Thanks to Trevor's steady driving, Trevor, Steve and I had a smooth journey up to Buxton. After negotiating the not so obvious entrance to Cold Springs Farm campsite we had just enough daylight to get our tents up on the well manicured green that was to be our home for the next two nights.
Leaving the last arrivals to negotiate their space we headed into town to The Old Clubhouse where we had to battle the weekend's conference party goers to get a drink at the bar. Thankfully, Therese had bagged a table earlier on and so we all began to gather in the quieter end of the pub. Having met a few of the club at the North Devon meet it was good to match more names (Richards' and James' mostly!) to a few more faces. It was a very friendly start to a very sociable weekend.
Thanks to a combination of persistent cockerels and strong summer sunshine we all rose uncharacteristically early on Saturday morning and began to make plans over breakfast. When filter coffees had been finished, and washing up hidden behind flysheets, we all made the short trip over to Wingather rocks. The small number of climbers already there was immediately doubled by the arrival of 30+ OMCers and we duly spread ourselves across the buttresses and studied the many guide books on hand to devise our plan of attack.
With great excitement and a little trepidation I donned my new harness and helmet and squeezed into my rock boots - which had done only a few nights on the climbing wall so far. With all the talk of v. diffs, severes, hard severes, moderate diffs and pleasant diffs (!?) I was already confused and a little out of my depth. Thankfully, Trevor took me under his wing and off we trotted to begin our first climb of the day and my first as an OMC member!
We began with a few really enjoyable diffs and v. diffs and I soon began to get into the swing of things. As I had only ever climbed on gritstone before I understood the importance of smearing and wedging. I feel that I am already a natural at the bum jam and the 'knee smear'! Throughout the day Trevor selected a great mix of challenging and trickier routes which really kept me focused. Although neither of us kept count we must have done round a dozen routes.
As well as the great mix of routes at Wingather it was great to be around so many other climbers and be able to observe and learn how it ought to be done. In particular, I learnt how difficult the art of gear removal can be! It was really inspiring watching the likes of James, Therese, Richard(s), Marco, Ge and Chris take the lead on some really tricky stuff – looked frightening to even second it.
As the afternoon drew to an end the beautiful weather eventually took its toll on us in exhaustion and various cuts and scrapes below the short line (I am already getting the impression that Andrew is somewhat accident prone!).
We made our way back to the campsite via the chilled cabinets of Buxton Waitrose and a well earned swift 'pintette' at the Old Clubhouse pub.
Back at camp the BBQ was already well underway. Never have I seen so many steaks, burgers and sausages all in one place. My thanks must go to Andrew for his Veggie creations and introduction to barbequed aubergine slices. Whilst most of us stuck to beer and vino, John was topping up his batteries by single-handedly demolishing the larger part of a bottle of Calvados. Apparently this was early Dutch courage for some trickier routes the next day! Although spirits were high, we were all eventually driven to our beds by the incessant nibbling by swarms of midges.
The cockerels were no quieter on Sunday morning, though the skies were greyer, allowing a slightly slower start to the day. Once tents had been packed and coffee drunk the first party of the day headed off to the Roaches – in search of bouldering, more challenging routes and a quality café! Myself, Trevor, Steve and what seemed like the majority of campers, headed off to Castle Naze. Having stuffed the rucksack with layers and waterproofs, expecting the worst, within minutes of being on the crag the sun was beating down. As at Wingather, the otherwise quiet crag was now crawling with OMCers.
Fuelled by the previous night's Calvados, John, Richard, Chris, Ge and other experienced climbers headed off to find some rather (from a beginner's point of view) kamikaze routes. Once again Trevor kindly took me under his wing and we started with some friendlier routes. For me though, Sunday was as much a day of watching, learning and being inspired, as it was a day of climbing. Steve, followed by Trevor, impressed us all with the impossibly difficult route 'The Scoop'. Ge seemed relentless in dragging Harley up ever harder routes, and James was keenly playing with his new, larger than life, friend. I learnt a great deal from everyone as the day went on – particularly seeing how easy some people made things look after I had been on the verge of giving up – blaming all my inadequacies on my lack of height.
By early afternoon the relentless heat and mirages of ice-cream were taking their toll so Steve, Trevor and I hit the road via a well-earned '99' in Buxton's Pavilion Gardens.
Many thanks to everyone who made it such a fun and successful weekend. As a beginner I was encouraged and included by all and my fears of getting in the way never materialised. Special thanks to Trevor for a) being my chauffer, and; b) being a patient guide and tutor for my first climbing outing with the OMC.