John Muir, a cult hero to geography teachers nationwide and perhaps our country’s most eminent naturalist, once claimed: “the mountains are calling and I must go.” And it is by this mantra that the Glasgow University Mountaineering Club seems to abide.
The club, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, was formed in the aftermath of the Second World War for like-minded people to escape the drudgery of Glasgow city life and immerse themselves in the wild and stunning scenery Scotland has to offer. Since its humble beginnings the club has enjoyed exponential growth and now boasts a thriving community of over 170 enthusiastic members.
Two members of the club’s committee; Cathy MacIver, the club’s secretary, and Kat Torr, this year’s vice-president, recently spoke to the Guardian about the club.
GUMC seems very much like a family affair as MacIver talks about her inspiration to join the club: “My parents were both members at university and they had a big influence on my joining the club. To be fair it wasn’t quite as glamorous then, we’ve got the luxury of minibuses, they were forced to hitchhike instead!”
In contrast to MacIver, who grew up with mountains on the mind, Torr as a child disliked hill walking and only became involved through a flat mate and has never looked back since.
MacIver and Torr are in a high spirits on the back of a recent hugely successful trip to Aviemore, staying in the picturesque Nethy Bridge for a weekend.
It transpires that my definition of the word ‘mountaineering’ is comparitively limited. Aside from merely tramping about the hills, I come to realise it’s an all encompassing term for anything on a rock face or steep incline, from the tranquility of a gentle stroll to the adrenaline rush of extreme snow sports, from kayaking and rock climbing to mountainbiking.
The recent trip to Aviemore was centred around the latter, the group taking advantage of some near perfect conditions to get in some skiing down in the idyllic Cairngorm mountain range. MacIvor and Torr begrudgingly accept these ideal elements are a real rarity for those used to experiencing the worst that the highlands can throw at them.
The club travels a great deal around the country with trips ranging from the Peak and Lake Districts, the Welsh valleys, and out to the remote islands of the Hebrides. The club rarely goes abroad and with seemingly good reason: “People are always looking beyond Scotland for that great escape but they don’t realise the true wonders and beauty that can be found here. We are lucky enough to have some of the best landscapes in the world, why go search for what is on our doorstep?”
Both MacIver and Torr are keen to stress that the club is no way aimed at just the elite: “It’s not about competition, it’s about the individual, achieving personal goals.”
In the months when the majority of us are getting bogged down with the trials and tribulations of exam life, Torr empahsises the advantage of the club as offering an opportunity to get away for the weekend and unwind.
The club definitely prides itself in focusing on its social aspect consisting of many smaller groups of friends who organise their own meets and weekends away. Members also take advantage of the local climbing centres situated in Ibrox and Kelvinhall.
A major part of the society revolves around its website and online forum, which has been running for 18 months and is actively used to organise meets, both in and outside the club. The banter is colourful to say the least.
The club has a social every Tuesday at 9pm at The Primary where new members are always welcome, and could very well be the perfect opportunity to keep New Year’s resolutions, which may be faltering by this point, intact…