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Stac Pollaidh – A day of two halves – part 1

Stac Pollaidh – A day of two halves – part 1

Postby Verylatestarter » Fri Mar 19, 2021 7:52 pm

Route description: Stac Pollaidh ridge and circuit

Grahams included on this walk: Stac Pollaidh

Date walked: 19/06/2019

Time taken: 3 hours

Distance: 9 km

Ascent: 510m

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Warning:- this report may contain the following cliches
1 – The weather is Scotland is changeable (not always for the worse)
2 – Stac Pollaidh is the best little hill in Scotland

1 Stack Polly viewed from east.JPG
Stac Pollaidh viewed from the East

Staying at Torridon SYH and hoping to ascend some of the big units in the area we were somewhat disappointed by the forecast for heavy rain and low cloud. Saving Liathach for a sunny day we searched further afield for a better forecast and noticed that there was a chance that the rain would clear North of Ullapool during the day. So after a late breakfast and a slow drive up to Ullapool for a look around we went even further North to Coigach/Assynt. Disappointed not to find any polar bears we opted to walk up Stac polly. It was still raining and blowing a bit, but we were encouraged to find others around. Chatting to a Canadian couple on the walk around the East end and up the well-made path, passed the time so we hardly noticed how wet we were getting. By the time we got to the little bealach the views were getting better but there was no indication of the cloud clearing from the West as forecast. We sheltered behind a cluster of shapely sandstone turrets to have a quick bite and then wandered around after the rain stopped.

2 Stack Polly viewed from the car aprk.JPG
Stac Pollaidh viewed from the car park

3 The path up.JPG
The well made path up

4 The bealach.JPG
The bealach after the rain

5 A little ray of sunshine.JPG
A little ray of sunshine

6 Looking West accross the bealach.JPG
Looking West across the bealach

Stac Polly is not so much a solid hill as a series of stacks of precariously balanced rocks, reminding me of Whittlesey brick yards in their heyday. There is more to this little hill than a whole range of Cairngorm ridges. A child’s playground (apart from the wobbly bits) and ideal for hide and seek, every ten year old (and sixty year old) should give it a try. There are four main blocks, the middle two liked by the central bealach, the outer two linked to them by narrow aretes with big drops.

From the central bealach we went up the Eastern side, the most visited of the tops judging by the erosion. On the North side of this there is a narrow ledge path over drops which links to the fin like Eastern block. This can be ascended by a short easy scramble and is quite narrow; good for posing photos with Cul Beag in the background; selfies are probably not a good idea.

9 The East end block, the route up is from the left.JPG
The East end 'block' the route up is from the left

10 casual pose.JPG
Casual pose

11 Ben on the second block from East.JPG
Ben on the second 'block'

12.1 The bypass parth on the North side.JPG
The bypass path on the North side

12.2 Ben on a pillar.JPG
Ben on a pillar

12.3 erroded hand hold.JPG
Eroded hand hold

13 Cul Beag beyond the East end.JPG
Cul Beag beyond the East end

15 3rd block.JPG
3rd block

16 sandstone jumble.JPG
sandstone jumble

18 Loch Lurgainn and Sgorr Tuath & Coigach beyond.JPG
Loch Lurgainn with Sgorr Tuath and then Coigach beyond

19 Cul More.JPG
Cul Mor

27 Stack-o-rocks.JPG

28 Ben on block 3.JPG
Ben on 'block 3'

29 Summer isles beyond.JPG
Summer isles beyond

31 Sunny on the coast.JPG
Sunny on the coast

32 The final view East.JPG
The final view East

Back to the bealach and the next block is more complex, the path weaves around sandstone turrets and steps; plenty of dramatic drop offs and projecting buttresses. You can scramble over the sandstone or take bypass paths which eventually wind up to the ridge. On the South there are remarkable freestanding pillars which everybody takes photos of, although none with anyone standing on top.

14 Extraordinary pillars.JPG
Extraordinary pillars

33 Dog rock.JPG
Dog rock

35 Coigach beyond.JPG
Coigach beyond

36 Exit gulley.JPG
Exit gully on the North side (not taken)

37 Suilven beyond Loch Sionasgaig.JPG
Suilven beyond Loch Sionasgaig

39 The coast towards Lochinver.JPG
The coast towards Lochinver

At the West end of this block there is a sudden drop with cliffs on the North and South side and a steep loose gully in the middle. Next to this is the narrow arete, which had a large block standing in the middle, which cannot be bypassed. To get to the highest point of the hill this needs to be climbed over but there is exposure on both sides so don’t attempt it if you are not competent. The West end seems to mirror the East end but bigger, the cliffs more dramatic, the background - the Summer Isles and Reiff.

40 Arete with obstructing lump.JPG
Arete with obstructing lump, sorry about the poor quality

41 Ben climbs the lump, the pink soil is at the narrowest point.JPG
Ben climbs the lump; the pink soil is at the narrowest point, with steep gullies both sides

42 Over the top.JPG
Over the top

42.1 Ben on the summit.JPG

43 return route.JPG
return route

44 last bit.JPG
last step

45 The gulley on the West end, cliffs on left and right.JPG
The gulley on the West end with cliffs on both left and right

We descended the West gully instead of going all the way back to the bealach and the steps. It is steep and loose and overhang by cliffs and the footpath. I would not recommend it, especially on a busy day when loose debris falling from above could be a problem. Whilst we were enjoying ourselves on this wonderful hill we had hardly noticed that the weather had been rapidly clearing and we were in sunshine. We picked up the low level circuit path and headed back to the car park, not forgetting to fall a**e over head in a muddy puddle on the way. A short drive to the coast to do a spot of rock climbing (Ben) and aimless wandering (me). You will find that report under Rubha Coigich circuit, Reiff.

46 Sunshire on Reiff.JPG
Sunshine on Reiff

47 Suilven.JPG

49 The west block from below.JPG
The West prow from below

50 Stac Polly viewed from the West, the exit gully is the dark shadow.JPG
Stac Pollaidh viewed from the West, the exit gully is the shadow top left of the prow.
Mountain Walker
Posts: 69
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Joined: Oct 14, 2020
Location: East Anglia

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