What’s in a name?

What’s in a name? Are you a mountaineer, a climber, a hill walker or a rambler?

In the last couple of weeks, both the two main mountaineering bodies in the UK – the British Mountaineering Council and the  Mountaineering Council of Scotland – have changed their names. The BMC has become ‘Climb Britain’ and the MCoS has become ‘Mountaineering Scotland’. Inevitably, social media has had plenty to say about this but the BMC name change in particular has not gone down very well.

I can kind of see why. If someone asks me ‘do I climb’ I’d immediately think of rock climbing. I might say ‘I’ve climbed Scafell Pike’ but the reality is I walked up it. I’m quite definitely not a climber – I’ve tried rock climbing once, a disastrous session at the Ice Factor in Kinlochleven. I was, to put it mildly, hopeless, and I haven’t been near a climbing wall since. The new BMC name sounds like it’s an organisation for rock climbers, not hill walkers. As a self confessed pedant it’s also inaccurate – you can’t climb Britain, you climb mountains/ crags/ whatever ‘in’ Britain (even if you have been to the highest point in Britain, i.e. the summit of Ben Nevis. Yes the picture below is the summit of Ben Nevis though realistically it could be bloody anywhere.)

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But what I do isn’t mountaineering either; I might strap on some crampons and pick up an ice axe for the odd winter walk on a straightforward hill, but I’ve no intention of doing anything that would be classed as ‘proper’ mountaineering. I’m a pretty risk averse person, for starters, and rather like having a full complement of digits; Scotland in winter is plenty cold enough for me!

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What about ‘rambling’? I must admit it annoys me when anyone describes me as a ‘rambler’. This is probably because I once emailed a local branch of the ‘younger’ Ramblers to find out what it was all about. I received an email back saying I was too old (I was 40 at the time) and might want to consider a different and more sedate age group. Now at 47 I may no longer be in the first flush of youth but I am not yet ready for gentle low level walks to tea shops. Nothing wrong with that and when I’m older it may have more appeal… or it may not (I know plenty of people much older than me whose hill walking exploits put mine to shame). But the word ‘Rambler’ does conjure up images of sedate low level pottering about.

What I consider myself as is a hill walker – two words that don’t appear in the old or new names of any of the organisations. I’m a member of both the BMC (through my walking club) and the MCoS; do I feel they represent hill walkers? I think so; the magazines they produce do have features on hill walking, although over the years I’ve been a member I’ve noticed an increasing focus on indoor climbing. I suppose the worry about the BMC name change is that it might indicate a change in focus to hardcore rock climbing and ‘proper’ mountaineering – the more technical end of the scale – and the interests of those of us who simply like walking up mountains and enjoying the view get left behind.

I hope that isn’t the case; the mountains of Britain are there to be enjoyed, whether you like scaling crags, walking up Lakeland fells, or balancing on a knife-edge ridge in the Highlands in full winter conditions; whether you call yourself a rambler, a hill walker, a fell walker, a climber or a mountaineer. I hope that the name changes work out for the BMC and SMC, and that they can continue to represent the interests of all of us who love the mountains.

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11 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. At least they have deleted the outdated (some might say self-important) title of “Council”. On the other hand I don’t like to see historical names go just for the sake of it.

    I really wish I could say I cared about the name change – but I don’t. 😆 I never identified with them in the first place due to the word “mountaineering”. I only ever considered myself a “walker” (and “rambling” I left to the content of my blog posts).

    It will be interesting to see if anyone is bothered one way or another. I now expect to be pelted with rocks by indignant “mountaineers”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry Tessa….was reading my comment again and it looked like a grumpy rant lol – wasn’t meant to be. Too long away from regular blogging – I need to sharpen up my thought streams 🙂

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      • Hey Ken – no worries. I think I ramble in blog posts too! The name change may prove to be a storm in a tea cup but it does feel a bit like another example of hillier than thou syndrome. I just wish all sorts of outdoor enthusiasts got on but sadly that’s not the case 😦

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  2. Did enjoy your rant about being too old. Only thing I disagreed with is the comment about tea shops – I would like to walk to one on every hill 🙂 .

    PS you may want to alter your – Discussions settings – Other Comment Settings – Enable threaded (nested ) comments. It would enable more reply comments in a comment thread. I couldn’t reply to your last comment on the comment thread that I set up. On the other hand you may think that that is not entirely a bad thing. 🙂

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    • Hi – ta for comment on set ups. Not much clue how these things work tbh!

      Nothing against tea shops on walks – and especially not pubs; just the assumption that age necessarily affects what one might want to do. Physically it does affect what one can do – dodgy back in my case. It was the automatic age related assumption (40 plus = flat walks and tea shops) that bugged me!

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    • The BMC does seem to be aimed more at indoor climbing these days – in some ways I can see why as you can do that anywhere without having to be near any hills. But even though I’d never call myself a mountaineer the word felt more inclusive than ‘climb’ does.

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