One old man, a boy and a cripple

By Dan Bradley

As put by Wayne's daughter whose idea it was; "So there’s an old man, a boy and a cripple going to climb the Old Man of Hoy.. ha"

Wayne had this idea that one day he might be able to climb the Old Man but said time was ticking on and his time has probably passed, I on the other hand was not keen to climb the Old Man of Hoy but would be very up for the challenge of taking both him and his 15 year old son Billy along for the ride.This had been planned for last spring but due to an unfortunate hiccup (Me breaking myself and spending 4 months in a bed) it was just not meant to be.

However this spring it was to be, or at least that’s what we thought, it was all very last minute, the weather in Scotland was looking ok... ish but this was the only weekend that this could happen so we decided to give it a go.

Now the Isle of Hoy is I can only describe as a freaking long way away!We took the 9 hour car journey up to Scrabster and then the hour long ferry across to Stromness were Wayne had booked us into a rather nice hotel. I was pretty keen to do this on a budget as I was totally skint but Wayne is not one for sleeping on floors, camping or doing anything that may involve suffering. I couldn’t really complain though it was very nice, he assures me he used to camp and sleep rough but I think this comes with old age? (Sorry if you’re reading this Wayne)

First thing in the morning we had a quick check of the weather which looked horrific then set off anyway in some small hope that we may get a break in the weather window. The sun was just poking through the sky so gave us a little teaser of what weather Hoy could offer, but that was going to be the last we saw of it. We boarded a small boat across to the Isle of Hoy, arrived at the small pier were we met up with the local taxi driver and his minibus. He was nice, he drove us to the small bay at around 10 mph all the way, the journey would have been quicker to walk but he was very entertaining none the less. Along the way we passed two cars on the small roads, both times slamming on the anchors and saying “bloody hell, it must be rush hour with all these cars on here lad” The island has a population of around 272 and most of them live on the south of the island.

Postcard from the Old Man of Hoy

Terry our taxi man said “it’s just a 15 minute walk over that hill” I believe this to be true if you are Usain Bolt! Around an hour walking in sideways rain and 60mph gusting winds we arrived at a very wet sea stack. Billy keen as he ever is "so we getting on it then?", Wayne just had this look of fear in his eyes, he had been to the toilet at least 4 times that morning due to the nerves and it probably didn’t help me saying it was really hard every 10 minutes to get a reaction, after all this was very much at his limit if not a bit beyond, I carried on reminding him.

So it was not to be for today, it would definitely not be a good plan to get on a sea stack with an old man, a boy and a cripple while it was wet, windy and at our groups limit of climbing ability. Breaking this to Wayne and Billy was not as easy as I thought “maybe we could just do the first pitch” said Wayne, now there’s no way in a million years I’m walking all the way down there to get on the first pitch, get thrown up on by the fulmars (local bird) and try and scrape my way up the first pitch in the worst conditions the old man has seen an ascent then have to come back down. If I’m going down there I’m going to climb it, but unfortunately today that is not happening. We sacked it off!

Old Man of Hoy in summer conditions

We acquired our taxi man after the walk back and he said he knew just the place for us to stay, the Hoy hotel. If anyone has stayed here before you will know what is about to come, this place is like an old bomb bunk shelter that has been turned into a hotel, we were to be the only customers there and maybe ever.

As we turned up we met the Chef,

Chef - “Now I’m the best chef on all the isles what do you want for dinner?”
Wayne - “Well what do you have”
Chef - “Fish or scampi, and I can do that with chips if you like?”

We had our dinner along with multiple whiskies which he kept bringing over, by the end of the food I could barely walk, he was brilliant! “There’s a band on later lads”, we were wondering how there was even a band on the islands but apparently at 9pm the place would be packed, 9pm came and nobody, we even decided to last it out until 10pm but nobody, as 11pm came the place had around 100 people in there and the party was going strong. Were the hell had all these people come from?

We were amazed how many people arrived from nowhere, the island feels so derelict and unlived in, we were shocked to see so many people in the same place, and boy could they drink! We thought it would be best to send young Billy to bed for his own safety as there were lots of overweight broody women all liking the look of him, we were the fresh meat, we had to get out of there before any long term damage was done! The party went on until very late, as we were “climbing” the next day me and Wayne hit the sack, The karaoke then started at around 3am, not a bit of sleep as every time I fell asleep (I snore) I got a punch in the kidneys from Billy.

Everyone left the party at about 5, all got into their cars and drove home. So we awoke feeling none to refreshed and got a lift back to the old man, after quizzing the taxi driver Terry about the evening he said they certainly know how to entertain, he wasn’t wrong!

But what about the driving I asked? “It’s ok Dan, there all travelling in the same direction, it’s when they’re coming towards each other they have a problem”

So the Saturday we had to make the decision to bail, the weather was going to be none permitting for us, we left Hoy, got the ferry to Stromness, the ferry to Scrabster and drove back 9 hours. We were in the pub that night telling the story of our failed adventure but still the experience was amazing!

Sometimes all we read about is teams of heros getting ascents, unfortunately sometimes we fail, however we have an amazing story to tell and had a great adventure.

Next year we will go and climb it, if it’s still there!

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