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Michaelmas 2016

  posted by Emma Pearce on 2016-12-19


I was very fortunate to almost accidentally join LUHC in 2014 as a complete novice to hiking. Sure, I had walked with my family and completed Bronze D of E, but I was far from being classed as a hiker. The inclusive nature of the club and the enthusiasm of the members to get out and make the most of being based in such a fantastic location lead to a slight addiction to Sunday trips in my first term. I have been so lucky to be involved with the exec, first as President and now as Social sec, and to have visited some amazing places around the UK. All my experiences with the club have been special and memorable but this term the club has been particularly successful with most trips being overbooked and extra transport having to be arranged on several occasions. It's also been great to have people regularly turning up to socials which is testament to the fact that the club is about more than just walking. Given that I can't get enough of the club I thought I'd whittle away a few hours reflecting on the day trips this term (regrettably I didn't make it on the weekend trips but I know those of you who went have some great memories). I'm a scientist, not a writer, so apologies if this turns into a long-winded drone, but I hope that for those who were on the trips it may spark a few memories and smiles.

Langdale 16th October - In which Emma was antisocial and only talked to Ellie.

The first trip of term is always an odd one for existing members.For those of you who have been regulars with us for a few months now you will know that friendships are quickly formed and a core set of people inevitably develops each year. As an exec we've been with the club for at least a year by the time the new academic year rolls around and we have our memories and know what to expect of one-another. As you'll come to see if you stick with us, the next two terms often see numbers whittle down and trip attendees become more predictable. It's therefore quite a change when we roll up to the first trip of the year with a fifty seater bus full of unfamiliar freshers and exchange students, many of whom underestimate what they've signed up for (yes, I was one of those who anticipated a lake-side amble in my first year...). With new people comes new responsibility on existing members; suddenly we are faced with forty potentially inexperienced new members looking to us for guidance because apparently having a map in your hands and a compass round your neck means you are a pro... Don't get me wrong, as those of you who know me will have noticed, I like being in charge, but at the same time there is always a large part of me that just wants to stick with other 'experienced' members, I need guidance too sometimes!

Langdale was a case of 'all hands on deck' for the exec, with several of us taking different routes around the surrounding area. Fortunately this did give me an excuse to go for an easy walk which was much appreciated after three months losing my fitness over the summer (shh, my motives were completely altruistic really...). Rain could have put the downers on the trip, and it did destroy my map, but everyone seemed pretty upbeat. Given that for some this was their first experience of the beauty of the Lake District it was hard not to be. Having confirmed my fears about my fitness on the first, and only, ascent of the day we skirted around Blea tarn, a chance for some classics photos to send home. Bog hopping caught some people off guard and did lead to a few questioning looks over my navigation ability but I think people were soon reassured as we reached the anticipated lane and continued through some of the best views of the day. Entering the woods after lunch I was grateful to have Ellie, our former publicity officer, alongside me to talk over navigation. It's always nice to have someone to share the blame with if you go wrong! Given the easy route we got back to the pub ridonculously early although a few people were grateful for the chance to finish early. The remainder of us set off on the second walk of the day and were blessed with beautiful sunshine as we rounded a weir and passed through the valley, in ample time for the obligatory hiking club pub stop.

Malham 23rd October - Tour guide included. (and the big bull...)

Put simply, I like this one. Walking around the dales with family and friends and completing my Gold Duke of Edinburgh's award in the area I have developed a certain fondness for west Yorkshire. My route for this one was a repeat of a walk I lead last year when I was still new to taking groups out. Given that I knew there is no lack of variety in the points of interest I was pretty confident setting off and excited to show off an area that I love. The top of Malham cove was a popular photo stop and allowed me to practice my tour guiding skills by sharing some Harry Potter film location trivia (it was used as a location in The Deathly Hallows during the camping scenes). Malham tarn was looking a lot calmer than last year and we were able to perfectly time lunch to be at the bird hide on the water's edge, a discovery from the previous trip. Alas we lost a couple on route, deliberately I might add! They forged their own route back along the Pennine way whilst the main group headed along a Roman path, cautiously skirting the bulkiest bull I have ever seen, to a highly anticipated Roman camp (I did warn it wasn't spectacular but the group insisted on being excited about it, at least until we arrived!). The return route passed Gordale Scar and Janet's Foss where it promptly started to rain as if in some attempt to echo the previous year, my standout memory of which was getting very wet in the final hour (Dan and Ellie will attest to this!). We avoided the hotel bar that we had unceremoniously soaked in the past, choosing instead to frequent the local pub which promised that muddy boots were welcome.

Braithwaite 6th November - In which some exchange students were rather confused by a nutty English girl who wanted to walk along a ridge with near zero visibility.

Having had a few warm-up hikes by this point I was more prepared to get back into the swing of things in the lakes and was on a bit of a mission to bag as many hills as possible in the day. By lunch we had completed Barrow, Stile End and Outerside and I had my eyes set on Sail. As we approached the ascent up to Sail the clouds started to close in and some of the group were tiring so the decision was made to split with half going up and half taking the straight route back through the valley. During first year I was a bit of a sheep, and spent most hikes playing follow the leader with little idea where I actually was. Hence it came as a surprise when I found myself on a familiar path from a hike lead by Ivar two years previously. This lead to a bit of rapid re-routing; given there are two hundred and fourteen Wainwrights I wasn't too keen to simply repeat myself. Rather than heading right up to Sail we took the left fork onto the ridge along the top of Scar Crags and up to Causey Pike. The wind was strong and sleet started to fall but, unlike my winter walking experiences in first year, this time I found it fairly exhilarating. The scramble down from Causey Pike took some by surprise but fortunately I did not lose all confidence from the group as they continued to follow up one final hill (which I was very disappointed to later find out is not actually a Wainwright despite being higher than some hills which are). The descent was slippy and it was with tired legs that we wandered back to Braithwaite via the river to find the rest of the groups already dry and hydrated.

Hadrian's Wall 13th November - (and the bog the other side of it).

Another really popular trip, we over filled a coach which is good going for this stage in the year, although it did leave Chloe and I a little daunted by the size of the groups we would each be taking. Having down-sold my route (sorry Chloe...) and nabbed Paul as an extra navigator I set out with the fractionally smaller group of 22! That's more than we have on most trips, let alone in one group. Walking westwards from Housteads fort was a trip back through memory lane as it replicated part of a walk I had completed with Dad shortly after graduating secondary school (and I am an old lady of 22 so that is longer ago for me than it may be for a lot of you???? ). We also took on the same section in reverse during summer term this year, although in quite different weather! For a change we walked north from the wall into barbarian country which took us through forestry land and bogs. I ordered boot waterproofing spray that evening... Just as dusk started to descend the whirl of a search and rescue helicopter sent me back into 'duty of care' (a phrase popular with LUSU) mode. It wasn't until we were safely back at Housteads that my mind was put at rest that none of Chloe's group had befallen any horrendous accident . They had instead been sat having afternoon tea for the past hour. This trip takes the record for being my first trip without a pub at the end, although I wasn't complaining when I got home early for a bowl of hot chocolate in my dressing gown.

Hellvelyn 27th November - In which we took our lives in our hands.

Hellvelyn. It just sounds ominous doesn't it? With darkening days, snow on the ground and definite need for ice-axes I hadn't had any intention of tackling it on this occasion and was more than happy to leave in to Jim and co. However, it would appear I am in the mood for challenges and going outside my comfort zone lately so I gave in to the temptation! And I am very glad I did (although I may not have said that half way down Swirral edge...). The initial ascent gave a taster of the snow above and despite cloud the day was perfectly still and warm(ish); were it not for the pressure to get down before dark it would have been perfect snowman building conditions. I am no winter walker so was grateful to be able to stick to the route planned out and previously walked by Nat and Dan which took us along Striding Edge. This feels like the proper route to do Hellvelyn by to me, although I did wonder how confident I would be were I not a regular visitor to the climbing wall on campus. The real challenge of the day came with the descent down Swirral edge which was mightily slippy. I will forever be indebted to my ice axe and I apologise to anyone I nearly took down the ridge with me! Don't tell my mum or she won't let me out hiking again... The snow and gentle walk down afterwards were a welcome relief and the adrenaline (do I go as far as saying euphoria?) from the day was reflected in everyone's faces as we near skipped the final descent.

Coniston 4th December - In which we discovered our real calling in ice-skating.

I think Coniston gets the award for my favourite Lake District scenery. Granted, it has been beautifully sunny all of the times I have visited, but regardless, the mine route, views over to the lake and towards Langdale and the domineering Old Man offer a winning combination. I started the walk on a high having won the walker recruitment competition and forged a path towards Wetherlam, one of the remaining Wainwrights on my list for the area. Fortunately my tick-list for the day was small consisting of just the one 'essential' hill; it was a slow walk! But in that is reflected the fact that we had a friendly, easygoing group out for a nice day. Nobody minded the stops which seemed to happen every two hundred metres, except maybe lunch which was a tad chilly. Honestly, whose choice was that! The best of these stops was an opportunity to try our hand at a different outdoor activity presented by a frozen pond. I don't think it is in hikers' nature to be overly cautious so after hurling a rock into the middle of the ice we eventually had most the group skating, and belly sliding in Jenny's case. Given the interludes we made the decision not to continue the bagging mission and instead headed down past the mine and reservoir (another excuse for a break). We arrived fairly early to the pub but continuing the laid-back mood of the day we headed in and relaxed with food and drink.

Buttermere 11th December - In which we were that traumatised by our experience driving up a hill that we couldn't face walking up one for a long time after.

Finding drivers has been known to be problematic for the club but this term we have been fortunate to have several new volunteers/victims. Hopefully I won't put anyone else off driving for us (you get free trips after all!) but I am starting this section by taking my hat off to Bert who performed a fantastic hill-start which, had it gone wrong, could have been messy! Quite an achievement for someone hailing from one of the flattest places on earth. As a final walk of term we stayed as one group which was a lovely mix of regulars, newbies, members from last year (welcome back Felicity), and Jim (who has his own class). After a short walk we reached a waterfall, the temptation to climb proved too strong for most of us and we were successfully distracted until lunch. Given the lateness of our start we opted to avoid ascending any hills, instead skirting around the edge through a bog (because what's a walk if you don't come away with wet feet?). Another interlude followed in which we decided that there is no need for trampolines, the same experience can be had by lying on a peat bog whilst everyone around you jumps as hard as they can. More stops were had to indulge in pooh-sticks and paddling in the lake by some. The childish theme continued as we found a very good climbing tree that could fit the whole group (until assisted I only obtained sloth status). Who has those photos by the way? We eventually found an appealing hill after a Lord of the Rings epic through the valley behind Buttermere. It cruelly turned into the type that tricks you with false summits for which my legs were not grateful that late in the day. Nevertheless, upon completion it did provide a nice descent in the dark down to The Fish where warm mince pies were waiting for some. Please see Ina's video of this walk if you can, it is beautiful and makes me cry!

So that's it. We've reached Christmas and headed back to our respective families and houses. It has been a fantastic term for the club and that is in a large part due to the commitment and dedication of our members, you've been an amazing bunch! It is with (very) heavy heart that we have to say goodbye to some of you and we hope that you'll find the time to come back and walk with us again in the future. For those who are staying there remain many hills to summit, lakes to circumnavigate and beers to sample. See you in term two!

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