Unofficial Trip Book Archive

A collection of trip book excerpts from the old club website

The Hillwalking Club Poem

Jane Bryden wrote this as an entry for the CUSU Societies Guide (The May Anthologies Version):

We're a hearty lot of Hillwalkers,
Oh yes we are
Spend a lot of time
Propping up the bar

Yet when we make an escape
From this flat land
We find the hills and climb them
A happy puffing band

At 4pm on Friday
At Churchill we appear
Jump in a minibus
To get to hills far from here

In blizzard or in sunshine
We pose for summit pics
So come and join the club
It's better than the flicks

Jane Bryden

An Elusive Candidate [RON] Writes...

Before the 2009 AGM, the President received the following unexpected email:

Dear Sir,

I am writing to give my utmost apologies to you and the Cambridge University Hillwalking Club, as I now find myself unable to attend this year's Annual General Meeting. For many years now I have been unfortunate enough to be otherwise occupied on the day, and was most disappointed to find that I am once again busy this year. My enthusiasm for joining the committee is still boundless, and once again I have been nominated for every committee position. Although I know my absence is a major part in not ever gaining a post, I wish to try a little harder this year by submitting the following speeches. If you could find someone to read them out in an appropriate style, I would be most grateful.

I beg you to vote for me, I've been in the club for ages, look at Dave: a young undergraduate, hardly been to the lakes, and Scottish - we really can't have that. Pity Kate wasn't allowed to stand - that would give me some real competition.

Meets Secretary:
I don't know why I still stand for this, I never get it and there's always someone better than me for the position, I hardly know any drivers, they come and go too quickly for me to keep track. Apart from Toby, everyone knows him.

Junior Treasurer:
Have you ever heard of me getting accounts wrong? I really good at counting: there's around 3 or 4 people standing against me, but I'm definitely the one for the job. I'll allow "Membership Services" all year round.

Social Secretary:
I afraid I'm not that social, I never really speak to that many people, but that's why I want the job - a great chance to meet everyone.

Safety Officer:
I love lugging those huge boxes around and buying excessive amounts of milk. And I've never had an accident on the hill. But maybe that's because I hardly get out these days. Is Tweed still the best jacket to wear?

Membership Secretary:
I've never really understood email, but I'm really keen to learn, not that I have that much time on my hands - there's always another committee I have to stand for...

In addition, could I ask you to vote on my behalf as follows,

President - Dave
Meets Secretary - Joe
Junior Treasurer - Caroline
Social Secretary - Bethan
Safety Officer - Bethan (can I vote for one person twice? I just like the name)
Membership Secretary - Tim


Re-Open Nominations

Chocolate Fridge Cake


  • 450g plain chocolate
  • 1/2 packet (225g) digestive biscuits
  • 100g margarine
  • 2 tbsp rum/brandy/whatever
  • (optional) 100g nuts/raisins/similar


  1. melt the chocolate and margarine
  2. bash the biscuits
  3. mix it all together and put it in the fridge for 1-2 hours at least
  4. cut up into pieces and store in a tin in the fridge
Thomas Wright

Hillwalkers' Self-Analysis Questionnaire

It's long overdue. You know you've been waiting for it. Here at last is the CUHWC Self-Analysis Questionnaire. Now you can find out what type of walker you are...

  1. Why did you join the CU Hillwalking Club?
    1. Because your Mum told you to join some societies
    2. Because you are a failed crag-rat, and got fed up with the CUMC
    3. Because you enjoy collecting train numbers - you call yourself a "railway enthusiast" - and you also do Physics
    4. Because it enables cheap & regular visits to your beloved hills
  2. As what do you see the purpose of hillwalking?
    1. To convince your parents that you're doing something worthwhile in Cambridge
    2. To get you from A to B - B being a rock face, normally
    3. To tick off the mountains in your book
    4. To enjoy the atmosphere of the hills; to get out of Cambridge and to gain spiritual solace
  3. On a walk, what are you wearing?
    1. Jeans, a T-shirt, and Granny's knitted gloves & jumper, as well as your Peter Storm waterproofs
    2. Rohan, Berghaus, Gore-Tex, etc. from head to toe, and axes, rope, crampons - in the middle of summer
    3. Corduroys, an anorak, and your college scarf
    4. Your tatty trackies (which you also wear in Cambridge), weather-worn fleece and faded leather boots - and, of course, your Club T-shirt
  4. How would you describe Sharp Edge on Blencathra?
    1. The most scary thing you've ever done, but even better to talk about afterwards
    2. Disappointing; a Grade I, not even a Diff. - why aren't there more HVS climbs in the Lake District?
    3. A long and difficult way to bag an important Wainwright
    4. A stimulating walk up a fascinating mountain
  5. How do you see Wainwright?
    1. The old bloke who wrote all those books that Mum & Dad have got at home
    2. An author of interesting guidebooks, but he walked on his own, didn't have the right equipment, and worst of all, couldn't even do Broad Stand!
    3. A blinding white light that everyone must follow
    4. A hypocrite, because he, like you, liked to have the hills to himself, but has encouraged all those tourists to your favourite mountains
  6. Which publications do you subscribe to?
    1. Country walking; well you don't really, but Dad does and he sends you articles on good walks you've done
    2. High; because you're a member of the BMC and get gear offers, new routes, and occasionally some hillwalking articles
    3. Motive Power Monthly; because it tells you which trains are out of service and which ones are being introduced
    4. Nothing; you can't capture the essence of the hills on paper (or, for that matter, on film)
  7. When on the hills, how do you prefer to be?
    1. With lots of people; you know walking in too small a group is dangerous, and anyway, you're not sure how to use a map and compass
    2. With one other person - on the other end of your rope
    3. Alone, because that's Wainwright's way
    4. Alone, because you need time to contemplate, dream and sift over life's problems on your own - the hills, after all, are your companions
  8. Why do you visit the top of a mountain?
    1. So that you can take a photo of yourself on the cairn, and show it to all your relations and your friends in College
    2. Because you have to - it's the only way to find the top of Blank Gully
    3. To tick it off in your book
    4. To enjoy the panoramic view (and to explain it to everyone else)
  9. What is enjoyable about the last long horseshoe walk you did?
    1. It was featured in this month's Country Walking
    2. You often encounter a variety of conditions, allowing you to show off all your new gear
    3. You can bag lots of mountains in one go
    4. It offers a ridge walk, airy views, a variety of stunning mountain and valley scenery, and a fulfilling day
  10. How fast do you walk?
    1. Slow; you have practised by walking to lectures, but now your feet are killing you!
    2. Fast; because it's boring until you get to the crags
    3. Fast; because there's lots of other peaks to do
    4. Slow; you want to savour your day out in the hills
  11. On your return from a walk, how do you feel?
    1. Knackered - where's the pub?
    2. Exhilarated; you pioneered a new scramble - HVS, maybe even E1 ...
    3. Knackered - but you did twelve Wainwrights
    4. Exhilarated - as you do after any day in the hills
  12. And finally, when you get back to Cambridge, what do you do?
    1. Phone your parents and tell them what a wonderful trip you had, and promise to send them copies of your photos
    2. Nip into Open Air to see if they had that new bit of gear you saw in Fisher's when you "popped in"
    3. Pore over your Wainwright guides, tick off the summits, and get back to that knotty Physics problem
    4. Get depressed (again), go around to see other like-minded hillwalkers, buy a Club T-shirt, and write wistfully in the Unofficial Trip Book looking toward future trips

The verdict - which category did you answer most often?

a. You are new to hillwalking, but your parents are very keen for you to get involved. You're very enthusiastic but rather naïve on the hills.

b. You are a crag rat! A rock jock! A gear freak! Possibly a Natsci, an engineer, or a geographer, you prefer grappling with rock rather than simple hillwalking, and like to think you are at the "top end" of the club, showing others how it's done, while boosting your ego (it got rather battered in CUMC). You see yourself, in fact, as a "mountaineer" - and one more likely to be found in the gear shop than in the pub.

c. You are a trainspotter! A peak-bagger! A list ticker! Very probably a Natsci (particularly a physicist), your best day out on the hills was when you did 12 boggy Wainwrights on a miserable day to complete your Central Fells.

d. The true hillwalker? You are moody and depressive, but love the lonely escapism of the hills (just as well, since you have no friends); you have no favourite walks. For you, it is just being in the mountains that counts.

(If you enjoyed this, see also Peter Bell's What Type of Club Member Are You?)

James Blake

Last Chance for an Epic

or, "From Bad to Worse"

We set off feeling optimistic. The sun was shining and we were in the mood for the first day's climbing of the summer. Much had been said of VS's and VDiff's, but as it was such an inspiring morning, VS it was to be.

The cynics among you may say we were doomed to fail - especially as "we" meant myself (Paulbob) and The Bearded One.

On the way to Cadair, it was so warm that there was discussion of shorts and sunglasses. It was to be short-lived.

Standing below the huge cliff reading the guidebook, I was somewhat awed by the scale and steepness, but the rock looked sound and dry, so we made our choice - Rib & Slab it was to be. We saw Tim & Jane setting off up their route beside us and there were shouts of encouragement. Neither of us turned around to look across to Dolgellau; the block clouds went unnoticed.

Toby drew the short straw and set off to lead the first pitch. In the shadow of the north-facing crag it was much colder than before. Soon I was shivering. It seemed, from below, to take an eternity before Toby had reached the first ledge.

"Climb when you're ready!" came the call. "Thank God," I thought, and with a return cry I set off anxiously up the pitch.

I soon found why my leader had taken so long - the pitch was steep and the rock all either swayed ominously in the wind or came off in my hand. Undeterred, I struggled skyward.

It began to snow. "Odd," I thought, but decided it was just a quick flurry. I reached Toby and saw the next pitch above him; it was even steeper than the last one. Struggling to climb this grade with my rucksack on, my progress was soon halted by the steep slab. My confidence was rapidly disappearing.

Then it began to really snow. It began to settle on the rock. "Bugger this for a game of soldiers," thought I, and retreated to the belay ledge. After a brief review of progress and prospects, we discovered that these were 'bad' and 'worse' respectively.

Down was the best option. One problem - how? There appeared to be nothing at all solid enough to abseil off.

Panic set in. Peering across, I could see a gully I thought we could get down if we could get across to it.

Gingerly we traversed across, using mainly blind faith as protection. Most of the holds succumbed to gravity moments after using them, and everything else seemed to consist of a slippery mixture of mud and grass. I began to pray, but The Bearded One had confidence. We reached the gully, or at least I think we did - I couldn't feel various parts of my anatomy but could only presume they were still attached.

A life-giving chocolate stop and a perilous scree-run saw us safely on terra firma, colder, wetter and much much more scared than two hours previously when we set off in blissful ignorance up the pitch.

Somewhere on the god-forsaken crag I vowed to sell my climbing gear and join the Ramblers Association.

Let that be a lesson to you all.

Paul Palfreyman

MWiS: Mountain Withdrawal Syndrome

Symptoms include (listed from mild to severe):

  • Feeling the need to see land that rises above tree top height
  • Annoyance that the tallest thing around is either trees or buildings
  • Needing to socialise with other sufferers
  • Procrastination from work to think about mountains (ie gear research, buying maps/guidebooks)
  • Ignoring work (and social events) in order to go on a weekend trips to mountains
  • Wearing outdoor gear around town (ie Rab jackets, ice axes)
  • Bizarre desire to go indoor climbing
  • Excessive desire to feel cold, get wet, and be blown about all day, every day
  • Not wearing hillwalking gear around town to simulate weather found on a mountain (ie no waterproofs / fleeces)
  • Agreeing to organise other sufferers relief from symptoms or entire year (ie CUHWC President)
  • Organisation / participation in 'crazy' trips during holidays. 'Crazy' is defined as being well beyond current experience, so for some people, scrambling in Snowdonia counts. For long term sufferers that have continually organised 'crazy' trips and survived, winter climbing and unclimbed 6000m peaks may be more (in)appropriate.

Most symptoms are harmless except the most extreme, people suffering to this degree should be very careful about what they agree to do outside term time.


  • Normally caused by spending too long in a very flat place.
  • Compounded by the knowledge of having to stay in said flat place for most of the next few years.


  • Discussing trips past, present and future with friends (Relief lasts less than 24hrs)
  • Day trip to climbing wall (lasts 3-4 days)
  • Going on weekend trip (lasts 7-10 days)
  • Week long holiday trip (lasts 14-21 days)
  • Entire summer outdoors (lasts 28 days maximum)
  • Permanent relief will only be found by living closer to mountains. Preferable to see them from work and/or bedroom window. Access to them should be available every weekend, with possible evenings access even better. The bigger the mountains the better.

Observations of a Faffologist

Breakfast Faff
Time spent arguing about who's cooking what for breakfast, instead of preparing for the day's trip.

Car Faff
Time spent moving cars or people around which seems sensible and necessary, but leaves you wondering if there wasn't an easier way to do it.

Initial Faff
The time for everyone to put on various boots, gaiters, waterproofs, fleeces, etc. after arriving at the start point.

First Faff
Corollary to 'Initial Faff' where everybody walks a short distance then decided they are too cold/hot/wet/dry and reverses all the decisions made 15 minutes previously. See picture.

Photo Faff
A relay race of people with camera taking multiple similar group or scenery photographs, much to everyone else's annoyance.

Lunch Faff
Another faff takes sufficiently long that the others waiting decide to eat their lunch.

Lunch Faff 2
If people don't finish, this can occur twice.

Map Faff
One or more group members stop to play with maps and compasses, whilst everyone else repeatedly asks 'are we lost?'

Rope Faff
Unpacking your new rope from the backpack and offering to belay/haul/lift/abseil people up or down even the most trivial rock faces or outcrops.

A short term faff which can be completed without stopping the group - e.g. gloves.

An advanced microfaff which is performed without even stopping yourself.

A prolonged rest for all manner of gear adjustments, food, tea, etc..

Chain Faff
Where several people decide to faff one after another, causing gratuitous delay.

Terminal Faff
A faff which lasts so long the group decides to head to the nearest pub or tea room instead of completing the route. Common after prolonged life-endangering scrambles.

Fatal Faff
Poorly timed faffing which results in death through falling or exposure.

Cluster Faff
A faff for all the family, where everyone finds something to do.

Chronicler's Faff
Hours spent writing more illegible [somethings] in the trip book.

Rob McQueen

Pantheonic Advice: "I don't mean to interfere but..."

A Compendium of Helpful Advice for CUHWC Presidents

Alex Tuck (President 2006-07) to DC (President 2007)

Essential advice contained within.

I don't mean to interfere, but (i) I feel that it's about time I should, and (ii) after spending the morning researching Paramo jackets and Snowdonia scrambles for the trip, and taking part in online competitions to win Nikwax products, I can't seem to bring myself to do any work...

Firstly, you're probably in the middle of booking bunkhouses for next year (and if not, why not?). I think that a trip to Long Sleddale would be in order for the start of Michaelmas. It has superb access (only 6 miles along a single track road). Furthermore, it is home to those well known peaks, "Grey Crag" and "Tarn Crag", with dizzying heights of nearly 700m, which should attract lots of new members (especially those wanting to experience some "proper mountaineering"). It's essential to go somewhere that people have heard of before for the first trip - anywhere too obscure and you risk people thinking our trips are boring. Admittedly, after 10 minutes searching on the map, I haven't managed to find a nearby pub (or bunkhouse) - but I suspect this is just an omission on the Ordnance Survey's part.

For the middle trip of Michaelmas, you need something REALLY good - something to persuade new members that going away every other weekend won't destroy their chances of getting a degree (or to make them think it's worth it). And it has to appeal to regulars, who won't believe you when you tell them that mid-Wales contains the undiscovered Alps of the UK. Also, as this trip's generally smaller than the first trip of Michaelmas, you can afford to go somewhere that doesn't have a massive bunkhouse. And finally, I'd like to stop off at the Stewart R Cunningham Outdoor Centre in Betws-y-Coed, as their new Paramo range should have come in by then. So, I think we should take the opportunity, while there's no café there, to camp on the top of Snowdon. This offers superb walking from the door, with a pleasant stroll from the car park on arrival. Also, we could offer the trip at a reduced fee on the assumption that many new members will be put off by the walk-in and go home (so won't need accommodation, club stores or return transport).

And after these two little gems, the final trip of Michaelmas is going to be tough. In fact - you may as well give up before you start. We don't need another club trip - what we do need, is a club-funded backpacking trip to Wasdale to let ex-presidents and ex-meets secs finish bagging the surrounding fells. While there is a youth hostel nearby, as the trip is going to be pretty small you're probably better off booking a couple of rooms in the nearest five star hotel (no point throwing club money away on unused beds).

Secondly, I feel it only right I should comment on the recent debate about oversubscribed trips. So I thought of an easy way to treble trip capacity - we have three sleeping shifts on each trip! The first is 11pm-7am, and is obviously reserved for drivers. Anyone only wanting to walk until 7am can sleep in the second shift (7am to 3pm), and all baggers/energetic people can go on a longer walk, coming back to sleep from 3pm-11pm before going back out walking again. This offers several advantages over people sleeping standing up or being stacked on top of each other - the main one being that we would be quite legitimate in not breaking any bunkhouse rules.

With all this space available on trips, you could put into action phase III of my plan - a nationwide TV ad campaign to raise awareness of CUHWC. We could expand from our current triangular-based strategy (CUHWC, CUHWC-Oxford and CUHWC-Colorado), putting in hostile takeover bids for all other university walking clubs in the UK! Once we've amassed sufficient numbers, we could then buy up all of the national parks, and charge members of the public a hefty entrance fee, thus funding our walking trips. If you think this is a bit too far-fetched, you could probably omit Northern Ireland.

Anyway, you're probably desperate to put all of these ideas into action now, so I won't keep you much longer. Just to say that if you're thinking of offering Horlicks on club trips, you might also want to reconsider my suggestions of club ice-cream, club chocolate, club Trail mix, club chocolate coated raisins, club freshly ground coffee, and club hens to provide fresh eggs.

See you tomorrow,


DC (President 2007) to Lucy Wright (President 2007-08)

Dear Lucy…
I don't mean to interfere but
Which fool booked the Plynlimon hut?
It's in mid-Wales, for God's sake,
With nowt there but a bog and a lake.
Ah, sorry - oops. I'd better retract that carefully
As the author of that booking...might just have been me.
Now then, what's going on here?
From my perspective I wish to make it clear
That I expect membership for free,
With complimentary cake and plenty of teeeeaaaaaa.
But on issues of sign-up I have nothing to say
For I know the others will get carried away.
Issues of keenness - relative? absolute?
Are as confusing to me as the ablative absolute.
Though there is one small thing not to be ignored
- that the Club really ought to get a sign-up clipboard.

Oh great Pantheon above, is this a worthy submission
Of coursework for my possible admission?

Lucy Wright (President 2007-08) to Simon Taylor (President 2008-09)

Dear Simon...

I don't mean to interfere but, well, I doo
As I fear for the life of Claudia the coo
She knows many songs, but that's not much use
When she's been left behind in the back of a bus
Bring her back soon, and what do you know?
She may woo our Ben in his new paramo!
Though hope for the offspring is slim, I'm aware,
For who'd want the child of a cow and a bear?

As for advice, I suggest you move fast
In the race to book huts you don't want to be last.
Those Oxford Hillwalkers are lean and mean,
But first they must wade through paperwork reams.
So there is a chance, if you hasten to call
That we may return, perhaps in the fall*,
To that favourite of mine, high up on the fell
Above Coniston, where the miners did dwell.

As president past, some advice I must give
So that the Club may continue to live.
DC had some wisdom which I failed to heed
Though I always intended, I didn't succeed
In providing the Club with more useful gear-
A clipboard for sign-up: what a good idea!
(Perhaps not so vital as I first let on,
But I do hope for entry to the great Pantheon)

I fear now my poem, whose lines fail to scan
Is testing your patience and attention span
So I'll stop there.


* Apologies for the Americanism. "Autumn" wouldn't rhyme.

Dave Farrow (President 2009-10) to Jo Smith (President 2010-11)

I don’t mean to interfere but,
Have you ever thought what to do,
with the problem of membership price?
I'm afraid that I don't have a clue
So I can't offer you any advice

You should book the bunkhouses soon,
Because in my year the Michaelmas trips
aligned with a great big full moon
to help avoid any night time slips

Have you made up your mind,
with regard to hillwalking meets,
on mountaineers and pre-signed
duffers, and provision of club sweets?

Good luck for the coming year,


Jo Smith (President 2010-11) to Matthew Graham (President 2011-12)

I don’t mean to interfere but…
...I confess I've been feeling somewhat guilty this past week
[Besides, writing this is the only way to get into the ultimate clique!]
In case you got the wrong idea, so I'll clarify a bit more -
Though I think you're a sensible chap, one can't be too sure...

I told you at the Annual Dinner what you should do this year.
But weekends in Scotland and abroad are, I fear,
Slightly ambitious, in hindsight. And I don't really recommend
Losing bunkhouse keys (or freshers), or actually being EGM-ed.

As for a club PhD - well, it would be stunning
But to be honest I doubt you'd get any funding
(The BMC grants for club newsletters won't cover the fee).
Instead, why not write an article for High Society?

So anyway, I just wanted to make sure, before I leave you to it,
That you won't take me seriously and actually do it.
Though I do have one real piece of advice, which I hope will help:
You don't have to do all the washing up yourself!

Andrew Williamson (President 2012-13) to Vicky Ward (President 2013-14)

Dear Ms President,
I don’t mean to interfere but…

I have noticed the website’s out of date,
And the minibus crash was far from great.
A course in using Markdown might be sense:
You’ve made more than one typographic offence.
I see we’re going back to the White Peak,
A location that’s questionably unique.
Sadly, there isn’t a lot for me to bag there.
And, on that note, can we go back to Stair?
As Hobcarton End is on my bagging list,
One of the few Nuttalls I carelessly missed.
A holiday trip to the Mournes I’d recommend,
And it’s surely a decision you can defend?
I’d sort this sooner rather than later,
Though it’s not as if I’m Club dictator.
The loss of my title is sad – nothing less –
But I wouldn’t want you under any stress.
So if you need any help, I’m very trusty,
Provided I get a pre-sign for Dolgellau.

Is the above ample for me to be allowed
A place in the revered Pantheonic crowd?

Mr Andrew Williamson
Ex-CUHWC President

Vicky Ward (President 2013-14) to Tom Leach (President 2014-15)

I bet you’d thought I’d forgot
That I’d leave my recommendations to rot
Alas not true
I was just letting my thoughts accrue

let me suggest
The creation of a club crest
Of course in the centre is the cow
For we have existed for quite long now
Longer than many a college
25 years in my knowledge

We should go to Tranearth
For what its worth
“Why” you cry?
“Why should I give it a try?”
Point of principle
We need to prove invincible
For 3 different trips I tried to book
But for all weekends the hut was took
However, other clubs have succeeded
Where we lay defeated
UEA went this year
Surely we are more than their peer?
From now I declare
While we have a bit of cash spare
We should book all Lake District huts
Before this opportunity shuts
So that we hold ultimate position of power
Under which all clubs will cower

So remember remember the fifth of November
Some proposed advice not rot

Some Recollections of an Addict

Foreigners rightly express surprise that the British Isles contain mountains. For sure, we have some moorland hills; anyone who loves the North of England knows the particular gentle yet uncompromising appeal of the Pennines and their offshoots, The damp freshness of a Derbyshire winter morning, looking across from above Whaley Bridge to Rushop Edge; or the awesome experience of tramping through a snowy dawn on Bleaklow - these are unforgettable. In the Lake District there are fells, miniature mountains in a uniquely compact landscape, complete with crags, waterfalls, boulderfields and valleys. Who can deny the allure of Borrowdale in May - or doubt that someone, at least, derives a particular pleasure from running across Kirk Fell in sunny late December, or swimming in Sty Head Tarn in July? On the Scafell massif, there is perhaps a true sense of mountain: there is a profusion of rock, plunging drops, and, in a hard winter, some ice. Yet the summit of Scafell Pike, the highest point in England, can be reached by any lightly-laden fit individual in less than one hour from the safety of a public road. This observation applies equally to all the high summits of North Wales, and of Ireland, without denying the rugged beauty of, say, Snowdon, or Macgillycuddy's Reeks, Undoubtedly it is in Scotland that Britain's mountains are to be found, and what a choice! Here is genuine wilderness by any standards, mountains of character reached only by long days and often nights in the open. I remember looking from the summit of Carn Dearg, the furthest point of a long walk from the A86 near Loch Laggan, towards the massive bulk of the Ben Alder plateau in the empty interior of the Central Highlands, still carrying great swathes of snow in mid-June; how I missed my camera then! And walking along the crest of the long ridge from Mullach na Dheirgain, many miles from civilisation, towards the remote high turrets of the complex peak Sgùrr nan Ceathreamhnan, deep in the hinterland between Glen Affric and Glen Elchaig. And descending from Sgùrr na Lapaich into Glen Strathfarrar amid ancient mighty conifers on the third day of a long horseshoe around Loch Monar.

I cannot omit a recollection of the incomparable Fisherfield Forest, lying between the Torridon giants and the magnificent rock edifice of An Teallach. I have traversed this area three times. On the first occasion I was an exhausted fifteen-year-old, only too glad to be given a rest day high up in Gleann na Muice while stronger members of a forty-strong school party climbed Munros and sunbathed for hours on the summits. Four years later I was a determined Munro bagger, looping all six of them alone with a night at Shenavall bothy and a trackless day of 32km and 2600m, reaching the car at 10.30pm while Northern Scotland's semi-permanent summer sunlight still shone strongly. The views from A' Mhaighdean, claimed by some as the most remote Munro and Britain's best viewpoint, had mad a great impression: westwards the Fionn Loch stretches under steep cliffs into thousands of tiny pools beyond the eye's reach; and to the south, mysterious lochans are locked in between strange ridges. Last April I paid my most recent visit, with company, all lugging very heavy packs full of goodies to eat at the bothy, which nestles under An Teallach's sweeping southern slopes in Strath na Sealga. There is a very fine view up to Beinn Dearg Mhòr, not quite a Munro. We began the day in the traditional manner by wading the river and ascending the steep slopes of Beinn a' Claidheimh. Paul and Ian left me behind on the climb and at the top I decided to take the short-cut direct to A' Mhaighdean with David, who was, unlike myself, happy to profess a lack of fitness. Recent heavy spring snowfalls had transformed the mountains and everywhere there was deep wet snow to struggle through. Watching Paul and Ian romp down towards the bealach, I was stung by the possibility of missing an unmissable day of sun and snow, and I had to do my best to run after them. The three of us zoomed over Sgùrr Ban, Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair and Beinn Tarsuinn, using protruding boulders like stepping stones, and sharing the trail-breaking when there were none. Ian led the 400m ascent to A' Mhaighdean at a brutal pace, and at the top it took fully twenty minutes to slow my breathing to something like a normal rate. We relaxed, ate and drank, and absorbed the stupendous scene, That day was a wonderful combination of environment and exercise: from the last peak, Ruadh Stac Mòr, there was an undeclared war to be the first one back to the bothy, some 10km distant. I began to walk very quickly down the stalking track into Gleann na Muice, occasionally jogging. Turning occasionally, I saw Ian lumbering in his plastic boots across short-cuts behind me. In the glen, he turned off the path early; a tactical error! He had disappeared into the bog when I approached the first river crossing. Over my shoulder I was shocked to see Paul surreptitiously jogging to catch me up. There was nothing for it bit to stride straight into the river, which proved to be nearly waist-deep. Fortunately, twenty minutes later I managed to reach the bothy in first place - a little sweet revenge for the day's beginning!

In winter, travelling in the remote Scottish mountains becomes a very serious proposition. The days are short, the nights are very long, and the weather is sometimes atrocious. The terrain is much more challenging: some types of snow make progress very exhausting; distinctly layered and wind-compacted snow is avalanche-prone; and summer's rocky scramble becomes winter's technical mixed climb. In many areas, the high corries collect enough snow and ice to last almost all the way through summer. It is necessary to be fit and well-equipped with appropriate clothing, bivouac gear and food, and competent with ice-axe and crampons. Late March is a good time for an introduction to winter conditions, because the days are longer; December and early January are usually too early for sufficient snow to have accumulated. Recently I experienced, for the first time, a Scottish February. We headed for what could be regarded as the headquarters of the mountains of the British Isles. The Cairngorms occupy an area in the Northeast Highlands approximately 30km square and possess some special geographical features that in combination can produce a truly fearsome environment. Their position in the east of Scotland ensures a more rapid lapse rate (fall-off of temperature with altitude) than obtains in the west, and so since they consist of most of the highest ground in the country, they also have the coldest climate, essentially an arctic one: the next ice-age begins here. The Cairngorms comprise vast plateaux with sudden edges dropping into sheer-walled corries, and so the wind has every chance to reach frightening speeds, and to sculpt large cornices that disguise the dangerous edges. Although Skye and Glen Coe harbour mountains more magnificently Alpine in character, with much more technical rock, they do not experience a Cairngorm winter.

We left the car in the skier's car-park at Coire Cas at 10 o'clock, Sunday morning. There was some blustery rain and some sunshine. We began a relaxed ascent of the ski-slopes, pausing for some desultory practice of ice-axe arrests. From the shelter behind the Ptarmigan restaurant (1800m), where we huddled chewing dates and chocolate in amused view of the skiers cosy inside their ridiculous pink and yellow costumes, we began the final climb to the summit of Cairn Gorm, the fourth highest summit in the range at 1245m. This bitter staggering struggle with the wind did not bode well for the remainder of the day. But at the top, the wind seemed to drop, and the clouds rolled away to reveal the long miles of the central plateau, a whiteness relieved only by the barns (tors) on the summit of Beinn Mheadhoin. We watched Cairn Gorm's automatic weather station whir into action, donned crampons for the hard snows of the plateau, and strolled off to the west. We rated the wind at a fairly constant 50mph. Soon disaster struck: Richard's Karrimat was wrenched from his rucksack and blew away down into Coire Domhain. So dropping rucksack and axe, he charged off after it, while Ian and Paul (yes, those two again) and I enjoyed a break and the great panoramic views. Unfortunately for Richard, our break was extended somewhat when the wind blew his rucksack into the corrie too - another rapid descent and tiring reascent were needed; by this time, the Karrimat had probably reached the Shelter Stone, many hundreds of metres below! At last, we set off towards Ben Macdui. The snow had an awkward crust: you could lever off great sheets of it, but newer be sure whether or not it would hold the next footstep. We wound our slow way across the expanse. Lochans at the head of the Feith Buidhe had totally disappeared under the white. The clouds descended at length, and I led the final km or two in whiteout and a heavy crosswind towards the second highest point in Scotland, 1309m. There was now a choice: either east to the Hutchinson hut in Coire Etchachan, or west to the bothy in the Garbh Choire. Both of these were unknowns: the latter was chosen as an ideal base to climb the remaining 4000ft Munros which top the western plateau. Very numb in the wind, we were glad to lose height rapidly into the Lairig Ghru, the deep glacial trough dividing the central plateau and today's expedition from the western Cairngorms. The descent provided, at least for me, a 500m bum-slide and several bruises! We crossed the Dee, and tramped into the Garbh Choire through deep soft snow, alarmed at last to discover the bothy to be little more than a pile of stones; although, fortunately, they concealed an iron-framed hut about 2m cube. It was enough to admire the moonlit twilight before retiring for a heavy intake of pasta with soup and gruyere, and Cadbury's chocolate break. We were asleep well before 9 o'clock.

The wind had dropped during the night, and we left the bothy with a fine Monday morning feeling. We had our first opportunity to really test crampons, crunching up to Coire an Lochan Uaine: what a superb feeling when the points bite and the steep smooth ascent rolls away cleanly! halting at the lip at 900m, we chose the right-hand arm of the corrie: the northeast ridge of the Angel's Peak, a 4000ft Top of Cairn Toul. The map showed a uniformly steep knife-edge with the summit immediately at the top; this looked too good to miss. The adrenaline came very near the end: there had been an awkward, rocky bulge a little lower, but now came a larger barrier; it was necessary to lean against the rock while traversing to the right on front points, and then to ascend a few feet of very exposed 60° or 70° snow before a curving, lightly corniced ridge led to the summit. Paul followed me through this section without complaint, but absolutely refused to pose for a photo above the cornice. He did, however, call down from the top with news of a spectacular view, and, leaving my rucksack pinned to the slope with my ice-axe, I scampered to the top, only to find the clouds closing in again. Seen, cries could be heard from below: it seemed that Richard was stuck in the tricky section. Gloveless and clutching only my camera, I had to descend to the sack and axe, and after cruelly obtaining a photo of Richard in a desperate position, climbed lower, facing into the slope, hands freezing. After a lot of hesitation and encouragement, we were all at the summit. Cairn Toul itself lazily emerged from the mist to the south; Braeriach to the north remained stubbornly covered. Gradually recovering from the day's first excitement, we walked around the corrie rim to Cairn Toul (1291m), which was again clouded over. Now came Ian's speciality: navigation in cloud for several kilometres across a featureless plateau, with few contours, to a summit, Braeriach, perched on its very edge. This was for me a mindless tramp, automatically treading directly in Ian's footprints, trusting that he wouldn't lead us through a cornice. At one stage, we paused while Richard had the dubious pleasure of a notable first: defecation at 400ft! Finally we ascended the final gentle slope, and simultaneously the clouds lifted; the snow turned gold, and Braeriach's summit (1296m) lay only a few metres away. There appeared colossal views with lighting and cloud structure in rapid and continuous flux. Cairn Toul and the Angel's Peak topped out the huge bowl of Coire an Lochan Uaine; Carn a' Mhaim guarded the Dee's progress down the many miles towards Braemar; Cairn Gorm showed a distant dome; and nearer at hand, the complex ripples and flutings of Braeriach's edge were lit in black and gold by a low southwestern sun. Mountains marched away to the northwest. Reluctantly, as the cloud rolled slowly in again, we made our short way to the east, and, pulling on slippery overtrousers and removing crampons, slid all the way to the base of Coire Bhrocain, very well pleased with a conquest of the second, third, fourth and fifth highest Munros. There remained only one thing more to complete a perfect winter expedition: while Ian and Richard descended 1km to the bothy to retrieve the rest of our gear, at 3pm Paul and I began to dig a snow-cave with our ice-axes in the side of a huge drift near the lip of the corrie. Cliffs towered above, cut through by spectacular snow gullies, and short walks in between bouts of digging revealed Cairn Toul and Ben Macdui lit by the late sun. After two hours, Ian arrived with the snow shovel, and progress speeded. We took turns, on the principle that the coldest man should be allowed to dig. It was 8 o'clock, however, before I was adding the finishing touches in a furious final flurry of action. We were all cold and wet, and only too glad to slide down into the 2m-long trench leading into the drift where two-man bunks had been cut either side. After cooking, a late discovery of some pairs of dry socks in my rucksack made the prospect of sleep immeasurably more attractive. Curling up, fully clothed in sleeping bags and survival bags, we tried to feel warm; moonlight flooded in from outside. In the morning, it was raining. The novelty of a 3200ft bivouac had quite worn off. We set out at once to traverse the Lairig Ghru, halting once to stuff down some dried apricots. After a final pause in the Sinclair hut, there was a rapid soaking march over the Chalamain Gap and a hillside streaming with meltwater, to reach the car at midday. A few yellow and pink skiers were trying to ignore the rain. Flat old Cambridge was reached at midnight.

Matt Bramley, 1991

The Alternative Constitution

Michael Fordham's Annual Dinner Speech

Cambridge University Hillwalking Club is a mighty institution,
Though I think the time has come to change the constitution.
So hear these new additions, while you drink your wine,
Though you must excuse the most atrocious rhyme.

The club's membership we first look to,
Especially the subjects that they do.
Engineers and Mathmos, Natscis and Medics,
Might be in the club endemic,
But a few of a different brand,
Can be found to lend a hand.
'What is this?' I hear you say,
'An arts student? In the club today?'
Before you know it they'll be everywhere,
With feet on the fells but their thoughts in the air.

Safety must be of high import,
Lest we get ourselves in court,
But if a group should come back late,
Probably led by Bell and Speight,
The only thing you need to yearn,
Is that at least eighty percent return.
And when they're back you needn't frown,
Provided they don't burn the bunkhouse down.

So now we turn to another thing,
Namely the matter of the songs we sing.
For I Am Cow is now a tradition,
Despite some members' inhibition.
But other words are sung with some elation,
Most frequently under inebriation,
The Gnu song followed by some Queen,
And then those words of Don McLean.

Finally, to sum it up, we need but quickly say,
That when we're gathered, in a hut, on some awful day,
That there is something, quite maddening, for which I can not take the blame,
Oh shit, oh bugger, oh bloody hell: I've gone and lost the game.

Michael Fordham

The Hillwalkers' Lexicon

Here is the official definition of hillwalking and scrambling terms, to translate the often confusing and incomprehensible waffle that flows from the mouths of the hillwalkers.

Author: Sarah Hammond (and others).

"It's hard work, this"
This is absolutely knackering.
"I haven't been hillwalking/scrambling for a while"
This is more knackering/frightening than I remember. Should have stayed at home.
"I've found a stream to fill up my water bottle"
I've fallen into the stream/river/tarn.
"This scramble is a bit damp"
There is a small waterfall flowing down the scramble; all the handholds are wet and it's scary.
"It's a bit damp"
It's chucking it down with rain and I'm absolutely soaked.
"This route is a bit interesting"
This is very scary and I'm very scared.
"I want my mum"
Actually, I don't want my mum, because she would be more frightened than I am, more stuck, and fuming that I was doing this anyway. But I do want some help, sympathy and advice.
"I want a double whisky"
I am scared; I want something to calm my nerves. When does the scary bit end?
"Strenuously uphill"
I need an hour's sleep at the top.
"My feet hurt"
I have huge blisters all over my feet, and my heels are glowing so red that they could supply the National Grid for a week.
"What a good view!"
The mist has suddenly cleared; we can see where we are - and there's a huge drop in front of us.

The History of the CU Hillwalking Club

As told by Pete Nellist

Being the last surviving[*] founding member of the Club, it is my duty to put in ink [or in bytes -TMS] the early history of this rabble of social misfits which calls itself a club. Now, being a founder member means that I am exceptionally old, and age screws up the memory so that it becomes harder to... sorry, what was I talking about? Oh yes, this history will be at worst complete fiction, and at best wildly inaccurate - any resemblance between this waffle and the truth is entirely accidental.

[*] by surviving, I mean still left in Cambridge.

The Start

in 1352, the then King, Edward the Unprotected, decreed that "a club be established in Cambridge for the purpose of masochistic pursuits in mountainous territory." And so it came about that the club was set up.

The more astute among you may well doubt this story. You're absolutely right; it's complete rubbish! Actually, what happened is as follows:

At the start of the Michaelmas term 1988 (my first year), a stall was taken at the Freshers' Fair by a young chap called Luke Wilde. He was gathering the names of people interested in starting a hillwalking club, to bridge the gap between the Mountaineering Club (who like to dangle by their fingernails while wearing a loud pair of tights) and the Rambling Club (who often rope up for an expedition to Grantchester). He collected hundreds of names, and then thought about having to pigeonhole them all. Wandering aimlessly around Cambridge was not amongst his hobbies, so he took the easy option and told each college to organise their own clubs on a collegiate basis.

However, apathy took control and nothing happened - except in one particularly happening college, called St. John's, where all the really trendy dudes hang out (guess which college I'm at). A bloke called Simon Theobald was president of the St. John's Mountaineering Club. He started running day trips, mainly to the Peak District. These trips were open to any members of any college, and were extremely popular (one reason was that half the female population of the university was in love with him - he was a particularly happening dude). He started to publicise his trips under the title of the Cambridge University Hillwalking Club (though it didn't actually exist officially).

It was obvious, by the end of the academic year, that the Club was viable, so a decision was made to set it up as an official University Club. Sometime in May 1989, an AGM was held at which the first committee was elected. The committee were Dave Barber (President), Luke Wilde (Meets Secretary), Mo Wilson (Treasurer) and Maria somebody-or-other (Social Secretary - but we never actually saw her again!). The AGM was followed by a punt trip, during which the President ended up in the river. I feel it is very important that these ancient traditions are kept alive (I hope you can swim!) Thus the club started, with trips in much the same manner as they are now.

In February 1990, the committee decided to have an AGM (even though it was only six months since the last one) so that they could all resign. So a new committee was elected, consisting of Mo Wilson (President), Me [Pete Nellist] (Treasurer), and Mark Packer (Social Secretary). A committee of only three people. It was tough, and we worked long & hard (sympathy please), but somehow we pulled through for a whole year until the next group of nutters took over. They were Nick Spedding (President), Mark Roberts (Meets Secretary), Stuart Scott-Goldstone (Treasurer), and Sarah Danes (Social Secretary). And so on to the present day with the crowd we elected earlier this year (1992), so I'm going to shut up!

Pete Nellist, October 1992

Luke Wilde contacted the Webmaster in 1998 with the following:

Being rather sad and bored this evening, I decided to do a search on my name (egotist) to see if there is any other Luke Wilde out there. The first response was Pete Nellist's history of the CUHWC and yes there was a Luke Wilde out there - only it was me. I have such a bad memory (too much alcohol in the intervening years no doubt) I really can't be sure whether that's how it happened or not - although I do recall that Simon had some cash from the college and events started at St. John's before we got going on a Cambridge-wide footing. I certainly recall some sizable trips - coach loads to Derbyshire, three minibuses to North Wales in that first year.

I'm still in contact with Dave Barber, off and on and expecting him to visit me in Geneva in the next few weeks - most of my consulting work is in Geneva, terrible shame being so close to the Alps!

Please pass on my best wishes to the Committee. Glad to see the 'gap' I spotted in the club market is still flourishing.

Luke Wilde

What Type of Club Member Are You?

Having worked your way carefully through the Hillwalker's Self-Analysis Questionnaire, you've determined what kind of hillwalker you are. But one thing remains unresolved: how do you fit into that mighty institution, the Cambridge University Hillwalking Club? What is your future in the Club? Is it time to move on? A few simple questions will help you find the answer...

Any similarity to the possible responses of actual Club members, either active or duffer, is purely coincidental.

  1. It's the beginning of the academic year, and the evening of the Club squash. Do you:
    1. Fail to make it due to a college drinking society initiation that night. A couple of days later, frantically email the President demanding a space on the Edale trip.
    2. Come along dutifully, cheque book in hand, half an hour before the advertised start. When the talk begins, sit in the front row, gaping at the fantastic slide-show of appetite-whetting hillwalking photos. At the end, hang around chatting to everyone else there, until you realise that the only people remaining are all on the committee and trying to clear up around you.
    3. Turn up nervously in your Club T-shirt, hoping that the slide projector won't break. Neck two glasses of wine in your agitation when you realise that the advertised start time has just passed and there are only two freshers arrived, both of whom are sitting staring at you from the front row. Rejoice quietly when another 150 turn up during your speech, and when the treasurer later announces record membership takings.
    4. Arrive with just enough time before the advertised start to grab a glass of wine and a large handful of Doritos. Settle down in the back row, shouting out corrections to the President whenever he makes a factual mistake in his speech. Stand around afterwards telling freshers: "it was a bit different to this in my day..."
  2. What is your favourite Club trip of the year?
    1. Not made it on one yet. You did try to come to Edale, but set your alarm for 6:30pm instead of 6:30am. And the bastards wouldn't give you your money back!
    2. Your first trip, which was to the Lake District. You did a HUGE walk with some people on the committee, the weather was fantastic, and everyone sang songs after the pub! In college, your friends sometimes make you feel like you are a bit odd, but you fitted in perfectly on that trip...
    3. The new year trip, of course. You had an epic on Scafell pike, and sang the Cow Song every night at an annoyingly loud volume, not to mention the complete works of Don McLean and the Gnu song. And that's where you first got asked to be in the committee...
    4. The new year trip. Though it hasn't been quite the same since the Club stopped going to Eskdale... Now how many years ago was that now?
  3. And what's your favourite kind of day out in the hills?
    1. Hills? Dunno! But walking to Grantchester is nice - or walking to one of the more distant colleges (such as Jesus) for formal hall can be enjoyable.
    2. The Langdale Pikes, on the last trip. You passed near there on your Duke of Edinburgh's practice expedition, but it's much more fun without a heavy sack!
    3. Something like the Helvellyn range or Fairfield horseshoe - loads of new Wainwrights to bag!
    4. Hmmm. Tricky one. Well, there was that day you bagged Fellbarrow and Low Fell, thus compleating [sic] the Western Fells... Nah seriously, any day out in the hills is good - especially if it's insanely long!
  4. What do you think of the Club T-shirt?
    1. A bit silly really - you'd never be seen dead in something so unfashionable!
    2. Really cool - all the committee wear them! Shame there were no more left in your size. Ah well, maybe next year they'll do another print run.
    3. A badge of honour - you wear yours practically all the time - to lunch, to the pub, even when you're too busy revising to come to any Club activities...
    4. Quite good. Definitely better than T-shirt marks II and IV. The design is better on T-shirt mark III, you consider; and then there was mark I, which does have nostalgia value, but is sadly too flimsy to actually wear outside any more.
  5. What's your opinion on that great Club tradition, the Cow Song?
    1. Weird! It totally freaked you out when they all sang it after that formal at Fitz. How come they all know the words?
    2. Magnificent! After hearing it sung on your first Club trip, you went home and learned all eighteen official verses off by heart.
    3. Magnificent! No Club trip or evening out would be complete without a slightly off-key, drunken rendition of that legendary composition - sung in accordance with Presidential Proclamation Number One.
    4. Magnificent! Although it's hardly a Club tradition - you well remember the days of B.C. (Before Cow) when there was no Cow Song and the Club had to make do with Bohemian Rhapsody and American Pie - and nobody even knew all the words to that back then!
  6. You browse the club website...
    1. Occasionally - sometimes the front page has useful information on it - such as the dates of forthcoming social events.
    2. Obsessively - ever since joining the club, or possibly even before that, you've used the site to find out as much as possible about all the other keen members of the club (most particularly its venerable committee); to whet your appetite for the hills with the dazzling collection of past trip photos; and of course, to look up all the lyrics to the Cow Song.
    3. Pedantically - constantly checking for incorrect dates and missing information, not to mention glaring omissions from the People in the Club page, and typos in the online copy of the Constitution - whilst proudly noting how many of your own quotes now appear on the site.
    4. Disappointedly - there's hardly ever anything new to read! You've already read and memorised the site's entire content, including such classics as the 1997 Annual Dinner Poem and the report of the October 1992 Snowdonia trip. Why don't the committee ever type up stuff from the trip book any more? They always used to in the old days...
  7. You arrive at Churchill on a Friday evening, at the start of a Club trip. Do you:
    1. Sit on the wall with your friend from college (who also made the mistake of joining the Club), staring down at your "new" Oxfam walking boots, feeling slightly scared by all the strange people you're surrounded by.
    2. Say hello to all the your friends from the last trip, and introduce yourself to as many new people as possible. When the Trip Safety Coordinator gets into a stress about who is going in which car, politely volunteer to help - after all, it could be you in that position next year!
    3. Stand in the middle of the pavement waving aloft the official Trip Clipboard and a couple of lever arch files containing safety information. When a each participant arrives, tick them off in at least four different boxes. If any new members are trying to have a conversation, interrupt them by demanding to take down all their relatives' mobile phone numbers, their blood group, and what they ate for breakfast that morning. When everyone is finally ready to set off, realise that there is one rucksack left on the pavement outside the minibus - the one containing all the Club gear!
    4. Leap out of your car and rush round to talk to all the other drivers, explaining why the route suggested by the Meets Sec isn't any good due to carriageway improvements on the A50 near Stoke. Suggest a more complicated alternative using the M606, A6177 and A650, including portions of the Bingley Relief Road. Revise this completely when you remember that the chippy in Shipley has recently put up its prices for medium-sized portions of Haddock. Finally, tell everyone that the best option is actually the A14, M6, A34 and A4148, with plenty of opportunity for losing freshers at the Morrisons in Walsall. Throw the Safety Coordinator's carefully thought-out Transport Allocation Plan into disarray by refusing point blank to take an entire car-full of mid-Western Americans.
  8. It's a Saturday morning in November and you are on the Snowdonia trip. As usual, the weather is miserable. Do you:
    1. Sign up for a walk on some hill called Crib Goch. Freak out at the top and spend 15 mins clinging to a rock, developing borderline hypothermia, before the group agrees to turn back. Find that the soles of both your "new" Oxfam boots fall off on the way down - this is some consolation, as it at least means that you can spend Sunday sitting in the bunkhouse.
    2. Get persuaded by the committee - who all want to go and do Crib Goch again - to take all the novices on a circuit of the Carneddau. Despite being relatively new to the Club, they say they can trust you because you know the area well, having done it on your Duke of Edinburgh's award last summer.
    3. Get stressed out by the 30 people who've never come on a trip before, all of whom simultaneously demand to borrow waterproof trousers whilst you're trying to eat breakfast. Get even more stressed when the rest of the committee sod off to go up Crib Goch. Find some consolation in sadistically taking the remaining hopelessly under-equipped stragglers up Tryfan North ridge, even though your conscience tells you it isn't really the right thing to do...
    4. Get up late and head straight for the kitchen, fighting your way through hordes of freshers frantically signing disclaimer forms in triplicate. Eat breakfast, put on boots and sack, and find you're the first ready. Discover that the only people down for your epic to the North Glyders are a Greek couple who weren't allowed to sign up for Crib Goch. Go anyway, despite the bad weather, late start and the fact that there is zero chance of returning within a sensible time frame with all group members unharmed.
  9. The Social Secretary sends round a long-awaited email announcing a Formal at Sidney Sussex. You respond by:
    1. Signing up straight away - you haven't bagged Sidney yet - despite the fact that you probably won't know anyone else going.
    2. Signing up straight away - an excellent chance to see your hillwalking friends again, and perhaps even sing the Cow Song or some Queen afterwards - whilst making a personal note not to drink quite so much port this time, or at least to wear a tag round your neck with your address on...
    3. Thanking the Social Sec for all their organisation - hopefully that will quieten down all those people who've been clamouring for an extra social this term!
    4. Composing a three-page critique of the email, pointing out omissions, inaccuracies, and giving separate marks for spelling, punctuation and grammar. Forget to mention whether or not you are actually planning to go to the Formal, and confuse all the finances by mentally adding the cost of the ticket to your ongoing account with the Club.
  10. Your group is nearing the end of a long, miserable, soaking wet walk in early January. You decide to:
    1. Feign injury for the rest of the trip so you don't have to go out walking again, catching an early lift home if possible. On safe return to Cambridge, thank your lucky stars for your deliverance, and ceremonially burn your Oxfam walking boots and cagoule in the college gardens.
    2. Change into dry clothes as quickly as possible back at the bunkhouse. Find someone willing to drive you into Keswick, so you can spend a fortune in Fishers buying new B1 boots and a decent waterproof jacket - as a replacement for the rubbish gear your parents got you when you were at school - so now you can go out in even worse weather with no problems.
    3. Rally the group around, checking that the new bloke in the cagoule isn't suffering from hypothermia. Panic slightly when you realise that your Master List of Participants' Blood Groups and Relatives' Mobile Phone Numbers has dissolved in the rain. Demonstrate your excellent leadership qualities by guiding your group by the safest possible route back to the bunkhouse, where you heroically save the building from burning down after some fresher puts their wet socks a little too close to the stove.
    4. Insist to your flagging group that, contrary to what your compass and their sense of direction might say, the most direct route back to the bunkhouse in fact lies over the next two Wainwrights (by pure coincidence, not yet bagged by yourself). When night falls and it becomes apparent that only two of your group have a head-torch, confidently lead the way, inch by inch, from a hazy memory of three years earlier, whilst encouraging your group to compose new verses to the Cow Song to keep up morale. On eventual arrival back at the bunkhouse, remind the fuming Safety Officer that you "never were that good at judging distance from a map".
  11. The AGM is coming up, and a minor change to article 15(e) of the constitution has been proposed. Do you:
    1. Ponder whether to go. You're not remotely interested in Club business, but the email did say that there might be free wine!
    2. Look forward to the day with much keenness. Although you'll probably be too shy to say much in the constitutional debates, there's a chance that you might get elected onto the committee for next year...
    3. Spend most of the week compiling sufficiently large quantities of obscure membership statistics for your report to satisfy all but the most nerdy member. Find yourself asking the Social Sec 26 times for reassurance that the Club really is allowed to serve wine in the room booked for the AGM. If any emails should happen to arrive entitled "Constitution", delete from your inbox without reading.
    4. Get into a huge stress about the possible change to your sacred constitution, and spend the week sending at least 1,500 emails in an attempt to rally support to defeat the motion. Towards the end of the week, actually bother to read the details of the proposed change, discovering that it simply aims to make the capitalisation of the word "Safety" consistent throughout the document for obscure legal reasons. At the AGM itself, try to rebuild damaged relations with the outgoing committee, pointing out that you do that every time - adding by way of consolation that you "really are planning to leave Cambridge this year".

The verdict - which category did you answer most often?

a. You are a "social hillwalker" - someone who sees the Club more as a means of bagging different college formal halls than a way of getting to the hills. Most of your hillwalking is done with your parents in the holidays, and if you did come on a trip once, you probably didn't enjoy it much. Maybe you're the person in the Annual Dinner photo whose name no-one quite remembers...

b. You are a keen hillwalker, and a keen Club member too, full of enthusiasm and ready to join in with anything. No doubt you are excellent potential for next year's committee!

c. A stalwart Club member, you have most likely put in some sterling service as a member of the committee (perhaps even as the President). However, you should beware: if you end up doing a higher degree or a job in Cambridge, you might easily find yourself answering (d) to some of the above. You have been warned!

d. It sounds like you've been in the Club for at least half a decade, quite possibly more - you probably have only a hazy recollection of a time when it wasn't a major part of your life, of the days when there was no ready supply of keen freshers to drag out on your epic bagging expeditions. You may occasionally have differences of opinion with more "modernising" members of the committee - but be reassured - in the long run, even they will start answering (d) too.

Peter Bell