Old Man of Hoy

This is a good article. Click here for more information.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Old Man of Hoy
The Old Man of Hoy from the north
The Old Man of Hoy from the north
Old Man of Hoy is located in Orkney Islands
Old Man of Hoy
Location within Orkney
Coordinates: 58°53′09″N 3°25′59″W / 58.88570°N 3.43299°W / 58.88570; -3.43299Coordinates: 58°53′09″N 3°25′59″W / 58.88570°N 3.43299°W / 58.88570; -3.43299
Grid positionHY 17635 00779
LocationHoy, Orkney, Scotland
GeologyOld Red Sandstone sea stack
137 metres (449 feet)
First ascentChris Bonington, Rusty Baillie and Tom Patey, 1966

The Old Man of Hoy is a 449-foot (137-metre) sea stack on Hoy, part of the Orkney archipelago off the north coast of Scotland. Formed from Old Red Sandstone, it is one of the tallest stacks in the United Kingdom. The Old Man is popular with climbers, and was first climbed in 1966. Created by the erosion of a cliff through hydraulic action some time after 1750, the stack is not more than a few hundred years old, but may soon collapse into the sea.


The Old Man stands close to Rackwick Bay on the west coast of Hoy, in Orkney, Scotland, and can be seen from the Scrabster to Stromness ferry.[1] From certain angles it is said to resemble a human figure.[2]

Winds are faster than 8 metres per second (18 mph) for nearly a third of the time, and gales occur on average for 29 days a year. Combined with the depth of the sea, which quickly falls to 60 metres (200 ft), high-energy waves on the western side of Hoy lead to rapid erosion of the coast.[3]


The Old Man of Hoy

The Old Man of Hoy is a red sandstone stack, perched on a plinth of basalt rock, and one of the tallest sea stacks in the UK.[4][5] It is separated from the mainland by a 60-metre (200 ft) chasm strewn with debris, and has nearly vertical sides with a top just a few metres wide.[3] The rock is composed of layers of soft, sandy and pebbly sandstone and harder flagstones of Old Red Sandstone, giving the sides a notched and slab-like profile.[6][7]


The Old Man is probably less than 250 years old and may be in danger of collapsing.[3][8] The stack is not mentioned in the Orkneyinga saga, written c.1230, and on the Blaeu map of 1600, a headland exists at the point where the Old Man is now.[8] The McKenzie map of Hoy of 1750 similarly shows a headland but no stack, but by 1819 the Old Man had been separated from the mainland.[8] William Daniell sketched the sea stack at this time as a wider column with a smaller top section and an arch at the base, from which it derived its name.[8][9]

Sometime in the early nineteenth century, a storm washed away one of the legs leaving it much as it is today, although erosion continues.[8] By 1992 a 40-metre (130 ft) crack had appeared in the top of the south face, leaving a large overhanging section that will eventually collapse.[3][5][8]

Human activity[edit]


The stack was first climbed by mountaineers Chris Bonington, Rusty Baillie and Tom Patey in 1966.[10][11] From 8–9 July 1967, an ascent featured in The Great Climb, a live BBC three-night outside broadcast, which had around 15 million viewers.[12] This featured three pairs of climbers: Bonington and Patey repeated their original route, whilst two new lines were climbed by Joe Brown and Ian McNaught-Davis and by Pete Crew and Dougal Haston.[13]

In 1997, Catherine Destivelle made a solo ascent of the Old Man of Hoy; she did so while four months pregnant; her climb is captured in the 1998 climbing film, Rock Queen.[14] This climb was filmed and has often been credited as the first solo ascent, but the Old Man had previously been soloed in October 1985 by Scots climber Bob Duncan; like Destivelle, he backroped the second, crux pitch, though he also backroped the top pitch because "it looked harder from below than it turned out to be".[15]

Red Széll became the first blind person to climb the Old Man, despite suffering from retinitis pigmentosa that left him with 5% vision. With assistance from Martin Moran and Nick Carter, he scaled the stack in 2013.[16][17][18]

The youngest person to climb the Old Man is Edward Mills, who was 8 years old when he completed the climb in 4 hours 55 minutes on 9 June 2018, to raise money for the charity Climbers Against Cancer as his mother had terminal breast cancer. He was accompanied by his trainers, Ben West and Cailean Harker.[19]

There are seven routes up the stack, the most commonly used of which is the original landward facing East Face Route, graded E1 5b (Extremely Severe).[20][21] A log book in a Tupperware container is buried in a cairn on the summit, as an ascensionists' record.[18][22] As many as fifty ascents of the stack are made each year.[22]


Alexander Schulz walks slackline at the Old Man of Hoy
Highline walk of Alex Schulz

On 10 July 2017, Alexander Schulz completed a highline walk to and from the summit, at 137 m (449 ft) above the sea on a line 180 m (200 yd) long.[23]

BASE jumping[edit]

Roger Holmes, Gus Hutchison-Brown, and Tim Emmett made the first BASE jump from the stack on 14 May 2008.[24] Hutchinson-Brown died 11 days later during a jump in Switzerland.[25] On 27 July 2019, two Poles, Filip Kubica and Dominik Grajner repeated BASE jumped from the top.[26]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Facts about the Old Man of Hoy". NorthLink Ferries. Archived from the original on 18 January 2014. Retrieved 25 January 2014.
  2. ^ Barrett, Kate (1963). "My Old Man". Radio Scotland. Archived from the original on 27 January 2019. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d Hansom, Jim (2007). "West Coast of Orkney" (PDF). JNCC. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ Seward 2011, p. 230.
  5. ^ a b "The Old Man of Hoy". Scapa Flow Landscape Partnership Scheme. Archived from the original on 3 February 2014. Retrieved 25 January 2014.
  6. ^ Hansom, James D.; Evans, David J. A. (1995). "The old man of Hoy". Scottish Geographical Magazine. 111 (3): 172–174. doi:10.1080/00369229518736960.
  7. ^ "Old Man of Hoy". scottishgeology.com. Retrieved 25 January 2014.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Jim Hansom. "Old Man of Hoy". Archived from the original on 1 February 2014. Retrieved 25 January 2014.
  9. ^ "William Daniell: The Old Man of Hoy". Tate. Retrieved 14 January 2013.
  10. ^ "1966 climb: The Old Man of Hoy". Mountaineering Council of Scotland. Archived from the original on 10 August 2009. Retrieved 25 January 2014.
  11. ^ Thompson 2011, p. 231
  12. ^ "The Great Climb". BBC Scotland. Retrieved 10 December 2011.
  13. ^ Latter 2009, p. 452
  14. ^ "Rock Queen (featuring Catherine Destivelle)". Vimeo. 2 March 2013. Retrieved 24 March 2019.
  15. ^ Hall, Tasha (21 July 2022). "The stunning Scottish landmark that could disappear 'overnight'". Scottish Daily Express. Retrieved 12 December 2022.
  16. ^ Liz Roberts (30 June 2013). "Blind climber Red Széll: Old Man of Hoy ascent was dream come true". grough. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
  17. ^ Tina Gardner (28 June 2013). "Old Man of Hoy success for blind climber". British Mountaineering Council. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
  18. ^ a b Red Szell. "The Blind Man of Hoy". UKClimbing. Retrieved 25 January 2014.
  19. ^ "Boy, 8, youngest to climb Old Man of Hoy". BBC. 10 June 2018. Retrieved 10 June 2018.
  20. ^ "The Old Man of Hoy". orkney-seastacks.co.uk. Retrieved 25 January 2014.
  21. ^ Chris Mellor. "The Old Man of Hoy: the routes". UKClimbing. Retrieved 25 January 2014.
  22. ^ a b Grylls 2009, p. 234
  23. ^ "Balancing act - the high wire walk to the Old Man of Hoy". BBC. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  24. ^ Roger Holmes. "Old Man Of Hoy - BASE 1st Descent". YouTube. Archived from the original on 22 December 2021. Retrieved 10 December 2011.
  25. ^ "Angus Hutchison-Brown". The Scotsman. 1 July 2008. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 25 January 2014.
  26. ^ Filip Kubica. "Old Man Of Hoy - Climb & B.A.S.E." YouTube. Archived from the original on 22 December 2021. Retrieved 27 October 2019.


External links[edit]