Club's peak performance

Being based in Newbury, amid the gently undulating countrside of West Berkshire, hasn't stopped members of the town's mountaineering club scaling some of the most challenging heights in the world

William Walker


William Walker

Interview with members of Newbury Mountaineering Club

he rural green of West Berkshire may not be renowned for its soaring peaks, but that hasn’t stopped the members of Newbury Mountain Club from enjoying some of the nation’s best climbs.

The locally-based organisation describes itself as West Berkshire’s “friendliest club for walking and mountaineering” and organises regular outings to the peaks of the British Isles and beyond. Although current membership is 40, the club, which was founded in 1991, has typically a complement of around 50 members, with both professionals and amateurs coming and going over the years. Committee member Alan Tinkler says that “the main goal of the club is to enjoy the outdoors.

Our aim is for members to have a laugh and enjoy themselves.” Maggie Russell, who is currently club president, has been involved with the group for the past 30 years. “There are a lot of experienced members in the club, and amateurs too,” she says. “Two of our group have scaled Mount Everest.”

Members have also climbed the slopes of Stok Kangri in the Indian Himalayas, Mount Toubkal in Morocco, the highest mountain in North Africa, and Mount Blanc in France. Sharing war stories, Alan says the most challenging climb for him was in 2000 when he scaled South America’s highest mountain – Aconcagua in Argentina. In the UK, he says his most challenging climb was Helvellyn in the Lake District, while Maggie says that the Aonach Eagach Ridge in Scotland was her most difficult climb. “That was very hard” she admits. The club meets on alternate Tuesdays from 8.30pm at The Lamb pub at Enborne Road, where prospective walks are discussed and advice for climbing enthusiasts is shared.

It’s also a chance for both mountaineering experts and amateurs to share their photos of experiences and tell the tales of cliffs scaled and bruises earned. It’s also an opportunity to discuss forthcoming trips and ad hoc events that the group holds from time to time. Alan says that they are always looking to encourage prospective new members to come along and meet them. “We would then ask them what they have done and what level of experience they have in climbing and walking.

“If they feel comfortable with it, we would then ask them to come out on one of our local walks to start with.” He added that safety was a priority for the group. “They have to have the right equipment. If somebody came out with nothing and we had enough spare gear to lend, that would be all right – but not boots, which are the most important item. “People have got to take responsibility for themselves and we do encourage our members trying out more serious climbs to keep on training.”

Most club trips are within the British Isles and are organised over a weekend, and although over-18s can join, the club otherwise has a wide mix of ages, from those in their 20s to those now in retirement. The rationale behind weekend expeditions rather than day trips is that everyone can drive the three or four hours to the destination the night before, then “chill out and get an early start to the day.

Also how many times have you sat in the pub after coming off the hill and said to yourself, ‘I can’t be bothered driving home now. I wish I could sit here all night.’ Yup, we’ve all been there! This way you can relax, down a few beers and have a good social night out.”

Club members have completed numerous UK-wide trips including backpacking around the Lake District in May, walking the Seven Sisters in March, and scrambling around Llanberis in Snowdonia in February. Occasionally the group takes on more ambitious mountain trips abroad, and visited the Spanish Pyrenees in 2013 and Morocco’s Atlas Mountains in 2011. Major trips coming up include a “hut-to-hut” walk along the Pennines on July 11 and a trip to Berchesgarten in Germany is planned for September. Maggie explains that they aim to do one trip abroad each year.

“As with life, you only get out what you put in. Newbury Mountain Club is your club, so the more input you add, the more yourself and others will benefit from being a member.”

Want to join?

Full membership of the club costs £20 annually and prospective members can either contact the club secretary or just turn up at one of the Tuesday meetings and introduce yourself. Membership to the club also includes automatic affiliation to the British Mountaineering Club which grants access to insurance and Summit magazine, as well as various store and online discounts and further discounts at BMC events. For more information visit http://www.newburymountainclub. org.uk

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Mark Little