Stac Pollaidh - 612m (no summit)
Sunday 9th August 2009

Weather/Conditions: Cloud above the summits, but dull and drizzly. Temperate with no wind, enough so for a t-shirt and sandals in the rain.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 4.4km / 550m / 2h
Accompanying: Michael

Michael and I had climbed Conival and Ben More Assynt in the morning with Martin, and decided upon Stac Pollaidh for the second hillwalk of the day. Martin departed in the afternoon, so Michael and I were left in Ullapool early evening. We booked ourselves into Ceilidh Place Hotel for a night instead of camping again and once we'd done so, we spread the maps across a table and then decided that our last two days walking would be over the Fisherfield Munros. By the time we'd decided that, it was 6pm and warm and sunny outside. So we drove north, heading for Stac Pollaidh on the basis that it shouldn't take too long to climb, even though I knew the summit ridge could be a little tricky.

When we stepped out of the van at the car park, the first thing to come to our attention were the midges. They were out searching for blood, and never in my almost-18 years had I seen midges this bad. The car park was one swarming mass and I'd walk in circles while packing just to stop them biting, to stop them from going in my eyes and ears and up my nostrils. I rarely get bitten so midges don't usually bother me, but the car park was like a hellhole. Scottish summers would be a lot more pleasant without midges...

Ascent to summit ridge

We were walking by 6.30pm and travelled with startling pace as we fled from the midges below. We followed the path around the right hand side of Stac Pollaidh which would climb the back and emerge on the summit ridge above. The sun and warmth of Ullapool had now been replaced by overcast skies, and we could see showers moving in from the south. There was no wind either, so the midges were still very much present. Making good time, we walked around the back of Stac Pollaidh and then up the final rise around the back.

Views were nice towards Cul Mor and Suilven, but the rain had moved in. It added to the atmosphere if anything and even through it was drizzling, there was minimal wind and it was fairly warm. I was happy in a t-shirt all the way up and down.

We reached the bealach at 7.15pm and the terrain changed from the well maintained path to a maze of crags, trails and dead ends. I climbed the east top first which gave me a look west across the ridge to the summit at the far end. It was all rather confusing but we could work it all out, and hopefully end up at the cairn. I descended from the east top and joined Michael at the crags along the ridge.

No summit but nearly...

We started exploring the gullies that came in succession. They all led to pinnacles nowhere near the summit, but we lost track of our position on the mountain. We spent a lot of time in three gullies which led to dead ends, costing valuable time. Ideally, the first two gullies should be bypassed and the third climbed partially before cutting around into a fourth. Having spent a long time getting nowhere, Michael headed down but I wanted to go further before I was prepared to leave. This fourth gully I'd come across was larger than the others and could be climbed (unlike the others) without easy rock climbing. From my vantage point, the summit seemed to be at the top, so I followed the steep scree and boulders upwards. I was convinced that I was near the summit of Stac Pollaidh, but I came to the top only to find more crags ahead of me. The summit of Stac Pollaidh was still a long way off. Michael was already on his way down and with the top was still some distance away, it was decision time. I wanted a meal before the Ullapool restaurants shut, which by going on, I'd miss. Where I stood would be as far as I went. It was time to turn around.

I've never turned around short of a summit before (technically only on The Cobbler's summit pinnacle) but I'd had good reason to this time. Once back on the well built track, I bounded down the mountainside where I met Michael below. I happy enough with the way the walk had gone, even though we hadn't got to the final goal. Stac Pollaidh demands a revisit, and next time, I'll be back with practical knowledge and more daylight to spend on the summit.

Once we arrived back at the van, Michael and I drove to Ullapool and entered the Ceilidh Place Hotel's restaurant with five minutes last orders. We had got back just in time, had a great meal before retreating to bed for the night. After all, it would be an early start the next morning to being our last walk over the six Fisherfield Munros.


Inverpollaidh summits from from A835 lay-by

Inverpollaidh and Coigach summits from Stac Pollaidh

Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 6.30pm Car park
(0.45) 7.15pm Summit ridge
(1.30) 8.00pm Summit ridge (left)
(2.00) 8.30pm Car park
Written: 2009-08-24