The old Man of Stoer and an early ascent. What a classic day out The late Tom Patey and mates thank you!

One of the best books ever written

I have plenty of time just now to look back on some classic days . The Old man of Storr was one of these just along the Coast from Lochinver. Its a sea cliff that brings back so many memories.

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 for them . It has always been incredible place to be and I have many great memories of this special sea stack just along the coast fin the far North of Scotland. It is a great walk along the coast and the Stack has an interesting descent down the steep cliffs then a swim across to the stack which stands imposingly. At low tide you can miss the first pitch and scramble round the back on to the platform on the second pitch !

Late 80’s now to get down!

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. In the early days without a back up knot with the birds, the exposure and the sea. The fear level rises considerably.

Happy troops

My dog loved the days spent 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 nearly 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. Carrying a borrowed ladder to the route was such a tale that I read and read again and again.

The route : 75 metre VS 4 Star

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

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.

In his autobiography it 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 The Maidens 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

Access notes, It has an unorthodox crossing across a gap and is tidal and wind affected.

Park near the lighthouse and walk along the coast

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! This was only Two years after the first ascent!

A party from RAF Kinloss of Gonk Ballantyne, Yeni Harman & George Bruce the Team Leader 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.

Stoer

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 then 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) There were still wooden wedges in the climb used for protection possibly by the first ascent climbers.

George Bruce – RIP thanks for a great tale

Wild Seas

Its a great day out so much fun and the birds will be a bit annoying the exposure is interesting as is the Tyrolean Traverse across the gap and the abseil is interesting. If you get a chance go and enjoy it.

Heavy Storr

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. Bring enough rope to leave a Tyrolean in place and carry out the descent abseil (60m ropes advisable). (UPDATE 28/8/18 – Tryolean now very frayed and will need renewed. Would reccomend checking tide times as it may now be required to wade/swim across).

At spring low tides and with a small swell it is possible to step/wade across to the base of the stack on the right hand side (facing out).  You can scramble around (anti-clockwise) to the top of pitch 2 of the “Ordinary Route”.

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, Friends, Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Well being. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The old Man of Stoer and an early ascent. What a classic day out The late Tom Patey and mates thank you!

  1. Ged Murray says:

    Dave

    You are such a good story teller like your old pal the late John Coull. As a young SAC on Two Team NMSU and Sgt on NLS I could listen to his adventures to the Falklands with Anglia TV your Rockall expedition and many more MRT weekend trips and RIB adventures.

    Great memories of my time in the RAF, as I have said before to you.

    Like

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