• Michelle Mudhar

Old Man of Hoy V2.0

Updated: Mar 10, 2020

I think I stumble into most challenges in my life with the naivety of a small child. Sometimes a positive thing, because if I knew what lay ahead I may not have ever considered my adventures possible!

And so it is with the Old man of Hoy. Theres been a big pause in updates from me as we considered what would be possible….but now we have a plan, a way forward, and its never as simple as you think it will be!


I trained every week for that first attempt at the Old Man of Hoy in September 2018. A mix of climbing at the local Awesome Walls, kayaking and handcycling. BUT what I didn’t do was train with the rig as it would be on the day, on similar terrain that there would be on the day with the weight of the rig AND the rope that there would be on the day. Mainly because the rig didn’t work until about 2 weeks before we left. We were just out of time. And I hoped that all my prep to date would be enough. But I genuinely didn’t know if I would be strong enough or fast enough to do the climb.

The practice 30m test climb in a sheltered cliff on the island of Hoy was the first time the wheels had ever done more than 3m. It was also the best approximation to the sea stack you will ever find. With a similar terrain at the top to navigate, same rock type and a similar angle of rock. Imagine dragging yourself up a pyramid of sandstone with no legs. The wheels made it all possible and I was thrilled they worked! I was less thrilled about the number of rests I needed which slowed me down and the total shock that my body went into after the scramble/abseil into the valley and the 30m climb to the top again. My whole body temperature dropped once I was out of the harness. I shivered uncontrollably and was quickly bundled up into the shelter under everyone’s warm coats, being plied with chocolate. Then I had to cycle back to the cottage. It was tough….and it was only 30m. The stack is 137m.


The joint conclusion that we have all come to is that we need to do more training. I need to be stronger and faster. Strong enough to definitely complete the climb WITH the weight of the rig, the rope AND the friction of the rock. Fast enough to limit my time in the harness so my body doesn’t go into shock…..but also fast enough to complete the climb without having to sleep at the top of the stack and meet the tide window we would need to get back from the stack.

We also need to practice a better way of descending down grassy cliffs! The wheels only work on rock! And we need to do it all in a cost effective manner. Because everyday we spend together is a day the guys from Glenmore Lodge aren’t earning their crust from a paying customer. We’re doing it for the Calvert Trust, to highlight their pledge to enable people of all abilities to adventure in the outdoors and to raise as much money for those people as possible. SO DONATE HERE!


The rough outline is as follows:


Now – Sept 2020: Train indoors AND outdoors with the rig. Get the miles on, get strong, find my “beast mode”. Find some suitable cliffs, maybe in Wales, accessible ones might be a challenge! Long routes, short routes. Just places to TRAIN which fit in with my full time job, my training partner and closely simulate condition on Hoy mainly the angle of the rock.

4th May – Paddle the Caledonian Canal, 4 day paddle trip with wild camping (I admit this is just for fun but it will iron out a few issues for the challenge too)

5th June – I will be speaking about the Route to the Sky challenge to my local Women’s Institute raising £100 for the Calvert Trust as I do

20th July - A visit to the lodge to show them my new rig. The new rig is slower, BUT it means not being hampered by the weight of the rope but most importantly the ability to self rescue if I get stuck.

Sept – Undertake a practice climb inland, somewhere to simulate the rock conditions we will encounter on Hoy. Get slick at our cliff top transfers. Learn to manage our rope weight effectively.



18th-22nd May - Attempt the Old man of Hoy……hope its still standing and that the wild weather we’ve been having hasn’t finally knocked it down!

So there you have it……are you ready for the madness? This is most certainly the greatest challenge I have ever undertaken.

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