100 Years, 100 Women - Pinnacle Club Celebrates Centenary

© Jessie Leong

It was a simple concept: invite 100 women trad climbers to a week-long meet to celebrate the centenary of the Pinnacle Club. And the venue had to be North Wales: the club held its inaugural meeting in 1921 at the Pen-Y-Gwryd Hotel below Snowdon and our hut is just a stone's throw from the pub, at the head of the Gwynant valley. Although a national club, Wales is our home.

Centenary banner.   © Abi Chard
Centenary banner.
© Abi Chard

But the timing was less straightforward. Originally planned for June 2021, the Women's Trad100 was postponed until September due to the delay in relaxing the lockdown. The organising team of five held our collective breath: would Covid restrictions allow us to go ahead and what would the weather throw at us?

In the end, we needn't have worried. The meet took place in the midst of a heatwave – not the usual September weather in Wales (although normal service did somewhat resume towards the end of the week). And limited restrictions meant we could all gather 'outside' in our well-ventilated marquee and split into slightly smaller groups for indoor events (film night, meal etc).

The event wasn't sponsored as such – but we did get support from DMM, who gave us bright shiny kit for people to trial, the Climbers Club, who allowed us access to parking at their hut in the Llanberis Pass, V12, who gave us a special WT100 discount and Weleda who gave us samples for our goodie bag. And of course, from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, who gave us a grant to promote our centenary and archive.

Get a hundred women climbers together and, to be honest, you're guaranteed a fantastic atmosphere – full of energy, mutually supportive, encouraging and just good fun. Half the women there were Pinnacle Club members, and half not. We weren't hot shots: gender aside the 100 women were fairly representative of the climbing community as a whole, the range of climbing spanning Diff to E4. Most were experienced trad climbers; some benefited from courses laid on by female instructors to brush up skills in multi-pitch, sea-cliff climbing and self-rescue.

What better way to spend a week – and provide a fitting tribute to the intrepid women who first founded the Pinnacle Club 100 years ago.

With 100 women attending, we had sole use of the Snowdonia Parc campsite in Waunfawr. The site also has a pub and brewery attached to it, which we made good use of as well. We even had a film night, showing one based on our oral history project and the other on the 1962 all-female Jagdula expedition – both made thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund grant.

Seems Desai on Great Bow at Cloggy.   © Val Hennelly
Seems Desai on Great Bow at Cloggy.
© Val Hennelly

The weather meant we were able to get to some of the higher mountain crags that aren't often in condition at this time of year including Clogwyn D'ur Arddu aka Cloggy. Here's Seema Desai leading Great/Bow Combination.

Nicola Brant topping out on Adam Rib.   © Emily Huzzard
Nicola Brant topping out on Adam Rib.
© Emily Huzzard

One of the most popular climbs of the week was Adam Rib, an esoteric HS on Craig Cwm Du which saw ascents by seven different teams – mostly on different days! The peace and quiet and amazing views made the long walk in worthwhile. 

Descent from Tryfan.  © Sue Rowlands
Descent from Tryfan.
© Sue Rowlands

If the weather felt like high summer, the days were noticeably more of an autumnal length so many teams heading to the higher crags topped out as the sun went down. Which made for some memorable sunsets – this one taken by Sue Rowlands on the descent from Tryfan.

Swimming post-climb on Cloggy.   © Val Hennelly
Swimming post-climb on Cloggy.
© Val Hennelly

Hot days made the lakes and sea all the more inviting and few could resist a dip after a sunny day's climbing. The coldest water was surely in Llyn D'ur Arddu below Cloggy. 

Filming at Bus Stop Quarry.
© Hilary Lawrenson

Bus Stop quarry wouldn't be your first choice of venue when it's forecast 26 degrees, but it was the easiest place for BBC Wales to film an item for the local news – and they wanted to get footage of us climbing. To provide variety, we were interviewed 'on the routes' – AKA standing on a ledge a few metres off the ground and on the abseil rope while stripping a route it was too hot for anyone to second! But they were happy with the result.

Pruning the Tube.  © Alex Dickinson-Lomas
Pruning the Tube.
© Alex Dickinson-Lomas

Quick drying slate quarries became a more attractive option once the weather cooled and was more unsettled. Miriam Dobson leading Pruning the Tube E2 5c in Australia, Nadine Fecht on belay, not long before it rained.

Exposure on Wen Zawn.   © Anna Belcher/Helen Burns
Exposure on Wen Zawn.
© Anna Belcher/Helen Burns

Sunshine was still to be found on the sea cliffs on Anglesey and unsurprisingly, Dream of White Horses on Wen Zawn was a popular choice. This photo shows the fantastic exposure you experience on the route, as well as the feet of climbers Helen Burns and Anna Belcher.

Seacliff course.  © Jessie Leong
Seacliff course.
© Jessie Leong

The meet had some places set aside for women whose trad climbing experience was mainly limited to single pitch outcrops, with courses laid on in multi-pitch skills and sea-cliff climbing to give them the confidence to try more adventurous venues. Some women who'd done little during lockdown also used the courses as a refresher. This sea-cliff course at Rhoscolyn was run by instructors Emma Warren and Vicky Owen. 

Ramp of Pink Emulsion.  © Emma Longden
Ramp of Pink Emulsion.
© Emma Longden

What to do when even on Anglesey the rain is threatening and Holyhead Mountain is covered in mist? Head to the Range, where there's plenty of short, single pitch, easy grade routes. And then if the day brightens, you can risk The Ramp of Pink Emulsion a 3-pitch 30m VS 4c 'traverse' at Independence Slab that finishes close to where it started. Several teams did it on the same day, including (pictured) Anna Belcher and Alison Cairns. All finished with a smile on their faces. 

Rhoscolyn.  © Jessie Leong
© Jessie Leong

The beautiful red rock of Rhoscolyn needs no introduction. Here's a team on The Absconder's Finish HVS 5b in Fallen Block Zawn. 

Fanfare.  © Jessie Leong
© Jessie Leong

Another often overlooked route that can put a smile on any climber's face is the steep but juggy Fanfare, HVS 4c, on Sea Cave Zawn, Rhoscolyn. Pictured are Miriam Dobson and Lucy Bradbury.

Organisers with Emma Twyford.  © Jessie Leong
Organisers with Emma Twyford.
© Jessie Leong

A big airy marquee meant we could finish the week with a party. Emma Twyford was kind enough to give up her Saturday night to join us, handing out the prizes for our tongue-in-check award ceremony and picking out the raffle tickets. The prizes were donated by the BMC, DMM, the Climbers Club, the Fell and Rock Climbing Club, Lowe Alpine and V12 and we raised £242 to share between Llanberis and Ogwen Mountain Rescue. L-R the organising team of Gill Radcliffe, Hazel Jones, Abi Chard, Alison Cairns and Milena von Muhlen with Emma Twyford. 

Heading home.  © Jessie Leong
Heading home.
© Jessie Leong

Climbing every day, sharing the day's adventures with others in the campsite or the pub, planning the next day and repeat – what a week we had. Everyone headed home with some great memories to hold on to. We're looking forward to the next time we can do it all again. 

More information on the Pinnacle Club can be found on their website.

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28 Sep

Superb light touch organisation by the team, and great hospitality from the Snowdonia Park who did a mean cheesy chips and delicious Carmensutra Ale.

29 Sep

Absolutely amazing week with a special atmosphere. The perfect antidote to a year of minimal climbing. Huge thanks go to the amazing instructors running the skills courses and also to the organising team who managed to book some perfect weather conditions!

29 Sep

Great meet, great weather, great atmosphere, great write-up!

30 Sep

Thought I'd link this here as its part of the centenary celebrations and either I'm in a tiny minority with my views or everyone who might be interested missed it:

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