Edale Day Trip, 20th October 2019

It was still dark when a group of walk leaders departed Cambridge for the Peak District. We arrived in Edale ahead of the freshers, who were traveling by coach, and convened in a nearby café. Just as Bronwen F sat down with her tea and scone, Patrick T appeared to summon us to the car park; the coach had arrived. Susannah P and I obeyed, leaving the others to finish their elevenses.

At the car park we encountered new recruits Paolo B and Mario D. I mentioned something about the café to Susannah, and Mario’s ears pricked up. Now we had to explain to an Italian that we didn’t have time to go to the café. Fortunately, Mario was understanding. Talk of a pub at the end of the walk may have helped.

Patrick T had everything organised to a T, having paired up old hands to lead seven separate walks of varying distances prior to the day. Mary M and Cameron R would lead a walk involving scrambling. Several pairs - Patrick T and Ella J, Bianca O and Peter B, Elliot B and Susannah P - would lead walks of a sensible distance going at a civilised pace. The remaining ones - Marci G and Yaron B, Andrew W and Sarah Mi, Bronwen F and Oliver N – were to take longer routes more hurriedly.

Once freshers had chosen walks, it was time to venture forth. Conditions were ideal and spirits were high. On reaching the first viewpoint, groups paused to admire the valley below, grateful to be seeing it on so beautiful an October morning.

Further along, my group encountered a sheep lying on the hillside looking outwards across the land, which was bathed in a dramatic light. Bronwen suggested that it was posing for an Instagram photo; I christened it ‘Insta-lamb’.

The weather shifted. Fantastic sunshine made way for drizzle; drizzle made way for rain. We donned our waterproofs and stopped for lunch in the shelter of a rock. Later on having resumed our walk, we encountered some navigational difficulties and decided that we ought to cut our 18.6km route short to ensure that we arrived at the pub on time. Naturally, this was not a defeat, but rather evidence that our group possessed qualities including prudence, adaptability and good sense.

On regaining civilisation, groups reunited in the Royal Hotel in Hayfield for drinks. At last, Mario could have his coffee!

Before long it was time to return home. I joined Simon W's car. Shortly after leaving a service station, Simon realised that we were running low on petrol (we hadn’t refuelled). There followed a tense half hour in which Sarah Mi issued directions for the nearest petrol station from her phone while Transport Secretary Andrew W and I sat in silence, praying that we would make it that far. At 9.50pm we reached a petrol station that was still open – just! We had made it with ten minutes to spare, and goodness knows how little petrol.

We arrived back in Cambridge an hour later, weary from our (mis)adventures, but also content for the day’s exertions. It is hoped that the trip will have given freshers a taste of the beautiful places we go to, as well as examples of the weather we encounter (all kinds) and the mishaps we get through and laugh about afterwards. A warm welcome to all newcomers who will continue with us undaunted, and especially those who have already signed up for the next trip!

Trip List: Mary M, Peter M, Danny V, Oliver N, Sarah Mi, Bronwen F, Patrick T, Cameron R, Marci G, Yaron B, Elliot B, Andrew W, Bianca O, Ella J, Susannah P, Svenja M, Lindsay M, Hansini, Alex B, Mario D, Paolo B, Samuel C, Thomas A, Chris Y, Carla P, Sarah G, Lorena G, Ej K, Qistina H, Marja H, Jeff F, Annabel M, Benjamin T, Sara D, Jo H, Irene N, Pauline C, Brian Graves, Anna B, Urte B, Emma M, Tareq O, Jane O, Vassilis G, Una X, Kassel G, Shirley L, Alix R, Cayson C, Helena E, Lena C, Eric W, Nadya P, Lin S, Alexis M, Tomas D, Таня Б, Millie K, Salma A, Sarah S, David L, Cecilia D, Calvin C, Duzhiyun Z, Simon W

Oliver N

Seathwaite trip 1-3 Nov 2019

Despite rumours of tumultuous weather, the evening remained dry as a convoy of keen hillwalkers (new and old alike) departed from Cambridge on Friday evening. That is until about halfway through the drive to the Lake District, when the weather suddenly realised it had forgotten to rain and made good on its promise to precipitate.

Around midnight the cars all pulled up at the High House bunkhouse in Seathwaite and everyone shuffled indoors to claim a spot to sleep for the night, while several routes for the following day were discussed. Those new to the area were completely oblivious to the encircling mountains they would see come the morning.

As is always the case with bunk houses, once the first person stirs, the rest soon follow. On this day a pair of fell runners, Andrew Wa and Jeff F, were among the first in their boots to make the most of the extra daylight. For many of the rest of us, an absence of coffee was mourned, but not by the resourceful Italian Mario D who had brought along his own supply from home.

Thankfully, the new day had brought with it a relief in the weather, and even the odd spotting of blue sky as the clouds were occasionally blown thin. The adventurous Freya S, Catherine Z, Yugeng and Mary were signed up for the two day scrambling course, and assembled themselves ready for their day on the rocks.

The group I, Ben Ho, was joining set off at 9am with the goal of bagging three peaks on our journey, and consisted of an Englishman (Oliver Normand), an Italian (the aforementioned Mario), and two French (Alix R and Anouk R). Climbing steadily to Green Gable and in turn Great Gable, the views across the valley revealed numerous waterfalls flowing rich with the rain from the night before. The view was well worth the drive up-country. Our group and many others successfully summited Scafell Pike and enjoyed a hillwalkers lunch amongst the misty mountain air. Mario even took the opportunity to brew another pot of his delicious Italian coffee, and was kind enough to share. As we descended from our last peak we noted how refreshing the stream pools looked after all the hard work, resulting in many of us taking a brief plunge in the autumnal waters.

Upon returning to the bunkhouse people ferried themselves through the showers, exchanged stories of their days’ triumphs, and began settling around the coal fireplace. A few vigilant committee members took note of Andrew Wa’s absence, and were pleased when he turned up in the dark with a colossal 34km run under his belt. As the evening progressed, meals, wine, beer, cake (thanks to Maryam!), and tea were enjoyed. The evening concluded with recitals from the hillwalkers’ songbook, which new members such as myself were unfamiliar with the melodies and so sang our own versions in collaboration with the originals.

The weather for the Sunday was forecasted to be drearier than Saturday. However, for the early risers there was some moderate weather to be enjoyed. A steady state of light rain was remained from lunchtime onwards until it was time to depart. While the persistent rain did not dampen our spirits, the realisation that he had forgotten to pack his coffee for lunch that day managed to dampen Mario’s.

Over the two days many groups managed to explore the disused mines in the area, and enjoy the view of slate quarries scattered across the hills. As a whole, the area surrounding Seathwaite offers much to be explored, regardless of the weather. One such attraction included a rare species of fish said to be unique to two of the tarns in the area. Stories from the locals inspired us, and fuelled an expedition on our second day to find this fish – personal accounts from the expedition vary.

The bunkhouse was cleaned, cars were re-packaged again like a game of Tetris, and it was time to farewell the mountains. As cars left High House, it’s hard to imagine any one could be left unsatisfied from such a trip. With such refreshing scenery, and an organising team that kept things running like clockwork, it was a great introduction to Lake District.

Trip List: Lucy J, Andrew Wa, Mireia C, Bartomeau M, Maryam, Danny V, Mary M, Freya S, Anouk R, Svenja M, Andrew Wh, Charlie G, Jeff F, Elliot B, Alix R, Yugeng Z, Mario D, Oliver No, Ben Ho, Paul Fox, Catherine Z, Susannah P, Peter M


Ben Ho

Ben Ho

Caseg Fraith Trip, 15-17 Nov 2019

Author: Simon W

Friday 15th November heralded the start of the third of this term’s ever-anticipated hillwalking expeditions. Compasses were set to West-North-West, Snowdonia our prospect for the weekend. A staggered journey through Friday evening headlights conjured such marvels of the South West as Birmingham and Telford, before the sinuous embrace of the A5 drew us nearer to the fabled Caseg Fraith, deep in the Welsh countryside. The border may have glided seamlessly past, but such village names as Glyndyfrdwy, Cerrigydrudion and Cefn-brith spoke true - this was no England.. As we approached our destination, moonlit snow-capped hills appeared ahead, putting one in mind of the final lines of Walter de la Mare’s poem ‘Snow’:

‘A marvel of light, Whose verge of radiance seems Frontier of paradise, The bourne of dreams.’

The group arose early on Saturday morning for walks to Snowdon, as well as more local hikes. The autumnal colours infused the landscape, rich in russets and golds. Endless rills, trickles and occasional unplanned splashes evinced a thoroughly saturated terrain, which would prove too much for some people's shoes. Those seeking an alternative to Yr Wyddfa, opted for a circular walk from Capel Curig, a short drive from the bunkhouse. An initial ascent to Llyn Cowlyd reservoir afforded a grand outlook over a rolling, treeless landscape, with cascading waters rushing past. A brief stop at the 1921 dam gave those whose feet had had better mornings a chance to divert. For the most part, the walkers continued. The path became more covert, and after fording several streams and swinging between large, nigh-on decomposed trees (Oliver N even found an animal skeleton, pristine), we found our way to Llyn Geirionydd, on the edge of the Gwydyr Forest. Fields of sheep gave way to horses, and finally to black sheep, prompting Anna B to speculate which was the black sheep of the family. A latent sheep geneticist was surely among our number?

That evening, with tales of the day being excitedly exchanged, cooking began, and a session of singing ensued, of which Schoenberg would have been proud. Despite valiant attempts by Tom W, who played his guitar, and Chris K, who played the penny whistle, disharmony reigned.

Having had a good walk the day before and needing to return to the bunkhouse for a 3 o’clock departure, it seemed sensible to take it easier on the Sunday. A small but loyal band of three headed for nearby Capel Curig, the forest and, crucially, the pub. A pint in front of a blazing fire and good conversation was a very enjoyable way to conclude the weekend’s activities. So tranquil was the atmosphere in the car on the return to Cambridge that, unintentionally, it became a direct run, door-to-door in four and a half hours. Thanks to all who organised, cooked, ferried, guided and otherwise contributed to a convivial and companionable weekend.

Trip List: Oliver N, Peter M, Marton G, Aisling K, Sarah M, Chris K, Ben T, Sophie M, Simon W, Sam C, Fiona D, Freya S, Ren O, Daryl Y, Alix R, Ben H, Anouk R, Svenja M, Hansini M, Anna B, Jeff F, Mario D, Jane O, Michal B, Scott E, Lise S, Mohamed E, Tom W, Rachel E, Lea D, Sam C, Sarah B, Vassilis G, Emily M, Julia Z, Johannes J, Liam N,

Simon W

Mounthooley Trip, 29-1 Dec 2019

For the final trip of term, which falls in the festive Bridgemas period, the club journeyed to the picturesque Scottish border. With a weather forecast of clear blue skies, cars carrying avid walkers left Cambridge Friday afternoon. The six hour drive whisked us up the country, with a blessing from the Angel of the North as we passed on our way to the Northumberland National Park. At around 11pm, as the car I was travelling in navigated the final few miles of icy, winding countryside roads leading to the neatly tucked-away bunkhouse, we happened across Lucy J's earlier squadron of CUHWC walkers struggling to get to the top of a narrow road covered with a film of glistening black ice. We leapt out of our car to offer assistance, and together our two groups pushed the car to the top of the hill. Rescue successful, we drove deeper into the darkness. Arriving at the valley bunkhouse backdropped by a silhouette of rolling hills and stars, we unpacked, claimed our freshly laundered bunks and got a good night’s sleep before an early start.

Sunrise was 08:11am. The bunkhouse was bustling with activity from 7am. With walks chosen, everyone was ready to go before sunrise. All groups chose to attack the 850m Cheviot, with various walk lengths, including one walk led by Bronwen F which even visited a nearby waterfall after the summit. The weather was perfect for walking. Fluctuating around an average of -2°C in the valley, the sky was clear and the grass covered in a layer of frost. Climbing the Cheviot offered breathtaking scenery, with views across Northumberland and as far as the sea. Ascending was no easy feat, with faux-cairns proving frustrating for some. Frosty autumnal yellows, oranges and greens turned whiter as we climbed, with the peak feeling like a barren icy wasteland. Atop the Cheviot, two hardy walkers, a local Northumbrian and a Scotsman, were flying the Northumberland flag topless. After chatting for a while and getting a few memorable photos at the summit, we set off to descend back into the valley.

Back at the bunkhouse, the first group to have returned approached the challenge of preparing vegetables for the Christmas dinner, as is tradition. Industrial scale washing, peeling, chopping and cooking preceded a delicious Christmas meal complete with turkey, Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes, cranberry sauce, carrots, parsnips, gravy, mulled wine and a Brobdingnagian serving of peas! Dinner was followed by games and carols, with new members and old members alike joining in. Full up on Christmas dinner and tired after a long day of walking, we retired to our bunks to sleep before another day of walking.

On Sunday, with the weather still holding in our favour, groups were keen to walk into Scotland. A shorter walk along the Pennine Way and up the Schill offered panoramic views of Scotland and England. Stopping for lunch in the clouds overlooking the Scottish hills provided the perfect place to escape Cambridge. Some slight mistaken paths meant we had to jump a few rivers, climb a few obstacles and dodge a few sheep before arriving back at the bunkhouse. Around mid afternoon, after cleaning the bunkhouse and packing up, groups set off back down South to Cambridge life, leaving the quaint Northumberland valleys behind, until next time.

Trip List: Mary M, Elliot B, Lucy J, Bill C, Paul F, Bronwen F, Gideon W, Susannah P, Irene N, James R, Svenja M, Anna B, Hansini M, Jeff F, Annabel M, Miriam G, Benjamin T, YuGeng Z, Femke A, Simon K, Ralph B, Ben Houlton, Tom R

Ben Tuck

New Year Trip, 3-9 Jan 2020

Day 1 - Friday

A face, in the window, in the night. A rap on the glass and mist on the pane from mouthed words of entreaty announced to the bunkhouse the arrival of a third member of the group to the two already seated within. A fire in the grate; the rough stone walls reflecting its heat and the oak-beams creaking under the attack from the weather without; a steaming bowl of stew and the shared experience of complete isolation in the shadow of the Lake District fells; all these provided solace to the walkers, remembering the comforts of the world outside and yet forgotten by the inhabitants of the same.

This sublime situation, I am sure, was, at some time, in some place, experienced in that most beautiful national park. Not, however, by us.

Our fire comprised a lone accumulation heater; our stone walls the whitewashed plasterboard of a newly renovated schoolroom; our roof was obscured by the cold, hard light from fluorescent tubes lining the ceiling; and our steaming stew a solitary mug of tea brewed from a teabag sought out by Seb with all his tea-acquiring skill; our isolation complete save for the three pubs, a railway station and a coach hire company, all within walking distance. The only similarity, in fact, between the two superlative extremes, but arguably the only one of any importance, was the shared feeling of 'gathering', the anticipation of times to be had and the unique companionship of the bunkhouse.

And thus it was that after the four friends had recounted their respective Christmases and had explained their respective plans for the week ahead and had complained to each other about their respective work crises, Mary, Seb, Patrick and Ella retired to the bunks for a night's sleep. Sleep that was disturbed only by the harsh cold provided by the central heating, the incessant crash of a fire door which, the current climate contrasting starkly with the scenario in which it was intended to be used, was, at best, reluctant to provide its primary service of remaining shut, and the niggling worry that, by the time they awoke, the expected late-comers, along with the essential club kit, would not have arrived.

Day 2 - Saturday

The new day, however, brought an increased sense of optimism to the previously downcast atmosphere: the bunkhouse had warmed up, the contingent driving from Cambridge had arrived successfully and the weather, it could be construed, was passable.

It was a relief for many there, safe in the knowledge that they would be in the Lakes for the next week or so, not to feel the customary time-pressure of the normal weekend trips. With this in mind, Mary, Seb and Patrick decided to do a relatively straightforward walk to the north of the bunkhouse, passing by Burnmoor Tarn before ascending Illgill Fell and walking along the ridgeline. The weather, when experienced from this advantage, was not, in fact, 'passable'. Dew drops in the cloud, egged on by an enthusiastic wind, formed biting strings of oblique pain in our faces and rendered a glorious view over Wast Water a grey study in fog.

Matters improved, however, as we descended. A magnificent valley opened up to our left as we reached the end of the Water below and a little while later we were treated to a marvellous view of the Sellafield nuclear fuel processing facility. The reader - and I expect the singular is appropriate here - can decide for themselves the extent of any sarcasm in the previous sentence. Towards the end we stopped for a late lunch in a patch of woodland, saw the ancestral home and farmland of Patrick's godmother at Porterthwaite and Low Holme, the latter now relegated to a collection of abandoned farm houses, had some fun scrambling, and crossed over the Ravenglass-Eskdale miniature steam railway line, which, sadly, was not running during our stay, albeit to the relief of our club steam enthusiast, Elliot, who was not on this trip.

As mentioned, the lack of a fireplace was a grave concern. We awoke, however, to find the lack of an associated chimney was of more concern to Ella, who had suddenly developed a burning desire to sweep one out. What was more concerning, was the cockney accent she developed overnight in which she was now singing about going to fly a kite. In the hope that the fresh air might do her some good, we acquiesced, and saw her out, armed with her kite, on a low-level solo walk with the purpose of flying it. When our group arrived home, we found Ella conspicuous by her absence. This negative Ella-shaped space grew ever more noticeable as the afternoon wore on and, as the night drew in, we were on the point of mounting a search party and deploying the spotlights in the joint hope and fear that we might see her being carried away on the high winds at the end of a kite line, or perhaps more in keeping, an umbrella handle, when to our relief, in she rolled. Through the door. Not the chimney.

It has been said that 'the pleasantness of an employment does not always evince its propriety'. True as this may be, I think in light of the reports from Ben, Scott, Swati and Mario, we may lend weight to the inverse of this statement. This group, unlike the others, were time-constrained - an unfortunate downside of holding down actual jobs and it had seemed, therefore, prudent to attempt a large horseshoe of local peaks totalling 20km distance and over 1300m of ascent. Propriety established, pleasantness was put to the test. In this respect, the walk was found strikingly lacking. If the weather on top of Illgill was bad, the verbal reports from the Scafell contingent and the visual report from their dripping countenances and exhausted demeanour demonstrated that no improvement was to be found at higher altitudes. This outer façade resembling half-drowned rats, for the most part, extended though all layers of clothing right to the skin, the notable exception being Swati, for whom staying dry below the 'waterproof' layers was not only a remarkable achievement in its own right, but made all the more impressive when we consider this was her first time walking in this country.

It was after this day's walks that our opinion of the bunkhouse began to shift. Amongst the advantages of a place whose lighting could give an operating theatre a run for its money are the effectiveness of its drying room, which unfaultingly provided us, each morning, with comfortable kit, and the reliability of the showers, which exhibited the oft-incomplete trifecta of providing heat, pressure and a quick response.

Our evening meal was cooked by Seb and plans were drawn up, based on the weather forecast, for the next day, which promised to be relatively dry, and the following one, which promised quite the opposite.

Day 3 - Sunday

Seb decided on a solo walk north of Wast Water to count as one of his 'QMD's for his Mountain Leader practice. A small group got up early to do some last-minute valley walking before being consigned, once again, to the plains of Cambridge.

Those remaining decided today was the day to summit Scafell Pike and set off driving, in two cars, to their start point further along the valley. A de facto game of hide and seek ensued, with both parties successfully playing the role of the former and ineffectually executing the duty of the latter, with the result that, although Mary, Oliver, Bill and Alexis began walking approximately 10 minutes before Molly, Linus, Patrick and Ella, neither group saw the other until the end of the day.

The first group set a fast pace and summited the peak successfully. The second group took it easier and, having forded a large stream - the treacherous crossing only made possible by a single pair of walking poles - they looked at the time, looked at the weather, looked at the sad orange mass of concentric contours they would still have to cross and decided that today was not, as it turned out, the day to summit the Pike.

The evening meal was provided by Patrick, but not before a well-deserved outing to the Boot Inn, in which we found the roaring fire and rustic warped tables our bunkhouse so sadly lacked.

Day 4 - Monday

"The rain it raineth every day, upon the just and unjust fella; but more upon the just because, the unjust hath the just's umbrella."

Like a scene from Dr Seuss, we whiled away the hours in the bunkhouse watching the miserable weather outside. A small group did an equally small walk up to Blea Tarn before some of their number returned to Cambridge, and Seb, in a bombproof combination of four waterproof layers, ventured out for a wild swim.

Out on the wiley, windy moors lie the remains of a Roman fort. Nowadays it is called Hardknott, but historically it was known as Mediobogdum (good luck pronouncing that one), and it was to here that we decided to venture as an excuse to say that, at the very least, we had all been outside.

Having avoided driving off the notorious 30% inclines of Hardknott Pass, the next step was to brave the weather, which, if it was bad in the valley (it was), was even worse at the Fort. We stood, miserably, in the remains of a Roman sauna, desperately trying to drive visions of real saunas from our minds. We spent a sum total of 15 minutes at that Fort, wandering around the admittedly impressive remains, occasionally pointing out details on the ground which had been mentioned in the literature: the headquarters building, the commander's residence and the buttressed granaries. What we did not point out, because it was not there, was any sign of accommodation for the private Roman soldier: they were likely housed in wooden structures, or even temporary leather tents - we could only imagine the suffering they must have endured, thousands of miles away from friends and family, and living in a climate so at odds with their Mediterranean heat.

The evening saw us playing a game of cards known as 'President'. This game forms a hierarchy of players: the higher ones benefiting by being allowed to ask for a certain number of good cards from those at the bottom of the rankings, who are thus disadvantaged. Suffice to say that the glimmer of hope given to these poor underdogs, and the sense of power to those at the top (forming a rather accurate microcosm of society as a whole) makes it a highly addictive game, and one which we played until the end of the trip. It should also be noted that, although the trip book records the majority of the rounds played, some early rounds were not written down, and it was in these rounds that some (rather disgruntled) players peaked by maintaining the 'President' and 'Vice President' positions in multiple consecutive rounds.

Day 5 - Tuesday

We woke up at 11:00am. It was still raining.

In the afternoon we managed to drag ourselves out on a low-level valley walk, which turned out to be very enjoyable: we saw Eel Tarn and, at the recommendation of the local pub owner, Stanley Force Waterfalls.

Day 6 - Wednesday

With the last two days having been so miserable, many decided to take advantage of today's good weather, and the final full day of the trip, to complete some more ambitious walks.

Oliver went on a short local walk and Mary hiked to Ravenglass to catch her train.

Patrick, still smarting from having to turn back from the Pike earlier in the week and wanting to improve his map-reading skills was, at first, accompanied by Bill and Alexis until they branched off at Burnmoor Tarn to pursue Illgill Fell, leaving him alone. The approach to Scafell was a perfect playground for map-reading, with opportunity to practise footpath hopping, pacings, bearings and feature spotting; and yet, as the gradient increased, the situation took a downhill turn. Finding the location of a sheepfold (marked on the map but absent on the ground), pausing to take photos of rainbows and writing a short message in a patch of snow all ate up valuable time.

There is no safe route directly from Scafell to Scafell Pike. As the local mountain rescue website notes, walkers have a choice: they may either brave 'Broad Stand', a scramble more akin to a rock climb designated as a mountain rescue 'black spot'; or they may choose to descend 350m, past Foxes Tarn, before regaining their height on a steep, unforgiving, gravely footpath. It was at the bottom of this descent that Patrick, both with his heart set on Scafell Pike and with the knowledge of time hurrying him on, had to make a decision. Should he go forward? Should he summit the Pike and risk an unpleasant, even dangerous, descent in the dark? Or should he turn for home now, in the knowledge that his next opportunity for this climb would be in months, if not years, in the future?

No one else with whom to confer. Nothing but himself and his watch; the peak or the valley. He thought. He wavered. He committed. He turned his face upwards, and trudged on. Would this vaulting ambition, which o'leaps itself, now fall on th'other?

Sunset was at 1600. 1330 was his limit: if he had not reached the trig point by then it would be folly to continue.

1245: the rescue box at Mickledore was reached, most contour lines had been crossed, but 500, mostly horizontal, metres along the ridge remained until the summit.

1300: the trig point was seen, the climb complete, the challenge won.

1320: the descent was well under way, the terrain was becoming better underfoot, the line of cairns marking the path was clearly visible, the valley opened up before him and the lake was spotted in the distance through the emerging clouds.

It was the wrong lake.

It was also the wrong path. The line of cairns, seen once as an invaluable guide through the mist, now became a curse - a turning somewhere, ill marked and never seen, had diverted Patrick down towards Wast Water, the opposite direction in which he wanted to go. Continuing was not an option: Wast Water was too far from the bunkhouse to walk. Going back was not an option: the time taken to re-ascend, find the correct path and continue from there formed a serious risk of a night hike. The only course of action, and it was not a pleasant one, was to cut across country, on a compass bearing, at the top of the highest peak in England, in the mist, to intersect with the intended footpath.

And thus it was that, fighting down a panicked heart rate, in something akin to a bear hunt, he set off on his mission. Check compass; 20 paces, check compass; 20 paces; avoid a crevice; check compass; 20 paces... The repetition over what was, in reality, a few hundred metres felt like an eternity. Thoughts of stone-lined footpaths and tarmacked roads seared through his mind as he trod the unforgiving shards that littered the plateau.

1340: Mickledore again, and the rescue box, and the familiar path down. And most of all, relief.

The rest of the walk, blessedly, went without incident, although the o'leaping of various rocks certainly resulted in a fall on th'other until, tired from the mental stress and physical exertion, he reached the relative safety of the road back to the bunkhouse and, sending a text to let his compatriots know he would be late, set a weary course for home.

This text, in light of the events later that evening, seemed a trifling irony.

Seb and Bronwen, early in the day, had set off on a walk very similar to the group from day 1 (Little Stand, Crinkle Crags, Bow Fell, Esk Pike, Scafell Pike, Scafell and Slight Side): an ambitious walk at the best of times, but doable in a day, and with a nominal end time of 1615. By 1730, they had not arrived at the bunkhouse, and it was pitch black outside. We were stepping out side to drive up the valley to look out for them on the roads and attempt to make contact by phone when, in the distance, we saw two bobbing lights.

They had decided, after some knee problems on the ridgelines, to take an easier, but longer, route down into the valley, and to cut off the final two peaks. From their walk. Not the mountain.

Day 7 - Thursday

After packing up quickly and tidying the bunkhouse we set off home. Bill, Alexis, Oliver and Bronwen stopped off to climb Harter Fell, during which time they saw a rare atmospheric phenomenon known as a 'Brocken Spectre' - for Bronwen, this was second in two days!

Patrick Taylor

Tyle Morgrug, 24-26 Jan 2020

After the usual chaos of squeezing people and possessions into cars, we headed off into the night. The amplitude of the topography increased, and its wavelength decreased, on each of the five motorways we took to the Brecon Beacons. BBC Cymru provided background babble, with no discernible theme other than having a chorus of welsh children singing whenever you least expected it, such as in the middle of what you thought was the news.

The convenience of a bunkhouse near a major road, the evocatively named head-of-the-valleys road, was countered by driving through an unpromising industrial estate. A small turn, over an old railway, and the road was a muddy lane – much more like a hillwalker’s normal roosting habitat. Our car took a scenic diversion to a farm, where we were barked at by a collie and beat a hasty retreat. Tyle Morgug, our destination, was hidden up an obstacle course of gates and speed bumps but was a welcome sight having already been warmed up and dealarmed by those who hadn’t joined in the massive stationary queue on the m5. The hut consisted of a cosy cottage, converted into a bunkhouse by bolting a tardis on the back, which provided plenty of space for everyone.

Saturday dawned reluctantly. Wales had laid on a carnival of cloud: sheets of stratocumuluses, cirques of cirrus, mountains of mist, houses of haze (?), acres of altocumulus. None of which could be seen due to the fortress of fog. After quite some planning, everyone concluded that the Brecon Beacons has only really got one ridgeline, and that every route went along it.

Those who went further down the planning-route and less down the mindless-determination-to-walk-up-the-biggest-thing-around-route realised that there wasn’t going to be any view and we were all going to get wet anyway, so they just walked out from the bunkhouse and stood under a waterfall.

The Brecon Beacons are made from Devonian-aged Old Red Sandstone, which showed ripples of some long lost tropical sea or river or something. A series of cwms was cut from this rock by glaciers to make a sharp north-facing escarpment. Unfortunately, my group were spared from a lecture on glacial geomorphology by the fog. This also hid the spectacular view over the middle bit of Wales which doesn’t really have any purpose but looks quite nice from a distance.

The wind was on the chilly side but not icy, just cold enough to switch off one’s fingers for a bit. It was fast though, providing an endless stream of fog to look at. The occasional sheep would briefly loom into view, the fog obscuring all scale, so that the sheep might be mistaken for something interesting. But we didn’t see anything interesting all day - the wildlife-list is as follows: 1) Raven (Corvus corax), 2) Sheep (Foglumpus aries).

We did see some humans trying to rescue a springer spaniel from halfway down a cliff, but we couldn’t actually see the dog because of fog. Oh, and we met a cow by the car at the end. And one of the other groups. Alfonso summed up how any sane person would feel about the walk: “I enjoyed the last 20 minutes”. Most, I think, however, enjoyed all of it. The evening was spent studying the gospels of Chris Townsend, planner extraordinaire; playing Rummikub; holding onto the hot stove handle; cooking some foglumpus intestines to celebrate a Scottish poet (one even more famous than Chris Townsend); drinking whiskey to celebrate Chris Townsend; and, for those of a more serious persuasion, going to A&E. Some of us (3) even thought about planning a walk for the next day, others (19) thought about going to a pub, a distillery and a dismantled railway. The first two for the sake of enjoyment, the latter because it guaranteed no hills.

Sunday dawned worse than Saturday – the waterfalls appeared to have escaped from their raviney confines, and overnight had bred vigorously, multiplying everywhere. Strangely the downpour didn’t encourage people to join the one hillwalk. With the bunkhouse tidy, we went off into the fogbyss. I assume the pub walkers survived, but have no idea, so I’ll talk about the deeply exciting county top of Carmarthenshire instead.

Located on the western edge of the Brecon Beacons, just north of the black mountain which isn’t part of the black mountains, Fan Foel (802m) is the highest point of a county which combines the pointlessness of mid-Wales with the inaccessibility of Pembrokeshire to such a remarkable extent that no-one has ever heard of it. Its highest point isn’t even a peak – it’s the shoulder of another hill.

Our walk started straight into the wind. At some points it stopped raining, at others it stopped drizzling but never both at once. After 2-3 km of bog-trotting on reasonably solid bog, we took a surprisingly well-made path up to a hill which is called Carmarthen Fan on the road atlas but had an even longer welsh name on the OS map. The top was foggy. We descended to the north, from foggy Breconshire into merely misty Carmarthenshire. After clinging to the summit, we continued north. Featureless fog-bog lead to a rather idyllic welsh farm, where we had tea and lunch. Blue sky appeared – most likely a mirage brought on by the sheer volume of water in the sky. A few miles of foresty tarmac, on which we saw one car and then we were at that car, which was where we had left it.

We three had a spacious drive back, reaching Cambridge after about 4 hours. We dumped club kit in the store-garage and went home to dry off.

Ben Tindal

Shropshire Hills Day Trip, 8th March 2020

Unsurprisingly considering it was a Sunday morning, less than half the party was at Churchill at the stated time of 7am for the 1st and only day trip of term. Nevertheless, all 11 of us arrived and set off for the hills in reasonable time, with reasonable weather. An uninspiring white sign informed us we were in Shropshire, and the more inspiring views of the Wrekin and further hills told us there was a good days walking in store.

Arriving at the designated meeting point in the Carding Mill Valley car park, hoping to have escaped the disruption caused by the Cambridge half marathon, we found there was in fact an athletic event of some description here as well. They appeared to be runners from local clubs preparing to start a race. The map was examined, routes were discussed, then we settled on everyone going in one large group on a fairly standard ‘climb the highest hill, walk along a ridge, descend and walk back through a valley’.

We set off, successfully avoiding an unnecessary ford after only a few minutes by spotting a sign pointing to a parallel path, and subsequently watching most of the runners miss this sign and run straight through. The runners soon left us behind, but not before we concluded that half of them were walking rather than running up the hill, and we worked our way slowly upwards, and then more quickly upwards at a waterfall, after a stop for the first group photo. After not too long, we found ourselves at the lofty height of 516m on top of Pole Bank, which gave us a good view over the surrounding countryside, in the few moments we weren’t being pelted by a sudden shower of almost horizontal hail (one member of the group suggested it would be more accurately called graupel). Summit achieved, we pressed on. The ridge ahead of us was sometimes rainy, sometimes sunny, and populated with sheep, horses, bikes and surprisingly cars, since our path along the Long Mynd ridge followed a road.

At this stage in a walk people’s thoughts, and then words start to drift towards food, specifically lunch, and when it would be. Luckily, just before we started our descent off the ridge the rain eased, shortly followed by blue sky in the west. Ten of us decided it was a good time for lunch, and one continued to walk down the hill and was out of sight for some time, before reappearing and informing us that he had been photographing sheep.

Full of food and buoyed on by the spectacular view across fields and sunlit hills we continued downwards, reaching the bottom of the valley that we would follow back to the carpark at Church Stretton. Most of the rest of the walk was along quiet country roads, with a short diversion on an undulating footpath and the final stretch through the village to add variety. We debated the best course of action in terms of getting dinner, and decided to return to the cars first and drive to the pub. Unfortunately, the first pub we went to couldn’t serve food because of a power cut earlier that day, but they recommended us an alternative, run by a friendly Greek woman. The food was good, and there was lots of it – exactly what we needed after a day out on the hills.

Trip List: Johanna F, Miriam G, Oliver Ne, Simon W, Ayesha L, Vivian K, Tyler L, Ralph B, Mayumi S, Rachel B, Afonso C

Ralph Battle

Cairngorms Trip, 15-20 Mar 2020

Our much-anticipated Easter vacation trip to the Cairngorms was sadly cut short for several participants due to circumstances beyond our control – but we were unbelievably lucky that it should have happened at all.

It began as you might expect: with 15 hillwalkers and their gear piling into 3 comically inadequately-sized cars and hitting the road North. Spirits were high, despite the discomfort of being entombed in the back seat for many hours by numerous rucksacks, winter hillwalking kit, bags of Tesco shopping and an obscene number of toilet rolls. Toby’s little red car struggled to cope with the load, crawling up hills at less than 10 miles an hour. Little did we know that we had made it out of Cambridge in the nick of time - that had we been a day later, we wouldn’t have made it to Scotland at all. Even as we made our way northwards, the news reached us that the University of Cambridge was asking all students to go home as soon as possible due to the escalating coronavirus outbreak – a bombshell that reduced several club members to tears.

We finally arrived at Muir Cottage, a comfortably furnished bunkhouse nestled in the beautiful wooded Dee valley, amidst dazzling stars and the glowing eyes of red deer caught in the headlights. Everyone quickly got down to business, unpacking enough food to feed a small army and planning routes for the next day.

Dawn revealed mature Caledonian pinewoods on all sides and glorious weather for our first day of walking. Six winter skills course participants – Patrick, Miriam, Michal, Oliver Ne, Oliver No, and Ellie – headed for the easily accessible snow slopes at Glenshee Ski Centre with their instructor Mike, while Paul F took Bill and Cameron off for a separate winter skills course. Meanwhile, everyone else made for the nearest Munro summit, Beinn Bhreac, which was still a sizeable walk in from the bunkhouse, but made for a fantastic first day, with a bit of crampon work required to reach the icy summit, and even some glissading on the way down.

That evening, everything changed. Simon had driven up to Braemar to get signal while everyone else relaxed by the wood-burning fire. When Simon returned grim-faced and asked for a private word with the trip leader, Mary, we all knew something was wrong, especially as Mary called first the safety officers and then the other drivers to join their discussion. Silence fell around the wood-burning stove. The tension was palpable as Mary finally gathered everyone together and announced that the government had just announced drastic measures to contain the COVID-19 outbreak, including banning all non-essential travel. Under these changed circumstances, Mary had no choice but to officially end the trip. As individuals, we could choose to leave or to stay on in an unofficial capacity. Simon had already decided to drive home to his parents the following morning, offering four car spaces to anyone who wished to join him, while the other two drivers, Bill and Toby, chose to stay for the remainder of the trip. After driving back to Braemar to phone family members, Mary, Cameron, Patrick and Tom decided to travel back to their families with Simon the next day. Everyone else decided to stay on for an unofficial trip, as there was no additional risk of catching the disease by staying three days longer in isolation in the Cairngorms. Shaken by the news, the only remaining thing to do was to open the keg (and several packets of biscuits) to drown our sorrows while working out what to do with the club kit. Meanwhile, Toby drove up the road to purchase shares in Netflix.

Tuesday morning was a subdued affair. Simon’s car departed into a frosty dawn shortly after 7am, taking with him four finalists whose last trip with CUHWC had just been cut abruptly short. Watching some of my closest friends in the club drive away to quarantine, with no idea when I would next see them, was nothing short of heartbreaking.

Nevertheless, a strong sense of stoicism helped us keep calm and carry on. The winter skills course, minus Patrick, set out for a day of navigation practice and Munro-bagging at the ski centre, while Heather and I set out for Derry Cairngorm, shortening the walk-in using two rather vintage mountain bikes borrowed from the bunkhouse. The weather was dazzling, with bright Highland light glancing off the River Dee as we ascended Derry Cairngorm in a howling gale. Making our way round the corrie towards Ben Macdui, the weather closed in and rapidly deteriorated into full-on whiteout conditions. Undeterred, perhaps foolishly, we pushed on to the summit, following a compass bearing for over 1km until we miraculously passed within five metres of the summit cairn, which was heaped with rime frost and just visible through the blizzard. Needless to say, we made it back down in one piece, a bit windswept and very thankful that our nav skills had held out. That night we bid farewell to Oliver No, who was off for more hillwalking adventures with his dad, and to most of the club kit, which went with him. Everyone enjoyed tucking into a well-earned pile of curry, followed by some banana bread that was supposed to be Mary’s birthday cake.

Wednesday had been set aside as a day of advanced winter skills training with Mike for old hands Mary, Cameron, Toby, Tom, and Bronwen, but as most of these had left, the course was opened to those who had just completed the basic course. In the end, virtually everyone came, including Oliver Neale as official photographer, leaving Ellie and Paul to bag Carn Bhac, a beautiful peak to the south of the bunkhouse. After an entertaining hour digging around in the snow to practice snow belays, Mike led us on a carefully navigated journey to bag Carn Aosda and Carn a’ Gheoidh. On the way we encountered some cross-country skiers, incredible sastrugi patterns in the snow, a mad fell runner, and several mountain hares which cleverly evaded Toby and Oliver’s cameras. Back in the Glenshee carpark, we received cryptic news from Cambridge that the University was shutting down completely in two days’ time.

Despite dealing with this further psychological blow, everyone enjoyed the best day yet on Thursday, with most people opting for a gentle stroll up the gorgeous Dee Valley. Paul set out solo to bag Beinn Bhreac, while Ellie, Heather and Bronwen took the bikes 12km up the valley to tackle Bheinn Bhrotain and Monadh Mór, two Munros in the heart of the Cairngorms. Striding through a remote glen surrounded by rock, ice and shining water, it was hard to believe that the world had fallen apart in the space of less than a week. Surrounded by the peace of the mountains, it was comforting to realise that nature carries on regardless, and that the hills will always be there, unchanged no matter what.

Friday morning dawned bright and frosty, and saw a flurry of frantic activity to pack up and clean the bunkhouse. We even fed the birds, and Ellie picked a bouquet of pine branches to put in Toby’s empty gin bottle to welcome the next guests. Packing nine people into the two cars, along with the remaining kit and several bags of rubbish, resulted in Oliver, Bronwen and Heather being quite literally buried alive in the back of Bill’s car until we reached Braemar and dumped the rubbish in someone’s wheelie bin.

Driving out over the Glenshee pass with the Lord of the Rings soundtrack blaring triumphantly from the speakers, we all felt grateful for having had a few days of solace in the hills before returning to a world that was changing beyond recognition. For too many of us, this trip had abruptly turned into our last, given that next term’s trips will almost certainly be cancelled. But if that is the case, what a special trip it was to end on. For Mary, Cameron, Patrick, Tom, myself, and so many others, our time with CUHWC has been unforgettable. Thank you to everyone who made it such a special time in our lives. We will be back!

Trip List: Mary M, Simon M, Cameron R, Bronwen F, Toby R, Paul F, Tom S, Miriam G, Oliver No, Patrick T, William C, Oliver Ne, Michael B, Ellie K, Heather C

Bronwen Fraser