For the past two years I’ve been a member of the Croydon Mountaineering Club (yeah, yeah, I know there are no mountains in Croydon). What a great two years of adventures it’s been – climbing Scafell Pike, watching the sun set from the summit of Mt Snowdon, climbing sea cliffs, and even organising the after-dinner entertainment at the annual dinner.
It was certainly a bit scary turning up at the pub for the first time, having to talk to random people who used outdoor lingo like munros, cams, hexes, and benighted. It was perhaps even scarier going on the first outdoor meet where I worried about my fitness levels, my lack of climbing ability and having to sleep in a room with 10 snoring strangers. But the doubts subsided when everyone was enjoying the breath-taking views and then later, in front of a roaring fire, when we were having a drunken laugh and scoffing cheese and crackers.
So, if you have a yearning to get outside more or have toyed with the idea of joining a club but haven’t made the plunge yet, here are my five reasons why you should bite the bullet and join up.
- It gets you outside and active
And, of course, this is really the point. Most outdoor adventure clubs will have a heady list of adventures lined up. Whether its rock climbing, hill walking, cycling or kayaking, to name just a few, outdoor clubs are a smorgasbord of adventure options. And with most of the main organising already having been done by the planning gurus, you often only just have to turn up. That’s positive points for easily getting outside and active and which, as we all know, is good for health and fitness.
2. You get to meet new, like-minded people
Sure, joining an outdoor adventure club is all about the outdoors and adventures but it’s also about the people. Not only does this provide a pool of eager adventure partners (particularly helpful if you’re into rock climbing and need a belay partner) but it’s the impetus for new friendships, as well as some great adventure stories from before your time with the club. Sure, there might be a few weirdos but everyone is weird in their own way and that makes life interesting. And anyway, you’ll still have something in common to talk about.
3. You get to go on cool adventures
And talking of adventure stories, joining a club means not just talking about other people’s adventures but going on your own. Like the time I almost got benighted in Snowdonia and the time I went back to find out how that almost happened, or taking on my first ice climb but nearly chickening out in the process. What’s more, you will often get to go to places you’ve never been to before or heard about, and in some cases places you can’t even pronounce, like hidden corners of Snowdonia. In May, I’m going to the Isle of Arran in Scotland with the Croydon Mountaineering Club, and later this year, some of the members are off to Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel.
4. You get to learn new skills
For starters, you get to learn the lingo – like a munro is a Scottish mountain more than 3,000 feet high. Then there are the technical skills, like navigation and map reading, which you can glean for free from more experienced members in the club. You also pick up tips and learn from other people’s mistakes. Importantly, all of this can help you feel more confident outdoors.
5. Access to kit
Yes, the outdoors might be free but often the fancy branded kit that comes with it is vast in choice and mighty expensive. What jacket is best for this adventure? Which crampons go with which boots? Not only does being in a club give you insider advice on what might be best, many clubs will provide access to gear and books so you don’t have to fork out money, essentially allowing you to try before you buy. And other people in the club might even loan you kit. Furthermore, many clubs also have generous discount schemes with clothing and outdoor companies to help stretch your pennies.
So, what are you waiting for? With summer just around the corner, what better time to join up to a club now.
For more information on the Croydon Mountaineering Club (CMC), see here.
The CMC is an affiliated club of the British Mountaineering Council (BMC), and more information about BMC clubs can be found here.