Old Man of Hoy- Scottish Sea Stacks

One of the UK’s classic landmarks and possibly its most famous rock climb. 350 feet high and taller than any US desert Tower of its type The Old Man of Hoy is a very impressive sea stack on the coastline off the tiny island of Hoy. Seen from the Orkney islands huge Rora Head the ‘Old Man’ the old man is a tall needle of sandstone rock. These towers , once an arch, are dotted around the British coastline but the Old Man is by far the most impressive. First climbed in the 1960’s by an informous Scottish Mountaineer, Tom Patey, the adventure to summit its remote top is on every climbers wish list. Tom Pateys route climbs the seaward edge of the stack, linking corners and walls. The place holds a serious feel and the climbing is also. Perhaps not desperate in the modern idiom but can be damp, cold and exposed which gets the adrenaline moving. It takes 6 pitches to summit and 3 or 4 long abseils to get off. The climb is E1 5c in British grades or 5.10 American. The crux pitch is not easy to protect and on the first ascent Patey hammered in wooden wedges which are still in place!

Getting to the Old Man of Hoy: Its an adventure in its self. The Old Man is on the western coast of the Island of Hoy, not far from the inpressive Ratwick Bay. Hoy is reached by a small fewrry from Stromness on main land Orkney. To get to Orkney you either fly from various airports ( inc Edinburgh) or take the ferry from Scrabster on the Northern tip of Scotland, not far from John O Groats. Once at Hoy you take a small shuttle bus to the beach at Ratqick bay. There is a Youth Hostel, B and B, Bothy or camping all close to the sweeping beach below the UKs tallest sea cliff St Johns Head.

Experience required: You need to have multipitch rock climbing experience and be able to abseil. The climbing is steep but often you can bridge out.. Being able to follow VS is normal to second the climb. A tight rope on the crux gets most folk over the tricky section cxomnfortably. Equipment can be borrowed for the climb. Normal climbing rack, ropes and helmet required.

Rough Programme:
Day1: Travel to Orkney.Day 2: Get the first ferry to Hoy and then walked to the Old Man and climb the route.
Day 3: Get the ferry back to Orkney, over to the mainland and travel home.
Day 3: A good option is on day 3 travel to the Old Man of Am Buchille and climb this stack.
Day 4: Climb the Old Man of Stoer
Day 5: Travel home

Costs: A daily rate plus expenses for the Guide. Contact Twid directly for a quote as seasonal rates apply. twidturner@aol.com

The Original Route E1 route description
Pitch 1 (20m): Climb to the top of the obvious broken pillar to a large tat covered ledge called “the Gallery”. This pitch is V.DIFF climbing on poor rock, a good warm up and gear is plentiful.
Pitch 2 (30m) 5b: From the land ward end of the Gallery down-climb for a few meters on the east face to a smaller ledge and traverse right along this ledge to the foot of a large over-hanging chimney. Ascend this chimney passing roofs at 10 and 20 meters. The second roof being the crux of the whole climb. At the top of this pitch is a convenient triangular alcove to belay from. The small pillar and big flake to the left of this alcove make perfect anchors for gear. If you are climbing on 50 meter ropes you cannot abseil directly to the ground from this point on your descent. An abseil from here on this rope length will leave you hanging in open air at the end of your rope. A 50 meter rope must be left tied to the tat on “The Gallery” this is your descent rope. I’m told two 60 meter ropes will see you to the ground from this belay. HVS climbing on reasonable rock with an exposed move out of the chimney at the second roof.
Pitch 3 (45m) 4b: Round the corner to your left (facing the land) ascend the loose easy ledges to a large belay ledge. At the right hand end of this ledge ascend a few meters and traverse left to another ledge and ascend the dirty chimney in the corner, follow the ledges to the grassy ledge below the exit crack.
Pitch 4 (20m) 4c: Ascend the open book corner on excellent rock with good holds and perfect gear to the dramatic usually windy summit. An excellent severe climb and a perfect final pitch.

For further info about climbing the Old Man of Hoy contact Twid direct at twidturner@aol.com