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.
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.
FULL DETAILS HERE: LYON EQUIPMENT COMPETITION: A Grand Day Out
Andy Pollitt follows his interview with Chris Hamper with another of Britain's top climbers of the 80s, Mark Leach.
'Overall,... Read more