When I was young there were many very active climbing clubs which I could join. And over the years I have been a very active member of 7 such clubs in different places and at different times. But now there is only one such club in NSW and at the moment this club is not very active at all – this is the Sydney Rock-Climbing Club. I have been a very active member of this club for more than 40 years – but now with a broken back I cannot climb at all.
I would now like to rectify this current situation by creating a very different form of climbing club (for NSW). And, strangely, this club will involve no money at all (and it won’t even have a meeting place). This club will just use the ample facilities of the internet (and a bit of work from me).
But there must be just three rules, which each member must abide to, so that this new club can successfully function:
1 Each member must be capable of looking after their own safety when climbing on rock.
This simple statement implies a hell of a lot. Thus:
a Each member must own their own gear and know how to use it. This gear must include their own: climbing shoes, harness, belay device, rope, descender device and the relevant climbing guides. So all members must know how to belay safely and, of course, take in the their partner’s rope with care.
b Each member must be able to find a climbing partner among the climbers present. And so they must be able to assess their possible partner’s safety knowledge and so be able to also judge whether this partnership can do their chosen climb safely.
This, of course, is not easy. But, this is just what every competent climber has had to do every time they have met a new group of climbers. I have done this thousands of times in many different places. But a beginner climber clearly will not have the ability to do this task. I will discuss this important problem later in this webpage under the title “Beginners”.
Before I can go any further, I must point out the very important difference between a “trip” and a “meet“. Bushwalkers go on “trips” where they start at one point and then walk to another point. Such parties have “leaders” who try to look after the members on the trip i.e. to not walk too fast for their weakest members. Such leaders have a significant responsibility.
Fortunately, climbers rarely go on trips. All climbers need to do is to “meet” at a given point at a given time. Then they choose partners to climb with. If climbers are sensible then they will take a little time over this choice. And they can also choose a different partner if they want a change.
This is what climbers have always done. Thus, over time, some of the meeting places have been: one of the upper caves at Narrowneck, the AB cafe at Katoomba, the high cave at Mt Piddington, the parking area at Mt Victoria and the Ivy Cafe at Blackheath. I am now out of touch with what the current meeting places are for outdoor climbers.
So the responsibilities of a “meet organiser” are not very great. All they need do is to specify where everyone will meet at a specific time and be there. They also need to give their mobile phone number to everyone interested, so that everyone will know what to do if it is raining. And, most importantly, they must turn up at the meet at the correct time.
Now my next two requirements are now that:
2 Each member must attend 10 (5?) “meets” per year.
There must always be a certain amount of honour associated with belonging to this club. And my judgment is that you can’t really call yourself an outdoor rock-climber unless you front up at a “meet” and climb with other climbers 10 times a year (this is still less than once a month). Even if you do go to a gym once or twice a week, it is still best for your own self-esteem to go outdoors climbing about this often.
3 Each member must act as a “meet organiser” 3 (2?) times a year
Most people hate being trip organizers because then they are committed to turning up at a certain place at a certain time in the future. But a club cannot function unless some people are prepared to do this. So this condition simply makes sure that all members fairly share this organizing task between themselves. (Later I will show how “meet organizers” will receive recognition for their good efforts in getting “meets” going.)
This photo shows a group of most of the active climbers 50 years ago just being social.
(John Ewbank is here – but it is hard to see him.)
How this System will Work
This system will work via 3 important webpages on this website.
1. The first is, of course, this webpage which you are now currently reading. All members must read this webpage. Then all members must send me an email saying that they want to become a member and that they will abide by the 3 rules specified above.
In this first email, the keen members could also state a “meet” that they would like organise. But this “meet” does need to be anything difficult. It could just be a “meet” at their local practise rocks at a certain time e.g. Lindfield rocks at 2 p.m. on the coming Saturday afternoon. This action does not imply too much of a commitment.
If you are worried about no one turning up, then it is best to specify this “meet” with a climbing friend. So then you will certainly have some one to climb with.
2. The second file is called “MEETS of the NSW Climbers Club”.
This webpage will contain the details of both the past and the future “meets” of the club. The future “meets” will just give: the meeting place, the name of the “meet organiser” (plus another name if there are two organisers) and the mobile phone number to contact. The past meets will have this information plus a list of the names of the members who were at present at the “meet” (and perhaps a photograph).
From this file, all members will be able to decide which “meets” they wish to attend. (It is clearly best to tell the “meets organiser” that you are coming to their “meet” using their phone number.)
3. The third file is called “Members of the NSW Climbers Club”.
So this webpage will naturally contain the members of this club (with perhaps a small photo). But, besides this, this webpage will also tell: how many “meets” this member has attended, how many “meets” this member has organised, and the total number of members who have attended this person’s “meets”. This figure would give a clear measure of how much this climber has done to support outdoor climbing in NSW.
It will be my job to keep all these files up-to-date from all the member’s emails (which I hope to receive). I would enjoy doing this task because I always love to learn where people are currently climbing and what climbs they are going. And I could do the job fairly easily because I now know how to change such internet files.
It always has been, and probably always will be, fairly hard to learn to climb safely on real rock. Compared to climbing in a gym, climbing on real rock has huge safety problems. But then, when you can climb on real rock, the pleasures are enormous. So it is worth persevering with this task.
These are the steps that a beginner can take to become a safe outdoors climber.
1. The first step, of course, is to go to your local climbing gym. It is best to do this with a friend. But, if you can’t find a friend, then just go to a climbing gym and ask around. Some one will eventually help you to find a partner.
2. The cheapest next step is to buy a book on the subject. Glenn Tempest’s book “RockClimbing – getting started” covers the subject very well indeed. Most climbing gyms will have this book for sale. You must try to not read this book too quickly. You must combine this reading with actual practise in the various techniques.
3. The next step is to go on a professional climbing course. There are many such course available. You should also start buying your own outdoors climbing equipment to use on any of these courses.
When doing such a course, you need to be on the lookout for possible outdoor climbing partners to climb with.
4. The next step is to go to your local practise rocks with a partner and practise on these rocks with a top rope. Lindfield Rocks is a superb place to gain this experience.
5. Finally you will be ready to join my “Climbers Club”. You can put down your practise rocks as a “meet” venue for the future. This will mean that you will have now done your fair share of organising a “meet”. So then you can join other “meets” at higher rocks and join in doing the higher more challenging climbs (as your knowledge of safety and climbing abilities increase). Thus gradually you will become a genuine outdoors climber.
This total process might take a full year. But, if you follow these steps, then you will become a better, safer and more proficient climber than I ever did more than 50 years ago. And I went on to do some pretty fantastic climbs. You can do the same thing – but with a lot more safety.
A mob climbing on Four Cracks Wall
The Sydney Rock-Climbing Club and Other Clubs
I have done a huge amount with the SRC over a period of more than 40 years. For 15 of these years I have probably been their most active member. I have been elected to be a life-member not once but twice. The second time was 10 years later than the first because the members then did not know that I was already a life member. At various stages I have held all the various important positions in the club. I calculate that I have been to more than 300 of the club’s monthly meetings.
But, although I have tried, I have never been very successful in getting this club to run club “meets”. This club absolutely refuses to consider the concept of a “meet”.
For one year I was elected as the “Trips” convenor – which I immediately changed to “Meets” convenor. And for that year the club was very active. But, even during this year, there was strong opposition to the idea of “meets”. In later years the idea was promptly forgotten.
But in Sheffield UK, there was club called the Castle Climbing Club and it was this club that introduced me to this “meets” idea. So, although there wasn’t a strict rule that everyone had to take part in being “meet organisers”, everyone was in fact pressurized by the important officers of the club into doing so. And this was a fantastically good club. Every week: there was a club pub meeting, a mid-week evening climbing meet, and a bigger club meet on the weekend. I would never aspire to forming a club as good as this club. But I might be able to form a club that would allow its club members to meet other like-minded climbers and so climbers might eventually return to joining in climbing scenes shown in the pictures of this webpage.
But let us now return and think about the SRC. This new club would simply complement the activities of the SRC (and in no way be a rival to the activities of this club). All the good activities of the SRC would continue on as normal. So the SRC would continue to:
a. have its very useful monthly meetings in Ashfield with their various speakers.
b. have its huge guide book fund to help the publication of new climbing guide books.
c. to support cliff-care.
d. run its own trips just as they like.
e. help rebolting old climbs.
f. produce its long lasting climbing magazine called Thrutch.
g. represent the climbing fraternity as regards access to climbing areas.
f. provide insurance to its members.
h. provide a climbing library to its members.
So this new club would in no way be a rival to this older club. Both clubs would have different tasks to do and act in very different manners. I hope all old climbers of SRC would join this new club as well. And eventually this new club would provide new members to the SRC. So these two clubs would simply complement the activities of each other.
At the moment this whole proposal is just an idea. But I shall be working very hard and contacting all the climbers I know, to make it a reality.
I have just finished writing a couple of sample further webpages. They are:
“MEETS of the NSW Climbers Club”, “Members of the NSW Climbers Club”. These sample webpages should give you a feel of what this system might be like when finished.
You might now also like to look back at:
either my “Home Page” (which introduces this whole website and lists all my webpages),
or “My Climbing” (which introduces this major set of webpages),
or “My 3 Famous Big First Ascents“, (which introduces a minor set of webpages).
Updated on 10/11/2016.