It was still as black as night ( even though this was early morning)when we left for the far North of Scotland yesterday morning at 0630 and we loaded on the bikes to Dan’s car. The forecast was for rain and as we drove North is was heavy at times, sleeting and as pitch dark as we drove past all the local hills. We missed a couple of stags on the road near the Aultguish Inn in the gloom and rain. Anne Dale please can you ensure your deer are locked up next time we travel) and arrived at Invereal at 0815, still pitch dark and wet. It was an easy decision the forecast was better up North so we drove up to Stac Polly and decided for a short day on this special mountain. Passing through Ullapool without a coffee!
Stac Polly in only 613 metres but such a unique mountains due to the weathering of the Torridonan Sandstone and its situation as it rises from the Loch and moor. It is a hill I love and many a short but great mountaineering day I have had here with the RAF teams. We explored many of the ridges and climbs in past days, where the troops nicknamed it Lunn Polly! Much to my annoyance which made them do it more! It is a hill of shattered pinnacles and a has a short ridge of about a kilometre long and adventure that is wonderful. The tragic erosion by over 30000 people annually has been sorted out by the new path which gives a grand walk round the hill for those that do not fancy the climb and the views cannot be justifiably described by me in words . They are spectacular as the sea the lochs and these wild hills make this hill outstanding. In winter it is still a fun day but care is needed on the ridge it is under estimated by many and the top has a sting in its tail. The hill was like its bigger neighbours hidden in mist as we set of but we took a short rope with us. (Dan’s tow rope from the car)
“Glaciers, grinding West, gouged out
these valleys, rasping the brown sandstone,
and left, on the hard rock below — the
ruffled foreland —
this frieze of mountains, filed
on the blue air — Stac Polly,
Cul Beag, Cul Mor, Suilven,
Canisp — a frieze and
I changed my hill bag before we left and took out some gear as it would be a shorter day and parked in the empty car park as daylight was arriving. The path is now superb after recent refurbishments and the erosion on this magical place controlled. The new path takes you round by the East Buttress and we wandered up at my slow pace just marvelling in the views of this great peak, even in cloud the lochs dominate the landscape. Familar hills Cull Mor, Cull Beag and Ben Mor Coigach and its neighbours were covered in cloud and mist but what a place to be, there was no one about just space and wildness.
The path sneaks round the back of the mountain and you should get great views of Cull Beag and Cull Mor and over to Suillven and the myriad of lochs and the sea. Not today just huge expanse of moor and lochs but it was still outstanding and the views we got made the long drive so worth it. This is one of my favourite view points and after the gloom of the drive we were in the right place, at the right time with the right companion.
As we ventured round the path and onto the ridge there was in this shaded side ice and I was glad of my ice axe and wished I had put my crampons in ( I had taken them out in the car park as the plans changed) It was great on the ridge more view and as I was with Dan of Everest fame “Higher than most” and various other 8000 metre peaks I had no worries. He offered me one of his crampons but I declined. The vision of two of us being collected by Mountain Rescue after a fall in one of the gullies with one crampon each and tied to a tow rope, did not bear thinking about. How would the media have enjoyed that!
Then we put the rope on, too much laughing and had an adventure along the ridge it was very icy in places and care had to be taken. The rock was wet and icy in places and the footsteps loose snow I was glad we had kept our helmets in the bag so with our wee rope we wandered along the ridge having great fun. We skuled along paths up slabs and wee climbs with some grand drops beckoning. Dam put his crampons on and was like a deer while I slithered along, taking care. It was a blast from the past days and great to be out with the * Great man” We had a break and a chat and Dan a man of few words was loving it, we spoke about some of our great pals long gone and how they would have enjoyed this day, Mark, Al and Scotty. It is amazing how at times like these your mind drifts back to great adventures with friends that you have for life in this crazy game of mountains?
The cloud lifted and our wee mountain was clear numerous paths tread between the pinnacles and more steep rock corners, icy and verglassed it was fun. There was no wind and the views spectacular as some of the Ciogach Peaks peaked out of the clouds. The views into the gullys and the pinnacles and towers are of some of Scotland famous sandstone sculptures with names like Tam O Shanter, Virgin and Child. Snow covered they made great viewing and a reminder that nature produces what man can just only hope to achieve?
It was all over to soon we had the Clavie night to get back to but we sat and enjoyed the stupendous views. Dan was loving it and what a fun day we had, the rock was slippy at times but it was like the old days with Dan laughing at my attempts to climb. There is some great climbing on the West Buttress great lines and in the rare winter conditions some wild winter climbing on these cliffs.
We descended down a gully to the path and the cloud came in so missed the great views of the West Buttress but Bairds Pinnacle popped out of the mist. The path was excellent and we followed it round the hill and were soon back at the car as the ridge cleared a bit. It is amazing hill looking like a fairytale castle in the mist with its jagged towers.
It was time to leave and after a change of damp clothes and the tow rope back in its place, we drove to Ullapool. As we were taking of our gear in the deserted car park Dan noticed a wee plaque under the seat. I took my mind for a walk, great words and should be on the Doctors list of advice for some people, how much would the NHS save if some managed to get out into such places?
We had time for a brew and some soup wonderful home-made in Ullapool in the North West Outdoors an Outdoor shop and cafe. The soup was magic and the shop full of great bargains in the sale I bought my Christmas present for myself a new waterproof jacket at a great price. These local shops need support and well worth a drive to Ullapool for those who live locally.
It was a wet drive back the weather changed and we only got glimpses of the big hills snow-covered now. It was a bit of a rush and the Clavie Night in my home village. It starts at 1800 and not much time to get sorted. It was a low-key night for me, the early rise did not help, I was tires but shared it with Dan and my neighbours and some of the Moray Mountaineering Club pals. The village was busy and the night went well.
What a great day and thanks to Dan for making it so much fun!
To my Editor thanks for all the edits and spelling corrections and making me feel uneducated!