“It’s warm and wet out there. That’s good if you have to fight a war in a jungle, but bad if you want to do some climbing in Wilton Three!” So said Robin Williams in the film, Good Morning Vietnam. Well, luckily for the Bolton-cragger, this year’s ever-popular WiltonFest was not warm and wet, but cold and wet.
There’s a thing about people; if you see them at their worst, and they’re okay, then they are generally okay. And so with other things in life. Last year WiltonFest enjoyed blissful sunshine, many routes getting ticked, courses run and a gentle barbecue in the evening’s golden glow. This year the rain had started before the event and carried on without stopping into the darkness.
Crowds huddled into shelters, hung out under tents, sipped warmth from free tea and perused the CAC stand, Crusher Holds and guidebook artwork. And the incredible thing was that the mood of the day was fantastic.
It seemed hard to believe that the most British of weather did not dampen the spirits of the good folk of Lancashire. Every now and then a gore-texed group would head off into the rain for a course; a hopeful would walk to the rock and ponder the wiseness of a wet, low-grade lead; a soul would wander to the BMC tent and join up; Malc Baxter would continue to execute a beautiful sketch of some rock while his paper soaked up moisture; old friends caught up and many hands were shook; black puddings were passed around secretly like a machine-gun round a prison canteen.
The day also marked the official launch of the BMC’s new Lancashire Rock guidebook. Contributors were given complimentary copies, stalwarts worked hard to battle a price down and keen beans grabbed a copy. Many heads of the assembled multitude were buried deep in the salacious pages of the book. Photos elicited old memories, grades were heckled, crags enticed the unexperienced. It served to bind the event around the fabulous crags the area offered.
Late in evening, Lancastrian pioneer Mark Leach gave a slideshow about his early days in the quarries then on to his adventures in the late-1980s at the cutting edge of climbing. People sat and digested barbecued sausages and 1980’s lycra fashions. Both warmed the audience.
I’d never been to a WiltonFest before. If this was one at its worst, then I’m definitely going next year.
Watch a film of WiltonFest 2016 on BMC TV:
Lancashire Rock: get the t-shirt!
Want to get your hands on a limited edition Lancashire Rock t-shirt featuring the famous Wilton prow. Only 50 t-shirts were printed, and there are only two ways to get one:
Build a time machine, go back a few years, join the BMC guidebook committee and get heavily involved in producing the new guidebook.
Take a photo of you and your brand new Lancashire Rock guidebook out in the wilds of Lancashire and enter it in our Instagram competition.
How it works
Take your photo, upload it to Instagram, tag us in it (@teambmc) and use the hashtag #eckythump. We'll keep picking winners and sending out t-shirts until we run out.
T-shirts are unisex fit, limited sizes only.
We want to say a big thanks to every BMC member who continues to support us through the Coronavirus crisis.
From weekly Facebook Lives and GB Climbing home training videos, to our access team working to re-open the crags and fight for your mountain access, we couldn’t do it without you.
Did you know that we've launched a U27 membership offer for just £1.50 / month? And with full membership from £2.50 / month, it's never been easier to join and support our work: