The Roaches

This weekend (25th-27th November) saw my second trip with the mountaineering society, to the more southern section of the Peaks known as The Roaches. Staying in the Don Whillans Memorial Hut (aka Rockhall Cottage), a small stone house built around existing boulders, we ventured into the gales for more adventures on gritstone. The hut itself is a truly remarkable structure, even if you ignore its dramatic surroundings; in the 1800s it was home to a certain Bess Bowyer, and after being made into a gamekeeper’s home in 1862 and having various owners over the years, it fell into the hands of the BMC and was official opened as a memorial in 1993.

The first day was wet and windy – gusts stuck the damp air to the rocks creating slippery green slabs of frustration. After much scrabbling and most chalk had turned to a guey paste, we all managed to fit a few climbs in to the day. In such conditions, almost anything goes as we used holly bushes as extra hand- and foot-holds. We’re climbers – nothing is cheating.

One thing that can also be said about climbers is we consume ludicrous amounts of tea; the evidence for which is the fact that two of the large metal drawers in the kitchen contained only mugs. So after a somewhat harrowing day on the Upper Tier, we trudged back to our stone sanctuary for tea, biscuits, and general banter. Following the previous nights’ 4-5hour discussion on religion and various other ‘big questions’ that brought us to 3:30am, many were keen not to delve too deep into opinion but rather enjoy the warmth and company. A filling meal of cheesy mash, sausages, and a selection of good old-fashioned vegetables (eg. parsnips and brussels sprouts) helped to stretch out the muscles and steady the brain after the wind, along with lots more tea.

The following day was far brighter, making us more accepting of the still relentless wind. After a breakfast of surprise pancakes, we headed to the Lower Tier; one group aimed to complete a climb before breakfast, but did not return till 2pm, windswept and hungry. Other than that, a good day was had by all, with plenty of compulsory faff and well-meaning insults regarding gear placement and dodgy ropework, all of which was entered into the aptly named “Bullshit Book”, documenting the events to include all varying opinions and shifting blame. I still stand strong on the fact that Matt almost losing that hex had nothing to do with me…

With only 12 people on the trip, it was a time not only to improve climbing (two guys did their first trad leads) but also a chance to get to know one another a little better, through heated discussion and rather cosy sleeping arrangements. A challenging but well worth it weekend in a stunning location. We will be back.


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