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Castle Chronicle – AGM Edition


Many thanks to everyone who made the effort, on a dark and stormy night, to attend the club annual general meeting. This report is to update members who weren’t able to attend.

  • Reports were received from the president, the treasurer, the meets secretary and the membership secretary. It was noted that the club membership is currently a very healthy 112 members.
  • Two changes to the constitution relating to membership were approved.
  • The new committee was approved as follows: Geoff Nichols (President), Steve Leather (Vice-President), Kathy Burgess (Treasurer), Paul Embley (Secretary), Kial Wright (Meets Secretary), Lorna Nicholson (Membership Secretary), Matt Biggins and Rosie Twambley (Communication and Publicity Secretaries), Bill Boley, Vanda Boyd, Julian Brooks, Helen Dunnett, Pete McGlynn, Andrew Milne, Eli Shannon (Committee Members).
  • Thanks were given to the retiring members of the committee: Chris, Gemma, Lin and Richard

The main item on the agenda was discussion of the committee’s recommendations for communications and publicity. Matt and Rosie have done a huge amount of work completing a review of club communications which Matt presented to the AGM. Three options considered by the committee were outlined and comments and questions were received from the floor:

  • Option 1 – UPDATING OR REPLACING THE WEBSITE: Issues were highlighted with the message board and the need to make the website more smartphone-friendly. The problem with this option would be the expense of commissioning changes from Digital Nomads, who currently maintain our website, or from a different website developer. One quotation received was for £5000. However the discussion indicated that we might have “in-house” expertise which could be used to update the website at reduced cost.
  • Option 2 – USE OF MEETUP FOR ALL CLUB COMMUNICATION: MeetUp is a cloud-based subscription service which would meet many of the club’s communication needs and be relatively cheap and easy to administer. It was suggested as an option by Digital Nomads and other website developers. This option was the recommendation of the committee. However the feedback from the MeetUp trial was mixed and concerns were raised at the AGM. These included whether signing up for meets was helpful and problems with instant messaging using MeetUp. The trial had only been for climbing meets so other club groups needed to be involved in trialling it. Many members find WhatsApp useful and it is likely that they would continue to use WhatsApp resulting in splintering the club.
  • Option 3 – NO CHANGE: Andy is not planning to retire as webmaster at the moment. He estimates that he spends about 4 minutes per-day managing the website. It uses a popular operating system and it should be fairly straightforward to train people to administer and maintain the website when he retires. Other members already use the website as administrators though it was noted that this could be complicated especially when troubleshooting was required.

The opinion was strongly expressed from the floor that members had not had enough information to make an informed decision if a vote was held at the current AGM. The decision was therefore taken not to vote on the recommendations but to extend the period of consultation to involve a wider range of club members including walkers and cyclists:

  • A working group involving a wide range of club members will be formed to plan the way forward.
  • All members of the club will be encouraged to put forward their comments and suggestions to the working group.


The committee met on 14th September and this is the latest update to let you know what we have been getting up to.

Recent club highlights have been the successful summer trip to the Alps and the visit of climbing legend Catherine Destivelle. Special mention to Rosa who bravely followed Catherine up Right Unconquerable!
Upcoming away meets are planned to Crianlarich (New Year ‘24), Capel Curig (Easter ’24) and Braemar (May ’24).

Dates for your diary:
• Mick Fowler, veteran of many adventurous mountaineering expeditions, will be giving us a talk at the Grouse Inn on Thursday 16th November from 7.30pm. Mick’s talk is free but “Pie and Peas” will be £11. More details to follow.
• The club AGM will take place at the Norfolk Arms on Thursday 23rd November at 7.30pm. This will be followed by an outdoor-themed quiz with lots of magnificent prizes!
• Bookings are now being taken for the Christmas meet on 2nd/3rd December. This will be at Coldwell Outdoor Centre up on the Pennine moors above Burnley.
• This year’s ceilidh was great fun and another is planned for 23rd March 2024.

Clubroom matters:
Vanda and Paul have spearheaded an impressive revamp of the clubroom. This has included repainting, installing matting in the entrance and a general declutter and tidy-up. A poster for a talk to the club by Don Whillans is to be framed and hung in the clubroom.
If you have any bright ideas for events or activities to make more use of the clubroom please let the committee know.

Changes to the committee:
Several members of the committee are standing down this year. Chris Lunn is standing down having had the unenviable task, as president, of steering the club through the difficult pandemic years. Lin is standing down as vice-president – her finest hour was surely knocking heads together to reach agreement on the future of the clubroom! And Gemma is standing down as membership secretary after doing a fantastic job encouraging new members and promoting the club via social media.
There will now be three places on the committee available. If you are interested in joining the committee please let us know. This is a great opportunity to get involved with moving the club forward to a bright new future!

Review of club communications:
A reminder that the aim of this review is to:
• Simplify communications to make life easier for administrators.
• Reduce the confusion caused by having multiple communication methods.
• Give our communications a more up-to-date look to appeal to younger club members. and make the club fit for the future.
Option 1 is to use MeetUp as the main platform for club communication. The trial of MeetUp will now be paused. We are grateful to all club members who took part in the trial and completed the questionnaire. This has given us useful information about the pros and cons of MeetUp which will help us with our decision-making. Thanks are due to the team who were tasked by the committee with organising the trial and put a huge amount of effort into this.
Option 2 is to make administering the website less time-consuming and make some sections of the website, such as the message board, more user-friendly. The committee will now investigate options for and the cost of making these changes to the club website.
The committee is planning to make recommendations for club communications at the AGM. Please let us know if you have any suggestions for how the website could be updated.



Here is Edition #2 of a newsletter to let you know what your committee has been up to and give you some other club news:
• Recent away meets to the North York Moors and Lundy Island have gone well – with the latter trip including an exciting helicopter journey to the island!
• An enterprising group of club members will soon be off to the Alps.
• The club’s Munro baggers will be kept happy by trips to Torridon (October), Crianlarich (New Year) and Braemar (May 2024).
• After the success of the Easter meet at Capel Curig we are planning a repeat visit next Easter.
• The Christmas meet is booked for 1st – 3rd December up on the East Lancashire moors.
• We recently had a well-attended maintenance day at the clubroom organised by Vanda and Paul. A lot of clutter was removed, Gordon did a heroic job removing cobwebs from the roof beams, David scraped bags of moss off the porch roof and much sandpaper was used preparing window frames ready for painting. Vanda is sorting out heavy-duty matting for the entrance area.
• After the success of the recent New Member’s Meets Gordon, the club’s equipment officer, has purchased three extra climbing harnesses which can be used for future meets and training sessions.
• Mick Fowler will give a talk to club members about his extensive worldwide mountaineering experience on Thursday 16th November. More details to follow.
• The AGM will be held at the Norfolk Arms on Thursday 23rd November.
• The club’s membership process is currently being fine-tuned to comply with BMC guidelines for prospective members.
• Thanks to everyone’s’ willing response to the request to complete the Membership Renewal Form we now have an almost complete membership database which can only be accessed by committee members. For the first time the database includes emergency contact information and indicates those who don’t want photos published on social media.
• For climbing meets only we are planning a trial of MeetUp, a digital event-planning platform. Organisers of climbing meets hope that MeetUp will be especially helpful when assessing what support may be needed for new members attending meets and will avoid confusion by ensuring that communications about meets aren’t spread over multiple platforms.
We welcome any feedback on our activity as well as suggestions for future events. If you think you would like to play a more active role in club organisation by organising meets or joining the committee then please let one of us know.
Paul Embley

What’s the committee up to?

We thought it would be a good idea to let everyone know what we discussed at the Castle committee meeting held on 21st April 2023:
• Geoff highlighted the success of recent club events including the away meets to Scotland and Snowdonia, the ceilidh and the celebration for Charles’ 90th birthday. He thanks all meet leaders and activity organisers for their hard work.
• Future away meets were proposed for 2024 including Roy Bridge (February/March), Capel Curig (Easter) and Braemar (May).
• Now that we have decided to keep the lease on the clubroom, Paul and Vanda are planning a maintenance and cleaning day to be held on Monday 22nd May from 4pm. Willing volunteers needed!
• The recent New Members Meets were a great success. We agreed to ask Gordon, the equipment secretary, to buy three new climbing harnesses for use at future meets and training sessions. We are also looking for volunteers to help organise the next New Members Meet planned for September.
• The committee is currently investigating how the club can streamline and improve club communications including reviewing current methods and trialling new options. This is intended to improve clarity in club communications and to assist in the smooth running of the club.
• We are looking for ideas to reduce the club’s carbon footprint. Car sharing is an obvious way – but we welcome other ideas.
• The membership team emphasised how important it is to have a complete, up-to-date database of club members to allow the membership process to run smoothly, provide emergency contact information and identify member’s privacy requests (such as use of photos on social media). The committee agreed to send out a message to all members encouraging them to complete the Membership Renewal Form and explaining the reasons why it is important.
Finally we are always keen to receive suggestions for club meets and social activities – so if you have any bright ideas please let us know!

Club Room Vote

56 of 98 members have now voted. Voting will close on October 31st so please do yours now. There is an option to abstain and it would be useful if members who really do not mind either way used this to give the committee a full picture of club feelings. If you are having problems voting please email me so I can help. Lin.

Recruitment of working groups on the future of the clubroom and length of tenure of committee members

Message from our Vice President Lin Warriss, dated 14 Jan 2022

An outcome of our AGM was the need to establish working groups to look at the future of the clubroom and tenure of committee posts.  We are now seeking volunteers for the groups, the briefs for which are below.

We are aiming for small groups (single figures) covering cross sections of the membership, with at least some people with topical knowledge.  Groups would initially be convened by a committee member who would look for mutually convenient meeting times but the group could then appoint their own chair and note taker.

We cannot quantify the time demands, but you need to factor in availability for meetings and research tasks, over the next five months or so.  Findings and recommendations to be made to the committee no later than June 2022.

  1. The future of the clubroom. This group will build upon the work already done by the committee to establish whether the club room continues to be an asset to the club and to produce information for circulation prior to an all-member vote.  The vote will be held before our next AGM so that any necessary amendments to the constitution may be passed. Consideration should be given to:-
  • What might be done to maximise the use and user friendliness of the current clubroom to avoid abandoning a unique asset without due consideration
  • Cost effective alternative venues for current and future club activities. (e.g. meetings / socials / training on wall)
  • Provision of cost effective, suitable and accessible storage of our library and equipment.


  1. The length of tenure of committee members. This group will look at the current constitution as it pertains to the committee and produce proposed amendments for consideration at the next AGM.  Length of tenure is the main focus but a couple of anomalies have been identified which would benefit from clarification as part of the process.

The current rules limit the tenure of the President and Vice President to 2 years but do not cover any other roles.

Consideration should be given to:-

  • Established good practice, whether from the BMC or other clubs of a similar size and remit.
  • Encouraging fresh ideas versus losing existing expertise.
  • Practicalities such as changing banking authorities every time the treasurer and other signatories are changed.

If you would like to join one of the groups, please email Lin Warriss (Vice President) on stating which group you would like to join and whether you feel you have any particular knowledge which might support the group.  This should be done before Friday 28th January so that the committee can discuss group membership at our February meeting.

Follow up from Lin, dated 21 Jan 2022

Hello again

I am not getting a huge response to the call for participants in our working groups and those I have had are from current or ex committee members.
The group looking at tenure of committee members could work with the existing volunteers although input from the members of the future would be helpful.  How long do you think is reasonable for someone to serve before coming up for re-election?  Should we be able to remove committee members mid term?  Lots of questions require an answer. Can you help?
The club room group needs more members and we really do need people who have little or no experience of using the facility.  All the current volunteers are old enough to remember the glory days when a lot of members met every Thursday and many of our current friendships were formed.  This does not make for an objective view of current benefits.  Assuming that we wish to continue with a programme of social events we need a fresh look at what is on offer from our club room versus what is available elsewhere. This requires people with opinions on where they like to meet and what facilities are required.  For those who do not know the clubroom and the treasures it holds a visit can be arranged.  Bearing in mind that we also need to consider the lease, the costs and the state of the building anyone who has some grasp of legal or financial matters or knowledge of construction would be useful but all you really need is to be a club member who wants a bit more than our outdoor programme.
If people would like more information before volunteering please get in touch.
Lin Warriss

Club equipment

Club equipment which members can borrow includes: 2 helmets, 2 harnesses, ice climbing axe and hammer, avalanche probe, snow shovel, 5 ice scre ws, wart hog, and two pegs. To borrow them contact myself or Paul Embley. They are stored in the club room. If people want equipment for the New Year Scottish trip let me know and I’ll bring it up.  Geoff Nichols.

Covid Update

Message from the Chairman:

With the recent changes to the Government’s Covid advice, the Committee have reviewed how the Club meets are organised to make sure we can keep the Club active and comply with the new Covid three tier system.

1. The rule of six will apply to all official walks.
2. Tier 1 & 2 (high risk) and Tier 3( very high risk) are unable to mix or cross borders, so we will try to organise walks for each group. This will depend on if walk leaders come forward to lead each group. This applies for Thursday and Sunday walks – volunteers welcome.
3. If you live in a Tier 1 or 2 area you must only walk in this group. This also applies to members who live in the Tier 3 area. This follows advice about travel in and out of each area.
4. The booking system will be active for each walk on the website and the meet leader will confirm how they want contacting after you have booked.
5. Cycle meets and climbing meets will be still be informal and arranged through WhatsApp and must follow the same rules.

The Government will review the Three Tier System and we have arranged a committee meeting in line with this in case there are any changes, so we can review them and amend any rules for Club meets.

Thanks and stay safe.

Chris Lunn


11,000 routes – WhiTicker’s Almanac!

So Linda spilled the beans on the WhatsApp group, and my little secret is out! I have been “persuaded” to write a bit about it!

Those of you that were around the CMC in 2015 will recall that I climbed my 10,000th different rock climb in July of that year, whilst on holiday in France. Since then, the majority of the next 1,000 ticks seem to have been acquired on trips to Europe, so when Covid turned up, I started to worry that the 37 remaining routes I needed to reach 11,000 might be harder to achieve than anticipated. The problem being, I have climbed extensively in the U.K. over the years, and there are very few options at an easy enough grade that I haven’t climbed already.

When we were finally released from lockdown, even climbing things I had done umpteen times before was hard work, but I did find 3 Diffs and an HVDiff at Castle Naze that had previously escaped me, and so began the chipping away at the 37. A trip to Back Forest (near The Roaches) was very discouraging, as I found that someone had cranked up the angle of the crag since I had last been there, as well as filling all the routes I hadn’t done with vegetation, and coating their finishes in green slime. After that, I struck gritstone off the list, and was pleased to get a really good Severe tick at Pleasley Vale (limestone). 28 to go!

A new strategy was needed, so we booked a campsite near Frodsham, for 4 nights, and headed over there in our trusty VW campervan. Cheshire might not seem a very obvious destination, but it was chosen for the reason that I had a copy of Cheshire & Merseyside Sandstone that I had never used. It contained a delightful-sounding quarry at Irby, in The Wirral – clean, quick-drying, south-facing sunny slabs, with the majority of the 27 routes in the Diff to VS range. Also there was Helsby – I had climbed here twice in 1975, but as we didn’t have a guidebook, I still don’t know what routes I did, so they haven’t been counted.

We duly arrived at Irby Quarry, and were mildly discouraged by a damp-looking west-facing wall, and some fairly extensive growth of gorse bushes at the top of the crag. However, the first section of the south slabs was clean and dry, and the top of the crag clear, so we set to, working our way up from Diff to VS, and thoroughly enjoying the slabby, technical climbing, with just adequate protection. A final Severe on the West Wall proved to be the greatest test of the day. I came away feeling quite pleased with progress, especially as I had managed a couple of VSs. 22 to go!

The south-facing slab at Irby Quarry

2020-09-08ImgMar0002 – the south-facing slab at Irby Quarry.

Helsby is the major crag in Cheshire, and is well seen from the M56 as you head to or from North Wales. My advice is – keep going! The crag faces north to northwest, so doesn’t get much sun until mid-afternoon. The sandstone rock is mostly black (or green with slime!), and mostly very steep to alarmingly overhanging. Just to help matters, it had rained during the night, and was very windy when we inspected the routes. Even getting around at the foot of the West Buttress was hard work, and we didn’t see a single route that attracted us enough to get the gear out. Instead, we flogged up to the top of Helsby Hill, where there was a superb view, and a sunny meadow with sheltering bushes where we had lunch. Suitably fortified, and with the sun now reaching the southern end of the Upper Tier, we finally got the gear out for a pleasant-looking 7 metre long VDiff called CB Crack. Appearances can be deceptive – this was the VDiff from hell! It latched on to you the moment you left the ground, and didn’t relent until you hauled out at the top – thank goodness those final holds were HUGE! Pat put in a valiant effort to remove my runners, but had no strength left for the remaining moves. We returned to camp to lick our wounds. 21 to go, but if they were all going to be like that, I would need the rest of the year!

Horrorshow at Helsby!

2020-09-09ImgMar0007 – the Horrorshow at Helsby! – CB Crack is the overhanging flake in the centre.

Back to Irby next day, where we managed to find a few more routes that could be climbed without getting ripped to shreds by gorse on the finishing moves. Someone needs to go there with full body armour and some long clippers, because it deserves to be climbed on more often. 16 to go!

Friday saw us parked at the foot of Hellsby (sic!), but in a quandary. Conditions were similar to Wednesday, i.e. windy and grey, with hints of rain around. There was one other option – drive 38 miles in the wrong direction to get to Dyserth – Dyserth Castle Slab had some nice-sounding sport routes, and 3 of them might even be easy enough for the likes of us. The drive there was rapid, and the weather better there than at Helsby. Unfortunately it took us some time to find the crag, but I won’t go into that! It was well worth it, though, and I had soon ticked three more lovely routes, and we could return to Sheffield with only 13 more needed!

Despite my drubbing at Helsby, I didn’t feel I was climbing too badly, so a few days later we headed up to North Lancashire, to a campsite at Crooklands, on the southeastern end of the Lake District. En route we stopped off at Warton Small Quarry, but unfortunately it had sprouted an inordinate amount of vegetation, as well as getting steeper, since my last visit, in 2001. Working on the basis that these days sports crags get more traffic, we quickly adjourned to Barrow Scout Cove, where the easy routes were still quite hard, and the rest were for wall-rats. 11 to go!

We have been to Hutton Roof crag on several occasions in the past, but despite this, there were still a number of routes to “tick”. We had a lovely day up there, climbing the superb juggy limestone, but got rather more ticks than we bargained for, and these little bloodsuckers had to be removed with a specialist tool! Despite these attentions, we finished the day with only 2 more needed.

So, the great day was to be spent at Farleton Upper crag – quite a long walk-in at 20-25 minutes guidebook time, so longer than that for us. The routes were also a bit longer than the norm around here, and didn’t come into the sun until the afternoon. This provided the perfect excuse for a leisurely walk-in, and lunch before we got our climbing gear on. Route 10,999 was called Hurricane (VDiff), and turned out to be a superb and memorable climb – one helluva vdiff! Unfortunately, Pat strained something in her foot while seconding it, so sat out number 11,000. This was Typhoon (VDiff), which was also excellent, but not quite as fine as Hurricane. I abseiled for the gear, and then decided I might as well do Head Wind (Severe), just to get me on my way to 12,000! Back in camp, a nice bottle of Cremant d’Alsace provided a celebratory accompaniment to our Thursday night curry.

Farleton Upper crag

2020-09-17ImgMar0006 – Farleton Upper crag, with the lines of Head Wind, Typhoon and Hurricane in the centre of the photo.

My first recorded climb was in June 1970 (The Turnpike, Diff, on Alport Stone, solo up and down!), though I didn’t do the second until November 1971. I didn’t set out to count the routes I climbed, but recorded the names, grades, who I climbed with, etc and put a number beside it, starting naturally with one. If I was repeating a route, it didn’t get a number. So that it how I know how many routes I have climbed!

Those of you that saw my Desert Island climbs presentation on Zoom earlier this year will know that I found it extremely difficult to select 8 (or was it 9?) of my favourite climbs. As for favourite gritstone climbs, often the ones that I have enjoyed the most have been the ones that I would never want to do again – The Unprintable and Flying Buttress Overhang, at Stanage, come immediately to mind. Puppet Crack at Chatsworth was satisfying because I had failed on it previously. Wuthering at Stanage, Great North Road at Millstone, and Moyer’s Buttress at Gardoms are examples of great routes that I have been happy to repeat (though not too often!). At the end of the day, we climb to enjoy ourselves, and I got as much out of those three routes at Farleton as I ever did out of any Extreme routes that I climbed when I was younger and fitter.

See you on the crags!

Martin Whitaker.