About: Tunbridge Wells Mountaineering Club (TWMC) is a friendly group of around 60 members spread across Kent, Sussex and Surrey. The club was founded in 1984 and welcomes climbers of all abilities, we have members in their 20s through to their 60s. Most of our activity is roped rock climbing and some bouldering, summer alpine and Scottish winter mountaineering. Several members are keen to share their knowledge with others. We are also advocates of professional instruction; a local climbing school Nuts4Climbing offer new members a 10% discount on courses and we have a training subsidy scheme available to established members. This encourages skills development and sharing across the club. We’re not-for-profit and are run by a volunteer Committee.
Local Climbing: We are regulars on the Southern Sandstone outcrops about 15 minutes drive from Tunbridge Wells. It’s top-roping and bouldering only due to the soft nature of the rock. Meeting us for a climb locally is the best way to get to know the club. From April to October we climb outdoors on weekday evenings at least once a week and members are out climbing most dry weekends.
We organise 4 large ‘club trips’ per year, these attract around 20 people and are a great way to get to know other members. Popular destinations: Peak District Gritstone in spring, Snowdonia in summer, the Gower Peninsular during August school holidays. Affordable group accommodation is usually organised by someone and you may need to pay a deposit to secure your bunk / pitch. We’ll visit crags with low grade classics and 3* test pieces. If you’re looking to climb with someone new, these are very social and friendly trips to join.
In addition, our members organise many ‘personal trips’ to various UK climbing destinations at weekends. These are often extended to other members and are just as much fun. You will see people advertising for ‘another experienced pair to join a car share’ or ‘we are climbing & camping here if others wish to join’. These smaller, self-organised trips are how most of our climbing happens. This is different to the large London clubs which plan a formal meets calendar a year in advance. Our members prefer to be flexible, take people’s preferences, ability and the weather into account. Large groups are fun but bring extra admin, and if not managed well, can have a detrimental impact on the crag and others’ enjoyment. Weekend trips are often to the Peak District, Pembroke, The Gower, Baggy Point, North Wales, Swanage, Portland, Dartmoor, Cornwall or the Lakes.
Day Trips: From Tunbridge Wells we can reach a handful of trad and sport climbing areas, climb and get back in a day, often known as ‘Day-Raids’. So if you only have a ‘1 day pass’ or the British weather is marginal, this is the trip for you! Leave at dawn, and 3 hours later be in the Wye Valley on the Welsh border, Swanage / Portland on the Dorset coast, the Avon Gorge in Bristol, or Fairy Cave Quarry in Somerset.
Indoor Climbing: Between November and February most club activity is indoors as the sandstone is porous and becomes very fragile (unclimbable) when damp. Our nearest venue is Chimera Bouldering in High Brooms (Tunbridge Wells) and for roped climbing High-Sports in Brighton (Withdean) or The Reach in Woolwich (London)
Winter Climbing: We have a small contingent of Scottish Winter climbers and walkers who drive north to swing their ice axes around in the Highlands. Most of us are hoping for another Beast of the East so we can take our crampons to North Wales or the Lakes which are considerably closer! A number of members run, cycle or mountain bike in winter to keep fit and some of us ski / snowboard.
Climbing Abroad: Members have organised trips to Fontainbleau, Spain, Kalymnos, Sicily, Nepal, Ireland, Thailand, the USA and the French Alps. Several members have summer Alpine experience and others have aspirations to get to Chamonix for the first time. If snow and ice is not your thing, Southern Spain is an incredible winter-sun climbing destination.
Socials: Climbing on sandstone is very social in itself due to the short routes and quick set ups, meaning you can climb with several people each session. Most of our ‘socials’ are a post-climb drink, ice-cream or meal in a country pub. On a weekend trip, members stay at the same campsite and socialise in the evening, some people cook together, whilst others find nearby pub food before regrouping for drinks. We host a couple of club-wide social events, a summer BBQ at Harrison’s Rocks campground and a Christmas Curry night in December. During coronavirus ‘Lockdown’ we did some video call socials to stay in touch.