The Road to Hoy


Part two of the Rab rock tour has started, and I know this because the van we’re travelling north in has been full of non-stop climbing talk for over twelve hours. Climbing talk, and bad jokes. If Tom Randall and Callum Musket were trainspotters then they could be committed for this kind of obsession, but as they’re two of the fittest (and, they claim, ‘hottest’) climbers in Britain, they allowed to – indeed encouraged – to roam free. Which is why we’re heading to Scotland: to roam the Highlands and see how many hard routes it’s possible to clock up in a few days.

Strangely, finding somewhere hard enough for a few days climbing with this pair isn’t as straightforward as it might seem. There’s a lot of rock in Scotland and plenty of hard routes, but we’re looking for somewhere with a decent concentration of lines that tallies with the current forecast of crap weather in the west. Driving north through the night, we vaguely settle on the Red Wall north of Aberdeen, then pull into a random lane somewhere south of Glasgow and settle down for not-a-lot-of-sleep in the short night.

Early morning and the weather comes in as we’re passing Glasgow, and it’s distinctly Scottish. Rain hammering on the windscreen and spray fogging the motorway returns us to the guidebooks and the forecasts to pit the two against each other and come up with a slightly ambitious plan. We’ve only got four days, but Orkney, the far Viking tip of Britain, looks like it might just be feasible. It’s home to Hoy and it’s famous Old Man, plus a whole host of hard routes that don’t get much traffic. Rumour is there’s good potential for first ascents, plus a bothy to stay in, so with a quick re-check of the forecasts and a confirmation that there’s enough budget for ferries, we decide to go. A quick refuelling stop with a blow-out Scottish breakfast, and our mini-adventure is on!





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