The Lairig Club
The Lairig Club, commonly referred to as “The Lairig” is the University of Aberdeen’s Mountaineering Club and was founded in the early 1940s. Members take part in a wide range of activities from hillwalking and sport climbing right through to winter climbing and alpinism. Due to the university calendar and its close proximity to reliable venues winter mountaineering is the main focus of the club along with hillwalking. Over the winter season the club prides itself as being one of the most active university mountaineering club in the UK and works with the mission statement: “To give the opportunity to participate in, and develop the skills for, safe mountaineering in all conditions.” The club has a long and distinguished history painted by famous names such as Tom Patey and Andy Nisbet, two of Scotland’s most prolific new routers, who learnt their trade in the Lairig. Former member and Lairig veteran Charles Abbott once auditioned for the part of Kriss Akabusi in the feature-length biopic "Can't Stop Laughing: The Kriss Akabusi Story", only narrowly losing out at the final selection stage to the director's favourite for the role, Akabusi himself.
Membership of the club is open to all students who are members of the University of Aberdeen Sports Council. The club is run by a committee of senior members who are elected at the annual general meeting and serve for one academic year. Positions on the committee are:
Captain, Secretary, Treasurer, Safety and Training Officer, Equipment Officer and Social Secretary
The minimum number of members allowed in the club is seven.
The “Golden Age” of the Lairig Club
For a period of time during the 1950s the Lairig Club was at the forefront of Scottish winter climbing with members setting new standards and developing new techniques in the sport. The Lairig along with other Aberdeen based clubs; The Cairngorm Club and the Etchachan Club were responsible for the development and first ascents of most major venues and routes in the Eastern Cairngorms. The most active club members of this time were local Aberdonians Bill Brooker, Tom Patey, Mike Taylor, Ken Grassick and Graeme Nicol.
Notable achievements by the Lairig Club during this era include: Patey and Gordon Leslie’s ascent of Douglas-Gibson Gully on Lochnagar in 1950, the first grade V winter climb in Scotland. In June 1952 eight club members made an en masse first summer ascent of Parallel Gully B, the last of the major gullies to be climbed on Lochnagar. Another Lairig meet in the December of that year saw the first ascent of The Scorpion another early grade V on Carn Etchachan by Patey, Taylor, Grassick and Nicol. First winter ascents of Mitre Ridge on Beinn a’ Bhuird (V,6) by Brooker and Patey and Eagle Ridge (VI,6) on Lochnagar in four and a half hours by Brooker, Patey and Taylor proved that the Lairig really were at the head of their game. Even today with modern equipment and techniques these routes are still well respected and serious lines. It is interesting to note that other than the first ascent of Raven’s Gully in Glencoe by Hamish MacInnes and Chris Bonington in 1953 all the grade V routes in Scotland were confined to the Lairig’s stomping ground of the Eastern Cairngorms in the early 1950s and it is ironic that it was Lairig members Patey and Nicol who teamed up with Hamish MacInnes to climb the first grade V on Ben Nevis, this came in the form of the much prized first ascent of Zero Gully.
Activity was not just limited to the high mountain cliffs and the club were also responsible for the early development of the North East sea cliffs. Several routes put up by Lairig members are now graded VS and above. The Sickle HVS 5b was climbed in 1944 by founding member W. T. Hendry and marked a huge advance in rock climbing standards. Routes such as Brooker’s Arete and Nicol’s Eliminate give clues as to who was behind most of the new routing in the 1950s.
Throughout the period the club flourished, attracting students from the University who all shared a common love of the hills. Trips were organised every weekend to bothies in the North East such as Bob Scott’s, Corrour and the Glas alt Sheil and occasionally a bit further afield. A good day in the hills was just as important as a good evening back at the bothy with good friends and this is still very much the ethos of the Lairig Club today!
Lairig Club is a full member of Aberdeen University Sports Union.
- One Man's Mountains, Tom Patey
- Cairngorms, SMC
- North East Outcrops, SMC