Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Stac Pollaidh from Loch Lurgainn

First time I saw Stac Pollaidh I repeated the same sentence that most walkers do... 'Wow, I have to climb that one day!' It is a truly magnificent spectacle. It is by no means the highest and it is tiny compared to its bulking neighbours. What makes Stac Pollaidh or Stac Polly as it is more popularly known, so special is its rugged proper mountain look. When viewed from the main Ullapool to Lochinver road children always say the same thing 'it looks like a volcano' and it sure does. The mountain rises to a stunning ridge of shattered Torridonian Sandstone with difficult weather sculptured pinnacles and terrifying loose scree gullies. The mountain itself is simply stunning and unique but what makes it even more special is that it sits in the middle of Assynt, surely one of the most incredible places in the world. The weather today wasn't great again and was actually worse than had been forecast. So being low in height and next to the minor road out to Achiltibue, Stac Polly was a fairly safe yet satisfying option, on what could turn out to be a rainy day. It is an easy walk to get to the lowest point on the summit ridge. The route is a heart shaped circular walk round the back of the mountain. Walking either way on the ridge itself  is not as easy and getting to the actual summit requires a very stretching move up one particular rock pinnacle.

Stac Pollaidh from the car park

So Steve, Craig, Nicky and Myself set off in good mood as the weather didn't look too bad in the morning. By the time we got to the car park at Loch Lurgainn the sun was shining and the stunning profile of Stac Polly had a blue sky background. Heading down the Achiltibue road getting loser to the mountain you can't help but feel exciting looking up at it and knowing you will soon be stood on top of it. The Loch Lurgainn car park was full so we had to really squeeze Steve's car in to get a space. We got kitted up and crossed the road to the kissing gate. The path that ascends from the kissing gate is lovely with birch trees, heather, bilberry, ferns and mushrooms. The path came to the deer fence and second kissing gate and led out on to the open moorland below Stac Polly. Years ago the ascent of Stac Polly was done from here by just heading directly up its steep screes. These days the delicate scree has been protected from imminent human destruction, properly laid and long lasting path now loops the mountain with a detour path ascending at the back to the ridges lowest point. As we got higher on the path and rounded the shoulder of Stac Polly the weather took a turn for the worse. The views across Loch Lurgainn to Sgorr Tuath were very atmospheric. At one point we were stood on the path looking south east to Cul Beag and either side of us were huge walls of clouds moving in like curtains around Stac Polly and us, and from this moment on it rained.

Craig & Steve as the weather moves in

We ascended the ascent path to the ridge round the back of the mountain. Usually the views out over Loch Sionascaig to Suilven from here are some of the best in the nation, but today they were pretty awful. On the odd occasion the clouds did thin slightly to show us Loch Sionascaig. The first time I climbed Stac Polly was a few years ago with Nicky, it was a perfect sunny day and we had the time of our lives tackling the ridge and even made it to the actual summit. So when we reached the ridge in wind and rain it was a difficult decision but Steve and Myself made the decision to head back down and save it for a better day on this occasion. It really isn't worth standing on top of a mountain in such a stunning location without a view. After following the other descent path heading north west off the mountain we stopped at a viewpoint with pinnacles to take some photos and eat our lunch. As we sat and ate lunch the weather got worse and turned in to strong cold north westerly winds and driving rain. We moved quickly down the mountain and tried dancing to the sun gods as we descended the mountain, it didn't work and it got very wet and cold. I didn't take any waterproof pants and my walking trousers got soaked. After rounding the western end of the mountain the hill started its descent back down towards Loch Lurgainn and we were very relieved when the weather improved and the wind and rain both settled down.

Craig & Nicky on Stac Polly with Loch Scionascaig behind

On the final descent Craig had fun jumping off some large boulders. Again the moody atmospheric views across Loch Lurgainn to Sgorr Tuath were really impressive. We took photos of Steve and Craig on rocks below Stac Polly then headed through the kissing gate down to the lovely rocky path back to the road and car park. Despite the bad half hour of stormy weather we had a really good time on Stac Polly. It was a real shame we didn't get to show Craig what Stac Polly is really about,  having been up there ourselves before, we know just how special that walk along its crest really is. The weather didn't improve for the rest of the day and we headed back to Ullapool for a house warmed by a wood burner and Elaina's tasty home baked cooking. While showering after the walk I felt a nasty bite on my leg near my backside and realised there was something biting me. I grabbed it and pulled it off with my nails, one look at it on my hand I knew straight away what it was. Yuk, nasty blood thirsty tick! I called Nicky in and asked her to give me the once over, and she found another behind my knee. We take these nasty critters seriously as we know friends and family who have suffered Lyme disease from the nasty things. The one on my backside worried me as it had given me a nasty bruise. Luckily I was okay. Steve also found two on himself a few hours later. The next day the weather was much worse and it rained all day, so we stayed in and watched Harry Potter and Lost DVD's.

I have uploaded the photos from the day here.

Route Map...


  1. The weather clearly didn't stop folk enjoying themselves!

    Nice photies.


  2. Aye, no much that stops us lot getting out! :-)

    Loved your recent trip report on the Hidden Hidden Valley btw! J