A bus not to be missed

This story of the early years of the IMC is by Ross Martin, who was a leading member of the club and combined the offices of Secretary and Treasurer for many years.

My active involvement with the IMC covered the period from 1956 to 1966, and some recollections of these faraway days may interest and amuse the younger members of the present day and stir some memories in the older generations.

As the club approached and passed its tenth anniversary, many of the founder members had moved away from Inverness. Happily at this time there were two fertile sources of new recruits, firstly the many young engineers working on the many hydro-electric schemes then under construction, and secondly university and college students who had cut their mountain teeth with Inverness Royal Academy Outdoor Club.

The pivotal feature of the club in the l950’s was the club bus that then provided a unique form of regular transport for those wishing to travel to the wilder parts of the Highlands and back in the same day. There were virtually no rival forms of transport particularly on a Sunday (Sunday because most members worked at least part of Saturday) and the bus formed a focus for a happy and diverse band of people with a common interest in the outdoors. In addition to climbers and hillwalkers, the bus was patronised by botanists, ornithologists, and even, despite some protest, skiers! The bus left (relatively) promptly from Strothers Lane at 7.30am on Sunday. It returned there at varying times, on occasion up to four hours after its scheduled time of retum.

The proportion of hillwalkers to rock and snow & ice climbers on meets varied considerably from year to year, but my recollection is that hillwalkers were always in the majority. Wednesday evening meets were held during the summer months to local outcrops, mainly to Duntelchaig but also to Dunain Hill and Dun Riach, always with an eye on the routes pioneered by Richard Frere. The IMC can take credit for introducing the RAF Mountain rescue team to the Duntelchaig crags on a joint meet in the late l950’s. In winter it was the custom for a member of the committee (or more accurately his mother or wife!) to hold “open house” on an evening in the week preceding a meet, when plans were laid for great deeds on the following Sunday.

On the hill, although vibram soled boots had become the rule in summer; Timpsons supplied the boots in commonest use for four guineas, or £4.20, and it was considered irresponsible not to wear nailed boots, or at least a combination of nails and vibram soles in winter. Crampons “were only for use abroad” and we believed the dictum “their use in Britain leads to slovenly technique”. Ice axes were of walking stick length, wooden shafted, and frequently bore the WD broad arrow dating them to World War II.

In the l960’s we entered into a period of rapid change. Earnings were increasing, and car ownership amongst members became less of a source of astonishment. The resultant flexibility of private transport combined with increasing costs of buses placed increasing pressure on the club to cut down on or abandon bus meets. Unofficial day and weekend meets became more frequent, but IMC membership still provided a strong bond.