Trio repeat Old Man climb 50 years on

From left, John Mountain, David Helliwell and Terry King at the top of The Old Man of Hoy, a 450ft sea stack off the north coast of Scotland.
From left, John Mountain, David Helliwell and Terry King at the top of The Old Man of Hoy, a 450ft sea stack off the north coast of Scotland.

After successfully climbing a 450ft sea stack off the north coast of Scotland 50 years ago, three friends recently met up to do it again.

And the trio, including Morpeth resident John Mountain, were able to get up and down The Old Man of Hoy in a single day like they did in 1967.

John, 71, David Helliwell, 71, and Terry King, 67, decided to go to the island of Hoy, part of the Orkney archipelago, in September of that year after watching some of the live BBC broadcasts showing three pairs of climbers tackling the red sandstone stack two months earlier.

They were members of the Parnassus Mountaineering Club, based in Sheffield, at the time.

John said: “Terry was a real natural and he went on to climb in the Himalayas, but he stopped climbing about 30 years ago.

“Earlier this year, I was discussing the upcoming anniversary with David and I said I would do it for a third time, having climbed The Old Man of Hoy again in 2006, if he could persuade Terry to come out of retirement.

“Terry agreed, so I had no choice but to join them.

“The weather was worse than it was 50 years ago, but we used our experience to get up and down in time to then get the ferry back to the Orkney mainland.

“It would have been nice just to meet up as a trio and take a trip down memory lane, so being able to complete the climb with David and Terry was the icing on the cake.”

Separated from land by the erosive powers of sea and wind, the sea stack was originally an arch with two legs, but a severe storm washed away one of the legs to leave a single pillar in place.

There is already a large crack running down from the top and many geologists believe that one day it will collapse into the sea.

After moving to Morpeth in 2001, John joined the Northumbrian Mountaineering Club (NMC).

He agreed to be part of a team of six from the NMC, including two brothers-in-law and fellow Morpeth resident Ian Murray, that climbed The Old Man of Hoy in 2006.

He tried to persuade David and Terry to join the group, but failed.