The Old Man of Stoer -1968 – Extract from the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Diary

The Old Man of Stoer has been a classic climb since it was first climbed in 1966 by Tom Patey and friends there is a great story in “One Mans Mountains” of the first ascent.

his autobiography offers a glimpse into the mind of Tom Patey, a man whose contributed greatly to modern climbing. He was killed in May 1970, abseiling from a sea stack off the north coast of Scotland. He was 38. People outside the climbing world knew of him as the only man who launched himself into space during the televised climb of the Old Man of Hoy. Inside the climbing fraternity everyone knew of him. It was when studying medicine at Aberdeen University that Tom first showed his talent as an extraordinary climber and started his long series of epic first ascents. He also took part in the four-man 1956 British expedition to climb the 28,800-foot Mustagh Tower, a mountain that many people regarded as unclimbable; they conquered it - Tom, John Hartog, Ian McNaught-Davies and the legendary Manchester plumber Joe Brown.

his autobiography offers a glimpse into the mind of Tom Patey, a man whose contributed greatly to modern climbing. He was killed in May 1970, abseiling from a sea stack off the north coast of Scotland. He was 38. People outside the climbing world knew of him as the only man who launched himself into space during the televised climb of the Old Man of Hoy. Inside the climbing fraternity everyone knew of him. It was when studying medicine at Aberdeen University that Tom first showed his talent as an extraordinary climber and started his long series of epic first ascents. He also took part in the four-man 1956 British expedition to climb the 28,800-foot Mustagh Tower, a mountain that many people regarded as unclimbable; they conquered it – Tom, John Hartog, Ian McNaught-Davies and the legendary Manchester plumber Joe Brown.

I have been lucky enough to have climbed it 3 times and had an epic on another occasion with 3 members of the Hong Kong Rescue Team!  The language problems and my ability left us on the crux with language difficulties and teaching abseiling without a safety rope. It has always been incredible place to be and I have many great memories of this special sea stack just along the coast from Lochinver in the far North of Scotland. It is a great walk to the Sea Stack along the coast and the Stack has an interesting descent down the steep cliffs and then a swim across to the stack which stands imposingly. I have never been a great rock climber and had a few near epics in the past with 45 metre ropes that left you short on the wild abseil. Also the sea, the rock add the birds and exposure and my fear level rises considerably. My dog loved the days here and always spent the day in the water when the weather allowed swimming with the seals round the Stack!  On another occasion the Stack was covered in foam  to half way up the stack and yet Jim Morning swam across in a sea of foam while we sat and cried on the cliffs. Even Jim had to abort after the first pitch he was covered in foam, I must find these photos. What a place, what vision Tom Patey had in 1966, read the first ascent account.

sTOER

The classic and popular sea stack (not to be confused with the Old Man of Storr on Skye!) First Ascent in 1966 in June by Tom Patey, B. Henderson, P Nunn & B Robertson.  Now a 4 star VS.

 

Access notes

An unorthodox crossing

An unorthodox crossing

Tidal and wind affected. Park near the lighthouse and walk along the cliff-tops. Scramble down to the platform opposite the base of the stack.

 

The Tyrolean Crossing

The Tyrolean Crossing

A Tyrolean traverse is required to access the stack. If one is not in place then a swimmer (preferably a volunteer) is needed in the party. Bring enough rope to leave a Tyrolean in place and carry out the descent abseil (60m ropes advisable)

The Old Man Of Storr Monday 28 July 1968 – This an extract from the RAF Kinloss Diary of the day!

Modern day gear

Modern day gear

A party from RAF Kinloss of Gonk Ballantyne, Yeni Harman & George Bruce set out to climb the Old Man Of Stoer, they borrowed a ladder from the Ullapool Youth Hostel to get across to the Stac without getting wet.

Happy Troops RAF MRT.

Happy Troops RAF MRT.

They reached the bottom of the climb at 1700, left the ladder in place ready for withdrawal. Bruce decided against climbing, due to steepness, hardness and being incredibly frightened.  Ballantyne and Harman completed the climb having difficulty in places finding the route and being spat on by nesting birds on the ledges. They eventually abseiled off at 2300. The sea by this time was fully in and the ladder was by now 6 feet under water. They decided not to swim back due yo man –eating seals who were waiting patiently for the wrong decisions to be made. They spent the night testing Mr Harmans’s new space blanket and a fairly comfortable bivouac. They awoke at 0300 and found that the tide had ebbed enough to allow a crossing using the ladder.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Although only graded Hard Severe the exposure was frightening , the abseil off even worse, not recommended for anyone with a weak heart. The route was climbed in big boots! CLIMBED IN BIG BOOTS!!!!!!

George Bruce – RIP

Modern day ascent all the gear.

Modern day ascent all the gear. RAF MRT

About heavywhalley.MBE

Lecturer and Mountain Rescue Specialist
This entry was posted in mountain safety, Rock Climbing, Weather. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s