The ferry to Hoy went from Stromness at the other end of the main island and the bus driver was happy to take my bike on board, me being weary of unnecessary cycling but expecting to need my bike to get across Hoy. I didn’t expect to meet anyone else going there just to get to the Old Man of Hoy.
The Tourist Information staff in both Kirkwall and Stromness had no information on local climbing guides, but as I boarded the ferry one of them rushed onto the ferry with the business card of the local climbing guide. Alas he did not answer my repeated calls, text messages or emails that day or the following and I had no information on other local guides.
I was surprised to find a dozen or so tourists on board the ferry including four other cyclists with their bikes all of whom were also heading for the other side of the island too. Also to my surprise there was a local minibus on which I’d had no previous . Nevertheless it was only a half hour cycle to Rackwick Bay, the start of the path to the Old Man of Hoy.
Once at the Old Man I was again surprised to find so many people already there.
I set off in search of a path down to the base of the sea stack and eventually found a steep difficult path clearly only used by climbers.
I’d asked a couple to use my camera to take a photo of me climbing the lower part of the sea stack, and they kindly agreed but saying they didn’t know how long it would take me to find a path down nor how long they’d be there so all being well they’d take photos of me climbing (and/or falling) and email them to me.
The climb looked easy enough (there being an E1 route) and given the proper climbing gear, and a climbing partner, neither of which I had. Nevertheless I decided to climb the first five meters to at least know I’d climbed ‘on’ the sea stack, if not all the way to the top.
The sea stack looked like it would still be there for a future better planned climb with guide and climbing gear.
On the way back I got chatting to a couple in their 50s who had semi-retired to Orkney from England, and who were restoring an old house. They’d got married a couple of years previously on the headland overlooking the sea stack and returned from time to time to celebrate. Both were well educated semi retired and ‘culture vultures’ but neither of them concerned with the isolation of living so far up north. They said they both had lots of reading to catch up on.
Later back at the YHA I got chatting to a couple holidaying with their teenage daughters, all four riding two tandems around the islands, a regular form of holiday transport for them. It soon emerged the father had studied at Sheffield a decade after me, and had learned to climb there and later climbed in several countries so we had lots to discuss regarding the sea stack climb.