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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.