Stac Pollaidh another great wee mountain. Poems, climbing and superb views. Mountain in miniature.

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
a litany”


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.

Stac Pollaidh days

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!

On the Bad Step.

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 .

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 when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Corbetts and other hills, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Well being. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Stac Pollaidh another great wee mountain. Poems, climbing and superb views. Mountain in miniature.

  1. Jim Higgins says:

    This post has brought back so many memories. I have a pal who made an annual pilgrimage to a wee place called Scourie on the west coast. He climbed Stac Pollaidh on that weeks holiday every year and his two children and sometimes his wife would accompany him on days of fine weather. This guy was to me as the ostrich was to Charles Darwin. He never took maps or compasses and his gear was strait from ASDA. I can feel my teeth gritting already as I used to throttle him and lecture him on mountain safety. His war cry was that everything will be hunky dory and with him it always seemed to be. The weather never turned bad, he never had a slip or took a wrong path, he was the luckiest guy alive.
    His late wife was instrumental in setting me up with the woman who is now my wife of 34 years. We are hoping to go to Scourie next summer and climb Stac Pollaidh again. I wonder how crowded it will be. Corbets and lower hills are my best bets these days as my worsening arthritis means time constraints. Auld stiffy. But I am at a stage in life when summits are there if I feel like it. I love sitting on a pleasant day waiting for light for that epic photo and on a mountain like Stac Pollaidh or the cobbler, just wandering around studying things at close quarters. Speaking of The Cobbler I was up there last June and like the NW500 there were reams of tourists clogging the path. I had to squeeze and shuffle past parties of folk looking like adverts for sport direct. I love virgin terrain but I tend to stick to paths these days to minimise erosion and its also easier on my knees.
    Hopefully We will get clear warm weather and to get onto the top before sunset and get every shade of blue, purple, pink , peach, orange and red as the sun goes down. Wow. Then three or four hours napping before the eastern glow. I have a german friend from the black forest region who comes to Scotland regularly and walks the lower easier hills and he spends weeks in his tent just taking photos. He sells them for the likes of calendars and shortbread tins etc. Apparently our mountains are very popular with europeans because of their accessibility, you can reach most tops from a roadside car park.
    Och I could go on here but I am very fortunate to have many memories even though I am a bit limited now and have to cherry pick my days and spend a bit more time and effort in the planning stages.
    Keep the memories coming

    Jim higgins

    Liked by 1 person

  2. dogweejohn says:

    Really enjoying these posts. My favourite “good value hill” is Sgurr na Stri on Skye. Great standing on the top watching the ridge turn dark at sunset. Also a fair bit of F111 debris round the summit.

    Liked by 1 person

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