With graduation and the transition to life after university now a reality for many student climbers, we wanted to share some advice on pursuing climbing and mountaineering outside of the world of student clubs.
Student clubs provide a great deal of opportunity and resources that it’s all too easy to take for granted, such as a wealth of like-minded climbing partners, club equipment, regular meets, and opportunities to learn technical skills from more experienced members. As such, the prospect of transitioning from a student climber/hill walker/mountaineer to an adult one can be fairly daunting. In this blog post, we hope to answer a few of your questions on how to make do outside the student-club scene.
Joining a club
As you’re probably aware, student clubs are not the only mountaineering clubs in the UK. There are a plethora of climbing, hill-walking and mountaineering clubs all over the country, catering to a wide range of mountain-based interests. One of the best ways to stay engaged with the mountaineering and climbing community post-graduation is by joining one of these existing clubs. They provide (almost) all the benefits of being in a student club, with the exception being that most non-student mountaineering clubs sadly do not have their own equipment. Joining a club will give you access to meets and a chance to join a network of like-minded outdoor enthusiasts and potential climbing or walking partners.
Some clubs even have their own climbing huts, so discounted access to these can be an additional membership benefit. What’s more, many clubs are BMC affiliated, so joining will give you all the BMC membership benefits you might have enjoyed as a member of a BMC-affiliated student club (combined liability insurance, loads of discounts in huts, shops and for training courses, and access to BMC events).
To find a club near you, use the club finder on the BMC website (note: this only has BMC affiliated clubs, there may be more clubs out there that aren’t included on this list). Once you’ve found clubs in your area, you can usually find contact details or meet information on their websites or Facebook pages. If you’re not sure whether the club is right for you, feel free to reach out to them with questions before joining. It’s likely that the club will be thrilled to hear from a prospective member and would be more than happy to answer your questions.
If there aren’t any clubs in your area, or you don’t find one that matches your interests, then there are also a number of national clubs that are not based in a single location. A list of this type of club can be found here.
Starting your own club
It’s likely that during your time as a student you’ve already made plenty of hill walking and climbing friends, so maybe you don’t feel the need to join an existing club. If this is the case, then why not start your own club? This is also a good way to reap the benefits of BMC membership and affiliation. Guidance on starting your own club can be found here.
One of the biggest luxuries of the student club experience is the free access to equipment. Many students graduate without owning a single piece of their own equipment, other than maybe a harness, pair of shoes and a chalk-bag. The prospect of having to fork out for a trad rack, ropes, bouldering pad and all the rest is very intimidating. This is even worse news if you happen to like alpine or winter climbing.
Of course, in true dirtbag style, you can try to sponge off your richer friends who can afford their own gear for as long as possible, but eventually you are probably going to need to start making some investments. We’ve got a few tips for those of you about to splash out on some personal climbing gear.
Firstly, make sure you do your research on which gear is appropriate for which uses. We have published some great technical advice booklets for this which can be found here.
Secondly, be wary of too-good-to-be-true online deals. It is obviously very tempting to try and save money by finding online discounts, but unfortunately some websites occasionally try to pass off unrated equipment as climbing gear, and there are even instances of counterfeit climbing equipment showing up online.
When shopping online, it’s best to stick to specialist climbing equipment retailers and known brands. More information about spotting unsafe climbing equipment online can be found here. In a similar vein, Facebook groups like Outdoor Gear Exchange are amazing for getting your hands on some great clothing or footwear deals, but really ask yourself if it is worth buying second-hand gear that you could potentially be taking falls onto, without knowing the full history of the equipment.
Finding climbing partners
As already mentioned, joining a club is the best way to go about this. However other methods are available. The “show up at the wall and chat to people until someone agrees to go climbing with you” method is an old favourite, and always works well. There are also lots of ways to find climbing partners online, such as BMC Local Area Facebook pages, UKC forums, Womenclimb: find a climbing partner and apps like Meetup.
But if you’ve arranged to go climbing with someone you met online, how do you know they are going to be a safe climbing partner? Unfortunately you can’t always take people at their word for their experience level, so it’s often a good idea to chat to them in detail before committing to a climbing trip. It might even be worth meeting up in a slightly safer indoor environment before heading out together, so you can make sure you can trust your new climbing partner.
Staying up to date on best practice
Another great thing about student clubs is that often, less experienced members are able to learn from the more experienced members. Being in frequent contact with other more experienced climbers, walkers and mountaineers means you have an opportunity to learn about current practice frequently. However, once you have left the safety of the student club, you might have to source this information by yourself. Even if you’re already experienced, it is important to keep up-to-date, because what is considered “best practice” does change with time and with developments in climbing style and equipment. There are a number of great online resources to help you keep on top of things. In particular the DMM safety videos, the BMC TV skills films and UKC articles are all a great place to start. Don’t forget that with your BMC membership you can also get discounts on technical skills courses if you want to brush up on something with a qualified instructor.
Written by: Lizzie Porter. Student Club Rep, BMC Clubs' Committee
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