UKH

Why Do We Pay the BMC A Membership Fee?

Why do we join the BMC? To get great climbing and travel insurance right?

It's surely not to help local climbing groups to replace old bolts or to fund youngsters in their climbing competition hopes, or the multitude of other projects that the BMC are engaged in like helping Tom Ripley and friends go on their first Himalyan expedition. No one joins to help the fund the BMC Technical committee that gives advice about gear and safety, or to help the BMC publish first class guidebooks, or preserve our climbing heritage.

A very cynical view of course. I joined for all the above reasons, but fundamentally we have to have a professional team represent us, you and me, when access to the UK's crags goes wrong. Access to climbing areas is crucial to all of us and is one of the most important jobs the BMC does.

So what have the BMC done for us on the access front recently?

Cilan Head, North Wales

The Cilan Crags of the Lleyn Peninsula, 233 kb
The Cilan Crags of the Lleyn Peninsula
© Jack Geldard
As Gogarth is to Anglesey, so Cilan is to the Lleyn. The showpiece of the area with big, bold lines in a beautiful and adventurous setting. Just don't expect to queue. UKC Chief Editor, Jack Geldard's favourite crag.

What was the problem?

Cilan Head is great for birds as well as climbers, and these two animals can co-exist if they show each other respect. Climbing was restricted from 1st March until mid-August, a big chunk of time especially as that period is great for sea cliff climbing.

How was it resolved?

Pat Littlejohn, who loves climbing on Cilan Head, and Elfyn Jones, the BMC's Welsh Officer went out on a boat with people from the RSPB and the Countryside Council for Wales. They observed where the birds are nesting and as a consequence have derestricted a third of the western part of Cilan Head, and shortened the restrictions on the rest of Cilan Head.

Dinorwig slate quarries,North Wales

Tom Brigg's battling his way up Where are my sensible shoes., 222 kb
Tom Brigg's battling his way up Where are my sensible shoes.
The most important quarried slate climbing in the UK with hundreds of routes of all grades situated in the heart of North Wales. Steeped in climbing and local history. A unique place to climb and much loved.

What was the problem?

Climbing on the slate is very popular, especially where there are low-grade sport routes at Dali's Hole and similar. The whole area is owned by First Hydro who are concerned about liability issues. Fences were erected and there were several incidents with security people. First Hydro were also concerned about non-climbing visitors following climbers to steep and exposed ground where they would be at risk.

How was it resolved?

Negotiations are on -going with the very receptive First Hydro (who are pro-climbers) and access to the slate is assured. Elfyn Jones says that there is reduced tension between climbers, security staff and First Hydro. There should be an agreement soon about Dali's Hole.

Fairy Cave Quarry, Somerset

Tim Styles on Jiggery Pokery (VS 5a), Fairy Cave Quarry, 210 kb
Tim Styles on Jiggery Pokery (VS 5a), Fairy Cave Quarry
© timstyles, May 2004
Fairy Cave Quarry is a large limestone quarry which features a selection of very good quality 40 to 45 metre high slabs. The quarry is very quick drying and whilst the main areas face north, they get the sun from May to August. There is also an assortment of areas facing west and east. Recommended routes: Rob's Crack (VS), Glacial Point (E4), Strictly Ballroom (E2), Moving Target (E3).

What was the problem?

Again this is a situation where the owners are concerned about liability if a climber is injured or killed, and sometimes in situations like this climbing can be banned outright.

How was it resolved?

Ian Butterworth, BMC SW Access Rep for Mendips & Somerset is now part of the Fairy Cave Management Committee and along with cavers works with the landowners on access. First off the area has been added to the BMC's third party liability insurance so that the landowners are not as risk from claims. Second an access agreement has been negotiated for climbers. Climbers can get the combination to the locked access gate, and along with cavers are the only people allowed within the area of the cliff that is fenced. Climbers must look after the area, keep it clean, and respect the wildlife and plants, the area is an SSSI (Special Site of Scientific Interest). This agreement is for a 12 month trial period.

Full access agreement at this BMC page: Access to Fairy Cave Quarry agreed

Dinas Rock, Swansea

Redpoint of Berlin (Mark Glaister), 208 kb
Redpoint of Berlin (Mark Glaister)
John Warner, Jul 2008
© Mark Glaister
A brilliant crag with some of the best climbing in SE Wales: mostly single-pitch routes upto 30m. Often steep, smooth face climbing; harder routes may need dusting off. Most of the routes are now sports routes.

What was the problem?

The cliff and gorge is owned by the Forestry Commission (FC) and is an SSSI and SAC (Special Area of Conservation). Whilst engaged in developing an access agreement for groups in the gorge the FC's attention turned to climbers and much vegetation removal was noticed, as well as a new path created by climbers and many new bolts. The FC were concerned about liability issues and conservation issues. Above all they hadn't been informed by climbers about any of these developments. Potentially there was a possibilty of a climbing ban.

How was it resolved?

Elfyn Jones, the BMC's Welsh Officer and local climbers met with the Forestry Commission and a dialogue was established. The activities of climbers was explained to the FC and the importance of Dinas as a climbing area. It transpires that some controlled and agreed vegetation removal here is actually good for the area - especially bolt lower offs so that climbers don't disturb delicate cliff-top soils and vegetation. The key here, again, is that climbers must work with land managers, through the BMC and a happy resolution is the usual outcome.

Llanymynech, Shropshire

[Missing photo!]

An extensive quarry providing a wide range of routes to appeal to a variety of climbers.This includes multi-pitch classics,up to 55m in length,such as Blind Faith VS and Cream VS on Blind Faith Buttress.A range of single pitch trad classics on Black Wall such as Black Wall E2, Black Bastard E2 and Black Is Beautiful E4. Also,easier stuff for beginners in Cul-de-Sac Quarry from D to HS. More recent developments have resulted in a range of sport routes on Red Wall .

What was the problem?

Llanymynech is managed by the Shropshire and Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trusts and there has been an agreement that no new routes would be developed by climbers. Hmm, some new routes did go up. This caused problems. The routes were debolted.

How was it resolved?

There is a meeting between the Shropshire and Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trusts, Elfyn Jones, the BMC's Welsh Officer and local activists tomorrow night. Both the Trusts are pro-climbing, and wildlife and plant management can co-exist with climbing if there is a relationship between land managers and climbers represented by the BMC. It looks as if the new routes will be re-established and there maybe even room for some more routes. Co-operation and respect is the key.

A Non Climber Helps Climbers and the Regional Access Database (RAD)

Finally a sweet story of a non-climber helping climbers. John Loten-Roberts is a volunteer for the Denbighshire Countryside Service and he walks the popular limestone cliffs of Clwyd checking on bird activity. He is the person who puts up the signs that inform climbers where there are bird restrictions in the area, but he also likes climbers. As soon as the birds stop nesting he takes the signs down and informs Elfyn Jones that climbing can go ahead, Elfyn then posts this information on the Regional Access Database (RAD) where anyone can view the current access situation at crags in England and Wales, and you should!

Are You A Member?

So, you may not be a big fan of competitions, or you may not be agreement with the BMC about bolts - you surely want good and cheap BMC climbing insurance - but above all we should support the BMC for the essential and sterling work they do for us making sure that we can climb where we want to.

If you aren't a member you can join here

Thank you to Rob Dyer - BMC Access & Conservation Officer, Elfyn Jones - the BMC's Welsh Officer and Dave Turnbull - BMC CEO, for help with this report.



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