Climbing in North West Scotland

Reliving Memories

The Stac Pollaidh nature reserve is situated in the North West Highlands of Scotland near Ullapool. It is home to some of the most breathtaking scenery in the British Isles. Within the reserve, there is a huge quantity of climbing on the sea cliffs and mountains. As a teenager I was fortunate enough to spend a week scrambling and climbing on these sea cliffs and mountains but unfortunately I have only managed to return to the area once (ten years ago) in the last fourteen years. That is, until this spring when a few days off and an excellent forecast provided all the excuses I needed to return to the area.

The sea cliffs near the tiny hamlet of Reiff are home to hundreds of rock climbs of all grades. They are characterised by good rock, mostly good protection and stunning scenery. Many of the cliffs have tidal platforms underneath which gives the cliffs a friendly feeling and a nice area to sunbathe and have lunch.

My memory of Reiff is a beautiful environment with very few other climbers around. On this recent trip we climbed on the Pinnacle, Minch and Seal Song areas. For the whole time we were at Reiff we saw only two other climbers and the surrounding area was just as stunning as I remember. Reiff doesn’t seem to have suffered from increased popularity and has thus avoided the problem of erosion which is so obvious in many of the other climbing areas throughout the UK.

Many accommodation types are available in the area around Ullapool. With perfect blue skies forecast we decided to bivi on some of the many beaches in the area. Many of the beaches have a great supply of driftwood and with careful preparation of the site all evidence of a fire can easily be removed so allowing future visitors the opportunity to enjoy this unspoilt area.

The second part of the week was spent climbing on Stac Pollaidh, a 613 metre mountain with many routes of all grades and one of the best scrambling ridges in Scotland. On my last trip to Stac Pollaidh fourteen years ago, we scrambled up underneath the West face, continued to the summit and then along the ridge. This time we opted for climbing a route straight up the West face.

The route contained an interesting variety of moves, but the best thing about climbs on this face is that they finish virtually on the summit of the mountain, where you are greeted by a view of Suilven to the North.

Unfortunately, after climbing on Stac Pollaidh my partners had to head back to Edinburgh to work. But, I won’t be leaving it another ten years before I return.

Euan Whittaker
May 2006

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