Monday 9th May 2022, 4:44pm
Over the course of April our new-look Mountain Safety Team came together, with Mountain Safety Advisor Ben Gibson being joined by fellow Advisors Kirsty Pallas and Ross Cadie. In the team Ross will take a primarily managerial role, while Kirsty and Ben will concentrate on delivery of our safety and skills courses. Kirsty began at the start of April and has already delivered a number of navigation courses. (See photo: Kirsty, in Mountaineering Scotland beanie, leads a navigation course.)
The review of the Mountain Safety Team was one of three important articles written for the upcoming Scottish Mountaineer to update members on some of the important changes ahead. As well as an update on the development of our new strategic plan there are some exciting changes for the ClimbScotland Team following our investment proposal to sportscotland particularly in how we support clubs to get more children, young people and families involved in climbing and hillwalking.
Going the Extra Mile is a special program of affordable navigation courses for young adults 18-25, possible thanks the generous donations of people touched by the story of Sarah Buick, the young woman who tragically died on the south side of Ben Nevis in 2021. The first course took place in the Sidlaw hills on 22 April, with further dates in the coming months in the Pentlands, Campsie Fells and Ochils. The aim is to make this type of training accessible to as many young people as possible and provide them with the skills and knowledge they need to be more confident in the hills and enjoy hiking safely. The cost is just £15 for a full and fun day of group training with qualified instructors.
Our free online guide to hill walking in Scotland has gone live for summer 2022. First launched last year, Sofa 2 Summit is split into seven easy to follow sections filled with useful information, videos and quizzes, and guides users through the essentials of planning walks, where to find reliable information, what to take and wear, responsible access, finding your way and the geology, wildlife and plants you might encounter in the hills of Scotland. It’s aimed at people in their first few years of exploring the hills, however feedback from more experienced hill-goers has also been good, so it has something for everyone!
Towards the end of April preparations started for the quarterly Mountaineering Scotland Finance Advisory Group and Board meetings. As well as signing off on the financial position for the year 2021/22 the budget for this year had to be approved along with the final version of the new strategic framework and the draft operational plan. It was also the first time since the pandemic that Directors were planning to meet in person and thanks to the team at the AK Bell Library in Perth we were able to host a hybrid meeting with some of the board joining the meeting virtually. Going forward there are plans to install this technology in the meeting room at the Granary which we hope can also be made available for use by our member clubs and partner organisations.
After the Easter break Conservation and Access Officer Davie Black and CEO Stuart Younie met with the Nevis Partnership and representatives from Forestry and Land Scotland to discuss the developments planned for the North Face Car park, one of the main access points for Ben Nevis and in particular explore the possibility of installing toilet facilities at the site. Similar to many places around Lochaber the car park has come under increasing pressure over the last couple of years and there was acknowledgement from everyone at the meeting that human waste was fast becoming a public health issue in many locations.
We were disappointed with the response of Historic Environment Scotland to continue to prohibit indefinitely access to the South Quarry and the Radical Road. We intend to write to them expressing our concerns about their interpretation of risk avoidance and unilateral action to restrict access. Further action is being considered including involving the Local Access Forum as they have not been consulted in any discussions.
The popular sea cliffs have been difficult to get to recently as a local crofter blocked with ageing agricultural machinery the roadside verge where climbers traditionally park. The Highland Council are aware of this and have informed the crofter that the machinery needs to be removed, but enforcement of this is not straightforward. It has been suggested that the Council bring together local land managers and residents to discuss and agree a permanent solution to car parking. In the meantime climbers are asked to take care when visiting and to not block the turning area.
Foot access to the summit from the Nevis Range car park is still problematic, although a route can be picked up with care, avoiding the fast downhill mountain bikers. We have presented our case for foot access through the bike trails to Forestry and Land Scotland, who are the landowners. They are currently reviewing their lease agreement with the Nevis Range organisation, and foot access will be one of the topics discussed.
If the Bike Patrol challenge anyone walking up or down through the forest, remember that access rights and responsibilities still apply. Ask them to indicate a clear route to avoid walking on the bike trails, which is the responsible course of action.
Eight windfarm proposals were noted this month, two at an early stage of scoping for potential impacts, which required no comment. Of the six full applications we were of the opinion that three of them required an objection to force more detail examination and assessment of the landscape and visual impact of the development plans. This makes 24 windfarm proposals we have looked at this year already, three of which we have concerns worthy of an objection.
Mountaineering Scotland accepts the need for wind turbines in Scotland’s landscapes, while protecting the wild qualities of the views from mountain summits and routes to and from them. Our comments are therefore carefully considered.
The objectionable developments were Chleansaid, in the Loch Shin basin, extending a scattering of windfarm visibility from the existing cluster by Lairg into wilder area of the Klibreck-Armine hills; Bunloinn, by Loch Loyne, creeping further westward from existing windfarms, with large turbines 230m to blade tip, into the wilder terrain of Cluanie Forest; and Grayside, in South Lanarkshire, because of the layout which places a single turbine from the group in high visibility from Tinto Hill.
To give an idea of the height of current turbine technology in wild hillsides, imagine the Wallace Monument, sitting on top of Abbey Craig, by Stirling, with a turbine hub situated at the top of the Monument, and rotor blades some 50 or 60m long attached to it.
2022 Scottish Youth Bouldering Championships – At the end of April Eden Rock Edinburgh saw over 180 competitors from across the UK and beyond taking part in the 2022 Scottish Youth Bouldering Championships. Thank you to Eden Rock for hosting and setting and big shout out to our amazing Competition Coordinators and volunteers who supported the event. Results can be found on the ClimbScotland website.
RealRock – The team delivered four RealRock sessions over April to 12 young climbers, introducing them to climbing outdoors as a progression from their indoor experience.
Supporting partners – Robert worked with the Skye Climbing Club and Third Ridge Climbing Wall on Skye delivering a session looking at games and activities for young climbers
Academy Trip to Torridon – 16 members of the Scottish Youth Development Squad had an epic weekend of climbing in one of Scotland’s best climbing locations
Auto belay safety – The team filmed and launched a video series on safe use of autobelays, which can be viewed on our YouTube channel.
Urban Uprising – The team have supported Urban Uprising in April. The outdoor session which had been planned was rained off, so the group moved indoors to EICA.