Sunday, 7 August 2016

Introducing our new website

Today, we are excited to launch our new website for UBES. Head over to to check it out.

We have also migrated our blog, so sadly this will be our last ever blog post to our Blogspot blog – we'll miss you.

The University of Bristol Expeditions Society is Bristol's largest and most active outdoors society. We offer walking, hiking, climbing (including tuition), plus a tonne of general adventure.

We are passionate about outdoor adventures, and endlessly enthusiastic to get as many people involved as we can. Whatever your experience, or none, it would great to meet you.are passionate about outdoor adventures, and endlessly enthusiastic to get as many people involved as we can. Whatever your experience, or none, it would great to meet you.

We cater for anyone with an interest in the outdoors by running regular weekend walking trips, giving free climbing instruction, organising adventurous summer trips abroad, and offering subsidised training opportunities.

When you aren’t on the mountain, we have regular socials as well as development opportunities such as first aid and navigation training.

We aim to develop our members’ passion for the outdoors and support them as safe and independent mountaineers whilst, of course, providing maximum fun!

Tom Kilcommons
Webmaster 2016-17

Sunday, 26 June 2016

 Welsh 3000s on 1 hour’s sleep!

On the summit of Tryfan with Adam and Eve
Given that my last adventure with Tim (attempting to backpack the Bob Graham Round at Easter) ended up being abandoned with us lying down in gale force winds trying not to get blown off the mountain, you’d have thought I’d have learnt my lesson by now, but when he announced that he and Matt were plotting another ‘truly epic challenge’, I couldn’t resist. And so several weeks later I found myself stumbling out of a tent at 3.30am, wondering what on earth I’d let myself in for…

For those of you who are slightly less obsessed with mountain challenges than we are, the Welsh 3000s challenge is to summit all of the Welsh peaks above 3000ft in under 24 hours, encompassing three different mountain regions - the Snowdon Massif, the Glyderau and the Carneddau. There is a fairly standard route going south-to-north which starts on the summit of either Crib Goch or Snowdon (depending on whether you camp on Snowdon overnight) and finishes 15 peaks later on the summit of Foel Fras. The challenge itself is peak-to-peak but then of course you have to get to and from the start and finish peaks which adds in around another 8 miles, bringing the full route to a rough total of 30 miles with 4000m of ascent. Definitely an epic!

Tim heading into the gloom on Crib Goch
The day began with us parking about half a mile from Pen-y-Pass and heading up the Pyg Track to Crib Goch at a blisteringly fast pace. We were all vaguely aware we wouldn’t be able to keep this up for the entire day, but we were full of energy and keen to set a good time for the challenge! After pointing a lost Snowdon walker who’d nearly ended up on Crib Goch in the right direction, we polished off the ridge in 45 minutes. In the dim light and with the ridge completely enshrouded in cloud, there was a sense of foreboding in the air…

As we’d feared, all that cloud turned into rain as we headed towards Snowdon, making for an exceptional soggy trudge to the summit. But to our amazement the clouds started to clear and we were hardly troubled by rain at all for the rest of the day, despite the dismal forecast. After an entertaining descent to Nant Peris down an exceptionally steep and slippery grassy path (does it still count as glissading if you do it on grass by accident?!) we began the long, soul-crushing trudge up Elidir Fawr. All the blogs I’d read beforehand had warned that this ascent was awful, ‘possibly the worst in Snowdonia’, which I found hard to believe until we were actually doing it ourselves. Can now confirm - it’s every bit as bad as its reputation. It just never seems to end - you keep on going up and up and up and yet you feel like you’ve hardly moved!

Descending towards an intimidating Tryfan
I’m really doing a great job of selling this walk, aren’t I? Well I’m pleased to say things improved a lot after Elidir Fawr. The next few hours showed us the spectacular variety that the Glyderau has to offer - long sections of ridgeline with stunning views glimpsed through gaps in the cloud, the otherworldly boulder field landscapes of Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach, some unexpectedly challenging scrambling on Castell Y Gwynt (the optional ‘16th’ 3000er), acrobatics trying to do pull-ups on the Cantilever (!), the intimidating scree fields by Bristly Ridge, lots more scrambling heading up Tryfan, and then an...interesting descent…

Gully confusion
Our plan was to scramble a short way down the North Ridge before heading down a gully to join up with the Heather Terrace path, so we could stop at the campsite to fill up on water and snacks before starting the Carneddau. Unfortunately we ended up turning off too soon and scrambling for a considerable distance before we managed to find the path. This cost us a lot of time and if you’re not familiar with the route already I’d strongly recommend taking a longer but easier route, such as backtracking to Bwlch Tryfan and then descending to Llyn Ogwen (plus then you can get snacks at Ogwen Cottage!).

Tantalisingly close to the end heading towards Carnedd Llewelyn
After collapsing at the campsite for a few minutes we headed up Pen yr Ole Wen after sadly having to leaving one member of the group behind :’( The ascent was a bit of a slog but Tom and Emily jumped out at us from behind a rock to liven things up a bit (these fell runners, honestly, always getting up to mischief…) and it was a relief to know it was the final major ascent of the day. Despite how tired I was I really enjoyed the Carneddau section - in the fading light we had beautiful views out towards Conwy Bay and in contrast to all the scrambling earlier on in the day, the paths were so easy that we dubbed the route ‘the Carneddau motorway’! A last minute energy rush saw us running to the summit of Foel Fras, completing the challenge in exactly 17hrs peak-to-peak - meaning there are now 19 UBESters who have completed the challenge!

Challenge complete with a summit selfie on Foel Fras!
The Welsh 3000s challenge is definitely not to be underestimated - I don’t think I’d fully appreciated beforehand just how tiring a 21hr mountain day would be - but with enough determination it’s most definitely doable, and it really is a spectacular walk with some of the best scenery that Snowdonia has to offer!

Finally - I’d like to say a huge thank you to Tim and George, who not only drove us to and from Bristol but sacrificed even more of their sleep than the rest of us so they could shuttle the cars to the start and end points! Seeing as I fell asleep almost the second I sat down in the car at the finish, I’m very grateful I wasn’t driving :’)

Catherine Easdon

Saturday, 30 April 2016

An overnight revision break on Lunchtime Ledge...

Spending the night 60m up in the Avon Gorge! Carrying on the ledge-end...

It’s 5pm on a Saturday. You’ve spent the whole week revising and slowly getting more and more miserable. You’re about to eat a whole pack of reduced sainsbury’s chocolate eclairs and then head back into the library for another soul-crushing revision session, when you get a text from your friend: “want to come bivvy with me on lunchtime ledge tonight?”
The whole bunch of Lunchtime Legends (Photo: Emily Grout)
Apart from being possibly the worst pick up line in history, at first thought it would seem like a stupid idea. Why would I spend the night hanging off a cliff face 60m above the bottom of the Avon gorge, sleeping on a pile of ropes, when I’ve got a perfectly comfortable bed at home? You really don’t know the appeal until you experience it, and so that’s exactly why I went back for more. (Check out our previous blog post here!)

Blearly eyed but eager, we met up at 9pm before heading down to the gorge. Duncan, Jono, Emily and Claire zipped up the arĂȘte (VD), with Alastair and Nathan opting for the more daring and sketchy Dexter (S), lit up by headtorches and with the beautiful view of the suspension bridge behind.
Alasdair after retrieving the runaway sleeping bag (Photo: Duncan Edgley)
Nathan looking forward to a great night's sleep! (Photo: Duncan Edgley)
Not precarious at all... (Photo: Nathan Masters)

After a slightly concerning incident involving the dropping of a sleeping bag 60m to the bottom (which we then had to abseil down to retrieve) we all arrived safely on the ledge. For those of you who don’t know, Lunchtime ledge is a pretty big section of the gorge about 2/3 of the way up the cliff, big enough to walk around on not tied in without fear of falling: the perfect location for a nighttime bivvy.

After settling in, we all had varying qualities of nights’ sleep, with some of us forgetting to pack our sleeping mats, something I sorely regretted. Waking up several times throughout the night at an alarming angle, I finally decided to sling myself to a tree root at about 4am when waking up slowly sliding off the edge (just a little bit concerning…).
The view in the morning (Photo: Nathan Masters)
Waking up in the morning we enjoyed the wateriest (but satisfying) coffee I’ve ever had, generously provided by Jono, we belayed down to enjoy a full exciting day of climbing! (Well, all except me... some of us have degrees to finish…). Nathan and Alasdair did Gronk (VS), and we had Emily’s first lead of Sleepwalk (VD). Overall I highly recommend sleeping out on the ledge at some point in your time at Bristol. Pick a nice night, and you’re bound to have an experience you won’t forget!

In hindsight I should have probably picked a less exposed position... (Photo: Duncan Edgley)
Looking lively in the morning... (Photo: Duncan Edgley)
Alasdair and Nathan's route up Gronk (VS) on Sunday, complete with unusual 3rd belay... (Photo: Nathan Masters)

Duncan Edgley, 2016

Monday, 21 March 2016

Backpacking in The Lake District

As lunchtime cheese and pickle sandwiches are an inalienable right of every UBESter, the trip started on Friday 11th in a truly hilarious fashion with us taking over the SU bar - on election results night, of all nights - to prepare 84 sandwiches so we were all set for the weekend. Goodness knows what all the SU election candidates thought we were up to. 

The drive up from Bristol to the Lake District is always a bit of an epic (drivers, I salute you!) but for this trip the journey was even longer than usual, as once we arrived in Braithwaite we then had to set off walking up the hill to our wild camping spot. Rucksacks were heaved onto shoulders and staggering along in the dark we were all cursing the weight of the “essentials” we’d brought (i.e. pretty much our own bodyweight in cake, bottles of beer, lakebagging towels…). It was gone 3am before we had all the tents set up and could get some much-deserved sleep!
Cake for breakfast- Catherine Eadson 
In the morning we were greeted by a wonderful view over Keswick which got everyone excited for the day’s walking. As quite a few people on the trip had never backpacked before, we split into two teams so people could walk at the right pace for them. Both teams summited Grisedale Pike and continued on to Hopegill Head, Crag Hill, and Whiteless Pike, then descended into Buttermere for a pit stop at the pub! From Buttermere the fast team climbed up Scarth Gap to their eerie campsite in the fog on Haystacks, while the other team ended up camping a little later on the wonderfully-named ‘High Snockrigg’. On the menu for dinner was couscous with delicious cheese and chorizo - a real treat, although we were so hungry we ate it all long before the couscous was ready - followed by yet more cake (I’m still not sure how I feel about having cake for three meals a day…). After a hard day of walking all of us on the fast team were tucked up ready for bed by 9pm – the earliest most of us had gone to sleep all year!

Glissading- Alasdair Robertson
On Sunday we were surprised to wake to another impressive view – we’d chosen our campsite in the dark so had no idea that it looked right over towards Great Gable and Kirk Fell. The fast team headed to Honister Pass via Grey Knotts and Brandreth, while the other team summited Robinson. It was an even more eventful day with a group reunion on Dale Head where our routes coincided, several games of frisbee before the frisbee tragically flew off a cliff, experimenting with ‘no hands’ rock climbing at Dale Head Tarn, glissading on the last few remaining patches of snow, befriending a frog and lake bagging Derwent Water! Walking the Catbells ridge in glorious sunshine was the perfect end to a great weekend. Well done to both teams, and here’s to many more rain-free backpacking trips! (Okay, this is England, but I can dream…)

Team photo- Edward Sweet-Escott 

We’d also like to say a big thank you to the Alumni Foundation for our shiny new ice axes. Sadly there wasn’t enough snow on this trip for us to give them a proper test run, but they’ll certainly come in handy next winter!

Written by Catherine Easdon

Getting our new ice axes out! 

Grisdale Pike- Declan Lagan

Monday, 14 March 2016

Explore Conference 2015

It may be a little delayed but seen as the time has come to think about this year’s summer trips I thought it was probably a good idea that I got around to writing about mine and Alasdair’s trip to Explore, an expedition planning conference, back in November. Thanks to a generous grant from Bristol SU we were able to head to the Royal Geographical Society in London for a weekend of interesting talks and helpful advice.

The conference started on the Saturday morning with talks from a range of speakers covering practical advice for planning and running expeditions but mainly just the many amazing adventures people had been on recently. These included everything from walking the length of the Welsh Coast with a donkey (just because), an expedition to explore different examples of ‘no man's land’ and a demonstration of how to cook interesting food using just a camping stove that included 3 different varieties of porridge. On the practical side of things, we heard about staying healthy on expeditions with some notable advice being to make sure you ‘cook it, boil it, peel it or forget it’ when it comes to food, always being aware of the effects of tiredness, keeping up good levels of hygiene and also being aware of everyone’s health after the trip including the post expedition blues. The importance of risk assessments was also covered. In particular, the process of identifying and minimising risks as well as constantly assessing them during the trip and informing the rest of the group. The talk also included the helpful advice that wearing stilts on Striding Edge probably isn’t a good idea.

In the afternoon we attended a workshop on the planning and logistics of mountain expeditions including advice such as making sure you leave plenty of time, have alternative aims/plans and making sure you have the right kit. This was all followed by a premiere of the film ‘Karun’ about travelling Iran’s longest river which you might have seen at our film night a couple of weeks ago.

Sunday began with more talks, this time including experiences researching in the Karakoram mountains of Pakistan (whilst also finding time to climb some of the 8,000m peaks) and the many still unexplored examples of wildlife in the world. After the talks there was a workshop with the opportunity to talk to many of the other attendees about ideas of where to take everyone for this year’s summer trips (whilst also getting extremely jealous of everywhere people had been already) and the conference finished with workshops on communicating experiences on expeditions including through photography and writing.

Overall it was a very enjoyable and interesting weekend and I would recommend it to anyone who would be interested in planning an expedition of any sort. It was also at the conference I was recommended the Lofoten Islands as a place to visit. Having seen how amazing it looks I will be heading there in June/July for one of this year’s summer trips while Alasdair will be off to Slovenia in September. Check out the groups on Facebook if you want to get involved:

Redpoint Lock-In 2016

On Saturday 27th February, UBESters made their way down to the Redpoint Lock-in. On offer for the evening were the ‘CORE’ climbing competition and the opportunity to try out ‘Crazy Climb’ as well as food and drink!
It’s fair to say that anyone who took part underestimated just how much energy the ‘Crazy Climb’ activities would take! In the mad forty-five minutes that each group was allocated, everyone seized the opportunity to get on as many different activities as possible. Whether racing lava up the wall, jumping from tower to tower or testing your speed climbing on the disappearing holds it’s fair to say that it is was exhausting no matter how good a climber you are! The time passed incredibly quickly and before anyone realised, it was time to return to the main climbing walls to begin or carry on the competition.

The CORE competition was a ‘flash comp’. This means that points are given to completing a route on the first attempt only, if you fall off – that’s it! Different teams took different tactics with some people focussing on leading hard routes, while others tried to complete as many different top-roped routes as possible.
After a manic two and a half hours the competition drew to a close and scores were tallied. A vegetable curry was served up and people took the chance to put up their feet, have a drink and watch this year’s Reel Rock film. As the evening drew to a close the results were revealed. Alasdair and Jono’s storm-tactics towards the end of the competition proved successful and bagged them first place, with Adam and Matt coming a close second. A special mention has to be made to Ian, who came third, whose individual scorecard smashed those of the joint teams if they had been marked individually!
Thanks to everyone who came along to the evening, and to Elliot and the staff at Redpoint for organising such a great event!

Jono Hawkins 

Monday, 7 March 2016

Memories of The Lakes in Winter

In November UBES headed to the Lake District for a weekend of walking and scrambling and enjoyed some exceptional weather and winter conditions. Social Secretary Emily Grout reminisces walking the scenic Fairfield Horseshoe route...

On the 20th of November 2015, after travelling over half of the country (and encountering a minor snow blizzard), we finally made it to the Lake District. After we'd arrived and made all the cheese and pickle sandwiches, everyone quickly jumped in their sleeping bags in anticipation of the weekend of walking ahead.

Thilmere Village Hall
We woke up bright and early and after porridge had been eaten and routes planned, we all set off for our walks. Our group headed to Ambleside to walk the classic Fairfield Horseshoe. The air was icy cold and a blanket of snow- the first us Bristolian's had seen in a long time- covered the mountain tops.

Luckily Lydia wasn't in charge of navigation...

As we reached our summit of 873m, we were astounded by the blue sky and panoramic views. We stopped for lunch out of the wind in the little stone shelter at the summit of Fairfield. As we were feasting on our classic cheese and pickle creations, we made friends with a crow. He was a chatty bird although secretly I think he just wanted our lunch.

Crow at the summit
Our descent was fairly gentle and we were met with many deep snow drifts- perfect for a sneaky snowball fight! As we finished our walk dusk was drawing closer and the setting sun casting an amber glow. Back in Ambleside, we stumbled across a lantern parade! Hundreds of children were walking with smiles reaching their ears, showcasing their hand-crafted lanterns.

Ambleside- A cyberman has suspiciously sneaked into the corner of this photo…
View of the Fairfield Horseshoe
Emily Grout

Fancy joining us in the Lake District? Check out our calander to find out when the next walking trip is!

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Scotland 2015/16

In the build up to the festive period 30 UBESters feverishly checked the mountain weather forecast wishing that Santa would bring a spell of cold weather to replenish the snow in the West Highlands. Santa delivered and we headed off with high-spirits to a cosy bunkhouse in Fort William for a week of winter mountaineering!

To begin the week, 15 of us completed a Winter Skills course run by Richard Bentley. The first day we headed up Coire na Ciste on The Ben to practice using crampons on steep ground. We also learnt how to correctly ice axe arrest through the medium of seal impersonations.

On the second day we completed our first Grade 1 route up Broad Gully to summit Stob Coire nan Lochan, which gave us the perfect opportunity to practice our technique and work in small teams to kick steps into the snow. After the course we all felt a lot more confident with the equipment and eagerly anticipated putting our new skills to the test.

Winter Skills, Grade 1 Climb up Broad Gully- Peter D. Rosso

Throughout the week, groups did some ambitious routes on the Ben including Number 4 and 5 Gully and the CMD Arete. Others bagged a lot of Munros in the Eastern Grey Corries loop and the scenic Buachaille Etive Mor (as seen in Skyfall). For the slightly hungover among us, the unique nature of the ‘Pap of Glencoe’ provided plenty of entertainment.

Aonach Mor Summit- Tim Lewis
Half way through the week Storm Frank prevented any big walks for a day, so climbers took the opportunity to go ‘dry’ (read: wet) tooling. Others took a scenic bimble to Steall Waterfall and the less sane among us a very soggy run through the bogs of the Great Glen.

Bog run- Laurence Falconer
Our best weather day fell on New Year’s Day, so New Year’s Eve was hastily celebrated before we headed to bed to get some rest before the big walks that everyone had planned. Achievements on New Year’s Day included the Ring of Steall- rated ‘5 out of 5’ on the UBES difficulty scale-, Anoach Egach- the narrowest ridge on UK mainland- and (almost) the The Lochaber 4000s.

Anoach Egach Ridge- Jono Hawkins

The final day was mostly spent resting and taking a short trip to see the ‘Water Features’ of Fort William- although of course in true UBES spirit some people headed out to summit Ben Nevis!

Over the week everyone tackled some big walks and headed home with some aches, pains and some great memories to match.

Team Scotland 2015/16- Laurence Falconer 

View from Buachaille Etive Mor- Adam Dawson

Some awesome videos of the trip;

Philip Eccleston

Jono Hawkins

Want to come with us next year? Look out for the Scotland Intro talks in November 2016!

Thursday, 19 November 2015

A Scottish Adventure

If you want good weather, don’t go to Scotland. This is what my tent looked like on the last day of May...

Back in spring I spent five weeks wandering around Scotland with a tent, a load of camera gear and hardly any money. I wasn’t intending to do anything too hardcore as I was mostly interested in wildlife photography, but the weather seemed determined to make things difficult…

The trip started brilliantly – my first night on the Outer Hebrides was spectacular. Perched on a tiny patch of grass atop a rocky tidal islet on a white sand beach, it was probably the best wild camp spot I’ve ever found. But the next day a storm swept in from the Atlantic, and the squalls didn’t let up for the next two weeks.

I spent six nights in a row with my tent buffeted by winds howling at Storm Force 8, forced to sleep in the foetal position because the tent walls were permanently stretched inwards. 2am tent repairs when the wind proved too much weren’t a lot of fun either.

There was one sunny day in the middle of it all where I unbelievably managed to get sunburned (although I am ginger…) but with the wind chill still at -3C, my resulting tan dive have an attractive hat line.

On the single other pleasant day I walked a few miles across the sand to an uninhabited tidal island. It was beautiful, with the thin layer of water reflecting the sky above, and the promise of an entire island to myself.

But the next morning, the wind was howling again and the rain was torrential. I had to wait a few hours for the tide to go out far enough to make the crossing back, and then I set off towards the mainland – straight into the wind. A combination of horizontal wind-blown rain, sand and sea spray scoured the exposed parts of my face, which were left raw and peeling for days afterwards.

Eventually I’d had enough, so I caught a ferry back to the mainland and hitchhiked across to the Cairngorms. I was photographing Ptarmigan (which are awesome by the way) when an unexpected blizzard swept over the mountains, smothering me, my tent and everything else in a blanket of snow. The accompanying thunder and lightning were disturbingly close by.

The next morning I was startled by my whole tent suddenly shifting sideways, before a very large nose came through the outer – reindeer! After scaring it off before it knocked down my tent, I stepped outside to the surreal sight of a whole herd of furry awesomeness surrounding me in the snow.

Back down at sea level, I finally had some good weather! A lonely tent by a still loch, backed by ancient Caledonian pine forest, is pretty hard to beat.

The forests themselves used to cover vast swathes of the Highlands, and it’s a shame that’s no longer the case, as they really are beautiful.

With the improved weather I could even appreciate how short the nights are this far north in early summer. In fact, it never really gets dark at all. This shot of my tent was taken at midnight under an overcast sky. You can read a book in the middle of the night if it’s clear.

The Shetlands were my final stop. With the promise of good weather, I was pretty excited. The first couple of days had a lot more rain than was forecast and a mouse chewed through my tent inner, but it wasn’t too bad. When I reached the northernmost tip of the UK at the Gannet colony of Hermaness, looking out to the remote lighthouse of Muckle Flugga, it was perfect. Warm, no wind, even a bit of sun!

I was there mostly to photograph Puffins, and they put on a pretty good show before I set up my tent a little way back from the edge of the cliff an hour or so after sunset. By 2am, the conditions had worsened. The forecast had promised a wind-free night, but my tent was getting pummeled. It was so loud I kept waking up thinking there was thunder.

At 5am, it had got so bad that I realized I needed to take the tent down before the wind did it for me. I should probably point out that the wind was coming off the sea, or I’d have got the hell out of there a lot sooner.

As it was, I was too late anyway. I had just started shoving everything into my backpack when the main pole snapped. This meant I had to support the tent with my head to get the rest of my gear packed up, so I spent the next ten minutes getting repeatedly smacked in the face by a broken pole.

Emerging into the dawn, the wind was so strong I could barely stand up. A couple of waterfalls further along the coast were flowing over the cliffs, but no longer reaching the sea as they were blown straight back over the moorland. A gully funneled the wind so powerfully that it lifted me (and a 25kg backpack) off my feet and deposited me a little further back from the cliffs.

Even though it had been an eventful trip with lots of setbacks, I’d still had a fantastic time. But with very little money left and now no tent, it was definitely time to go home.

Shameless self promotion - if you want to see more adventure and wildlife photography, please check out my website at Thanks guys! :)