I came across a few fascinating pictures of the Old Man of Hoy (orkney) here: https://hoyheritage.wordpress.com/places/old-man-of-hoy/
In short, it was a headland in 1750, and and had an arch beneath it in ~1813. So its eroding fast - I had no idea it was such a "new" feature.
I wondered if anyone had any other sources of images of it over time, or whether there was any visible erosion even in the past 50 years since the first ascent?
I suppose its the speed of change that surprised me. I know deep down that everything will fall down one day. It just feels like this will go from nothing -> stack -> nothing in a few lifetimes!
> In short, it was a headland in 1750,
that's well known (ish), I'v got a copy of a 17th century map that has it described as "a magnificent natural fortress" - or words to that effect, it's in latin...
didn't know about the 2nd leg tho. there's always a bit of suspicion of artistic license being applied.....
In a related note, I found and watched this tonight: youtube.com/watch?v=k6aYKZwr15k&.
Documentary about the making of the 1967 BBC live coverage of the ascent. Absolutely amazing footage in there of both the technical film equipment setup of the time and the climbing itself too.
I don't know if you've climbed it. But it is a teetering pile of choss. The top especially so, and the dividing crack on the last pitch as you gaze through the stack to the other side as its climbed and debate placing any pro near it for fear of bringing the whole lot down should you fall.
Having seen it first hand, I would not be surprised if a winter storm took at least the top half during winter. Though I guess and hope it'll stand for longer.
On the plus side, the in situ original gear seems to be wearing well and the fulmars are no doubt topped up ready for the next assault.
Get on it whilst you can!
I was horrified a couple of years ago to find that the dividing crack on the last pitch had another at right angles to the left. It reminded me of eating my granny’s poorly consolidated battenburg cake in the 70s. Fairly terrifying, but straightforward climbing.
> I quite like battenburg cake, it is quite retro now tho.
It's retroness was highlighted to me when they had it at the foundry wall once. The lad on the counter had never seen one before and after a lot of deliberation, cut it down the middle lengthways. So I ended up with half a battenburg but only two "squares".
Hansom and Evans' 1995 paper in the Scottish geographical magazine is worth a quick read if you're interested. They propose that the deep incipient failure crack threatens the top of the stack, as mentioned by Graeme. They also discuss the stack in terms of its history of erosion and as many have already said it was a headland that suffered (probably quite spectacular) arch collapse.
The full paper is available through research gate: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/233141662_The_old_man_of_Hoy
or another source regarding the upper crack here: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/265284373_WEST_COAST_OF_ORKNEY/figures?lo=1
I assume it would still retain it's status as highest stack if the top crack takes the top section?
It's a hell of climb, a had a life changing experience on it as a young man - first proper epic etc. etc.
I couldn't tell you, but I imagine it would depend on which side of the crack decides to fall, or even which crack decides to give first, so it will likely retain its prominence and height for quite some time.
For a little fun:
If I were to speculate on the future of the stack; gravity hasn't yet done its job and much of the jointed upper part actually looks quite well supported. Indeed most of these joints are vertical or sub-vertical which will also act in the stacks favor, as lower angled joints would probably have failed long ago.
The cracks may widen by wind and rain and perhaps be exploited by some frost weathering depending on the coastal winter climate there. Horizontal joints probably exist and will weather out slowly along the bedding of the rock and it may be these that dictate which blocks go first, as it seems most of the vertical joints already exist (not to discount the propagation of new vertical cracks). The Old Man of Hoy, as I understand it, sits on basaltic lava which is a pretty resilient rock and looking at the base at low tide it doesn't appear to be suffering *that* much wave erosion. It doesn't appear to be undercut with small caves/arches present (such as at Yesnaby Castle). So I imagine the rocks surrounding the base of the stack, are for the time being, doing a relatively good job of buffering and dissipating wave energy.
Thus it is presently a battle between the erosive energy of waves at the base and the erosive elements affecting the jointing in the stack itself. Given its present shape (mostly vertical walls with overhanging prows), I would argue that the stack will probably just slowly 'de-laminate' into a narrow spire as a series of small rockfalls. This will happen until its centre of gravity is thrown out of equilibrium and the thing just topples over like a tower of jenga leaving a rocky stump surrounded by debris.... Or, wave erosion finally exploits the base opening a cavity that will ultimately form a cave or arch and the thing collapses under its own weight, like a tower of jenga... leaving a rocky stump surrounded by debris. Whatever happens to it, it will be a combination of these factors and probably more.
> I assume it would still retain it's status as highest stack if the top crack takes the top section?
Not sure it technically qualifies as a stack, given that it's not an island - the "col" (to the much higher Cuilags, in Marilyn etc terms) is 19m, surprisingly high:
Doesn't feel like it's really a pinnacle either, though - not quite what it is in those terms.
> It sure felt like a stack when I was attempting the diagonal abseil in the dark under gale force winds!
Can well imagine - good effort! It's clearly a stack in all but the most technical pernickety definition.
> Doesn't feel like it's really a pinnacle either, though - not quite what it is in those terms.
How much spikier would it need to be to qualify? I've probably been on smaller summits but none with a bigger vertical drop in all directions!
> How much spikier would it need to be to qualify? I've probably been on smaller summits but none with a bigger vertical drop in all directions!
Dunno really - it perhaps is technically a pinnacle but in UK or at least Scottish terms (apart from the In Pinn) those mostly seem to jut out from cliff faces or steep overtopping ground - Crowberry, Forefinger, Cioch etc. Maybe the OMoH is some kind of specialist category of things of which there's only one, given that it's basically a stack but isn't really. Maybe one comparison is with a smaller Old Man, the landlocked Old Man of Mow - that's definitely not a stack but is it a pinnacle?
> Can well imagine - good effort! It's clearly a stack in all but the most technical pernickety definition.
At the risk of ruining a good discussion, the St. Kilda stacks (Stac an Armin, Stac Lee) are higher anyway!
With a reasonable definition of a pinnacle (e.g. something taller than it is wide?) the Old Man of Hoy might be the tallest.
> With a reasonable definition of a pinnacle (e.g. something taller than it is wide?) the Old Man of Hoy might be the tallest.
That feels like a good definition, although as ever one immediately starts thinking of exceptions. I'm fond of sitting for a snack on the pinnacle that juts out from the Kips slope on the SE side of Dumyat - very obvious on the skyline from below in the Manor Powis/Gogar area - but while it's without any real doubt a pinnacle I suspect it might be wider (or at least longer) than it is tall!