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What is the point of the BMC?

Posted on June 13 2014

Climbing is a free sport, it's in our DNA. Our ancestors climbed as a matter of necessity to stay safe. Sometimes it was as simple living in the trees. Often it would have been either up in caves on the cliff face or down deep below the earth. 


If you go to Cheddar Gorge what you focus on is the caves below the earth, the beautiful complex caverns with natural structures but what people miss is the cave on the limestone cliff faces which had a family living in it until the last century. If you have taken the bus tour up the winding cliff face you would have heard the story and seen the caves but what always baffles the mind is how they got up there safely, no ropes and lived so high.


I digress; the point is if you can just find a rock and climb why do you need an organisation telling you what to do? Why would you need to pay a yearly membership when you can just climb some rocks?


Recently Harrison's Rocks have suffered intense erosion from man. Climbers who set ropes incorrectly dig groves into the rock and the constant brushing of holds really wears away at fragile rocks. There are numerous names carved into the rocks, artificial holds and even blowtorching has taken place to dry off holds. The BMC protects our climbing heritage and works towards protecting this.


What do the BMC do against such destruction?

-       they have already warned climbers of the effects of their use

-       concreted the tops of some climbs to protect from rope wear

-       bolted the climbs to make it easier and safer to climb

-       moved the main path away from the rocks to have less wear and tear near the rocks

Most of their work they do is via volunteers but has a massive impact. 


Do you enjoy climbing outdoors? Have you appreciated the free parking near the sites and the facilities nearby? Probably the great work of the BMC again. They have acquired numerous climbing sites for use solely by climbers and cleared acres of overgrown areas to free them up for climbing. In areas like Cheddar Gorge they have negotiated access for climbers and freed up some of the best climbing that the UK has to offer. They also organise all our climbing in the UK.


Do you feel safe with your climbing instructor? That's because the BMC have helped develop the training in this country to keep us safe. The Mountain Leader Training England Body is part of the BMC and has been training instructors and enthusiasts to very high standards for years. 


The BMC are a much wider organisation than most would expect. They cover hill walkers, mountaineers and climbers of all types. They organise local events and have local meetings with climbers to discuss and improve climbing in their area. They help protect the environment and raise huge amounts of awareness backed up by there own research on the effects of climate change and erosion.


At their core they believe access to hills and mountains is a basic human right without restriction as long as it is sustainable so it can be there for future generations. They work with local agencies to achieve this and also the local businesses and encourage their members to buy local produce and stay at locally owned accommodation.


As well as protecting our heritage they ensure the future of our beloved sport. They organise competitions, support our youth and encourage young climbers and are really trying very hard to get climbing into the Olympics.


They have adapted over the years by getting more and more involved in the massive boom of indoor climbing. They have affiliated themselves closely with areas of climbing excellence such as Plas-y-Brenin in Wales.


So if your already not impressed and just want to continue to get this for free what else do members get? There is a long list that includes insurance, discounts at 600 stores and there amazing subsidised accommodation near climbing sites. All for £15 if you pay by direct debit.


The other great benefit is the quarterly issues of the Summit magazine delivered directly to your door. These are genuinely brilliant and a worthy read. As well being the largest circulation magazine in the UK (it goes to all 75,000 members and its 280 affiliated clubs) it contains all the latest news and great topics outside the mainstream coverage. The magazine encompasses climbers, hill walkers and mountaineers.


You should definitely check out their website as they always have great news articles and training tips too. The BMC also produce their own great guides for climbing, particularly in the Peak District. The guide I used for the Roaches was so clear and concise. The map was brilliant and they has pictures of every rock face with clearly labelled routes to find your way. It included difficulty levels and great hints and tips as well as a history of who climbed it. It even singles out the classic routes that are a must achieve in the area. The route descriptions were particularly good and hand on heart I would have been lost without it.


All in all I am so glad I joined. I received a great BMC guide. Also, I have already saved the money spent on subscription on the discounts I have been given in stores. I was able to sign up for an SPA (Single Pitch Award) course. I have stayed in the beautiful Don Whillams hut in the peak district for £8 per night, which had the famous Valkryrie climb directly behind it. I was able to climb at Cheddar Gorge with the free insurance (obtained by subscribing to the BMC), which is a requirement to climb there. Being one of those people who bang something every time I get on the rocks I am sure it will come in useful.


I just can't believe it’s so cheap and the volunteers who help get us these great deals really deserve a lot of credit. The BMC are a great organisation that does a great deal for little reward. Really, the question is what would climbing in the UK be like without them?


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