North-West Sea Stacks Trip

Monday to Wednesday this week I was up in the far North-West of Scotland with a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors Trip climbing and walking trip.

John making the swim at the Old Man of Stoer

John making the swim at the Old Man of Stoer

After driving up on Monday we dropped off the walkers at Inchnadamph to tackle Ben More Assynt and Conival. John, Linda, Gillian, Steven, Tony and I then headed for the Old Man of Stoer.

A view of the top two pitches or so of the Old Man of Stoer

A view of the top two pitches or so of the Old Man of Stoer

We rigged a Tyrolean to the South-East corner of the stack and climbed it via the Original Route missing out the initial traverse pitch. Conditions were perfect with sunshine and a light wind.

Steven and Tony after the Old Man of Stoer

Steven and Tony after the Old Man of Stoer

On Tuesday we dropped Craig and the walkers at the start of the way up Arkle. The forecast wasn’t great, but the climbers decided to head up to have a look at Am Buachaille anyway. It was misty down low all day, but the forecast rain never really appeared in earnest and when we reached the bottom of the sea stack the rock was damp, but looked climbable.

A damp first pitch on Am Buachaille

A damp first pitch on Am Buachaille

Again we climbed it by the Original Route. This gives three pitches of good climbing, but there is loose and friable rock and care is required. Additionally there’s still Fulmar chicks around and one on the first ledge of the first pitch requires care to avoid. It’s late for the chicks to still be on ledges, so I’d guess it’s a second brood or second attempt given the variable summer. Am Buachaille is definitely an adventure with a longish walk in, a fairly serious grassy scramble to get down and up, a swim for everybody and tidal time constraints.

Gillian about to abseil off Am Buachaille with the flash making the mist seem worse than it was

Gillian about to abseil off Am Buachaille with the flash making the mist seem worse than it was.

On Wednesday the walkers headed for Canisp and great views, whilst the climbers had a few hours climbing and coasteering at the Pinnacle area of Reiff in glorious weather. All in all a very successful trip.

North-West Sea Stacks, Cragging and Walking

The last three days I’ve been away with a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors trip to the North-West of Scotland. After meeting up with the rest of the group in Aviemore on Monday morning we headed up to our base for the trip at the excellent Inchnadamph Hostel. A quick turnaround at the hostel and we dropped the walking group of Craig, Anne, Cath, Isobel, Lorn and Wilson off to do a traverse of Breabag. The climbers then headed to the Point of Stoer and the target for the day of the classic sandstone sea stack of the Old Man of Stoer.

The Old Man of Stoer

The Old Man of Stoer

There were several parties on the stack, so we asked permission to use their Tyrolean to get John across and then set up our own to the Southern side of the stack. Once across Gayle and Iona climbed with John, whilst Graeme and Tam climbed with myself with both teams climbing The Original Route.

Iona and Gayle just below the top of the Old Man of Stoer

Iona and Gayle just below the top of the Old Man of Stoer

On Tuesday we dropped the walkers off to complete an unusual full traverse of Quinag, which several described afterwards as their best day walking in the hills. The climbers headed North and walked in towards the beautiful Sandwood Bay. We cut off before the bay itself and descended steeply to the base of the cliffs near Am Buachaille.

Am Buachaille from near the base of our descent

Am Buachaille from near the base of our descent

After a change it to wet suits, a slippy boulder traverse and a short swim we climbed the second classic sandstone sea stack of the trip, Am Buachaille. We climbed this via The Original Route.

John, Graeme and Tam crossing the channel to Am Buachaille

John, Graeme and Tam crossing the channel to Am Buachaille

The rock is more friable than on The Old Man of Stoer, the climbing is bolder and there’s more loose rock on ledges, so care is definitely required.

John leading the first pitch on Am Buachaille

John leading the first pitch on Am Buachaille

A good look at tide tables and a fairly quick ascent is also needed to avoid a long swim. However, on the day we had plenty of time and the swim with the tides we had was no more than 8m.

Graeme and Tam on the second belay ledge on Am Buachaille

Graeme and Tam on the second belay ledge on Am Buachaille

On Wednesday I got up to drop the walkers off for a traverse of Cul Mor and then the climbers had a more relaxed day at Reiff, where we climbed a range of routes, mostly on bottom ropes, up to E3 5c.

Graeme bottom roping Pop-out at Reiff

Graeme bottom roping Pop-out at Reiff

We had sunshine and dry weather throughout although it was windy and cool on the tops at times.