Adventures in Ullapool

Cul Mòr or Stac Pollaidh?

Waking up feeling a little like how I imagine I’d feel having been hit by a bus, the day started slowly. Descending the stairs, two feet to a step, it took a while to convince my legs they were good to go again. Forecasts checked over breakfast, the choice to do a shorter route was finalised, largely due to the potential for thunder and lightning later.

Heading out the road, Stac Pollaidh looked particularly good, the cloud just sitting on the top. However, optimists that we are, we continued onwards, confident that the cloud would lift from Cul Mòr as the morning went on. Oh how wrong we were! Next time I’m going ‘glass half empty!’

Cairns a’plenty!

We were fortunate in securing one of the last parking spaces and set off just ahead of another group. The initial route is easy – follow the small, clear path before turning off and up at a cairn. At this point there’s potential for the path to get muddy but with the dry conditions of late there was no sodden earth, only bouncy, springy ground underfoot.

The path peters out as height is gained, but a series of cairns mark the route across the broad plateau. It’s worth looking back here, especially on a clear day, as the views are spectacular. As the path disappeared we used the Garmin to support navigation. This was great! While the folks that had passed us disappeared into the thick mist, we found our way onto the path higher up. They then appeared behind us at the boulder field.

Boulder Fields & Bums

Oh how I love a boulder field! I’m precious about my legs and just see the gaps – think broken ankles! None of those today, thankfully. Another chap was sitting part way up this bouldery section and when I shared my enthusiasm as I folded my poles and tidied them into my rucksack he commented that it’d be much harder on the way down. Wrong! That’s what bums are for! While it’s hard to go up on your bum it’s easy to use it on the descent!

The boulder field was very short and the path quickly returned with less challenging terrain. Up we went, very quickly seeing the summit cairn. There we met the other group of people and Ruby the dog, very much intent on hoovering up any crumbs left by others.

As predicted, the descent was easy and my bum served me well. At the lower cairn we met another couple and had a great chat about running, walking, broken bodies and recovery; he was the bionic man – a hill runner despite having had a hip replacement! We retraced our steps back, finally reaching the car just as a few spots of rain fell.

We took a detour on return, heading down to view Stac Pollaidh. This was the only photo taken due to the less than ideal conditions and low hanging mist on Cul Mòr while we were out.

Reaching Ullapool, the rain still hadn’t come to much. However, as I write it’s 5 pm and absolutely tipping down so I feel we made the right decision. There’s been a rumble of thunder and the wind’s picked up. Hopefully not too many folks are still out!

Ullapool Evenings

We only heard a brief rumble of thunder but the wind picked up and it certainly did rain following our trip up Cul Mòr. So glad we were inside watching as it stotted in all directions.

By evening the rain had passed over so we walked along the shore on the way home. How beautiful if was after the storm.

Stac Pollaidh

Having missed this out yesterday, we went back today. This fine wee hill affords fantastic views on a clear day and can be done within a few hours with relative ease. Neighbouring hills were visible and we enjoyed seeing Cul Mòr from a different perspective, shrouded in cloud today; a very different cloud to yesterday’s thick, damp mist.

Straight up the hill from the parking area, initially on cobbled steps, then settling into bigger boulder steps as the climb progresses, Stac Pollaidh makes for fairly easy going if you’re hill fit. Height is gained quickly and before long the top is very clearly in sight.

The path soon heads up more steeply over yet more boulder steps as it climbs towards the low point of the ridge. This is the point at which I started to feel less enthusiastic, the exposure increasing a little, although nothing significant in the grand scheme of things. We’ve been up here before but I remembered the top as being smaller. I opted to go for the cairn on the ‘right’ side; suitably easy to get to and with little effort required.

Bruce ventured to the ‘left’ and up onto the second top. Meanwhile, I found a kindred spirit, a man who shared my ‘love’ of exposure and was happy sitting it out at the low point while his partner followed in Bruce’s footsteps. It’s not often I find these kindred folks on hills; the norm is to be told things are ‘easy’ when they’re far from it, easy being very subjective, with those of us less fond of big air probably sticking to the shores and coffee shops. Bruce got up onto the ‘tourist’ summit prior to the cloud coming in, completely enveloping the whole top.

The cloud lingered as we descended and we appreciated how good our timing had been, little sign of it passing over and clearing. A couple of guys passed us and we got chatting to them; climbers from the Peak District, they’d had a blast scrambling up to the true top, although even they conceded there were a couple of hairy moments, most definitely not for the faint hearted!

The descent path was easy and quick, dropping height gradually until it joined up with the cobbled path just a short distance the parking area. A great short walk, ideal if you’re pushed for time or faced with a limited weather window, neither of which was an issue for us today. Suitably rested, next up, another big day.

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