Thinking about coming on one of our meets? Not sure how the logistics of it work? Hopefully you'll find some useful tips on this page to make things a bit easier.
How to get there
With the extortionate price of fuel these days, most members travel with 2-3 to a car.
Lift shares are normally arranged via the mailing list or at White Spider on the regular club evenings. An email will go out at least one week before every meet, which is the best opportunity to shout out if you intend to go, stating your travel preferences (i.e whether you need or lift, or whether you can offer one to others).
It's generally easier to travel with someone you intend to climb with, making the logistics a bit easier, especially on the last day when you need to return home in the right car.
Navigating even small campsites is hard in the dark. Until you get familiar with what cars and tents to look out for, it's worth grabbing some mobile numbers from fellow members so you can give someone a ring when you arrive.
Most people leave the London area after work the night before, pitch up in the dark, and make a dash for last orders.
What to bring
Rather than attempting to create an exhaustive list, here's the essentials:
For camping meets, you'll want the following:
- A tent. Obviously. Smaller and simpler tends to be easier to pitch in the dark and easier to dry out if it rains.
- Sleeping mat. Anything is a good start, but the "self-inflating" sort tend to be preferred.
- Cooking stuff. Most people use a small gas stove for simplicity. Pro tip: put the gas canister in your sleeping bag on cold nights!
- A small folding chair. Sounds like a luxury but don't be that person sat on a plastic bag on the floor!
Don't underestimate how cold even summer nights can be. If you're in any doubt, pack some additional layers for the evening and some thermals for the night.
For both hut meets and camping meets you'll need a sleeping bag. A lot of members opt for down sleeping bags at some point (when funds allow), as these provide a much greater level of comfort over synthetic bags.
Huts generally provide somewhere soft to sleep and everything you need to cook with, but check the hut website in advance for a full list of the available facilities.
Pack as light as you can as multiple sets of camping/climbing gear can take a lot of space, especially when 3-up in a car.
The absolute minimum climbing gear you'll need is a helmet, harness, chalk bag, rock shoes and belay plate with HMS karabiner. Although you can normally borrow most other items, it's also well worth having a couple of slings (e.g. 1x60cm and 1x120cm), a couple of additional locking karabiners, a prusik loop, and a nut key.
Ensure you bring a rucksack for all those things (35-50L is normally about right). If you're only taking the minimum, it's worth having enough space such that you can offer to carry a rope.
Sturdy waterproof shoes are recommended (either walking boots or approach shoes); the walks in to the crags can be long, rocky and wet. Check the forecast before going, and be prepared with waterproofs and/or warm clothing as required.
What to eat
We see anything from a cereal bar to a full English for breakfast, any kind of snacks during the day, and evening meals are often based on:
- How cold it is.
- How close the nearest pub is.
- Will anyone drive you to the pub.
- Your cooking ability.
You're likely to be away from civilisation for most if not all of the meet; finding shops is generally inconvenient and wastes valuable climbing time, so try to pack enough food and drink before you leave.
What we get up to
Assuming it's not raining, most people will be climbing, but it's common for some to go for walks or even the odd mini-caving expedition! Evenings at our meets see several people flicking through guide books in order to decide where to go the next day. This work is normally discarded and an alternative decision rapidly made in the morning. People often all go to the same crag, or perhaps a 2 or 3 places depending on numbers and aspirations.
Limited outdoor climbing experience?
Inexperienced climbers should bear in mind that SAKMC does not officially offer any training, and when travelling hundreds of miles to get to our meets, members understandably want to make the most of the climbing time available! Fortunately, thanks to the good will of our members, it's normally possible to find someone who will be able to offer their support. It's best to establish who this might be in advance, by mentioning your experience on the mailing list. You should be prepared (and offer) to move around between people as this spreads the load a bit.
To climb without requiring supervision, we recommend that you are able to competently second trad climbs (at any grade), including the ability to belay leaders using half ropes. Most people will pick this up very quickly, but in any case, we strongly recommend attending an outdoor rock climbing course such as those offered by Plas-y-Brenin. Take a look at the available courses here: http://pyb.co.uk/courses-rock-climbing.php.