1:The Old Man of Hoy.
Ordnance Survey map 7, grid reference 175009
The Old Man of Hoy needs little introduction as it is the reason why most climbers come to Orkney. It's climbing history is well documented in numerous publications and television "spectaculars," from the first ascent by Messers Patey, Baillie and Bonington to the more recent solo of the same route by Catherine Destiville.
LOGISTICS: Having been in contact with climber who came to Orkney specifically for the Old Man. There are a few things to point out to make you journey less traumatic. Hoy is a separate island from the mainland of Orkney. A car ferry runs from Houton to Lyness in Hoy. For those on foot a passenger ferry runs from Stromness to north Hoy, from here it is a 6 mile walk through the glen between the Ward Hill and Cuilags to Rackwick Bay. For ferry details go to Orkney Ferries web site. Apart from wild camping, Rackwick Bay is the nearest convenient place to stay. On the shore of the bay is Burnside Bothy, which is an excellent free bothy (with a flushing toilet and fresh water tap). Camping within it's walled garden is also free. As with the west coast of Scotland there are lots of midgies living in Hoy, taking your usual creams etc. is recommended. The nearest grocery shop is at Lyness (about 10 miles away).
ACCESS: There is a well worn path which climbs it's way out of the north slopes of Rackwick Bay to an excellent view point on the cliffs overlooking the Old Man. The path is well sign posted from the road end car park. It is probably best to allow about 45 minutes for this walk. Once you've sat and looked from this vantage point for a while, then continue along the cliffs on the path towards the top of St. John's Head. At the top of the second gully (about 100 meters from the view point) you will find a set of man made steps leading down, follow them though a jumble of small slabs in a narrow pass and continue down this path carefully crossing the muddy remains of a land slide. This path is quite steep towards the bottom and it is a nightmare when wet. From the bottom of the path ascend the big boulders along the top of the well defined non tidal walkway which joins Hoy to the base of the stack, this leads directly to the bottom of the pillar at the start of the original route.
There are currently 7 routes ascending the stack from a very amenable E1 to an as yet unrepeated E6. The route that receives the most attention is the east face route, (East Face, Original route). This route is on the landward face of the stack and looms ever larger as you descend down the facing slopes. The Original South Face Route holds another excellent adventure, this route climbs the well defined chimney on the west side of the south face. The seaward face is home to Ancient Mariner this follows the huge chimney crack on the south side of the seaward face. The Scottish Mountaineering Club give full descriptions of all the routes ascending the stack in their Northern Highlands guide volume 2.
Go to the Needle.
Return to sea stack index.