Spectacular conditions on an icy Stac Pollaidh
by Spanish Highlander » Tue Feb 09, 2016 12:07 am
Route description: Stac Pollaidh ridge and circuit
Grahams included on this walk: Stac Pollaidh
Date walked: 29/11/2015
Time taken: 3 hours18 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
With a weather warning issued that weekend for most of the Highlands , it seemed that there was no other option apart from staying comfortably at home... WRONG! That's not the preferential option for two southern Spaniards hungry for cold wild weather and wintery hills. Metoffice showing sunny intervals together with light snow and excellent visibility on Stac Pollaidh helped us to make the decission...
Heading out of Inverness to Ullapool, most of the journey was under quite miserable weather conditions, and it wasn't until past Ullapool that the clouds broke and let the sun light the spectacular scenery of Coigach and Assynt that opened in front of us. The hills half covered in a thin layer of snow, patches of blue sky and beautiful light, this is how I like it baby!
This was my first attempt in quite wintery conditions, trying to tackle the whole ridge and get to the top. Stac Pollaidh is a popular and "easy" mountain with a very well built path up to the main bealach, therefore is quite well documented and not much of a walk report is needed here. But, although reaching the ridge is easy, walking the ridge up to the top is tricky and requires some scramble. And there was ice...
First half of the hill we walked very quickly and didn't bother taking many pictures. Some low clouds had suddenly appeared from nowhere and were covering the snow-capped tops, so we just made progress walking up.
After we reached the final steepest stretch before getting to the ridge col, the clouds had lift up leaving an unbelievable picture behind.
Here some pics:
Getting close to the bealach on the ridge. Dramatic and threatening sky over Cul Mor:
And looking north across the Assynt wilderness, with Suilven and Canisp in the distance. That sky is frightening!:
Once on the ridge, we climbed first to the easy eastern summit, and realized it was quite icy and slippery... Good fun if we want to attempt the real summit! Also, lovely strong frozen wind gusts would add to the challenge. So there we went, headed west to the ridge, and started the scramble. Mostly nice and easy, there were a couple of spots where we struggled because of the ice and wind. I can remember specially one step on the north side, with a very narrow and slippery ledge overlooking a deep gully, where I really thought I wouldn't go on. But the mind-blowing panorama around me kept me going. Some more pics:
On the ridge, looking east over Cul Beag and Loch Lurgainn:
Rock formations on Stac Pollaidh ridge, overlooking Loch Lurgainn and Ben More Coigach:
Four different shots looking towards Ben More Coigach, jaw-dropping landscape and light!:
Summer Isles in the distance and sky starting to open a bit from the west:
Now it was time to pose for the typical “outdoors magazine shot” traditional in every walk, standing as close to the edge of the cliff as possible. First was time for my dear mate Alex, with pretty good outcome as can be seen below. When my turn arrived, I tried my best to be presentable and majestic-looking, but conditions didn't help... Wind gusts together with slippery ground as well as my poor balance added up for a series of ridiculous pictures that I'm afraid can't be shown. I'll keep working on my modelling skills, I swear.
Finally, we got to the point where we couldn't keep going. There was a big rock in front of us, about 3 meters high, with big drops to both sides, which required an exposed and not easy scramble that couldn't be bypassed in any way. Alex gave it a little go, whereas I didn't even bother as it was too icy and windy. Even in good conditions I think I would struggle to pass it as it seemed quite exposed. Will have to check next time... But that day, Stac Pollaidh beat us!! Lucky us that at least this other rock didn't fall on Alex's head...
As a conclusion, one of the most rewarding day out I can remember since I live here. Stunning scenery, isolation, wilderness and wild weather, absolutely dramatic skies and light... just nature at its highest. Stac Pollaidh, or where the reward highly exceeds the little effort.
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by Avocetboy » Tue Feb 09, 2016 11:38 am
by jacob » Tue Feb 09, 2016 12:29 pm
by Petr Dakota » Tue Feb 09, 2016 1:05 pm
I love the dramatic sky
by rockhopper » Tue Feb 09, 2016 2:29 pm
by Jaxter » Tue Feb 09, 2016 6:08 pm
Looks like you had a decent day for views, despite the scary sky. And hey, now you have an excuse to go back
by Mal Grey » Tue Feb 09, 2016 10:05 pm
by Alteknacker » Wed Feb 10, 2016 12:39 am
by weaselmaster » Wed Feb 10, 2016 2:40 pm
SP is a great mountain, pocket sized but with all the components needed for a good day out
by Sgurr » Wed Feb 10, 2016 5:44 pm
by Spanish Highlander » Wed Feb 10, 2016 9:10 pm
Great picture Sgurr, very explanatory, seen from this angle the scramble appears even easy! And I'm sure it technically is, it's just that things change quite a bit when you have two big drops on both sides
Anyway there will be more chances for me to do it, as SP is the "affordable" hill where I take to all my (non-familiar-with-hillwalking) visitors from Spain to show them what the Highlands is about. Just to the bealach, obviously
by BobMcBob » Fri Feb 12, 2016 4:48 pm
by Sgurr » Fri Feb 12, 2016 6:05 pm
BobMcBob wrote:. That final scramble is extremely slippery even on a dry summer's day (the rock has been polished by thousands of boots) so I'd say you made a very good decision in those conditions. Hope to see more reports from you.
For those who can't face the polished rocks, there is an alternative pinnacle bypass route, very well described here, but I took one look and opted for the other
I think it would have been impossible/dangerous in your icy conditions.
by Jiriki » Mon Mar 21, 2016 8:11 am
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- Joined: Feb 17, 2012
by Alteknacker » Mon Mar 21, 2016 11:14 am