The drive up from Ullapool on the North West Coast to Stac Pollaidh is still breath-taking despite the North Coast 500. Before this you could stop and see these wonderful peaks rising above the wild moors. Nowadays the solitude can be broken by a fleet of cars or vans on the road in peak season. The wonderful poet Norman MacCaig sums it up beautifully – why was I not taught about this man at school.
A Man in Assynt
“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 Pollaidh
Cul Beag, Cul Mor, Suilven,
Canisp — a frieze and
Assynt Coigach : There are some great peaks in this wild area. Often you will meet only a few folk. I have been so lucky to walk and climb in this area for many years. In any weather it’s always worth it. I remember my first trip up to the North West I was astounded by these mountains as we arrived in Ullapool. I was a Munro bagger and saw little else but Munro’s in these early days. To see the classic shapes of the mountains all different. The light is superb ever changing no matter what time of year. Yet if you get a day in winter it’s exceptional on these hills.
Stac Pollaidh Steep (mountain by the pool 612 metres) – many do not climb the true summit but just to be on the ridge with its sandstone pinnacles and views of the sea and Myriad of Lochans. Add to that the views on a great day this hill may be small in stature but big in my heart. I have had great days here scrambling and rock climbing it’s an also a grand wander round the mountain on a good path.
The true summit includes a rock move that stops a few the famous “Bad step” care needs to be taken here. There are good holds on the right hand side but remember you have to down climb this on your return. Yet this is so worthwhile and to spend a night on the summit and watch the sun set and rise is in my mind is wonderful. The Far East top is also an interesting scramble.
Climbing – early ascent by RAF Kinloss MRT of this pinnacle.
The summit crags of this distinctive and beautiful little mountain provide excellent quick-drying climbs, up to 100m in length. The pinnacles offer a good scramble with exceptional views. The sandstone can be very rounded and there is lots of grit about and like any mountain check your holds!
I have rock climbed here on several occasions and there are plenty of routes of all grades. In a good winter a traverse of the hill is fun I also had some fun on a couple of ice routes which were interesting. I have met some famous photographers and their clients on very early starts waiting patiently for sunrise. The view of the lochans and the sea is one of the best. This is a mountain to me that keeps on giving.
Many years ago we did a training exercise on the main cliff. It was interesting with a stretcher and casualty and a few loose sandstone blocks crashing about. It was serious learning on that day. I have also done a couple of call outs here as this wee hill can bite if your not careful. Please keep to the paths as the erosion is fairly bad with the sandstone and weathering can ruin the paths if care is not taken.
Nowadays there is a lovely well pathed walk round the hill passing many of the hills features. It is well maintained and a lovely short wander on a late afternoon just before sunset. It’s a grand first mountain to introduce a “want to” be climber it is a short day but one to show them a bit of scrambling. Off course don’t forget your Fish and chips in Ullapool at the end of the day. Perfection?
Lots of great routes in this great book:
Probably the most significant guidebook to Scottish hillwalking in recent times, this handsomely illustrated book from The Scottish Mountaineering Club describes the recommended routes on The Grahams & The Donalds. The Grahams is a list of 224 Scottish hills between 2000ft (610m) and 2500ft (672m) in height and was complied by Fiona Torbet (nee Graham) and Alan Dawson in 1992. The Donalds is a list of 140 Scottish hill summits above 2000ft (610m) in the Scottish Lowlands and was compiled by Percy Donald in 1935. This is the first and only colour definitive guidebook to The Grahams & The Donalds and follows in the footsteps of the Scottish Mountaineering Club’s best selling guidebooks to The Munros and The Corbetts. There are colour location maps of each group, together with their neighbouring hills, plus 175 detailed colour route maps and over 250 detailed descriptions, including links to other hills. The guidebook is illustrated by 320 colour photographs of the hills. There are Gaelic hill name translations plus an indexed list of Grahams and Donalds in height order, together with a full standard index. Edited by Rab Anderson & Tom Prentice and written by some of the foremost authorities on the Scottish mountains.
Comments and photos welcome .