Old Man of Hoy - a Scottish challenge for climbers

Natural Wonder

Old Man of Hoy - a Scottish challenge for climbers

The Old Man of Hoy is an impressive tall sea stack rock formation on Hoy, part of the Orkney Islands off the north coast of Scotland. At 137 metres high, it is one of the tallest stacks in the United Kingdom, and is formed from Old Red Sandstone. It is regarded as an iconic challenge for climbers.

The Old Man is close to Rackwick Bay on Hoy's west coast. It can be seen from the Scrabster to Stromness ferry, and got its name because, from certain angles, it can appear to resemble a human figure. It is separated from the mainland by a 60-metre chasm.

The stack itself is relatively young, having been created by cliff erosion sometime after 1750 - although no exact date is known. This can be determined because the McKenzie Map of Hoy (1750) shows a headland where the Old Man is, but no stack. By 1819, a sketch by William Daniell depicted the Old Man as being separated from the mainland.

The Old Man is a popular structure for climbers, and was first climbed in 1966 by mountaineers Chris Bonington, Rusty Baillie and Tom Patey. In 1998 Catherine Destivelle made a solo ascent whilst four months pregnant, and Red Széll became the first blind person to climb the Old Man in 2019.

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