Our website uses cookies throughout our system and to help us provide a better service. Continue to use the site as normal if you're happy with this, or click here to change your settings

North Face Car Park – Members Update

Wednesday 17th April 2024, 5:00pm

Climbers visiting the North Face car park at Torlundy will have noticed some changes there over the past year. 

Forestry & Land Scotland manage the parking and surrounding forest and have been trying to address the implications of around 40,000 visitors to the car park each year. There are challenges with managing the number of vehicles in and around the car park, some of which have been poorly parked, toileting issues, and an ongoing major timber harvesting project in the forest, with many large lorries on the forest road.

Members have been asking about the situation there, and our CEO and Access & Conservation Officer have been discussing the matter with the local Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) staff and the Nevis Landscape Partnership (NLP).

Our initial involvement was over the provision of toilets, as the number of climbers and other visitors using the car park overnight is leading to insanitary conditions, with no means of disposing of human waste available.

The challenge here is the cost of maintaining toilets, as the capital construction costs are only part of the equation, and there is an ongoing annual cost of maintenance and keeping them clean which has to be funded. NLP have recently installed new composting toilets in Glen Nevis, and we are seeing how they can be successfully managed.

Plan for parking spaces and toilets

To accommodate the number of visitors now using the North Face car park, FLS are proposing to increase the size of the parking space, with an option of a space for toilets when the funding issues have been resolved. A plan has been drawn up and planning consent being sought for this with The Highland Council. 

FLS are currently negotiating with the Council planners and other statutory consultees, such as Transport Scotland, over several conditions requiring to be met to move this proposal through the planning system. The main issue is around Transport Scotland’s concerns about the A82 Road Junction at Torlundy as well as the bridge over the railway in Torlundy village. FLS have stressed that the objective is to accommodate existing use of the car park rather than to encourage an increase in the number of users.

If FLS cannot get the current proposal through to the next stage of planning, then they will have to withdraw this application to extend the car park for visitors and review the proposals in order to reduce the size of the proposed extension.  This would require a new planning application to be submitted to the Highland Council. 

New charges

In the meantime, climbers will have noticed that there is now a charge for parking cars in the North Face car park. The FLS policy is for the car park to be managed for day visitors, and the funds raised from this are to assist with managing the facilities there. FLS have informed us that there is a ‘pay later’ option with the parking app that allows climbers to retrospectively pay for their stay if unable to pay at the time.

Regarding the use of the car park by the mountaineering community, the FLS Regional Manager said: “I appreciate that traditionally the mountaineering community have parked in FLS car parks overnight. However, our current advice for mountaineers, is to use the nearby Nevis Range car park which is much larger and allows overnight parking (subject to a fee). The increase in the number of visitors undertaking all manner of activities it is no longer possible for us to make this exemption in the North Face area.

“I am sorry that I cannot offer a more positive overview at this time, however I can assure you that I and many of the other local team are working hard to try and find a solution to the car parking issues here. We also want to continue our positive relationship with the Scottish mountaineering community and thank you for the time and energy you have spent liaising with us on this and other issues.”

Ongoing concerns

Mountaineering Scotland is concerned that given the history of the carpark, the climbing community who campaigned to get the carpark built is now being disadvantaged by this new arrangement. The North Face Car park is the most suitable access point for those using the CIC hut as parking at the Nevis Range facility adds around 3km to the walk in and out.

The car park and the trail up the Allt a' Mhuillinn was created by the then Forestry Commission as a solution to parking problems experienced in the 1970s and 80s following a campaign by the then Mountaineering Council of Scotland supported by the Scottish Mountaineering Club (SMC). We believe that the North Face car park is a special situation, a destination for climbers from all over the world, and requires a more flexible management policy than other forest car parks.

Mountaineering Scotland is continuing to work with the SMC, FLS and the Nevis Landscape Partnership to seek sustainable solutions for these difficult challenges in providing a larger car park with toilet facilities.  The involvement of Kate Forbes MSP in this matter is a helpful development, and we expect a  meeting to take place onsite with representatives from Mountaineering Scotland and the SMC later this year.