Just like the rest of the year two-thousand-twenty, The MMC’s annual trip to Harrison’s Rocks sandstone subverted convention. The first change was the personnel. Our du jour leader; Joe Bragg, was unfortunately otherwise occupied. Harry, the de facto chair and I arrived at around 11 am with potential new member Matthew. Whilst we sorted out ropes in our MMC merchandise we were joined by John and Dylan, two more potential members. Small climbing talk over van coffee led on to the idyllic approach to the painfully named unclimbed wall.

The wall was being climbed. We proceeded to set up some top ropes as other members turned up in dribs and drabs, both old and new.

Another new precedent was Oli talking through safety with prospective new members:

I decided to film but that video is for the MMC archives. He explained how to set up a top rope clearly and effectively, despite the pressure of my paparazzing. Prospective members, John, Dylan, Kate, Elena, and Magdalene sat, taking in Oli’s safety tips, on top of one of Harrison’s Rocks. Last year’s new starter, Alistair, was along for the ride whilst the the rest of the old (and a little newer) guard pottered around or pretended to listen on the ground. 

One highlight was his explanation of the pros and cons of using either opposing and opposite snap-gates or a single screwgate carabiner.

Immediately after,  all the prospective members onto the wall, expecting a riveting solo and tales for next year’s campfires. Okay, I exaggerate somewhat. They did a fantastic job warming up on some seriously sketchy starts and completing their route. Thankfully top roping and quite smartly wearing helmets. Most of the morning and lunch period, the MMC lot spent their time climbing within the unclimbed wall area of Harrison’s. Routes such as Zig Zag, Birch Tree Wall and Far Left were scaled with varying degrees of skill, technique, hard work and disgrace.

Throughout the day, we had a few members rarely seen pop their head ‘round the corner and join the party – Simon,Pete, Phil, and Nick K!  What a sight to behold. Several of us were happily surprised and pleased to see our outing so popular with the existing members.

Another highlight of the new member’s meet was the prize giving ceremony at Lunch. The MMC had a 50 day lockdown quiz for members and the winners were quick on the mark. It was certainly an incredibly popular quiz. Top marks for Joe (quiz provider) and Oli B (the winner)!:

Now I was neither present for the prize giving (nor the quiz that the prizes were given for) but what I can add is the following; I hope that Oli did not consume any of his prize before giving his safety talk. Pete and Chris landed some chalk.

After lunch, the MMC lot began to branch out left towards other areas of the rocks belonging to Harrison. One particularly interesting route was Sunshine Crack which was completed by Alistair, Harry, Matthew and myself. We all concluded it felt nostalgic,  it felt like doing proper trad climbing on proper rock.

Impressively, we managed to snag some of the routes on the Isolated Buttress, probably thanks to Damien/Simon. Almost everyone wanted a shot at it – some completed, some got part of the way up. It was all-around pretty damn cool and impressive. Simon and the rest spent time working routes on the Isolated Boulder area of Birchden Wall.

Debates raged (politely discussed) over guidebooks and which routes where which, whether everyone could belay, and whether to pay attention to english technical grades or french grades, if grit stone is a form of sandstone or vice versa and finally, most importantly, the fact that sandstone is very difficult stuff to climb!

New member interviews/ old member interviews

Marie – membership secretary and the day’s organiser – decided she’d prefer to be a professional belayer for the day but Chris refused to let her get away with not climbing anything. So climb she did! She climbed “10 very difficult routes” in her mind. Visualisation is a huge part of climbing!

Chris on the other hand spent most of the time running around taking way too many photos (as per usual), helping some of the prospective members with route reading, and keeping the climbing lot running on time for the pub.

Once Climbing had been done, and all the rest that goes alongside this beautiful sport we all consider our hobby, it was time for farewells and apres-climb activities. We said goodbye to those who did not fancy the pub and made our way to The Huntsman Pub. Obviously, covid-19 safety was still a very important issue for all, so we set our bubbles of 6 and sat in the beautiful Tumbridge pub garden to drink, debrief and dine. Members got to know each other better over lagers and shandies in the way that it should be done on a prospective new members meet near London. 

One highlight of the pub was Mark trying to reunite a beer towel/mat with its owner.  The multi-purpose wiping device was not claimed but it did prove a muse for getting a socially distant group photo. (photo) Okay, sorry we didn’t keep a meter apart because we didn’t have a wide angle lens, but we did all sanitise our hands frequently throughout the day. Wink, wink.

Up the MMC!