The Old Man of Stoer – a few comments/ memories.

The Old Man Of Stoer is a classic climb on the North West Coast the Stoer peninsula North 0f Lochinver. to mountaineers and climbers it is a classic sea stack made immortal by the late Tom Patey in his wonderful Classic of Scottish mountaineering One Man’s Mountains. It was first climbed by a strong team in 1967 and they borrowed a ladder from a local hotelier to get across to the stack. This was much to the amusement of the locals especially the Peat cutters.

A Classic.

Crag features

The classic and popular sea stack (not to be confused with the Old Man of Storr on Skye!)

Approach notes

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.

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.

A wild crossing.

The original route VS 5a – 60 metre /200 feet.

First ascent : It was first climbed in 1966 by Brian Henderson, Paul Nunn, Tom Patey, and Brian Robertson.

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

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.

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 to 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.

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! George Bruce – RIP

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. My mate Dougie mentions it later on and he was supposed to leave the gear for me. 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. Clothes were ruined as the birds spat at you and we used to climb in overalls. You can get round the first pitch when the tide is low and that used to wind up the troops as they struggled on the first pitch.

Happy troops MRT Archives.

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 one wild day a pal 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.

This week is not a day for climbing the Sea Stacks this day there was a bit of foam in the channel! Brave boy swam it to put up the rope across. Old Man of Stoer mid 80’s

Some pals comments :Big Kev – It was a bit frothy when I did it too. Not sure who put the rope over, think it might have been in situ , think the photo is by Dan

You can only truly say you’ve done that swim if it was in the nuddy.  Scouse.

Dave Tomkins  / we timed it right and walked across fixed the rope for the trip back!

Dougie Crawford – Climbed it with the now famous Rusty Bale in a sunny day….Kenny Kenworthy and another I cant remember….so busy taking in the views, sunbathing etc, …didn’t realise I’d been abandoned to dismantle the belay and swim back until the sound of my 3 “friends” pissing themselves laughing behind me on the rope caught my attention…still one of the most memorable days…

Dougie Borthwick 

Early 80’s & Kas wanted a pic of the team on the summit, inclusive 3 Hong Kong rescue chaps, then he went off route, traversing around to north side, to tick a new variation, at which point the team below then  ‘untied’ leaving the 3 Chinese stranded on the ledge. I remember (1) following Kas but with a 500’ rope-bag (for abseil) on my back & then having to use the wee eyelet of the old peg above the roof, to pull up on & (2) there was NO way I was swimming – Dougie I was there you left me with them!

Wrote Patey: “To my mind the magic of a great route does not lie in its technical difficulty or even the excellence of its rock but in something less readily definable—atmosphere.” Go and have fun and watch the descent down to the sea from the main cliff.

Rude ascent.

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer and loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Articles, Books, Equipment, Friends, Gear, Mountaineering, Rock Climbing, Weather. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Old Man of Stoer – a few comments/ memories.

  1. Great article, once again Heavy ,and great mention for Gonk and Yeni 👍


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