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Our Month: Mountaineering Scotland in April 2024

Thursday 2nd May 2024, 5:41pm

Welcome to the April monthly round-up from Mountaineering Scotland!

At the end of each month, we take a look back at the work the team has been carrying out on behalf of our members. Read on to hear the latest updates from CEO Stuart Younie, Access & Conservation Officer Davie Black, Senior Mountain Safety Advisor Ross Cadie, ClimbScotland Development Manager Jamie Smith, and Member Services & Communications Manager, Helen Gestwicki.

Budget setting was one of the main areas of work for CEO Stuart Younie during April, working with the senior team and our Finance and Office Administrator, Fiona Kerr. There are a number of ongoing financial pressures on the organisation, including the cost of insurance and the impact of the current economic climate which is affecting Mountaineering Scotland and other membership organisations. With that in mind, the team continue to keep a close eye on expenditure and are looking at ways that we can deliver efficiencies and raise income to ensure we balance the budget and maintain the services we currently deliver. Stuart has been organising a revaluation of The Granary to ensure that our accounts accurately reflect the value of the asset, and we are currently looking at delivering savings by securing a new provider for our phone and broadband requirements. 

Stuart attended the Alex McIntyre Memorial Hut AGM on the 11th of April, and it's been encouraging to see the commitment from the volunteers on the Management Committee to the day to day running of the hut whilst also looking longer term to the refurbishment project. Stuart also supported the ClimbScotland Team with interviews for the position of Head Setter at the end of that week, and we are looking forward to announcing a new member of the team in the near future.

Stuart met with Senior Mountain Safety Advisor, Ross Cadie, and Jamie Smith, ClimbScotland Development Manager, on the 18th of April to discuss the ongoing review of our health and safety arrangements, focused on the deliver of our courses and events across the ClimbScotland and Mountain Safety teams.  In parallel, he has been leading initial discussions about extending our arrangements with St John Scotland Student Mountain Safety Advisory, which they have generously supported over several years. Thanks to our Member Services & Communications Manager, Helen Gestwicki we are pleased to have extended our partnership with ZOLEO, who have kindly agreed to provide four of their devices to our Mountain Safety Team and our St John Scotland Mountain Safety Instructor, Malcolm Airey. This will improve the ability to communicate where mobile phone signals are not available.

In response to proposals to establish the Scottish Route Setting Association (SRSA), Stuart has also been in contact with the CEO of the Association of British Climbing Walls, Kath Hipwell, to discuss our involvement in the SRSA whilst continuing to support the work delivered by the ABC Route Setting Division.  ClimbScotland already has a pathway in place to support the professional development of route setters which is linked to our competition programme and we believe establishment of the Scottish Route Setting Association presents a great opportunity to directly support the indoor climbing sector and the development of the route setting workforce in Scotland.


This time of year is important for climbers to know where birds may be nesting on ledges. Some rarer bird species have special protection in law and we update our nesting bird alert webpage where these birds are nesting on climbing routes - or is it climbing routes that go past traditional nesting ledges?

We provide this service to keep the birds and their chicks safe from disturbance, and also to let climbers know if they could be committing a criminal offence by climbing certain routes during the nesting season.


There’s been a few enquiries about what to do about poo in the outdoors. This is something we don’t, but really should be thinking about, especially in popular locations.  The accumulation over time in a fairly confined location is a serious consideration. Check our advice before venturing out and getting caught short... 

And there is, as always numerous windfarm, hydro schemes, telecoms masts and forestry proposals that need looking at, especially where they are in wild and scenic places, and by routes to and from summits. Many pose no problems for mountaineering interests, but they all need checking.

April has been a chilly month on the hill and it has also brought some sad news. After five years working as a Mountain Safety Advisor, Ben Gibson has decided to move on to new things. It will be a great loss to all members and staff at Mountaineering Scotland to see him leave, but we wish him all the best. There will be more information and a celebration of Ben's time with us to come.

A handful of the Mountain Safety Group met online with academic Tim Clark, who presented ideas about the possibility of using ‘Natural Language Processing’ (NLP) and Artificial Intelligence software as a tool to review the data collected from the Mountain Incident Survey.

Mountain Safety Advisors Ben Gibson, Kirsty Pallas and myself got together and reviewed the winter programme to look at what worked and what we might change for next winter. With the increase in named storms having an impact on our one-day courses, we are looking towards delivering more of our two-day courses, which provides a bit more flexibility.

The Arrochar Navigation course was held in cool, blustery spring-like conditions, but still with plenty of views to be had. It’s great to see so many members accessing the Arrochar and Pentland courses via public transport, which these venues really suit.

It has been a quieter end to the month for the team, as Ben and Kirsty take some much deserved time away from work after a busy winter season (they were still in the mountains, of course!) Now we're looking ahead to warmer, drier days and the rest of our spring/summer course calendar

The ClimbScotland team kicked off the month with a cracking April Fools, advising that the bolts from Bennybeg were to be removed… who's going to admit to falling for it?! 

ClimbScotland Regional Development Officers, Robert MacKenzie and Calum McBain have been busy delivering the first few sessions of our RealRock programme in April. We’d love to see more young climbers make the transition from indoors to outdoors and have spaces available on up coming sessions, so get in touch if you are interested. 

Jack, and our National Coaches, Pete Langlands and Mike Mullins, were working with BMC coaches in Edinburgh on the week beginning 1st April delivering a joint national camp for Scottish and English National Squad members. This took places at Edinburgh International Climbing Arena, Eden Rock and the newly opened Climbing Hangar. It was great to work with the coaches from the BMC through the week of the camp, and also a great opportunity for the squads to come together to train and learn from the coaches.

Gemma Hendry at Able to Adventure delivered one of our Inclusive Climbing Workshops for the first time from the Ledge in Inverness and great to see the continued interest in these workshop and great to have the staff from the Ledge in attendance.

Wrapping up April, the ClimbScotland team went big and delivered the biggest climbing comp we have ever organised! Over 230 competitors from across the UK and Ireland competed at the Scottish Youth Boulder Championships at Eden Rock Edinburgh on Saturday 27th April. A massive thank you to everyone who took part, volunteered and helped with what was a fantastic competition.

April is always a busy month, as most of our affiliated clubs begin the process of renewing their memberships (the exception being student clubs who start renewals in September). At the time of writing, over 30 clubs have already processed their renewals.

In other news, our new President Anne Butler and Chair of the Board Jo Dytch joined Communications Officer Fiona McNicol for a media training session delivered by Scottish Media Training, where they picked up some top interview tips and had the opportunity to practice mock TV and radio interviews.

In her other role as Editor, Fiona has also been busy preparing the content for the next print issue of the new-look Scottish Mountaineer magazine, due out in early June. As usual, it will be packed full of great features, inspiring stories and useful skills and safety tips, and we are very much looking forward to you all reading it! 

As you might have spotted on our website, social media channels and in the members monthly e-zine, there are several big, long-term Access & Environment issues that we have been busy keeping our members updated on, as we know this is an area that’s really important to our membership. If you're not already signed up for our e-zine, simply log in to JustGo account and update your preferences. 

And finally, we’ve been working together with our partners the Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland (OATS) with The Great Outdoors Magazine (TGO) on a feature about path building as part of the It’s Up to Us campaign, which was published on the 26th April. Written by Chris Townsend, with photos by James Roddie and sponsored by Keela, the article explores in depth the people and practices behind path building and repair. It is a fascinating read so get your copy in the shops now or online!