I joined the Pinnacle Club in 1997 soon after leaving university. I lived in a very male dominated world and was fascinated by the idea of a group of women climbers with their own hut in the shadow of Snowdon.
At that time only 10% of maths undergraduates at Cambridge were female and my social life was centred around the hillwalking club which was also male dominated. At the end of my 3 years at Cambridge I had lots of male friends and a wild reputation. I’m not sure why I thought the Pinnacle Club would help, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.
I loved the club’s hut from my first night there. Cwm Dyli is an old stone cottage with a slate roof at the foot of Snowdon, next to the hydro power station of the same name and at the bottom of the huge pipeline running down the hill from Llyn Llydaw on the Miners Track up Snowdon. No mobile reception, no wifi, no vehicle access and the water comes from the stream, but it has immense character and is well looked after. We’ve owned it since 1932 when the power station sold it to us and apart from the addition of inside toilets and a drying room it hasn’t changed. As I write this I can smell the wood of the bunks upstairs and hear the noise of the stream outside and see the cloud over the Glyders.
It wasn’t easy to join the club. I had to prove I was a competent climber and have a Proposer and Seconder and supporting members before my application could be considered by the committee. But they let me in eventually and that gave me the right to have the key to Cwm Dyli and to stay there whenever I liked, alone or with friends and family.
My experiences with the club have also not always been easy. Strong minded women do not always make good climbing partners. I’ve been left to find my own way home from the Scottish Highlands and returned early from an Alps trip after falling short in my climbing partners’ expectations. But I’ve also had memorable days out on the crags at Tremadoc and in the Llanberis Pass, and memorable evenings at annual dinners at Plas y Brenin and committee meetings at the Penygwryd.
The club was formed in 1921 by a small group of women whose husbands were members of the all male climbing clubs of the day. They wanted their own club and to be able to climb in their own right rather than being taken up routes. It’s the club’s centenary next year and Covid19 permitting, we are planning a get together at the Penygwryd in March 2021, exactly 100 years after the club was formed there. We have a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to help us record our history via a book, film and centenary events.
Is there still a place for an all women’s climbing club? The feminists in the club would say so. They would argue that it is still unusual to see two women climbing together so we need the club to support women climbers. I’m not sure I agree or even care anymore, but as long as we own Cwm Dyli I shall support the club.
I still prefer the company of my male friends but my wild reputation has long gone. For now anyway.