Grahams: Stac Pollaidh.
Time: 3 hours, 30 minutes.
Weather: Sunny and warm.
A trip to Lochinver had been high on our agenda ever since the relaxing of lockdown - both for the pie shop and for some outdoor recreation. Originally we had planned to head up and camp for a couple of nights to walk somewhere and also cycle a circuit taking in Loch Assynt and the Inverkirkaig road. Somehow we didn't find time for any of that earlier in the summer, and Jackie was still unsure whether she could manage quite such a hilly cycle. So in the end we had a day trip out that way with my parents. Dad is always keen for a wander up Stac Pollaidh (at least as far as the final pinnacle anyway) and Mum usually enjoys walking around the hill on the circular path (less of a fan of climbing right up onto the ridge. Jackie felt that the amount of ascent would be about right for her too.
We arrived in Lochinver for lunchtime and picked up some pies to take round the corner to Inverkirkaig - sitting out in the sun eating these was absolutely fantastic. We also picked up a few more for the freezer - our last stash ran out in around April!
We drove onwards around the winding road to Stac Pollaidh - I have no idea whether this route is quicker than going back through Inchnadamph and Elphin, but it is definitely a lot shorter! Our rather slapdash strategy worked - parking at Stac Pollaidh looked rather chaotic with cars in passing places for the best part of a mile before we reached the foot of the hill. However, being after 2:30pm, we managed to slot right into a space at the main carpark .
Cul Mor and Cul Beag from Loch Buine Moire
Then it was the usual ascent - a bit of a dance lower down in the woodland trying to avoid people descending, but far fewer people as we gained height. Mum has never been a fast walker, but her pace has definitely got slower over recent years. Jackie found here very good for pacing, as it stopped her for flying off at the start and getting knackered too quickly.
Cul Mor and Loch and Doire Dhuibhe
As on Carn na Coinnich the other day, there was little wind and a band of midges were lurking between 300 and 500m. We hurriedly said goodbye to Mum and made the final ascent to the ridge line. A couple were camping on the eastern summit, and Jackie showed me a far eastern summit at the end of a short traverse that I hadn't visited previously. It was a great spot to view the rest of the ridge from.
Suilven and Canisp over Loch Sionasgaig
Out to Stoer
West along the ridge from the Far East summit
Cul Mor from Stac Pollaidh
Beinn Mor Coigach
We carried on towards the summit, mainly keeping life easy for ourselves and not indulging in too many really awkward bits. Away from the col, there were even fewer people. Visibility was great, and although I prefer Beinn Mor Coigach in this area, you can't get bored of Stac Pollaidh!
East along the summit ridge
Some rock en route
Jackie and Dad
Cul Beag from Stac Pollaidh
We persuaded Dad over the short bum shuffle section (which he often chickens out of) but he was not to be drawn on the final scramble. Jackie and I went for it - her up the chimney to the south and me directly up the pinnacle (our preferred routes). We had the summit to ourselves.
Last section of the ridge...with the awkward pinnacle
NW from the summit
Squeezy way to the summit
Cul Beag and Loch Lurgainn
Suilven from the top
Cuillin and Trotternish
Beinn Mor Coigach
Point of Stoer
After crossing back over to Dad, we persuaded him that he might as well descend the gully to the north of the awkward step. This was steep and a bit scrabbly in places, but easy enough and with impressive rock scenery. Before long we were on the circular path.
Pinnacle on descent
Descending the gully
North side of Stac Pollaidh
Round the end of Stac Pollaidh
The western side of the circuit is boggier than I remember, but a nice way to avoid coming back the same route. The midges had been no bother on the summit, but they intensified now to the point where Jackie and I legged it, leaving Dad to catch up.
Fortunately I had given Mum a spare car key as she had arrived 20 minutes or so before us. Once Dad was down, I drove off at speed with the windows open to disperse any midges that had hitched a ride. We stopped at Ardmair to change boots and stretch out a bit before heading back to Inverness. A fine day .
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