Climbers use ropes to tie the knot

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THE bride wore a white cagoule. The groom promised to love, honour and "never let go of the rope".

A mountaineering couple had a rocky start to married life together when they were wed at the top of Glencoe's highest peak.

Jo Mellor, 36, and 30-year-old Rob Tearle scaled one of Buachaille Etive Mor's treacherous cliff faces using ropes and other climbing gear, along with their bridesmaid and best man, to make their vows in a humanist ceremony.

After the climb they rendezvoused with humanist celebrant Tim Maguire, who had ascended by an easier route.

Mellor, a primary teacher from Southampton, said: "Buachaille Etive Mor is an iconic mountain and has a lot of climbing legend behind it. It was very intimate - there was just six of us. Even though it was snowing when we said our vows, I found it all incredibly moving. I had a tear in my eye."

The couple, who wore climbing gear in the traditional wedding colours of black and white, met while mountaineering, and also said during their vows that their bond together was "forged in stone". Both Mellor and Tearle, a train engineer, had been married before in traditional wedding ceremonies and this time were determined to do something different that celebrated their passion for climbing the Scottish peaks.

"We were both getting married for the second time, and we wanted something very different and much more personal that reflected our love of the mountains and of climbing. That's what got us together in the first place," said Mellor.

The couple had already had a dry run of the climb at Easter, although their best man and bridesmaid - Carl Iszatt and his wife Emily - had never climbed the mountain, or indeed attempted a climb like this before.

"Rob and Carl went off before us, roped up together," said Mellor. "It was amazing seeing them climbing up ahead of us.

"Carl found the whole thing quite hairy, as it is steep and exposed. There's a big drop-off and at times you are perched on the edge of the mountain. If you fell off, you could go all the way down.

"It's quite scary when it's your first time.

"It started off sunny but then it started to rain. That's when you have to be careful."

It took the four around 90 minutes to walk to the cliff face and then another two hours to scale the mountain.

Maguire conceded that the ceremony was the most challenging wedding that he had ever done. "I've married people on beaches and on islands, but on the top of a mountain, particularly one like Buachaille Etive Mor, was really quite special," he said.

"Although people have married on mountains before, Jo and Rob were the first couple to climb their way to the top."

And they kept up the climbing metaphors throughout the ceremony. "We ended up doing a handfasting, where the ropes were tied into a knot around our hands," said Mellor.

The couple celebrated with a bottle of champagne at the top of the mountain, alongside their best man and bridesmaid, and their friend and photographer George Burgess, who also climbed the mountain. Two other climbers who happened to be up there at the same time congratulated them and offered a nip of whisky.

The newlyweds then had a wedding lunch of haggis and whisky in the nearby Clachaig Inn, where Mellor changed into a white wedding dress - although she kept her mountain boots on.

"Rob and I had planned on climbing down the mountain together, but as it was snowing, we all took the easy route down," said Mellor.

Humanist wedding ceremonies have become increasingly popular in Scotland since they became legal in 2005.

Last year, humanist weddings overtook Catholic ceremonies to become the third most popular form of marriage in Scotland.