Early last year I joined North London Mountaineering Club, henceforth known as NLMC. I was never one for being part of a club. Many moons ago I watched, with nonchalant humour, as various mates joined various motorcycle clubs and bought into the easyrider dream. I continued club-less meanwhile, popping a wheelie or two and dressed often in a suit and tie, finished with designer stubble and George Michael’s latest barnet. I guess I didn’t want to belong to a club coated in another’s preconceptions.
Anyway, NLMC. I have a membership card but no t-shirt. The club is not that organised thank goodness and in fact, one member described it as anarchic. I now know what he means, as on the face of it (the website) there appear to be very few meets and for a London based club… there’s a hell of a lot of members who neither work, play nor live in London. Intriguing.
The last two weekends, I’ve driven over to Wales for the working meet and the new member’s meet. The club is fortunate to own two properties, the cottage which is reserved for club members and their guests, plus the barn which is often rented out to various organizations. Both situated in what’s reputed to be the wettest village in Wales – Capel Curig. I enjoyed the working weekend, I finally met some of the older members of the club, which added flesh to the history that’s portrayed in the yellowing pictures hanging from the walls of the cottage. Harry, half my age and the newest member happily worked alongside Jack, Bob and George. Generations were united in a love of labour and a sense of comradeship or some such twaffle. It was work and all were glad when it was over. I’d been advised to bring my rack and ropes, David Barlow wanted to get out and yet most hadn’t even brought their harnesses with them. Anarchic as was said, yet we headed off to the dark tiers that overlook Llanberis at sometime after 3.30 on Sunday afternoon. Slate sports climbing so late? When all have a long drive back to the south east of England? I was impressed I’ll say, seeing as the weather had been very wet and harnesses were manufactured from slings. Liz (the President) climbed in walking boots. We went, we saw, we conquered. I was confused on my first climb – what exactly do you hold on to? Odd stuff but I liked more than grit. Did I really climb straight up tho?!
Weekend two saw an early start on Friday, the skylights of the cottage and barn varnished and the weather dry with sunny spells. This did not bode well for a dry weekend, Sod’s Law and all that. A can or two of Stella 4.0%, a doze in front of the log burner and finally people start to arrive. There’s a fair few new members in the throng that sit up till the early hours and plans are finalised for a trip to Holyhead Mountain. Saturday was a cracking day, the crag providing shelter from a bitter and strong wind but most unfortunately, Princess Kate didn’t bring us tea and cakes. Damn. I led my first Hard Severe, a 4c and with Harry managed a further three routes before heading back to the cottage. Oh, I had time to leg up a Moderate too and I have to say, it was nice to be off a rope. The scrambler is never far away inside.
We had a cracking chilli awaiting our arrival, a Londis carrier bag full of beer too. Saturday evening was sweet. Just the right side of intoxicated, I sat in the kitchen with Mel, John, Richard and those that wandered in for while. Life, love and broken relationships were discussed as you do after a few beers and I’m sure the world was set to rights. Meanwhile the string notes of a guitar or two echoed through from the lounge, along with much laughter and song. This club thing was alright! It was well gone 2am before I fell into my sleeping bag and the sounds of acoustic Metallica still rose through the ceiling. Sunday was wet, windy and Welsh but a few of us braved it out for a walk onto the Carnedd and as we sat perched atop a small hill, Mel turned into a goddess and produced a flask of coffee for the second time in two days. This lady rocks! The lightweight ethos I often follow in the hills may allow the odd luxury but never a Thermos, hmmm, maybe I need to re-evaluate. That, or make sure Mel’s around more often. Milky, sweet coffee never tasted so good.
Then home. NLMC feels alright now. There’s a great cross section of people, years of mountain experience and a great sense of history, certainly when in the cottage, warming your hands in front of the fire. Being a member is being a custodian of that history – more pictures next time!