On Saturday 8th August 2015, MM0YCJ and MM0DHY successfully activated the 137metre sea stack, the Old Man of Hoy (Three Old Men of Hoy!) Arriving on Hoy the evening of Friday 7th, they stayed in Burnmouth Cottage, an open bothy maintained by the Hoy Trust at Rackwick Bay, well worth a visit. Sleep was disturbed by another occupant apparently chasing a marauding rat around the bothy in the middle of the night!
Next day they arose at 05:00 hours British Summer Time and left the bothy at 05:40 hours. They had a pleasant walk over the headland to the Old Man but the descent path to the base of the stack was treacherous owing to recent wet weather, MM0DHY remarked that this was the most dangerous activity of the day! They started rock climbing the ‘Original Route’ at about 07:30 hours and despite a short very light shower continued up the extremely severe graded climb achieving the summit at 11:00 hours.
They had applied for a special event call sign Golf Bravo Zero Old Man of Hoy (GB0OMH) and started transmitting on 20metres (14.290KHz, SSB) at 11:18 (10:18 UTC). They used an FT817 and a resonant inverted-V dipole on a 4 metre fishing pole which they had carried in a small rucksack while climbing. The summit is not a SOTA summit, but is a HuMP (GM/HSI-127). Despite poor phone coverage MM0YCJ/P managed to send a spot to the SOTA website and DL3HXX was the first contact at 10:22 (UTC). QSOs followed with DK5WL, EA2AJO, DF5WA, OK1SDE and EA2DT (thanks again Manuel). We made a final contact with 9A8AX, a Castle on the Air special station (ref; 9A0019).
Despite having carried a 40metre IV dipole all the way to the summit, neither were willing to deploy it because they would have had to go ‘too close to the edge.’ Combined with some anxiety about the weather and borderline phobia about abseiling back down the stack (and problems radioing with a dry mouth), they dismantled the station at 11:40 (perhaps the shortest transmission time for a special event station in history) and started the tricky descent. This involved three very long abseils, the final one being free (no rock to put your feet against). This was achieved (obviously) but not without incident. MM0YCJ managed to get MM0DHY to abseil first, but somehow still got covered in vomit from a disturbed Fulmar chick on a ledge as he descended. In theory the chick should have been empty after the first person abseiled.
On reaching the third abseil point, they suffered a catastrophic gear failure when an HMS karabiner jammed shut. Unable to free the abseil device (a sticht plate) MM0DHY was able to abseil down to the rocky beach and attach his sticht plate to the end of the rope for MM0YCJ to haul back up and finally use to make a safe descent. Needless to say the jammed karabiner was later destroyed.
An ascent of The Old Man of Hoy is a coveted route for most rock climbers, indeed this was the 4th time MM0YCJ had visited the summit, he just can’t keep away! Being first to radio from a new summit is also a coveted event and by combining the ascent with a radio activation allowed Adrian and Colwyn to achieve two fantastic goals during one trip.