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Mountaineering Trip - Black Mountains Nov 2004

The trip officially started at 7pm on Friday5th November. Some members met at the sport centre and waited for me, Al , Dan, Maddy (possibly) and Amy to arrive. Unfortunately we were delayed due to Amy getting dropped off to pack later than expected and Maddy still trying to decide whether to go or not, she was still deciding while she was packing. After the sports centre we headed to Cowley and then to Harcourt Hill to do pick ups. Once everyone was collected there were 14 of us, Al (Club President and CEO), Maddy (Vice President, Social Secretary), Adders (that's me)(vice President, Secretary, Keeper of the Kitty, Driver, Communications Officer and carer of Minty), Phil (Driver, First Aid Officer and Minister of Happiness), Rachel Miskin, Dan (Co-President), Heather, Amy, Matt, Jon, Noreen, Petra, Sonke, Marie, Josh and of course the legendary Minty..

We got set off from Harcourt Hill at about 8pm and off to Wales . The journey wasn't that long and went through Ross-On-Wye, home of the head office of the biggest youth activity company in Britain (unfortunately Al won't let me mention the three letters which make up the name of the company as apparently I mention them way too much). During the drive down Minty ended up jumping in the back and started cavorting with the females in the back, I think he nearly pulled at one point, that's my sheep. We made a stop at some services that were unfortunately closed as it was gone 9pm, but we needed a nature break and a driver change. The second driver needed fuel too, he can't drive without eating 3 cheeseburgers, but he had to this time. We got to the bunk house at about 11pm after struggling to find it, even though it was clearly sign posted (slightly better than 4am though) and settled in. I have found out since we got back that Baskerville Hall Hotel (the inspiration for the Hound of the Baskervilles) is actually not far from where we were staying, no wonder Dan booked a secure place to stay.

Unfortunately Dan had booked a bunk house with only 10 bunks, which meant 4 of us had to sleep in the rooms upstairs. The decision was taken to make the upstairs room the executive rooms for the committee, so me, Maddy, Al and Noreen took the upstairs rooms and left Dan downstairs. Once beds had been divided up it was time to start the usual evening activities, involving drinking, TV watching and fishing (yes, fishing, the bunk house had a fishing game, which I thought was really easy, but every else struggled). We had a few drinks, followed by a few more and then finished with some more drinks (basically a standard evening for me). We finally turned in at about 2am. By this time both me and Noreen had found people to share our private rooms with, calm down, we were in separate beds. Basically Jon and Matt decided they wanted luxury and decided to kip in the spare beds upstairs. Phil had managed to get to the sofa and decided he couldn't be bothered to move any further so he spent the night there, that's usually my spot.

The following day got off to a slow start as always, we all had a spot of breakfast and made our packed lunch for the day ahead. We were all loaded on the minibus and away by late morning. We drove to Pen y Fann where we were going to start our walk for the day, up Pen y Fann. We parked in a lay by that had a fast food van in it, which was a mistake to start with the group nearly lost Phil who wanted to get 3 cheeseburgers and me as I'm just permanently hungry. The first part of the walk was easy under foot, but we could instantly see a hazard, (other than hiking with me and the twins) the fog was fairly low and so we'd be walking through it. The path didn't go up too far before we got a nice bit of downhill, but then it was back to the uphill. The directions were idiot proof according to our navigators, we head straight, then turn right at the Obelisk, only problem we found was that we couldn't see the Obelisk, but we turned right just before the ridiculously steep jagged slope (which I wasn't allowed to Bivvy bag down), we though this might have been a good place to turn. We continued to the top with a little bit of scrambling, but nothing too strenuous for us. Upon reaching the top we found some guys doing proper training with storm shelters, there was quite a difference in professionalism between us and them, they got to the top and practiced emergency situations, we got to the top and had a drink of Irish Mist (warms the cockles nicely). Phil took this opportunity to propose a diving contest for all the committee members, off the side of the hill/mountain, apparently there would be a prize for the person who made the loudest splat on the rocks below (he doesn't mean us any harm, he just lets the terrorist in him take control of his actions occasionally). Phil then made us all jealous by pulling out his big one, he had had to keep it in his bag as it was too big for his pocket, the rest of us all had mini ones so the jealousy was running pretty high. We didn't stop too long as it was pretty cold up there. We headed back on a lower path onto a ridge. I got a bit disappointed with Matt at this point, he said he couldn't decide which he'd be safer stuck on the mountains with, me or a real Adder, like there's any competition, obviously it's the snake. We walked along the ridge talking about the legendary TV sitcom, the one that has become a Fellwalking/Mountaineering Club institution, the one and only Black Adder. Unfortunately we were getting way too into it and missed the path down. Thankfully we managed to find another route down, unfortunately we only had one problem, we were descending into the wrong valley, only a minor detail. O well, its still a hill, which we can run down and bivvy bag down, always great fun. We got down to the bottom pretty quickly, just to find a river to cross. Most of us crossed at the swallow section, but some decided to carry on to the deeper section. Even in the shallow section I fell over and got my hand wet and then Phil fell over in the water, after laughing at me, Phil managed to get his priorities right, he got some of his clothes wet, one hand, but managed to save his fag from getting wet. We followed the river to a local wooded area where we left the river to find the road. We hadn't gone far from the river when we found a random traffic cone in the middle of no where, it's just a shame that it was too far from the road to take it back with us. A bit further on we found an even more random, but much, much better find, on the side of the path was an un-opened can of Strongbow, I'll have that thanks. We found a road eventually; we just had to find out which road it was. We used our brilliant navigation skills to find out which way to head down the road, I think it was the famous 'eany meany miney mo' method. We walked along the road for about half an hour before stopping at a reservoir to let Phil and Matt to go and collect the minibus. This seemed like a good idea at the time, but soon after they'd gone we suddenly worked out why Phil had volunteered, he wanted his two cheeseburgers from the fast food van in the lay by. He was good though and chose us over the cheeseburgers (Translation = the fast food van was closed). We all loaded onto the minibus and headed back to the bunk house to start drinking all the booze that we had brought with us. Unfortunately our natural student instincts kicked in and we found ourselves sidetracking, before we actually realised what was happening we found ourselves ordering drinks at a bar, well all except for me, as I am responsible and volunteered to drive Phil's baby back to the bunk house. We stayed in the pub for an hour or so, then we decided that we really ort to start heading back so we could have start cooking some food, and they'd taken the hint at last that I was ready for my alcohol drip. I managed to get into one conversation with a local bloke, quite by accident, I was trying to pee and some local guy came into the loo and started talking to me about fox hunting, I think, I could hardly understand him (just wait till Scotland, last time we were up there I got given some brilliant homemade shortcake from the locals, and I was the last one out the local pub coos I was chatting to them). Take a word of advice from me and Edmund Blackadder, Don't ask for directions in Wales , you'll get covered in flem'.

We got back to the bunk house and cracked open the wine, beer, cider and vodka, obviously we put the jacket tates (kindly donated by me at no cost to the club) in the oven as well. We then started a game of Monopoly and turned on the TV. Quite conveniently the game finished just as the tates were ready so we tucked in. Tea was followed by a game of who am I. For those of you who don't know this game, basically you have to stick a name on your head without looking who it is, then you have to ask questions to determine who you are. That kept us entertained for quite a while, then we sorted out some logic puzzles. Unfortunately, we get bored really easily and started to get restless, we decided to start playing with Spermy, the 4 foot blue furry sperm. We grabbed it and legged it upstairs to where Jon was sleeping, burst in the room and chucked Spermy at him, at the same time as we took a photo (check it out on the website, under Jons Blackmountains Winter 2004) (while imp on the subject of photos, Jon you shouldn't have had your trainers on the bed, the photo proves it). We then tried the same thing on Maddy, the effect wasn't as good though as she had heard me and Al plotting outside her door. We all headed back down stair, taking a picture of the hoover on route, to find out that most people had gone to bed. Al decided that this showed poor morale, so he decided that he should give them a motivational talk to help them. So he stood at the map on the door (half pissed on Strongbow (picture evidence on website)) pointing out where we had been, where we were going and basically where there were hills. He didn't have a professional pointer so he used Spermy's tail. During this great motivational speech I (spurred on by others) decided to start decorating Al 's hair with the feathers that where decorating the kitchen area of the bunkhouse, he never noticed the fact that I was putting features in his hair. We settled down after this excitement and those of us left up watched South Park - The Movie, as it was on Channel 5 (we actually got a better picture on the TV in the Brecon Beacons than I can get in Oxford, I can just about get the Oxford Channel though). We had a few more drinks and the remains of the jacket tates before heading upstairs.

The following morning was a fairly late start, but once we started we kept going, we had to get everything loaded up and clean the bunk house. It was a flurry of activity, thankfully we still got time for the important things in life, Fag breaks for the smokers and another chance for me to play with the beday. We left the bunkhouse (after I'd recovered from paying the bill and Dan had stolen the key to the door), and headed to Cairn Guogh Uriais where we were going to do our walk for that day. We parked in the car park (and you could see Phil's face drop when there was no fast food van, no worries, he'd made us stop at a garage en-route), right next to some nature photographers who didn't seem over impressed to see us, especially when several of us dived behind tree's (different tree's). We started off on a wooded path, which was seriously easy going at first, but then we got to the muddy section, and I mean muddy! You put your foot down and it sank, it was also very slippery, so obviously the entertainment value was great, it would have been great to take a bivvy bag down, though maybe a little mucky. We got past the muddy section and it was all good paths from then on (well, nearly), we followed the path as it zigzagged through the woods, whilst singing that great English Hymn (which was the school hymn at both the school where I took my A-Levels and Al 's Grammar school) Jerusalem. We went several miles through the woods before we found an escape, through a small gate. Hunger got the better of us though and we decided to stop for lunch before escaping the wood. After lunch we ventured out of the cover of the woods, into the open fields to make our final big push for glory. The big push was hard going the terrain was marshy and we were starting to feel the wind now that we were out of the protection of the wood. We carried on though and within about half an hour we'd peaked the summit. We celebrated with the spot of Irish Mist again. Me and Maddy decided to try and to create a mountain out of this hill by building towers out of rocks on top of the summit. After a quick break we started to head down by a different route. We took a lot more direct route down led by our Minister of Happiness, Phil. As with the previous day we ended up taking a steep slope down which was off for the path, but lots more fun. It only took us about half an hour to get down to stream at the bottom of this valley, there was a least a bridge across the stream today. We headed back to the mini bus and got loaded up, then it was off back home, via the pub of course.

The plan was to stop at Cheltenham for a meal in the pub. Unfortunately when we got to Cheltenham we faced a major problem, where was the Wheatherspoons pub. We did eventually find it and popped in for a meal and quick drink. We got some bad news when we got in there though, Wheatherspoons had taken Minted Lamb burgers off the 2 meals for £5.99 menu, How could there? W e managed to find alternate selections and settled down for a nice meal and a nice pint ( well all except me, t hey only have B lackthorn Cider, s o I had volunteered to drive h ome a nd not drink. We finished our meals and headed back to the minibus, well most of us did. Al , Jon and Matt has got lost on the way back so we had to sit and wait for them for fifteen minutes, then the expected to me to drive to the gate and pick them up personally. W e eventually got underway, but we didn't get far as my navigator (I won't mention the name of this Guinness drinking President/Navigator, for his own confidentiality) was completely lost and was just naming random directions at every junction (we eventually guessed this when we came to a t junction and he told me to drive straight on). After about half an hour we eventually managed to find the road out of Cheltenham, after having to write press the University of Gloucestershire , we drove pas t fairly quickly and tried not to draw attention to ourselves in our Oxford Brookes University mini bus.

The journey back to Oxford was swift and uneventful and for once we made it back before the bars shut. We did drop offs at Harcourt Hill, then Abingdon road, Cowley Road , Hollow way and then to Headington to drop me, the minibus and everyone else off.

Overall it was a great trip and the nighttime events were amazing. The bunk house was real luxury, especially the executive rooms; sorry for anyone who didn't get to see them, you ' l just have to take our word for it. That's all the trips finished for 2004, let' s hope the trips in 2005 are just as good.



Adric Warth

Deputy President (treasurer, secretary and communications officer)


Written under the influence of cider, particularly Strongbow.