Scottish Sea Stacks – Level 3

Fitness level
Tech level
Number of guiding days
4
Guiding ratio
1:1 or 1:2

On our Scottish Sea Stacks climbing week, we climb Britain’s highest sea stack – the Old Man of Hoy, off the coast of the Orkney Islands in Northern Scotland. Hoy is the most iconic of all the great sea stacks in Britain and a brilliant adventure, complete with big exposure, some sandy rock, seagulls and the huge backdrop of St Johns head nearby. We aim to combine Hoy with the Old Man of Stoer and other sea cliff or mountain crag venues, on a mini road trip across this amazing part of the UK.

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Thanks to Rich for safely guiding my son on his ascent to become the youngest person ever to have climbed the Old Man of Hoy! #safehands

Ollie Buckle

Trip overview

On our Scottish Sea Stacks climbing week, we climb Britain’s highest sea stack – the Old Man of Hoy, off the coast of the Orkney Islands in Northern Scotland. Hoy is the most iconic of all the great sea stacks in Britain and a brilliant adventure, complete with big exposure, some sandy rock, seagulls and the huge backdrop of St Johns head nearby. We aim to combine Hoy with the Old Man of Stoer and other sea cliff or mountain crag venues, on a mini road trip across this amazing part of the UK.

Dates and Availability

This trip is available through May and June when the conditions/weather are usually at their best for Scottish rock climbing. Please contact us to discuss your preferred dates.

You can book this trip as an individual, climbing at a 1:1 ratio with your guide. This costs £1350.

You can also book this trip is a group of 2, so you can climb with your regular partner plus the guide at 1:2 ratio. This costs £795 per person.

Please visit our Covid-19 Climb Information page for Covid FAQs, details of our new participation requirements, travel advice and what to expect on your trip.


Trip Info

We aim to climb the Old Man of Hoy first, followed by whatever else suits the team, the weather and tides. Other venues we have visited on previous trips include the Old Man of Stoer, the Caithness sea cliffs, the wonderful Sheigra sea cliffs including a wild camp by the beach, long mountain routes on Stac Pollaidh and the famous sea cliffs at Reiff.

Any items of specialist climbing equipment that you need are also included (eg helmet, harness, rock climbing shoes etc).  Afterwards, we’ll send you plenty of great photos and video of your trip to share with family and friends.

  • Fully qualified IFMGA British Mountain Guide
  • Equipment hire included
  • Photos and videos of your trip

The itinerary described below is a typical plan for the trip, but we regularly vary itineraries and objectives to suit your ambitions and the weather.  Grades are in the range VS to E1, depending on the venue and fitness.


Suitability

This is an advanced level 3 trip. To take part you should be at Fitness Level 2 and Tech Level 4 (see our Fitness/Experience guidelines). Previous multi-pitch rock climbing experience required, seconding at HVS, with good crack climbing technique. You should also be very comfortable on exposed multi-pitch abseil descents.


Guiding ratio

One IFMGA guide climbing with up to 2 clients.

ifmga british mountain guides

All our UK guides are fully qualified IFMGA guides and members of British Mountain Guides, the professional association for mountain guides in the UK – meet some of our  team here.  Only a small number of guides working in the UK are holders of the IFMGA guides carnet, which is the highest professional qualification in mountaineering.

In terms of added value, climbing with an IFMGA guide is a great option if you want learn from someone with the widest possible range of experience, or you aspire to/are already obsessed with winter or Alpine climbing!  We work worldwide on rock, ice, glaciers and ski – so we can offer training, advice and recommendations for your future plans, whatever and wherever they may be.


Included in price

  • Guides fees and all guides expenses, including ferries, taxis, food and accommodation
  • Local travel in the guide’s vehicle to complete the course itinerary

Excluded from price

  • Ferries and taxis*
  • Food and accommodation*
  • Travel to Scotland
  • Insurance
  • Equipment hire
    (* Budget £200 to cover your ferries, taxis, food and accommodation – paid directly during trip)

Accommodation

Accommodation is very flexible during this week, depending on weather and personal preference, but we typically use a mix of BnB’s, Youth Hostels, bothies and camping.

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1 – Travel to Orkney

ferry to orkneyYour guide will liaise with you to arrange a meet up point in the afternoon at Inverness eg airport, train station etc. Drive to Scrabster, take the 7.30pm ferry to Orkney and overnight in BnB in Stromness.

Briefing

We will run through safety routines and kit checks, as well as hand out any rental equipment – before going on to discuss plans and the current weather and conditions.

We’ll also have maps and guidebooks to show you, so if you’ve any further questions or last minute requests, then this is the ideal time to bring them up before we start the climbing.


Day 2 – The Old Man of Hoy

old man of hoyTake early ferry to Hoy, then taxi to Rackwick Bay. Walk in and climb The Old Man of Hoy.

The classic route is around 5 pitches long, mainly at VS standard, but with a crux pitch of E1 taking a stunning crack/chimney feature in a wildly exposed position. Crack climbing skills are essential!

The last pitch is perhaps the best on the route however, taking a clean corner of immaculate sandstone – steep positive laybacking, bridging and jamming, leading directly to the summit of this iconic British rock climb.

Return to Orkney mainland on last ferry pm. Overnight in Stromness.


Day 3 – Return to Mainland, Climbing at Sheigra

Early ferry to the mainland. Drive to Sheigra and climb here for the afternoon – excellent remote sea cliffs near the NW tip of Scotland. Wild camp near the beach at Sheigra.


Day 4 – The Old Man of Stoer

old man of stoerDrive to the Point of Stoer, climb Old Man of Stoer (VS) – the second most famous sea stack in Scotland, involving an exciting tyrolean traverse above the sea! Overnight in Ullapool.

Day 5 – Climbing at Reiff

Climb at the excellent sea cliffs of Reiff. Drive to Inverness pm, drop off and goodbyes.

NB This is a very flexible itinerary, as ferries can usually be changed at short notice to suit the weather. The main objective is the Old Man of Hoy, so in the event of bad weather the time spent on Orkney can be extended/timings altered as necessary to complete the route – we have a 100% summiting record on the Old Man of Hoy.

Location and Travel

You need to travel to our base, which is the town of Stromness on Orkney, the gateway to the island of Hoy.  However we frequently meet in Inverness and co-ordinate travel from there.

Arrival/Departure

There are various ways to reach Stromness, all involving a long journey (from anywhere!) You should arrange outward travel on day 1, arriving in Stromness that evening. Return travel should be arranged on the evening of day 5 or the following morning from Inverness.

Driving
Drive to Scrabster ferry terminal on the North East coast via Inverness, car sharing with your guide – approx 9 hours from Yorkshire, but meet at a suitable location in UK. Take the ferry from Scrabster to Stromness (1.5 hrs crossing), leaving car on the mainland. Arrive Stromness pm.

Train
Take the train to Inverness, meet your guide, then drive as above (3 hrs to Scrabster).

Flights
Fly to Inverness, meet your guide, then drive as above. Or – fly to Kirkwall on Orkney mainland – for all options from the UK, check: www.skyscanner.net
Take a taxi from Kirkwall to Stromness (25 mins). Meet guide in Stromness pm.

Ferries
Cars will be left on the mainland. All ferry crossings are required as a foot passenger: 1 return journey from Scrabster to Stromness on Orkney mainland, and 1 return journey from Stromness to Hoy. We will organise all ferries required.

Taxis
A taxi ride is required from Hoy ferry terminal to Rackwick bay, where the approach walk starts to the Old Man. We will organise all taxis required.

Further information and travel links can be found on our Travel Planning page.


Fitness and Experience

To enjoy this trip you should be comfortable operating at Fitness Level 2, and Tech Level 4 (as appropriate for the style of climbing on this trip ie Alpine, rock climbing or ice climbing).

Fitness Level 2
You do 2-3 hours CV training/sport per week. At this level you should be happy doing either a 3-4 hour hillwalk, cycling 30-40 miles or mountain biking 2-3 hours without being exhausted. Eg: you should be able to walk from Ogwen Cottage in North Wales up Glyder Fach – Glyder Fawr – Y Garn – Ogwen in ~5hrs. Or in the Lake District Langdale – Bowfell – Esk Pike – Angle Tarn – Langdale in ~ 6hrs.


Tech Level 4
Experienced climber. Leading multi pitch trad rock climbs at VS – HVS / multi pitch winter climbs to Scottish grade 4 / alpine peaks at AD – D standard. If you mainly climb with guides or seldom lead climb, you have extensive experience seconding at this standard.

To view all climbing Technical and Fitness Levels, and for advice on trip preparation and training, please visit our training advice page.

Equipment

UK Rock Climbing Kit List

Above all, your kit needs to do the job but be as light as possible. Lightweight breathable fabrics are ideal for waterproofs, which are carried as often as worn (hopefully!).

Technical Clothing

  • Waterproof jacket – lightweight breathable model
  • Overtrousers – with long side zips
  • Socks – warm ‘Smartwool’ type, plus thin liner socks and spares
  • Wicking thermal tops/t-shirts
  • Softshell jacket – or equivalent light insulating layer
  • Mountain trousers – light/mid-weight windproof softshell model
  • Thin gloves – windproof ‘hardfleece’ model is good
  • Warm hat – must fit under a helmet
  • Spare warm layer – fleece or lightweight synthetic belay jacket

Personal Items

  • Water Container – at least 1 litre
  • Headtorch and batteries
  • Map, compass and whistle (optional, but a good idea)
  • Personal medications and blister kit – zinc oxide tape, compeed, painkillers etc
  • Sun Glasses – CE rated 3 or 4
  • Sun and lip cream – factor 30+
  • Sun hat
  • Shorts and t-shirt

Technical Equipment

  • Rucsac 35/45l is perfect for general use
  • Approach shoes or trainers – sticky rubber models are excellent
  • Rock climbing shoes – must be comfortable enough to wear for several hours
  • Climbing Harness – with locking karabiner and belay device
  • 120cm sling and locking karabiner
  • Climbing helmet
  • *Semi rigid B2 mountaineering bootsAxe, Boot and Crampon advice

Other Equipment

Depending on the trip, these may be ‘nice to have’ or ‘required’ items – see individual joining instructions.

  • Superlight rucsac – superlight 15/20l model, for taking on long multi-pitch rock routes
  • 2 prussik loops and karabiner – if in doubt, bring 3m of 6mm climbing cord!
  • Trekking poles
  • Camping gear if you choose to camp in the valley

Your guide will have ropes, climbing rack, first aid and survival equipment.

*On trips where boots are required, these should be reasonably stiff 3/4 season mountaineering models. They will be needed if we decide to go ‘big boots’ climbing on easy rock climbs or scrambling terrain. Soft bendy walking boots are not very good for technical scrambling/climbing (you may be better off in a pair of ‘sticky rubber’ approach shoes). See below for advice.


Recommendations and Advice
Visit the Knowledge Base section of our website or our blog for equipment advice. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, please get in touch!

Purchasing Equipment
Backcountry UK in Otley offer an excellent mountain boot fitting service and general equipment advice.

Hiring Equipment
It’s best to have your own rock climbing shoes so you can get a proper fit, but if you need to hire some please get in touch. Other safety equipment can also be hired from us (subject to availability) – please see our Equipment Hire page for details.


Insurance

For UK residents – we strongly recommend that you purchase cancellation cover, in case you’re unable to attend your trip due to personal circumstances or injury.

For non UK residents – search and rescue is currently free in the UK, but you may be charged by the NHS for certain treatments, and you should also consider the need for emergency repatriation in the event of a serious illness/accident. We also strongly recommend that you purchase cancellation cover, in case you’re unable to attend your trip due to personal circumstances or injury.

Please arrange your insurance as soon as your trip is confirmed to run.

Please find further details on our insurance info page.

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From £795