a short speech, followed by a speech from the President of the Canton of Valais. The presence of the Canton President and the British Ambassador showed the importance of the occasion. Both were popular figures with the crowd.

hut blessing At the Inauguration in 1912 the Hut was blessed and at the centenary it was blessed by Monsieur le Cure Konrad Rieder of Saas-Fee and Monsieur le Pasteur Etienne Jeanneret from Geneva. The service with appropriate hymns, bible readings and sermons shared between the two churchmen fitted the occasion.

Photo by Mike Goodyer.

Following the service Fendant wine, salami, ham and gherkins were served al fresco to all the attendees – this was very reminiscent of our Centenary meal at the Hut in 2009. At midday the formal lunch started in the main dining room. The four course meal, with local wines Fendant and Dole, was delicious. The starter of game terrine was followed by veal in a sauce, spätzle and green salad. Huge pieces of chocolate gateau were enjoyed before the local cheeses were eaten. The meal was rounded off by coffee and liqueurs. At the end of the meal the Chef came out and took a bow – well done sir! During the meal there was live music by an accordion player accompanied by an Alpine horn.

music swaying with music They played local and popular music; this led to informal dancing and the Swiss equivalent of a Mexican wave – all linking arms and swaying side to side with the music!

Photos by Mike Goodyer and Julie Jones

After the meal was over the speeches and presentations continued. Ed Bramley, our President, gave the following speech:

Your Excellency, Madame le President, President of the commune of Saas Almagell, President of the commune of Saas Fee, President of the Geneva section of the SAC, Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen it is a privilege to be here today as President of the ABMSAC, celebrating the centenary of the Britannia hut with you all.

When the ABMSAC was founded in 1909, it set itself a number of objectives. The second of those was to collect funds and to present to the SAC a club hut. As we all now know, that objective was met less than three years later, when the Britannia hut became a reality.

Reading accounts of the time about how members regarded the hut, I am stuck by parallels with our own George Starkey club hut, at Patterdale in the English Lake District.
• Firstly, members take a lively and often vocal interest in even the smallest changes to “their hut”.
• Secondly, we believe that our hut is the best in the region, like the Britannia, if not the whole country.

Over the years, the ABMSAC has set out to continue to meet that original objective, by making further donations at significant anniversaries, towards the upkeep of the Britannia hut. It therefore gives me great pleasure on the occasion of the centenary of the Britannia hut, to be able to formally hand over to section Genevoise of the SAC a contribution of CHf 25,000 towards solar panels for the building. This donation comes from the ABMSAC, the Ski Club of Great Britain and the Eagle Ski Club.

It would perhaps be fitting for me to conclude with remarks from one of the speeches made at the opening of the Britannia hut in 1912:

We are united by the strongest of all bonds
The love of the everlasting peaks

Thank you.

Ed and Mike P then presented the cheque for £17,500 for the installation of the solar panels. After the last of the formal speeches there were two surprise presentations. It was the Hut guardian’s birthday and after a short speech the hut staff presented her with a gift– Thérèse was very shocked but happy. Finally Air Zermatt, who work closely with the hut, presented Therese with a clock mounted on rotor blade commemorating the Hut Centenary, she was speechless!

The afternoon was drawing to end as people started to return to Felskinn to catch the last lift down to the valley. The weather was still fine, although clouds were brewing up for the next day. The privileged guests were returning to Saas-Fee by helicopter from Air Zermatt.

arriving boarding Julie+Pam

Here is a video of the first 30 seconds of our helicopter ride back to Saas-Fee.

So it was at 3.30pm Julie, Pamela, Ed and I boarded a helicopter for the seven minute ride to the Saas-Fee. This was an exhilarating ride diving down over the lower slopes of the Allalin glacier before turning to left to go down the upper part of the Saastal towards Saas-Almagell then turning just beyond the Mittaghorn and landing at Saas-Fee.

The four of us stayed in Saas-Almagell overnight after an enjoyable evening at a Rösti/Pizza Restaurant. We awoke on the Monday to low cloud and rain. The weather was very poor at the Hut as well and after the a late breakfast Mike P and the others all walked back to the Felskinn lift and returned to Saas-Fee. Mike then continued to Zurich and plan the rest of his summer in the Alps and the others returned home. Pamela gave Ed, Julie and I lift to Geneva Airport – many thanks.

Julie+Ed Mike+Ed After a late lunch the three of us went our separate ways – Ed to Manchester, Julie to City Airport and myself to Heathrow.

Photos by Mike Goodyer

Well what a weekend. I think I can speak for all the ABMSAC attendees when I say that we were made very welcome by the Swiss and felt that we were special guests. I feel that even after a centenary there is still a strong bond between the Swiss and British Alpinists. We all made new friends and shared so many experiences – it is not a weekend we will forget in a hurry.

Report by Mike Goodyer
Photos comparing 1912 to 2012, photos of journey to the hut and photos of the Celebrations are on the photos page.

North Wales Meet -18 to 20 May, Something old, something new

This meet was earlier in the year than previous years, to allow everybody to participate in the Queens’ Jubilee celebrations at the beginning of June. As a consequence, numbers were down slightly on previous years.

On the Friday, we returned to the north ridge of Tryfan and Bristly ridge, which made for great routes up mountains. Never too demanding, but always entertaining and occasionally thought provoking. For some reason, we missed the usual start of the ridge, but instead picked up an equally interesting variation. We’re glad that the rain has held off, as otherwise some of the moves to descend the occasional pinnacle would have been a lot more tricky. As it is, we arrive at the top of Bristly ridge in good time, and choose the simple descent route by the side of Tryfan down into the Ogwen Valley. Meanwhile, other people have been enjoying a sunny day at Tremadog, sampling the delights of the foot and hand traverses that form some of the memorable moments on Creagh Dhu wall.

Saturday sees us heading for the Moelwyns, a place I’ve not been for many a year. We start off in Croesor, and immediately stop for a great morning coffee at the local café, complete with great fire and Welsh drop scones. Our track then rises slowly to Croesor quarries on old mine tracks, before we head round to other old quarry buildings at Foel Ddu.

old work ruins
Croesor Mine workings, photo by Mike Goodyer

Out of the mist comes another contingent of the meet, who had decided that it was a little too wet for a second days climbing. Up here, there are complete streets of buildings, with rail tracks partly hidden under the grass. We pass by some enormous holes in the ground on our way up to the summit of Moelwyn Mawr. As the mist is down, we retrace our steps and pick up more old quarry tracks that skirt the mountain, before we finally rejoin our ascent route to round the day off.

For the communal meal, there are a variety of Indian starters with lamb Rogan Josh for main course. To round it off, it’s either apple pie or trifle – unfortunately, I couldn’t keep up the Indian theme for three courses.(great meal after a good walk in the hills, Editor)

Sunday we also look for things we’ve not done before, and we initially head up to the Snowdon Ranger path, via Chwareli quarries. We cross the Ranger path and head to the col between between Foel Goch and Moel Cynghorion, before descending the path towards Llanberis. On the outskirts, we contour Moel Eilio and eventually ascend it on a gradually rising path. There are great views out to the mountains and the coast from angles we’ve not seen them before. The ridge rolls along, and before long, we’re on top of Foel Goch, beginning out descent to the col we crossed earlier, and the long trog back to Tan yr Wyddfa. Ten miles?
The GPS tells us it’s been over twelve. No wonder we’re all tired – but yet another great weekend out.

Report by Ed Bramley

Derbyshire Meet 5-7 May

This year a smaller group of eight gathered at the Royal Oak at Hurdlow on Friday night, with the early birds sampling the delights of the Longnor Fish and Chip shop.

One of the campers retreated back home for the night due to a lack of pegs.

Breakfast at the pub is now an a la carte affair for those that do not bring their own, although for most the breakfast cob with unlimited tea and coffee and a fruit juice for £6 should suffice.
On Saturday morning the group quickly divided up into bikers, hikers and climbers and this report reflects these different activities.

It was a cold and initially overcast day as we assembled at the bunk house, five set off along the High Peak Trail which starts directly in front of the pub. We followed it as it contoured around the beautiful Derbyshire Dales to Middleton Top, where we stopped to admire both the view and the inventiveness of the Victorians on how they overcame the task of hauling heavy goods from the Derwent Valley.

We retraced our steps and descended down to Carsington Water, typically as we stopped for the lunch the weather worsened slightly and as we made our way back onto the Tissington Trail the wind picked up and made the return journey much harder work, this was partially compensated by a short tea stop at Parsley Hay.
Eventually returning to the Royal Oak, we all agreed it was a great day’s cycling notwithstanding the head wind on the return journey.

Over the weeknd a climbing group climbed at different locations despite the inclement weather. On one day Mike Pinney and Marcus headed for the Roaches but driving rain made them retreat to Wildcat where they did Catwalk (HS), Lynx (HS) and the now rarely climbed Tom Cat (VS) which finished on vertical vegetation and loose blocks (Some of which came away as Marcus followed Mike) and a traverse through a jungle. As Mike would put it Esoteric!

Catwalk Mike Mike Pinney climbing at Wildcat Crags,

photos by Marcus Tierney

The climbing section also went to Alderly Cliff and were joined by Ian. They only did one route as it was so cold. Mike P led Mitre Crack (VS 4c). Marcus quote: "I could not feel my fingers by the time I got to the top, a good lead by Mike."

Saturday evening was spent in the Royal Oak where hearty food, good beer and good company were enjoyed by all.

The Sunday saw most of the bikers become hikers and the classic but relatively newly accessible Parkhouse and Chrome hills were ascended although the weather was not nearly as pleasant as the previous year.

Sunday evening saw us eating in the Pack Horse Inn at Crowdecote as the weather was not conducive for a barbecue, with a few games of pool to finish a very convivial evening.

The Bank Holiday Monday saw everyone doing their own thing weather permitting before going home. Attendees were: Marcus Tierney, Myles O’Reilly, Heather Eddowes, Andy Hayes, Mike O’Dwyer, Andy Burton, Mike Pinney, Ian Mateer, and Ed Bramley who joined us on the Sunday having been to his Manchester University reunion.

Report by Andy Burton

Onich Meet – 16 to 19th March

Scotland had an exceptionally mild spring this year, which meant that there was far less snow on the hills than usual at this time, but the weather was reasonable and we all had some good days.

There were more than the usual number of walking wounded in the party. The meet organiser was recovering from an operation to repair a torn tendon in his knee, and others were suffering from the after effects of winter colds. But the fitter members managed several hills.

Saturday was a day of showers and bright periods, more the former than the latter. A large party set off for Beinn a’ Bheithir, and Margaret, Roger and the two Phillips reached the main summit in somewhat trying conditions.

view of summit
Beinn a' Bheithur summit on the descent, photo by Philip Draper

James and Belinda lived up to their reputation as masochists by climbing Ben Nevis via the pony track, while the B party had a pleasant walk up the Steall gorge.

view of loch leven
Loch Leven with Pap of Glencoe and Beinn a Bheithir in the background, photo by John Dempster

Sunday dawned brilliant and frosty, but it was not long before the showers started again. The fitter members had an interesting day on Beinn a’ Chrulaiste (the Corbett above Kingshouse). Others drove up to Mamore Lodge (hotel now closed) and walked along the military road enjoying beautiful views of Loch Leven between the showers.

On Sunday evening we managed to feed all 12 members in one of the tiny chalets at Inchree. John F used the excuse of an imminent and significant birthday to provide ample refreshment, which was supplemented by a splendid cake cooked by Belinda.

John and cakes
John and friends at birthday meal, photo by John Dempster

Monday morning brought steady West Highland rain (no drought there) so we went our separate ways, but we could look back on a very good weekend, despite our various disabilities.

Attendees: Belinda and James Baldwin, Graham Daniels, John Dempster, Philip Draper, John and Marj Foster, Phil Hands, Roger James, Dinah Nichols, Jim and Margaret Strachan. Report by John Dempster

Annual Dinner Meet, Lake District – 3 to 5 February

For the 40th time the Dinner Meet was in Patterdale and the Dinner at the Glenridding Hotel. The current Meet Fuhrer has not been in charge of all of them. Numbers were slightly lower than last year but would have been about equal, had we not had some late cancellations. The weather was much kinder than last year when the meet leader was regretting not having placed an order for an Ark! Thursday and Friday were sunny but icy conditions required care.

The weekend provides a great opportunity for socialising and with a less than ideal forecast for Saturday; attendees were sat around the hut fire until the early hours of the morning, perhaps putting the world to right! The forecast was warm (above freezing) & windy with precipitation by mid-afternoon. For those having a leisurely breakfast, it seemed that every attendee passed the hut windows on their way to Side Farm. A popular outing was a south –north traverse of Place Fell with wind assistance returning along the side of the lake. The snow materialised by mid-afternoon, when most were down from the hills, particularly advantageous for those wishing to watch the 6 Nations rugby.

Firstly Kirkstone was closed, and then an accident blocked the lakeside road to Glenridding, delaying the arrival of our guests for the Dinner, Fiona & Keith Sanders. Keith assured the Police that he had winter tyres and they were let through. Fiona is President of the Climbers’ Club, the first serving President to have attended a dinner at the Glenridding, (Mike Westmacott & Mark Vallance are former Presidents). She made an amusing and interesting speech, proposing the toast to ABMSAC. The response was by our [retiring] President, Mike Pinney, A notable attendee was Paul Everett, President of SAC Geneva Section who was our Guest speaker last year.

The meal was enjoyed by 64 Members and Guests. Thanks were voiced to the Hotel Management and Staff for an excellent meal.

Sunday was pleasant, sunny and quiet as morning access to the valley was problematic. The gullies were not ideal for winter climbing with new snow on a warm base. However the ridges were in ideal winter condition with Striding Edge to Helvellyn returning via Swirral edge an excellent outing.

snowy scene
Above Greenside mines, Glenridding, photo by Mike goodyer

Monday was sunny- EAST of Pooley Bridge! It was forecast that the hills were clear but we’ve not heard from Belinda or James for confirmation.

So to next year-what will that bring? Come along and find out on February 2nd 2013.

Report by Brooke Midgley & Mike Pinney.