The Old Man of Hoy is a famous sea stack off the coast of Hoy in the Orkney Isles. As a climb it was first ascended by Chris Bonington, Rusty Baillie and Tom Patey in 1966. Apparently it could collapse at any time.
We weren’t up there today, that would be stretching the travel limits. No we were still in deepest Lancashire returning to Troy Quarry after many years for some climbing. Apart from the rhyming name the only other resemblance to Hoy is a stack, without any sea, in the middle of the quarry.
The parking area has been severely limited because of the influx of walkers disturbing the locals in these strange times. Of course, we travelled in four separate cars, so you can see how quickly every space becomes blocked. None of us could remember the approach into the quarry, there used to be some large concrete buildings by the track, all now looked quite sylvan. There are some good walks that traverse the hillsides in this upper part of Rossendale. But today we were here for the climbing.
The quarry is large, spreading 30 – 40ft walls of gritstone around a pond. Canada Geese entertained us all afternoon with their calls and territorial chasing across the water. We made a beeline to the South Walls where there were easier climbs. Another pair of climbers were already in situ but soon moved on. They were top roping either for safety or inexperience. We had many years of experience between the four off us, too many to count but were a little rusty. I, for one, don’t want to see the inside of a casualty department, so we opted for top roping too, something I wouldn’t have contemplated in the past – where is the adventure in that. Times change.
After a bit of faffing with slings we had a top rope set up above the Siamese Twins. These are cracks in a steep slab. We climbed the right-hand variation with help of the left crack and the left route with the help of the right crack. Who’s watching?
The rock was clean with positive holds, a fine gritstone apparently used in the past for pavement flags in the northwest cities.
A large flake in the centre of the Siamese wall had new cracks running down it, a hollow sound and movement when pulled in certain directions. Water and frost affect the rock formations in these quarries and every so often lumps, small and large, detach themselves. You just hope you are not clutching one when that happens. This particular flake is already doomed. We squeezed in a slightly harder climb to the left but again transgressed into those cracks.
I haven’t seen my climbing partners for many months, so we had a good catch up chat over lunch. The sun was pleasantly warm reminding us of many hours playing on the rock walls in these Lancashire holes in the ground. God’s own rock is over the border in Yorkshire, but we are fiercely defensive of our sometimes grotty venues.
We moved the rope along to above a great looking flake line, Stacked Deck, which we all enjoyed lay backing up.
Alongside was the classic route, Rapunzel. Halfway up is a barred window from which Rapunzel would have let down her hair. The fable around this story is more complicated than I remember. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rapunzel
Suffice to say she didn’t let down her hair for me today, and I was lowered to the ground to lick my wounds. Ah, well it is the first time I’ve been on a rope this year. Things can only get better – or is that a fairy tale?