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Our month: Mountaineering Scotland in February 2023

Wednesday 1st March 2023, 3:23pm

From our first ever Winter Skills for Women course to the annual Team Development Day, welcoming four new Talent Coaches to the ClimbScotland squad, releasing our latest magazine to travelling north to be part of the Fort William Mountain Festival, February was a busy and exciting month for the Mountaineering Scotland Team!

Following an interview discussing the new It’s Up to Us campaign on Radio 4’s PM show at the end of January, CEO Stuart Younie was invited to join a lively debate around mountain paths on BBC Radio Scotland’s The Kaye Adams Programme, alongside OATS CEO Dougie Baird, David Whalley, Ross Cunningham and others. Later in the month, in the wake of the news about Inverness Leisure Climbing Wall, Stuart also appeared on BBC Highlands & Islands to give Mountaineering Scotland’s statement on the wall’s closure. 

Alongside Ilona Turnbull, our Director for Governance, HR and Equalities, Stuart also hosted the first ED&I Network Meeting, which took place on the 13th of February. Meanwhile, in the last week of the month, Director for Clubs, Jo Dytch, hosted a Clubs Call, during which the ED&I policy and other issues such as insurance were discussed.

Later in the month, the Team Development Day took place at The Lodge Visitor Centre in Aberfoyle. After reviewing the previous year, the team spent a productive day planning and looking forward to all of the exciting things to come in 2023, with a quick break to see the waterfall and wildlife hide along one of the Lodge’s trails.

February finished up with a Board Meeting at Mountaineering Scotland HQ in Perth. ClimbScotland Development Manager Jamie Smith was in attendance, providing an update on the latest ClimbScotland operations and activities.

Image: The Mountaineering Scotland Team Development Day in Aberfoyle

From the 17th to 19th of February, the Membership and Communications team travelled to Fort William for the 2023 Mountain Festival. 

With an interactive stand in the Exhibition Zone, and the chance to meet both current and potential members face-to-face for the first time since before the pandemic, the weekend was a huge success. Alongside other great stalls from Scottish Mountaineering Press, The John Muir Trust, FATMAP, Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports, The Highland Bookshop and others, visitors had the chance try out our Balance Board and Guess the Mountain Competitions, as well as learning all about membership benefits and the great work that Mountaineering Scotland carries out. 

The team were also delighted to be joined by Nav from Boots and Beards at the stall on Saturday evening before heading to the official Fort William Film Festival ceilidh. 

ClimbScotland’s Robert MacKenzie was also in attendance at the festival – helping to present the 2023 Scottish Awards for Excellence in Mountain Culture to David Whalley and Stephanie McKenna.

Image: (L to R) Mountaineering Scotland Membership and Events Officer Karen McVeigh, Nav Bakhsh of Boots and Bears and Mountaineering Scotland Membership and Communications Manager Helen Gestwicki. 

The Mountain Safety also had a busy February, with the delivery of Winter Skills courses, including the (new for 2023) Winter Skills for Women course.

Taking place in Glencoe on Sunday 19th and Monday 20th of February, the courses were led by Mountaineering Scotland Mountain Safety Advisor Kirsty Pallas, and climber Libby Peter. Despite the initial weather forecast for both Sunday and Monday, the groups were able to get out and find some snow, learn about essential winter kit, the use of crampons and ice axes, and how to self-arrest. Rachel from The Adventure Photographers also popped along on Monday’s course to provide us with some fantastic images.

Mountain Safety Advisor Ben Gibson was also busy delivering Winter Skills courses to our member clubs in February, including a two-day course with the Scottish Dry Tooling Club.

Senior Mountain Safety Advisor Ross Cadie also appeared on BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight programme to discuss our #SmartNav guidance - which users of the brand new Walkhighlands app are able to view before they download the app. 

Image: Kirsty Pallas delivering the Winter Skills for Women course in Glencoe / The Adventure Photographers

In February, ClimbScotland also released dates for their 2023 RealRock sessions. These sessions are subsidised outdoor climbing sessions for under 18’s that cover all disciplines from bouldering, top-roping, sport lead climbing and trad lead climbing. Calum and Robert will be joined by Kirsty Pallas this year who will be helping to deliver the sessions as well as a few new sessions aimed at getting young climbers out into the mountains, scrambling and multi-pitch climbing. 

After interviews took place at the end of January, ClimbScotland also welcomed four new fantastic Talent Coaches - Hannah Smith, Michael Bleazard, Mike Mullins and Pete Langlands - to the team this month, to assist with the delivery and development of the Talen Squad Programme.

The Inclusive Climbing Workshops – delivered by Gemma Hendry from Able 2 Adventure – took place at Perth College Climbing Centre on the 9th and 10th of February. Aimed at those looking to support and work with people with additional support needs in climbing wall environments, these workshops were a sell-out, with great engagement from people from various backgrounds including clubs like the Orkney Climbing Club and the Scottish Paraclimbing Club, parents of children with additional support needs, climbing wall staff and Local Authority Outdoor Education Departments.

Meanwhile, in February's instalment of the ScotRock podcast, Mental Health Professional Lanah Dunsmuir joined ClimbScotland’s Robert MacKenzie for a special two-part episode discussing mental health, anxiety and how to deal with different stresses you might face when climbing.

Image: Inclusive Climbing Workshop / Able 2 Adventure

The National Access Forum working group on Upland Deer Management and Access met to discuss matters of mutual interest and concern, and Mountaineering Scotland was there to represent the interests of walkers and climbers. Topics covered include effective communication at a few key locations at critical times for stag culling in the rut in early October and also early February for hinds.  This is in order to meet culling targets to manage environmental damage from deer over-population at certain locations where hill-walking is popular, and disturbance of the deer could be likely. We agreed that this is something for walkers and climbers to be aware of when out and about.

The Access and Conservation Officer was also involved in the production of the National Access Forum guidance on managing access for wildlife disturbance on sensitive sites, published this month on the Scottish Outdoor Access Code website.

Image: Annie MacDonald 

A proposal for a pumped storage hydro dam at Lochan na h-Earba on the Ardverikie Estate prompted some concern amongst climbers and hillwalkers. It is at an early stage in the planning process, and the developer is scoping out the range of issues that will need to be assessed in an Environmental Impact Assessment report. We are looking at the potential challenges for maintaining and managing access to Ardverikie Wall and the three Munros beyond: Beinn a’Chlachair, Creag Pitridh and Geal Charn. We are waiting to see how the developer intends to limit the visual impact of a bare draw-down zone around the lochs when the turbines are in operation. 

Image: Lochan na h-Earba / Glkes Energy