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Our Month: Mountaineering Scotland in August 2023

Tuesday 5th September 2023, 9:46am

Welcome to the August 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.

August was a particularly busy month for our CEO Stuart Younie, kicking off with a meeting with the ClimbScotland team to review operational plans and priorities, given the significant impact the changes to the GB performance pathway have had on the staff over the last eight months.

Stuart was also busy with preparation for the Finance Advisory Group held on the 3rd of August and Board Meeting on the 10th. A big focus of discussion amongst directors has been on the financial sustainability of the organisation in the medium to long-term and trying to ensure the impact of rising costs across the operational areas is managed and there is minimal impact on members. Some tough decisions have already been taken to ensure the future of Scottish Mountaineer and reduce publication to two print editions per year, which will also make a significant impact on our carbon footprint. 

Stuart worked with our Senior Mountain Safety Advisor, Ross Cadie, and Angus Lowden from St John Scotland, to hold the interviews to find a replacement for Ali Rose, who has done a fantastic job delivering the St John student safety programme over the last few years. St John Scotland is a key partner and funder of this programme, and we are grateful for their continued support which allows us to deliver training to our student clubs in the autumn and winter terms.

In the middle of the month, Stuart had a rare opportunity to get out of the office and get up a hill during the week as part of a pre-arranged interview with Dan Bailey from UKHillwalking to talk about the It’s Up to Us campaign. Although it stayed dry, unfortunately the tops remained in the cloud so no spectacular shots of the summit ridge. However, there were lots of photos taken of the path erosion and both Stuart and Dan were shocked to see the extent of the damage in some places.

Towards the end of the month, Stuart managed to catch up with Paul Davies, CEO of the BMC at EICA Ratho to discuss some of the challenges that they are facing in relation to GB Climbing. It was an opportunity to raise some of the concerns and frustrations we have as a home nation partner. Stuart also enjoyed a visit to Boots and Beards HQ in the South Side of Glasgow to celebrate the launch of their new strategic plan. The event was attended by the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Shirley- Anne Somerville and it was fantastic to see how fare Boots and Beards have come over the last few years, thanks to the hard work of their team. Particular credit must go to Kash and Nav, two of the founding members - we wish them every success with their new plan!

It’s the time of year when hillgoers need to be aware that deer stalking may be taking place. The National Access Forum set up a working group recently to look at the issues and how they are communicated, in which Mountaineering Scotland participated. We looked at what messages are given nationally during the key stalking periods in the year, within the context of reducing deer numbers significantly in response to nature loss and the climate crisis. A narrative was agreed, and we updated the advice on our website to reflect this. 

The Scottish Government this year proposed to extend the stag stalking season, which went out for consultation. Views were collected and published, and we are awaiting a decision from the Government. We will let you know if there are any changes as soon as they are announced.

It may sound odd to be reporting on snowsports touring in August, but it is the ideal time to discuss the advice provided for snowsports tourers and mountaineers in taking access through snowsports mountain resorts, so that updated advice can be published in time for the new winter season. Snowsports touring is increasingly popular and can cause challenges at some ski centres through numbers of skiers taking advantage of convenient car parking close to good back-country skiing. Discussions are underway with the mountain resorts, access authorities and with the snowsports community as to communicating messages of the responsible ways of taking passage through the resorts. 

Regarding the Shared Rural Network, there are still more 4G telecoms masts being proposed, some of which are in National Scenic Areas and Wild Land Areas. We are very disappointed that, despite early advice from NatureScot, the Mobile Operators are submitting poor quality applications, with no assessment of potential cumulative impact with other infrastructure in these scenic areas. We are urging the planning authorities to reject these inadequate proposals until the applicant comes back with more substantial site-specific detail that can actually be assessed for potential landscape and visual impact.

In other planning news, The Highland Council are proposing parking restrictions along section of the Glenmore Road, from Loch Morlich to the Cairngorm Mountain Snowsports Centre. Our concern lies with the section of road at the entrance to the Coire Cas car park, which has traditionally provided overflow parking for hillgoers when the car park is full. We have sympathy with the need to keep the road free from obstruction for emergency services, especially in the winter when the road has to be cleared, however we will be objecting to this regulation as it tackles roadside parking but fails to demonstrate improvements to existing parking provision in the wider area to accommodate any overspill from the Cas, and which meets the needs of visitors who want up the mountain for walking, climbing or snowsports touring.

The Mountain Safety Team had a busy August delivering skills courses around the country. Mountain Safety Advisor, Ben Gibson, ran the first of the summer navigation courses in the Cairngorms. This was well attended and seemed popular as a venue with members, with plans for more of the same course to run in summer 2024.

Later in the month, Ben was joined by Mountain Safety Advisor, Kirsty Pallas, to deliver a navigation course in the Ochils. In other course news, the Pentland Hills navigation courses ran with a Friday date as well as the usual Saturday and Sunday options. This was the first time that we have tried a navigation course during the week and proved incredibly popular. As they were fully-booked, we plan to put more Friday and mid-week date options into our 2024 course calendar, so keep an eye out for those!

The Pentland Hills navigation courses were also very public-transport-friendly, with most attendees arriving without the use of a car, and the course starting direct from the base. We hope to start advertising which of our courses suit public transport best in 2024, but feel free to contact us if you want to know more before then.

As well as the ClimbScotland team managing to squeeze some holidays in over the summer, August was a busy month, full of competitions and courses.

ClimbScotland’s first-ever Fun Boulder Competition (CSFBC) was held between 24- 27th August, taking place at 10 host walls across Scotland, from Kilmarnock to Orkney. Leading on the organisation of the Fun Boulder Competition was ClimbScotland Regional Development Officer Calum McBain, who had originally proposed the competition in 2020 but was unfortunately put on hold due to Covid. It was great to see it finally going ahead, with an incredible 169 competitors. ClimbScotland are offering the podium winners from the CSFBC 10% discount to either YCS boulder round at Block10 in Dundee or The Ledge in Inverness. The aim of this is to support young climbers moving into our Youth Climbing Series. Well done to Calum for all his efforts!

Calum, alongside ClimbScotland Regional Development Officer Robert MacKenzie have also been busy delivering RealRock Trad Taster courses at Kingussie, and Auchinstarry in Kilsyth, while a multi-pitch rock climbing day was delivered by Mountain Safety Advisor Kirsty Pallas at Dunkeld.

A new episode of the ScotRock Podcast was also released in August, with Robert talking to Sophia and her dad David. Much like any climbing family, they enjoy spending time together doing what they love, but some of their adventures are a little more ambitious than most! Sit down for ScotRock’s first international podcast to hear about their latest epic challenge on one of Scotland’s most iconic routes.

ClimbScotland Development Manager, Jamie Smith and ClimbScotland Talent and Pathways Officer, Jack Davis, along with input from the rest of the team, have been busy with the consultation and work on the 2024 Development and National Squad Selection Policies, which are now live! As part of this, we consulted with athletes and parents. We’d like to say a massive thank you to everyone who took the time to feedback through the consultation process.  

Meanwhile, ClimbScotland Sport Development Officer, Kevin Howett, has been busy with the organisation of several Fundamental Coaching workshops that took place in August as well as preparing for the fast-approaching Youth Climbing Series and Scottish National Bouldering League

Finally, public bookings are now closed for the Youth Climbing Series and we look forward to seeing everyone at the first round!

There was excitement in the office this month as new stock of #TakItHame bags arrived with a brand-new look for 2023! Designed to be kept in your rucksack, these bags are ideal for taking your own litter home, and any other rubbish you find in the hills, so you can help keep the mountains litter free. Made from potato starch, but sturdy enough to be used again and again, our #TakItHame bags are available to buy through our members portal or online shop, with members getting a 15% discount – details are on the Mountaineering Scotland website.

The whole Mountaineering Scotland staff team took part in a social media training day to learn more about how we can make use our social media channels and content to engage with different groups and tell the story of Mountaineering Scotland, our members and all the work and activities we do. Thanks to Emma from Comsteria for delivering a really fun and inciteful day, and we hope that our learning from the day will show through in our socials from now on!

The planning for this season’s #ThinkWINTER mountain safety campaign began this month, with Mountaineering Scotland hosting a planning session at our offices in Perth. We were joined by colleagues from Mountain Training, Glenmore Lodge and Snowsport Scotland for a full day session which generated lots of ideas and discussion around how we can continue to inspire people to enjoy winter in the mountains, encourage the ThinkWINTER mindset to make good decisions and ultimately have a great experience and fulfil their winter ambitions.

Get in touch with the team!

Whether it's a question about a course, something you want our Access & Conservation Officer to look into or general enquiry, we love hearing from our members. Contact us by email on info@mountaineering.scot, call the office on: 01738-493942 or visit our Meet the Team page to find out who would be best to help with your question.