An account of a climb on the Original Route, Old Man of Stoer
More research showed that as the Old Man was not attached to land, then the logistics of getting across to it could be more of a challenge. Either we would have to set up a Tyrolean traverse or, according to some on-line guides, it was possible to “rock hop” across to the Old Man from the north on spring low tides, and as luck would have it, the day we arrived would be just right. So as not to get too much in the way of the walking, the plan was to climb the day we arrived, we’d fly into Inverness airport about 11:00, drive the hire car as fast as legally possible across to Stoer, walk out to the Old Man and we should arrive there about an hour before low tide so that we could ‘rock hop’ across and have enough time to set up a Tyrolean for the return.
|Stoer Lighthouse (click on any image to view in Flickr)||Old Man of Stoer|
The weather forecast the week before the trip did not look promising – gusts to almost 50 mph and rain. I don’t mind climbing in the rain, but I don’t particularly like climbing in high winds, especially on a rock pinnacle in the middle of the sea (well, almost). But luckily the forecast got a bit better and the day before the forecast was for no rain and winds “only” 28mph, so it looked like it on.
So we set off early from Ipswich to Luton Airport and flew up to Inverness in clear blue skies and lovely weather, but the moment we touched down in Inverness it started to rain! This didn’t bode well, but as we drove across Scotland, as fast as we could to make the tide, we didn’t get any more rain. But as we got to the car park at the Stoer lighthouse, it was still very windy. I bought a tea from the van in the car park and the wind was so strong that as I tried to drink the tea the wind blowing over it splashed the tea all over my face. The lady selling the tea made a comment that in all the time she’d been selling tea in the car park (about 5-6 years) she’d never seen anyone try to climb the Old Man in as such bad conditions, and even when the conditions were better over half the parties turn back because of the roughness of the sea. (she obviously thought we were mad, and she started to sow a few more seeds of doubt in my mind as well).
We marched the 2 miles to the Old Man as fast as we could in order to have enough time as possible to ‘rock hop’ across. Unfortunately we failed dismally to find the way across from the north and so we took the more well used path down to the south to where there was a Tyrolean left by a previous party. Now, we had intended to set up our own Tyrolean, but on inspection the one left there looked solid, and whilst we couldn’t see the anchors on the far side, we decided to test it, and then I risked a crossing on it with our rope used as a safety line.
When I was on the other side, the anchors looked pretty good there as well, so Keith followed me over and we could then start the climbing with waves breaking all around us.
I described the climb on one of the Club winter talk nights and I’m not going to go into the detail again here (though i’ll appily discuss with anyone over a beer), but I’ll leave you with a few pictures taken from the mainland at the start of our climb by our friends, and ones taken at the end of the climb by a passing couple who kindly left a note on our car with their email address.
All in all it was a great climb, made to feel very adventurous because of the weather, and yet reasonably accessible – Keith remarked on the way back to the car that we had enough time to drive back to Inverness and get a plane home, thereby doing the whole thing in a day trip from Ipswich! However, sense prevailed and we headed to Loch Inver where we met up with our friends for a big meal and few well deserved beers !
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