Small pub, middle of Oxfordshire, just bound to have a mountain club. Well as quickly as I can let me tell you why.

It would appear that the merest glimmer of a notion of an inkling that the Queens was home to so many like minded people, first raised it's head while Daisy Green and myself lay in my rickety old tent camped at the start of the Wadkin path, in Snowdonia. That day, 16th June 1988, we had emerged at daybreak from a vodka induced, midge infested, great big lump under my carri-mat , 4 or 5 hours slumber (sleep it was not), firmly focused on scaling Wales highest peak. Exacting preparations for this epic expedition had included Daisy cutting his daily ration of Marlboro down to about 25 a day and myself eating smaller portions of chips. So, we packed our lightweight ruc-sacs with our pac-a-mac style Kags, a couple of tins of drink, a couple of Mars bars and Daisy's fags, and off we jolly well went. Under azure skies we took a 3 hour stroll to the summit where we were rewarded with breathtaking views of Cardigan Bay, the North Wales coast and Ireland far out to the west.

My mind raced back to my first visit here 28 years previously, July 1960, when at the tender age of 5 and a bit years of age I had been taken / dragged / co-erced up the same route we had used today to attain the summit of Yr Wydffa. That first time had left a large impression on my young mind, but only now could I really understand the fantastic sense of wonder at seeing the world laid out before you, like watching a beautiful naked woman sleeping beside you, and seeing all those places you know you have just got to explore. Maybe not today, or not tomorrow, but one day for sure. (Well I wouldn't have thought that at 5 would I, maybe not at 25 either).

So, here I was the complicated and intricate business of growing up into its fourth decade, time to crack on and climb some big hills. That night over a cup of tea and some tinned junk food Daisy and myself made the decision to climb Ben Nevis and Scaffell Pike before the year was out. Talking over a few beers in the Q.H. bar soon revealed a knot of interested folk, mainly the same blokes who had been up for the craic whenever the Q.H. Dangerous Sports Club met, namely Nick Annettes, Frank Drury, Paul Green, Pikey Berry, Mick Barlow & Dan Mathews. So the first trip was planned….Ben Nevis at the end of September 1988.

By mid September I had purchased a 12 year old mini-bus that would be more than adequate for our needs, also acquired was one Brian Hammersley, my brother-in-law at the time, who had received permission to travel with us only at the 11th hour.

On the long awaited Sunday morning we left Eynsham at 10-00am, anticipating a 10-hour trip to Fort William, as luck would have it getting past Birmingham was a more realistic target. First of all the mini-bus broke down at J10 on the M6, hasty repairs were carried out, initially at Do-it All, then some help from the 24 hour Volvo truck centre, this after having had the door slammed in our face by the jobsworth at the local car spares shop, who from behind the safety of his firmly bolted door told us that he didn't care too much about our chances of getting to Scotland. Nick as the appointed mechanic for the trip, kicked the locked door and cursed very professionally at it, its always good to have the right personnel in key jobs (on a later trip Nick managed to hold the propshaft together with a small self tapping screw). Although the mini-bus was labouring, we could still maintain a steady 60mph; the next adversity waiting for us was the tail end of a hurricane that had devastated the U.S.A. during the previous week. This lashing of the West Coast of Britain filled us all with great optimism for the week ahead. The driving conditions were appalling, constant spray, large puddles, and sheep being blown across the road were mere irritations compared to navigating the 20 mile of roadwork's at Loch Lomond in pitch darkness, the severity of the storm and the awful road conditions combining to almost wake Pikey from his slumbers.

Needless to say that after an epic 16 hour journey, that included changing drivers on the move, it was with great joy that we discovered that when stationary the roof of the mini-bus leaked. It was'nt just the damp, more the noise of the constant dripping that kept you awake. At 2-00am here we were, parked at the locked (overnight) gates of the Glen Nevis campsite at 7-00am. Did I say campsite, first light revealed a cross between a refugee camp and a water park, clearly Scotland was not in the grip of a drought. Most of the inmates were sleeping in the toilet block, under hand dryers that were occasionally slapped into life, propelling noisy warm air onto the soggy mass beneath it. Other incumbents were reassembling tents in the middle of pools of water, while the really lucky barstards were rescuing their sleeping bags from surrounding trees, all this being carried out in slight Scottish drizzle…WELCOME TO SCOTLAND.

Camp was made at 8-30 when the office sprang to life, 5 tents, Mick sensibly sharing with himself. Plans hastily drawn up, but first food. A short drive to Fort Bill confirmed all our worst fears, there were no café's or snack bars, the mini-bus was losing oil faster than the Torrey Canyon and this was not the climate to get a good tan. A 20mile round trip to Spean Bridge to avail ourselves of the facilities at the Little Chef gave us all good pondering time, the fact we made the trip for the next 5 days probably ensured this was the worst road to venture onto with a motorbike on the west coast. The torrential downpour of the previous 24 hours had now given way to bright drizzle, so a foray was organised mid-afternoon. The next 3 hours of wading through marsh grass, staggering in dense wood and generally rolling down grassy banks put us in good stead for the week ahead.

Highlights of the week were many and varied, but included

  • 1/. Climbing the Ben, and the view being Dominated by Brians Irish stew exiting his flask in one congealed gloopy lump.
  • 2/. Franks astonishment at how many spare clothes were in the bottom of Micks rucsac.
  • 3/.Paul listening through the night to live radio coverage of Olympic high diving (it was the year a diver sickeningly banged his head on the board).
  • 4/. An all day walk from Corrour back to Spean Bridge, 16 miles, (yes Mick I know I've got the map).
  • 5/. Drying (not washing) all our wet clothes in a Hotels industrial sized tumble dryer. Yes we did stink, but we were oblivious to it.
  • 6/.Brian was demon of the pool table and master Of the gents urinal.
  • 7/.Nick and myself got in a tight spot over Steall waterfall and trudged out to Glen Nevis in darkness much to everyone's relief, especially those who may have had to pay for a phone call to Mountain Rescue.

Traditionally after a week of crap weather it's normally nice and sunny when you pack up to go home, it was. The mini-bus, which was now consuming almost as much oil as petrol, bravely made it to J16 on the M6 before coming to a positive halt, obviously the journey was boring because we had just the started the stretching the Durex over the head competition (I feel sure the rugby player would have won).

The mini-bus was eventually placed on the back of an RAC recovery truck and all 9 of us wedged in the cab, the driver kept his window down all the way home, I'm sure he thought we were a convention of mini-cab drivers with no sense of smell, to that driver we apologise.

Well that was the first of many trips organised from the red table in the Queens Head bar and with the help of those who took part I hope to bring more tales of derring do to this web-site.

PETE JONES ..March 2002