Mid-February saw over 100 hillwalkers spanning multiple generations gather in the Langdale Youth Hostel to celebrate the club’s 30th anniversary. The hostel was festooned with daffodils and balloons, and well-stocked with beer and sherry for everyone as they arrived over the course of Friday evening.
A flotilla of MPVs travelled up from Cambridge with the current club members, with one vehicle stopping off near Lancaster for a delicious dinner kindly provided by Patrick T’s parents. After an alarming drive along hairpin Lakeland single-track roads, masterfully executed by Elliot B, we arrived at the YHA to find the party in full swing. Upon arrival, attendees received CUHWC-branded pint glasses, copies of the 30th anniversary journal and a special edition of the songbook. Festivities went on long into the night, which saw old friends reunited, acquaintances made, biscuits munched, songs sung and stories told.
Everyone awoke on Saturday to a beautiful bright, mild morning – hard to believe it was only February. After a hearty buffet-style continental breakfast, groups set off into Langdale and the surrounding hills. While duffers (and associated dufflings) were trusted to take care of themselves, current members had to fill out route cards as usual. Many groups ascended Harrison Stickle, with some intrepid toddlers making it all the way up the steep rocky path from Dungeon Ghyll (hillwalking genes). One group enjoyed a fantastic scramble up Jack’s Rake, while another took a dip in the icy waters of Stickle Tarn.
Everyone reconvened at the hostel in time to shower and get ready for the main event: Saturday night’s party. A flurry of activity ensued as muddy waterproofs were shed and suits and dresses were donned. A presidential photo was taken at 6:30pm featuring presidents from the club’s beginnings to its current committee, and an honorary place given to Dave and Jo Farrow’s new baby – a duffling of two consecutive presidents.
At 7pm, everyone sat down to a magnificent three-course dinner. Different generations mingled, with everyone sharing their anecdotes, memories and traditions. As a current member, I found it amazing how little the club has changed over the decades. It still attracts the same sort of people: slightly wacky and with a shared love of the hills, mad adventures, and a quirky sense of humour, all of which combine to create enduring friendships. I was also impressed by the number of married couples and dufflings the club contains; CUHWC has been an impressive couple-generator.
After dinner came speeches from the 30th anniversary co-presidents, David H and Tom L, while the club’s current co-presidents, Sarah M and Bronwen F, and founding members Pete N and James B raised toasts to CUHWC and the hills. A wild party ensued featuring excellent ceilidh dancing, a 100-strong rendition of the Cow Song (remarkably in tune thanks to music provided by a small band), the Lumberjack song featuring a dress-clad lumberjack in the shape of Joe Hobbs, and a drunken Strip-the-Willow in the carpark. I’m sure I’m not alone in remembering the evening as a riotous blur of dancing, drinking, laughing, singing, chatting, and partying the way only hillwalkers can.
Sunday morning was a subdued affair. Impressively, most of the duffers were out on walks by 9am, while current members remained in bed until midday - young people! At least most made it out for a gentle wander, clearing our heads in glorious winter sunshine and the soft breeze.
Back at the hostel for 3pm, everyone threw themselves into the mammoth task of packing up and cleaning the hostel. As the place emptied, the 30th anniversary committee and current committee finished tidying up and were rewarded with much leftover food and alcohol, and countless daffodils. We said our goodbyes in the sunlit carpark and everyone went home their separate ways, with memories of a fantastic weekend celebrating with the unique, weird and wonderful community of people that is CUHWC. Long may it continue.