A Grand Day Out 3: The Apprentice

© SonyaD
Narrow Ridge, V6, Sgorr Ruadh
© SonyaD
Have you ever been sandbagged?

Sandbagged by a Master?

'Och, it'll only be about grade III,' he says, eyes sparkling mischievously, big trademark, ginger beard bobbing up and down as he chomps his 2nd or 3rd Caramel Wafer of the day.

I'd met Andy back at the start of the summer of '08, after he'd been intrigued by one of my photos of a chimney in Crypt Route in Glencoe which he didn't recognise. We teamed up not long after this and thus began our shared love of exploring out of the way places, appreciating the beauty and solitude of the North Western Highlands of Scotland. How often I'd bemoaned the lack of climbing partners willing to go off the beaten track, sick was I of days beating the crowds into Sneachda or The Ben, so of course I lept at the chance to climb with a lover of adventure!

I trusted him explicitly; he knew his stuff didn't he? Didn't matter that the top pitch of the 160m ridge looked dark and sinister to me, it's steepness making it devoid of the snow that plastered the lower cliffs. My heart skipped a beat, I loved this new routing business, it had a real grip on me by now, but this looked to be upping the ante a little!

Andy was off like a rocket however, before I managed to protest and I was left alone to imagine the possibilities above, thoughts becoming frantic, gloves pooling with drops of clammy sweat as I fed the rope out,

'The rope is moving steady, it's all fine, you'll be fine, oh but what if..........'

Winter climbing is a sickness. It's a sickness that creeps up and the frosty ice maiden laughs gently as she pierces your heart and soul, enslaving you in her cold and wondrous embrace. I hate her, I hate it, I hate the early starts, I hate the cold, I hate that I can never decide what bloody jacket to wear and often end up, ironically, too hot! Groaning at the effort of it all. I hate the hot aches, the screaming agony in my calfs, the wading through thigh deep, unconsolidated snow, the fear of avalanche, the fear of cornices, the fear of falling, the fear of hurt, of death. My mind focused on nothing but my axe torqued awkwardly in yet another crack, threatening to rip out if I dare move just an inch the wrong way! Other pick hooked oh so delicately on the smallest bit of frozen turf, my inner self weeping with relief for that small bit of green in a field of steep and unforgiving rock.

'Grade III my arse!'

And there's those eyes again, laughing gently yet encouragingly. I curse at him!
'Och, but you love it!' the eyes say!

Oh and how I do love it, as much as I hate it, I love it with an equal passion. How can one not, the aggression is freeing and liberating, the mountains my home and this man I'd follow anywhere he'd dare to take me, clunking metal, grinning icy beard crumbed with chocolate. Letting me choose where to go, climbing where none have before. We sit a top the cliff, watching the pink hues; I caress my axe blade, finally calm again.

Another Wafer?

What more could a girl want? The mountains in winter, a gnarly man and a fistful of chocolate.

Yes I love it.

The list of entries so far is below (closing date for entries is Midnight on Monday 9th March):

Click to read individual articles in this series:


A Grand Day Out is another creative competition and a chance to express yourself and share your adventures.


image © Mick Ryan  © photo: Mick Ryan -
image © Mick Ryan

Support UKC

As climbers we strive to make UKClimbing the kind of website we would love to visit, with the most up-to-date news, diverse and interesting articles, comprehensive gear reviews, breathtaking photographs and a vast and useful logbook system. As a result, an incredible community has formed around the site - we’ve provided the framework but it’s you who make the website what it is today. If you appreciate the content we offer then you can help us by becoming an official UKC Supporter. This can be a one-off single annual payment or a more substantial payment paid monthly or yearly which includes full access to Rockfax Digital and discounts on Rockfax print publications.

If you appreciate UKClimbing then please help us by becoming a UKC Supporter.

UKC Supporter

  • Support the website we all know and love
  • Access to a year's subscription to Rockfax Digital.
  • Plus 30% off Rockfax guidebooks
  • Plus Show your support UKC porter badge on your profile and forum posts
UKC/UKH/Rockfax logo

17 Feb, 2009
Oooooops! I forgot to add a title to my photo. Can you add it now please if poss? It should be, Narrow Ridge, V6, Sgorr Ruadh
17 Feb, 2009
For goodness sake Sonya I'm packing for a trip, and a millions udder things. Course I can. Done. Mick
cool article lozenge!
like you won't dial in to check up on us!
17 Feb, 2009
Refresh your browser; if you are on a PC hit F5, option, shift, scratch your bum and pray to the Lord. If you are on a Mac it hit command R.
More Comments
Loading Notifications...
Facebook Twitter Copy Email LinkedIn Pinterest