3 May 2016 – The Old Man just wasn’t in the mood for visitors…
Standing proudly on a hill in the Trotternish peninsula, the iconic rock had long been on my wish list of places to see, so when the opportunity arrived to visit the Isle of Skye I was convinced that a meeting with the Old Man of Storr would turn out to be the highlight of our entire trip to Scotland.
However, things weren’t so easy. We woke up early on the first day, arriving at the base of the hill just before sunrise. As it turned out, it was an incredibly grey morning…looking up at the hill from the carpark, it was all very dark and ominous. The Old Man did make a brief appearance, though it wasn’t long before he retreated back into the encircling clouds.
It was as if there was a real old man there, telling us to go away. I can just picture him…tall, thin and wiry, with crazed eyes, long grey hair, an equally long and matted beard, wearing nothing but rags, flinging rocks at strangers as they approached (or quite possibly sheep poop…there were a few sheep on the hill).
Determined as we were, we decided to attempt the climb anyway. We made it past the first stage of the trek before the strong wind and rain forced us to turn back.
That’s okay, I said to my wife, we have some time, let’s come back tomorrow.
The reality though was that we only had a couple of days on the Isle. I had read a few articles written prior by those that have done the climb, and all suggested doing the hike during clear weather. However, that was not much of an option for us!
The next morning we set off again at around the same time, though the weather forecast was for much the same. This time we made it a little further before I realised I had left my water bottle in the car. Then it started to pour. And by pour I mean strong pelting rain, driven by a powerful wind seemingly directed towards us. We decided to turn around again.
That afternoon we got back into our car, ready to leave the Isle of Skye to head back towards Glencoe. However, as we sat, we noticed that the rain had cleared significantly. There was even some sunshine! Turning to each other, we didn’t have to say a word. We would give the Old Man another go.
It wasn’t long before the weather changed yet again. The Old Man threw everything at us as we made our third attempt up the hill. There was wind, rain, even hail…but thankfully no sheep poop! There was a lot of mud on the ground though; those who have done this climb would know how muddy the path can get, especially in such inclement weather.
Halfway up the hill, we were approached by a stranger who suggested turning left and going around the back of the Old Man. It was a longer walk, but an easier climb. It was also more sheltered, with stunning views to be had along the way of the back of the rock.
It turned out to be great advice (thank you, kind stranger). Following the path, we eventually made it to the summit…or at least, the point where this photo was taken (for those with good eyesight, if you look in the middle of the picture above you’ll see two figures, to give you a sense of scale).
Overall, the hike took longer than expected, but we’re both so thankful to have made the climb.
So, here’s to you, Old Man of Storr – may we meet again, under more favourable conditions!