Changing times …

An email pops in from my old friend Geoff Gosling, asking if he can recirculate an article I wrote about climbing clubs. Of course he can. He’s now an honorary vice-president of the  Rucksack Club, one of the the north of England’s most important mountaineering clubs.

A gang of Rucksack Club members with Geoff at the front in white.

Geoff was the driving force in the Oldham Mountaineering Club when I joined in the 1980s and could be depended on to fill his big Ford estate car – he was a sales rep – with six or seven climbers and ship us all out to the Peak District to drape ourselves gracelessly across the glorious gritstone edges, scraping skin and egos and learning about rock-climbing, how to live well, and how to appreciate the heather hills and vast open spaces. Stanage, Indian’s Head, the Roaches, Castle Naze, dozens more, and Geoff seemed at the time to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of them all.

I can’t believe he’ll soon be 70, but then I can’t believe how old I am now. It seems the Rucksack is facing the same challenges as many other clubs, how to adapt to the modern era. Perhaps we should say that if a club struggles to get new members it’s not wanted: but the Lomond Club here in Glasgow has been through booms and busts, and kept going as an institution, still giving something back the to climbing community.

We’ve changed, abandoning regular Wednesday socials to concentrate on the climbing walls; we operate through Facebook more than anything else. I’m not mad on either but the club seems to be thriving, there are more women and more younger folk on board, and it seems to work.

Let’s hope Geoff and the Rucksack can do something the same. His club is a real institution, embedded in the history of climbing and apparently the first in the UK to have a club hut. If nothing else it’s worth a new generation joining to learn from people like Geoff about climbing and life.