1685103563 A Stack Polly Walk Run | phillipspacc

A Stack Polly Walk-Run

OUTDOORS

If you follow this website, you’ll know I’m not a fan of steep ridges. This meant that Stac Pollaidh, although it was a short hike, was out of my comfort zone at various points.

Whilst I did complete a round of Munros I found the Munros on Cuillin Ridge on Skye very challenging due to the steep inclines and exposure. Other ridges, like Liathach in Glen Torridon, also tested my nerves.

Looking towards Stac Poilaidh
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Arron sets off at a rapid pace.

Hike and run to the summit of Stac Polly

Stac Pollaidh, north of Ullapool in a region known as Assynt, is not a high mountain. It measures 612 m at its highest point and has a prominence of about 438 m.

This qualifies you for either the Fionas (Old Grahams) or New Grahams list, depending on which you are following.

At first, a well-made path leads walkers uphill from a parking lot at sea level. This path actually continues around Stack Polly to form a loop if you are not willing to go higher.

The views over the otherworldly landscape of Assynt and some of the mountains, such as Suilven, are magnificent.

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After a couple of kilometers in a northeasterly direction, there is a junction and an obvious path to the left (west). This climbs steeper towards the steep ridge.

By Scottish ridge standards this is a short version, but Stac Pollaidh has many steep drops and numerous towers.

The true summit of Stac Pollaidh lies at the western end and claims the title of one of the most difficult peaks to reach on the Scottish mainland.

To reach the highest point you need to be confident on the rocky towers and manage some scrambled sections. I was lucky enough to be with a small group of Highland Hill Runners and two of the group knew the route well.

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A nervous pose on the crest.
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Arron is confident on the ridge.
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There is a maze of paths so my advice is to go with someone who has done the route before. If this is your first time doing the route, it is possible to follow different paths and worn sections up and then go back if it is not for you and try another way up.

There are a couple of sections that are easier if you know exactly where you are going and if you have a friend to guide you up.

Even with Arron and Iain guiding us, I confess there were a few moments when the exposure, or the fear of what was to come next, got the better of me and I said I didn’t want to continue.

I tried not to look down, only ahead, but then I’d glimpse a drop off to the side or a tower of rock ahead and my stomach would churn and my heart race. The fear of heights can be very unpleasant.

Somehow, though, I kept going. Being part of a group of good friends was helpful because we gave each other words of encouragement and also the space to vocalize our fears without judgment. While some in the group seemed totally fine on the ridge, others really weren’t.

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We did it!
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There was nothing I found to be too technically challenging in terms of the climbing aspect of the Stac Pollaidh ridge and with a bit of guidance the two crux points were fairly simple short scrambles. But when your brain tells you that it’s very scary, very scary, because of the steep falls, it was a challenge to keep going.

I am delighted to say that I made it. Even at the top, where there is a fairly wide section of ridge, I felt a terrible sense of exposure. But I also felt proud of myself for persevering.

Of course we also had to do the comeback race, but for some reason that didn’t seem as bad as I feared.

Our group also headed for the lower eastern summit, which will be enjoyed by most people who climb Stac Pollaidh.

In the race back to the car park we rejoin the lower path and follow it to complete the circuit.

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Poll Stack: The Details

The total route was 5km.

The total height gain was 700m (although our group did some additional ascents and descents of various towers while we searched for the correct route).

this was my route (though keep in mind that if you follow along, I’m not responsible if you end up feeling exposed or miss out).