The Old Man of Hoy – Original Route


Always wanted to climb the Old Man of Hoy? This iconic 135m (445ft) sea stack is situated on the beautiful Orkney islands.

To climb The Old Man of Hoy. We first have to get to the isle of Hoy, which is separated from the mainland. Firstly we have to catch the ferry from Stromness.  The crossing to Moaness – Hoy takes around 30 minutes. From here it’s a walk to Rackwick overland, which takes around 2 hours. We recommend staying in the bothy at Rackwick Bay (see link below). Firstly its location is truly, remote. Surrounded by a beautiful beach and waters it’s a memorable experience. Secondly it’s a great base for our departure the next morning to walk in to The Old Man of Hoy. Likewise there is other accommodation on the island if you don’t fancy the bothy.


The climbing of The Old Man of Hoy is given the grade of E1 5b. This is climbing it by the Original Route, which was first climbed in 1966 by the legendary strong team consisting of. Tom Patey (Also climbed The Old Man of Stoer-explained in this link) Chris Bonnington, (now the face of Berghaus and British mountaineering ambassador) and Rusty Baillie.

Chris Bonnington is probably best known for his high mountain endeavours. At 80 and truly inspirational he returns with young British climber Leo Houlding to tackle the Old Man once again. Visit the link at the bottom.

In addition to that we have included another link of Tim Emmett. Tim’s amazing climb and then base jump from the top, just raises the bar to another level!

The Climb

Rock n Ridge’s climb of The Old Man of Hoy is done as a three day package. In fact we recommend this as a minimum as it allows us to do a several things. Firstly it allows us to sort equipment and get in position before the climb. It’s a fair old hike in and rushing it in a day can be too much. We only charge you for two days as the third day is a pack up and walk out. It also gives us a weather window too.

Secondly we can go Climbing before, to get use to the rock, and go over some last minute checks. And thirdly why rush the experience. In reality you’re not going to be here again for a while, if at all. Having an extra day gives us a day’s weather window, in case the weather doesn’t go in our favour.

As explained the Original Route is E1 5b. – (Route 1 on the picture opposite). The Old Man of Hoy’s route is pretty direct. There is a slight traverse on the 2ndpitch, but on the whole its pretty straight. The guide breaks the climb down into 5 separate pitches. In addition to this, we may feel it appropriate to add a pitch or 2 extra depending on the party and conditions.

Once we have climbed the Old Man of Hoy we have to get down. Of course we will stay awhile take in the view and get some quality pictures. After this we will abseil down the face back down to the bottom of the stack. Although it can be abseiled with 50m ropes. It involves more faff and complications. Therefore we use 60m ropes as these gets us back down to the bottom in one long abseil.


Scottish weather can make the climbing on The Old Man of Hoy tricky to impossible. Of course the suggested months are May through to September. A flexible approach to dates would be helpful. Be prepared that the conditions on the day may not be right. Therefore if this is the case then alternative dates, or climbs will be arranged.


To climb The Old Man of Hoy requires a confident approach, and be higher than, or around our suggested Bronze level of fitness. See our Alpine Training section.

Besides a reasonable cardiovascular fitness, it is a definite requirement that you have some prior experience of climbing. Granted it doesn’t have to be sea stacks, but you must be confident seconding HVS and above. Training days can be arranged. See our Rock Climbing section.


The scenery and wildlife in particular here is truly amazing! Apart from the Guillemots and the Artic Fulmars. There is a good chance of seeing Seals, Whales, and even Basking sharks, (really!) which frequent these waters.


We will guide you safely up this sandstone sea stack. You’re climb of The Old Man of Hoy will leave you with wonderful memories that’ll last a lifetime.

Further Reading:

The Old Man of Hoy – Info

Tom Patey – Info

Chris Bonnington – Info

Chris Bonnington – Climbs the old man of Hoy at 80! 

Tim Emmett’s – Base Jump of Hoy

Bothy- Rackwick bay 

Rackwick Bay – Hostel


Old Man of Hoy rock climbing route


A deposit of £50 via PayPal secures you’re place. Get in contact regarding you’re preferred dates and number in party. We can also help with accommodation suggestions and bookings.

Price for our three day package to climb The Old Man of Hoy. Price shown is total cost, and Includes private guiding fee, and equipment. Excludes transport, meals and accommodation.


Price is per person:

1:1 – £450

1:2 – £230


Old Man of Hoy looking up sea stack