The Old Man of Stoer.

I was rummaging around some old slides the other night that I scanned years ago and found a series from an ascent of the Old Man of Stoer in May 1991.I can`t remember why Bob wasn`t climbing that day but luckily,for whatever the reason, he was on hand to take a stack (forgive the pun if you will ) of photos with my camera.I usually carried it with me when climbing but as you`ll see later on it wasn`t really practical this day πŸ™‚

I think we were camping at the beach at Achnahaird and climbing on the sea cliffs at Reiff.It`s a bit like Stanage by the Sea nowadays but there was no guidebook to the area when we went there at first. Alison had been out here previously with a guy from Glenmore Lodge and as he had been writing the guidebook we assumed she knew what she was talking about when she said she would point out suitable routes for us. ” You just abseil down there and climb back`s V.diff” she said at one section of the cliff.Bob and I did so ….it wasn`t V.Diff. The only time in our lives we have ever resorted to aid climbing I think πŸ™‚
Anyway,after an “exciting” day at Reiff,Bob,Brian,Steroid Sam and I went up to the Old Man of Stoer for a change of scenery.

Parked at the lighthouse and walked in enjoying the late spring sunshine and were soon at the top of the cliff.

Old Man of Stoer

We scrambled down to the platform opposite and it looked as if we were lucky with the tides.I don`t mind getting wet late in the day but not at the outset.Me no swimmy either πŸ™‚ There was an old rope in situ which was a stroke of luck.Not knowing how long it had been there or if there had been much abrasion in the winters storms we rigged up a safety rope and sent Brian across first because the rest of us were scared πŸ™‚

The crossing

He didn`t fall in so over I went next with the benefit of one of our own ropes also in place now.There were two other guys in front of us so we let them get onto the second pitch before Brian led off…

Base of the stack

….followed by me…

First pitch

Myself on first pitch

The guys in front were climbing very slowly which didn`t bode well for my fear of aΒ  dooking on the return.We knew we had only a few hours or so before the tide came back in and cut us off.Nothing we could do about it as there was no way to pass them.Here we are bored waiting for them to get a move on πŸ™‚

Why are we waiting....

Now I`ve always enjoyed a bit of exposure nipping at my heels but at the belay before the fourth and final pitch I was a wee bit distracted by it.I was sitting,facing outwards on a small ledge with an overhanging rock behind me forcing my head out over the edge and making me face downwards.The surge and movement of the waves crashing throught the gap between the stack and the mainland made me feel a bit seasick although I was ok again the minute I started climbing much to my relief and I soon joined Brian on the summit.

Top of the Old Man

Brian and I

We teamed up with the two English guys for the abseils to speed things up.They went down the first half on our ropes and then set up their ropes for the second abseil.

Something disastrous/funny ( take your pick) happened here subsequently to two of our pals.They decided to do it on a day trip from Glasgow Β  It was late on in the year and everything went well up to the top of the stack.Β  Mr X ,for they shall remain nameless,abseiled off first and on nearing the end of the rope swung himself onto the ledge half way down.Mr. Y came down shortly after to be told by Mr.X that on no account should he let go of the rope after he had swung into join him on the ledge as they would then be marooned half way up the stack with night fast approaching.Mr.Y for reasons known only to himself chose to ignore this sage advice and on gaining the ledge retrieved his figure of eight from the rope and let it go.Mr.X was not amused to see their lifeline dangling 15 feet out from them and told Mr.Y in words to that effect πŸ™‚Β  The situation was retrieved,along with the rope, however when Mr.X tied together all their nuts,wires and sundry other gear and being of an age like myself and having seen too many cowboy movies as a kid,proceeded to fashion a lasso and succesfully snare the rope.As it was now dark and they were clad only in tshirts they were a tad relieved to say the least.They arrived back in Glasgow in the early hours of the next morning a wee bit later than planned πŸ™‚ Which reminds me that Death Route Dave,another guy in the club at that time had his stag party on top of the Old Man would you believe πŸ™‚

Nothing much in the way of excitement befell Brian and I and we were soon back at the bottom of the stack.I was a wee bit concerned about the fag situation,the wind and the rising tide in that order.I had the cigarettes with me but if they got wet I would be a long time without one andΒ  think I deserved one back on dry land after the ascent.I put them inside my helmet on the grounds that if they were to get wet in that safe place then that would probably be the least of my concerns πŸ™‚ They reckon every seventh wave is bigger than the preceding six,so,bearing this in mind I counted them off and then launched myself as fast as my arms could carry me over the channel to safety.

Fags are looking safe so far

Brian doesn`t smoke and likes a spot of adventure so he counted the waves in reverse fashion to me and launched himself in at what he judged to be the appropriate moment for maximum pleasure…

Washing machine

Here`s meself the older,slimmer version,back on dry land.a bit wet but with cigarettes intact…

On the left..not the right..!

Special thanks to Bob for taking the photos.

Being wet remins me of an oldΒ  joke. A wee Glasgow woman happens to be heavily pregnant and while walking along Sauchihall Street her waters burst.She rushes into the public telephone box and dials 999 to get through to the emergency services.”Help,help” she wails.”Please calm down Ma`am” says the operator ” First of all,where are you ringing from ?”
The wee woman replies…” From the waist doonwards” Β  πŸ™‚

You may have to speak Glaswegian to get this one.!

Edit: On reflection I`m not sure if the Reiff part was in fact the same weekend.It may have been earlier in the eighties.Feel free to send a donation to Alzheimers Scotland if you will πŸ™‚

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17 Responses to The Old Man of Stoer.

  1. Looks amazing. I’m always envious of people who can climb – never quite got the hang of it myself. Used to mess around a bit at the local climbing wall years ago, but always seemed to have a kind of invisible ceiling beyond which I never wanted to go any higher!

  2. swanscot says:

    That looks like a great adventure.I’ve had a go at climbing on several short sessions over the years and enjoyed it, but never followed it up. I wish I had done so while I was younger and supple.

  3. great report. Also something which I have not had much experience at. A stag do on the top of the Old Man – thats impressive!

  4. writesofway says:

    Aaaarrggghhh! Absoolutely cracking post. I was ringing from the waist doonwards just reading it. Brilliant pics too. That sort of exposure frightens the beejabbers out of me, I’m glad that there’s all sorts of heroic/daft individuals like yourselves (Death Route Dave!?) to get on with this kind of loony enterprise to spare the rest of us…

    Joke remindes me of one told by my faither-in-law:

    A wounded Glaswegian infantryman is laid up in a field hospital on the Western Front. The Brigadier on a morale-boosting visit approaches his bed, gestures and enquires ‘Comfy?’ To which our hero replys ‘Govan, sah!’

    • Death Route Dave is still climbing having moved up to Inverness a few years ago because “there are more hard routes near there” πŸ™‚

      I didn`t mention in the blog entry but sadly Mr.X was killed in a climbing accident a few years later in Glencoe.He had just finished a winter route when a woman nearby fell and he died while trying to get to her before the arrival of the mountain rescue team….

  5. McEff says:

    Excellent stuff. Just what I needed to wake me up on a Monday morning. The bit where you’re looking down at the waves with the rock pushing your head forward had me on the edge of my chair. But I can tell you this, Alex, you wouldn’t get me within twenty miles of that rock.

  6. kenny says:

    I think I’ve seen these photos before Alex. 😯

    But…I’m now concerned that if I didn’t in fact see these photos a while ago – then I saw them yesterday but can’t remember doing so. 😦 .

    Confused of Larbert.

  7. Neil says:

    Ahhh! So this is where you’re hiding Alex! Thank goodness The Old Man of Stoer and similar fearsome sea stacks are not Marilyn’s so I can just look at them and admire them without feeling any need to climb them. I would have to be hauled up and down there like a sack of tatties I’m afraid. Neil

  8. Hilarious post! and no, you don’t have to be Glaswegian to get that joke. I’ve been squeaking away at work here on nights laughing at this and the other guys are wondering what’s tickling me! But they think I’m nuts anyway so don’t worry.

    That whole stack just looks like it’s waiting for a good day to fall over!

    Loved the tale about your mates as well,

  9. Wendy says:

    Hello, I am Wendy, a girl from Hong Kong which is a small part of China. I have a friend, he is suffering the illness of leg, so I just wanna give him some support, he saw a movie in Hong Kong, in the movie, there are some view of the Northern part in Scoland. In the Orkney Island, there are pillar called the “Old Man of Stoer” My friend love the “Old Man of Stoer”
    very much, so can you give me a hand for me?? Just buy a post card of “Old Man of Stoer”, write some greetings words for him and send it from Scotland to Hong Kong to him, I just need one postcard for supporting my friend and I can swap a set of Hong Kong postcards, a set of stamps, banknotes, coins…. or anything you want or request is okay but I just request a postcard of “Old Man of Stoer” in Scotland. Please do me a favor for me or for transferring the love and caring to people. If you like to help, please send me a email, then I can show you the picture of “Old Man of Stoer” pillar. Hope to hear your good news and give me the surprise and support to my friend. Good health and all the best for you. Finally, my email is:

    P.S If you can’t find the postcard of”Old Man of Stoer” pillar, you can send some pictures of “Old Man of Stoer” pillar and some view of Orkney Island which is taken by you or ask your friends who live in Orkney Island to take some photos and then send the photos in envelope to him. So please give me a hand to me can make a surprise for my friend who is suffering the illness of leg, looking forward to your good new!!

  10. Wendy,
    The pillar on the Orkney Islands is the Old Man of Hoy.The next time I am up in that direction I`ll get you a postcard πŸ™‚ I`m afraid it won`rt be for some time though as it is very expensive to get there πŸ™‚

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