As Lowe Alpine celebrates its 50th anniversary, Totally Active speaks to legendary British mountaineer Andy Cave about his 20 years as an ambassador for the brand and how he was first introduced to climbing. This is an extract from an article first published in October 2017 in Totally Active.
You left school to work as a miner at the age of 16, how did this experience shape you and what life lessons did you learn?
In 1986 I quit my job as a miner and went to the Alps and climbed pretty much all the big hard alpine routes I had dreamed of in a six week period. People say I wore the ‘yellow jersey’ that season, but I took it all in my stride. Perhaps working 12 hour nights 3,000 feet underground helped put me on a fast track. Underground you had to understand the power of teamwork, of being there for each other in dangerous environments, as well as understanding hard graft and solving problems with limited tools. Dealing with the unknown was the norm in the mine.
How were you introduced to climbing?
Scout master Paul Arblaster took me on a Barnsley Mountaineering Club meet. More experienced people there encouraged me and passed on some good knowledge.
How did your love for climbing develop from that first experience?
Me and my mate Steve went on a course with mountain guide Mal Duff in Glencoe. Then the miners strike gave me a year of unpaid leave! I seemed to be able to bump into great mentors. I was good at sniffing out the bull-shitters too!
How did you manage your climbing career whilst studying for a degree and PhD?
As an undergrad I did rope access work in the holidays and whilst doing my PhD I completed the training to become an International Federation of Mountain Guide Associations (IFMGA) mountain Guide. I worked with a legendary group called the rock team; hard working characters, drilling big holes on cliffs all over the UK.
You’ve been an ambassador for Lowe Alpine for 20 years now. How did you meet the founder Jeff Lowe?
I met him in the back room of the Lescar pub in Sheffield, after his lecture. He had already taken ill. We shared a couple of pints. Then up at Kendal Mountain Festival he came to my lecture in the Lowe Alpine yurt, no pressure. We auctioned one of my books for his charity and drank beer. Ueli Steck (who died on Nuptse in 2017 – ed) and I shared a whisky also, talk about legends in a tent!
Who is Jeff Lowe to you?
Jeff is a rare character, visionary and utterly committed to ‘out there’ projects, he travelled and climbed audacious projects. A Climber’s climber. He put style first, uncompromising. It’s not very often someone like that turns up. His influence on mountaineering was huge. Take Metanoia on the Eiger, wow. Few words, plenty of action.
You’ve completed some incredible climbs, which ones are the most memorable for you and why?
Apparently one of my faults is being too understated – perhaps a British thing? I feel lucky to have climbed and skied all over the world with friends and clients. The best adventure is of course the next one!
Read the full interview on Totally Active.
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