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A new path for the price of a bobble hat

Thursday 8th March 2018, 3:27pm

Find out more about the Scottish Mend Our Mountains projects with videos highlighting the access problems and solutions on each mountain and how you can help at: 

This weekend sees the launch of a major appeal to raise £100,000 to tackle erosion and restore footpaths on two of Scotland's favourite Munros.

With hundreds of thousands of people enjoying walking and climbing in Scotland’s mountains every year, campaigners hope to hit their target over the next eight months by encouraging the nation’s hillwalkers to donate small – whether that be the value of a new pair of hiking socks or a new bobble hat.

Mountaineering Scotland and the Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland (OATS) are jointly leading the Scottish part of this UK-wide campaign which will support one project in each of Scotland’s two National Parks. ‘Mend Our Mountains’ will enable vital path work to restore the ascent routes and surrounding habitat on Ben Vane in the Trossachs and Beinn a Ghlo in the southern Cairngorms.

The path up Carn Liath, the most accessible of Beinn a Ghlo's summits, has long been a highly visible scar upon a hillside which has a high nature conservation value, and is a prominent eyesore even from the A9, one of Scotland's main transport arteries linking the Central Belt with Inverness and beyond.

Ben Vane remains a popular mountain in the Arrochar Alps west of Loch Lomond, despite a badly eroded summit path which is peatbog in its lower section and higher up turns into a loose, stony streambed under heavy rain or a rubble chute in the dry.

With increasing demand for access to Scotland’s hills and mountains coinciding with pressure upon public funding for countryside services and access maintenance in many areas, there is a growing need for hill goers to contribute towards repairs and improvements to safeguard mountain access for themselves and future generations, especially in well-loved and well-used locations.

David Gibson, Chief Executive Officer of Mountaineering Scotland, said: “More and more people are taking to the hills, enjoying our wonderful landscapes and the health and wellbeing benefits hillwalking brings, but increased use has an impact on the mountains.

“Path building and restoration projects on more popular routes such as Ben Vane and Beinn a’Ghlo aren’t aimed at making life easier for walkers: these are important conservation projects which will prevent further erosion and help to protect the hills for future generations.

“Hillwalking isn’t necessarily an expensive activity and many people want to find ways to put something back into the mountains. We’re not asking for great amounts. If everyone gave just a little we’d be able to reach that £100,000 target to complete this vital work.”

Dougie Baird, CEO of OATS, said: “The combination of Scotland’s cold, wet windy weather, steep hillsides, friable soil and fragile vegetation cover makes the upland areas particularly susceptible to erosion from even a relatively small number of users. Intervention is necessary to ensure that continued access to these areas is not at the expense of the habitat and landscape which makes them special and attractive places to visit. But maintaining these routes takes money and so we are asking people to dig deep and support the Mend our Mountains campaign.”

Scotland's biggest online community of walkers, Walkhighlands, is backing the appeal too. Co-founder Paul Webster said “The eroded routes up both Beinn a’ Ghlo and Ben Vane need urgent repairs to heal the scars on the mountain. We hope all hillwalkers will help by contributing what they can to help this vital work which will prevent future damage.”

Donations to the campaign so far have ranged from a four-figure sum from a widower whose wife was a dedicated hillwalker to contributions from among Scotland’s many mountaineering clubs.

Mountaineering Scotland members have been mobilising their friends, family and work colleagues to get involved. One teacher from a school in Musselburgh with a historic connection to Beinn a Ghlo and a strong tradition of hillwalking and wilderness activities is planning a range of fundraising events, including taking his pupils on a walk up the Cairngorm peak.   

‘Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million’ is a UK-wide campaign coordinated by the British Mountaineering Council south of the Border, with the ambitious aim of raising £1 million for path projects across England, Wales and Scotland by October 2018.

The peat bog that passes for a path at the foot on Ben Vane.

The path up Carn Liath on Beinn a Ghlo - visible from the A9

A closer view of the badly braided and eroded path

Ben Vane

Higher up Ben Vane the path is a rubble-chute