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!