This June I did my first ghyll scramble. As a relative newcomer to the world of climbing and mountaineering, I wanted to gain experience planning and navigating a route whilst climbing something slightly different. So when a heatwave struck I grabbed a friend and headed for Sandbed Gill, a grade 4*** scramble in the Lake District.
1. You Will Get Wet
This may seem obvious, but don’t under-estimate how wet you, your bag, and your climbing partner will get. I planned this as a comparatively dry ghyll scramble, without the need for wading or a wetsuit. I still got soaked through. Remember to take a full change of clothes, pants and all, because with being wet comes getting cold. I did this route in a heat wave and still needed to change clothes as soon as I exited the gill to avoid freezing. We all know the risks of hypothermia, so don’t forget to add extra warm layers and a towel. You won’t regret it when you are walking back to the car warm and dry, instead of wet and shivering!
2. Wear Socks
When you first approach the ghyll, the thought of climbing on wet, slippery, moss-covered rock seems less than appealing. But there’s a cheap trick to feeling as sure footed as a mountain goat whilst ghyll scrambling. Wear socks. This can be over your shoes, although I decided to take mine off entirely. The socks give amazing grip on the wet rock, and moss goes from being a sketchy looking enemy to your best friend. Climbing barefoot gives an incredible feeling, as you learn to use your body in an entirely different way to normal. It’s like climbing with four hands, albeit one pair is a little less grippy than the other.
3. Be Prepared
Know what it is you are up against. And pack a climbing partner, they are the best people should things go wrong. Whilst choosing the route I spent a lot of time on Google and the UK Climbing forums trying to find as much info on the climb and what to expect. As a relative newcomer to climbing I wanted to make sure the climbing was well within my ability, and I knew that having my more experienced climbing partner with me meant I could always second if I wasn’t feeling confident.
4.Use Midge Spray
Spray it on your arms. Spray it on your legs. Use the entire bottle. Spray it everywhere.
Don’t get in your car and turn the inner light on whilst the doors are still open unless you want to turn your vehicle into a box full of thousands of tiny blood sucking demons, forcing you to drive through the Lake District with the windows down in the hopes the wind will blast them out.
Trust me. Use midge spray.
5. Prepare To Feel Epic
This is my second summer of outdoor adventuring. My brief adventuring career has included doing Striding Edge in winter conditions, climbing multi-pitches in the Langdales, trad climbing around Lancashire and scrambling up Halls Fell in the dark. But the route up Sandbed Gill has been my favourite to date. Over-coming the heavy pounding of freezing cold water on your chest is a feeling like no other. I felt as if I could wrestle a bear as I pulled myself up a waterfall, emerging triumphant at the top and feeling invincible. I would highly encourage everyone to give ghyll scrambling a go, you will not regret it!
She has spent the past year morphing from a city dweller to an outdoor enthusiast and encourages other people to try the same. She has worked with brands such as Sigg and Trek, producing photographic content for social media and marketing.
Currently Mairi is planning her first big solo trip, the West Highland Way, for September.
She can be found online below:
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