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Our Month: Mountaineering Scotland in July 2023

Tuesday 1st August 2023, 1:00pm

Welcome to the July monthly round-up from Mountaineering Scotland! At the end of each month, we take a look back at what the team has been up to 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. 

CEO Stuart Younie took a couple of weeks off to head north with his family in July. This included a trip across to stay at the Smiddy in Dundonnell but unfortunately the poor weather put paid to plans to climb An Teallach - the subject of the first stage of the It's Up to Us campaign. 

Before going on leave, Stuart provided support to the ClimbScotland Team on Mountaineering Scotland's response to changes with the YCS competition rules, and took time out whilst on leave to dial in to an online consultation meeting with parents to discuss the issue. 

Stuart has also been following up with the Scottish Government on behalf of the Mountain Safety Group (MSG) to progress discussions on the provision of support to develop a national strategy for mountain safety - something that the partners of the group have been working towards. 

Planning also started on the production of the annual report for 2022/23, the AGM in November and the upcoming Finance Advisory Group and Board meetings in August. 

A particular highlight of the month for Stuart was a trip to Edinburgh International Climbing Arena (EICA) Ratho on Thursday 6th July to visit the Scottish Paraclimbing Club, who had been awarded the “Everybody Moves” club of the month for June 2023. The award is a partnership between Paralympics GB and sponsors Toyota, aimed at connecting disabled people with opportunities to get active. Stuart was keen to congratulate the club in person and take some time to speak to the volunteers about the work they do and see the club members in action. 

July was another incredibly busy month for Mountaineering Scotland Access & Conservation Officer, Davie Black. Following on from the joint statement released in June expressing concerns about the UK Government’s rural digital connectivity initiative - which would see potentially hundreds of 25m tall 4G telecommunications masts erected on Scotland’s hills - the Coalition of Concern asked for meetings with NatureScot and Shared Rural Network (SRN) representatives at a UK level to explain our concerns. These are not about digital connectivity for rural residents and businesses but, rather, about the process and potential visual impact of countless masts in wild places that are not actually needed by local communities. 

In July, the meetings we requested took place, providing an opportunity to express the main points from the Statement of Concern, and discuss possible solutions. NatureScot are engaged with the process and have produced planning guidance for the phone operators to ensure new proposals fully assess potential impacts. SRN stated that the planning process would determine suitability, but the coalition argued planning process alone wasn’t enough to get this right, and it needs improved with full scrutiny, adequate guidance and early engagement of both communities of place and communities of interest. We also pointed out that the contractors scoping out sites were being bullish and forceful with landowners – and that attitude needs to change. Our concerns were heard, noted and an agreement to keep lines of communication open as the initiative progresses was made. 

In other news, there were six large windfarm proposals in July, three at an early scoping stage, two of which are worth watching – one on the slopes of Little Wyvis, below Ben Wyvis, and another on the moorland directly south of Cruachan. Three were full planning applications, one of which we will object to as it is intrusively close to Tinto Hill, with blade tips less than 100m lower than the hill summit. The other, above Glen Moriston, requires careful appraisal as to its fit with existing schemes in the landscape – does it fit in a cluster, or does it add sprawl across the landscape?

There is also an update on the Visitor Levy Bill, which is at an early consultation stage in the Scottish Parliament and proposes an overnight accommodation levy with the proceeds going to support facilities or services which are used by visitors for leisure purposes. We think that this could be used to good effect for the repair and maintenance of hill paths (which our It's Up to Us campaign focuses on) but also may affect the overnight use of members club huts for climbing or walking. The consultation runs until September 15th. 

Navigation courses started and ended the month of July for the Mountain Safety Team, with courses taking place in the Campsies and Pentlands with Mountain Safety Advisor Ben Gibson - providing opportunities for those near the Central Belt to learn or improve on their local hills. We also trialled a new mid-week course, which has proved very popular with members.

Senior Mountain Safety Advisor, Ross Cadie, joined Mhor Outdoor on one of their How 2 the Hills walks with the Maryhill Integration Network Group from Glasgow. Mountaineering Scotland were invited along to help with training and education around how to stay safe in the hills, as well as outlining the access laws. A dry, but windy day saw an accent of Dumgoyne, which the group thoroughly enjoyed. 

Instructors Lucy and Scott were out delivering our Going The Extra Mile courses, helping to upskill the newer generation of hillwalkers and mountaineers in the fundamental skills of navigation. There are only two more courses this year, so if you or someone you know (ages 18- 25) would like a day out with some excellent instruction and a one-year membership to Mountaineering Scotland for just £15, book now

Also in July, Ross and Mountain Safety Advisor, Kirsty Pallas, spent time with the Ladies Scottish Climbing Club (LSCC) supporting four of its members with the skills and confidence to climb multi-pitch mountain routes. Based in the Cairngorms, we managed to dodge most of the rain, thunderstorms and high winds to look at efficient ways to swing leads, as well as assist/rescue a second who is struggling to follow.

July was a busy month for Mountaineering Scotland’s Membership and Communications team, with trips north, the It’s Up to Us campaign in full swing and some exciting updates to the JustGo booking system for courses and events.

Member Services & Communications Manager, Helen Gestwicki, and Communications Officer, Fiona McNicol, travelled to Aviemore at the start of July to meet with members of the communications team at GlenmoreLodge. As well as getting an update on all the latest things happening at the Lodge, the team were able to discuss some exciting potential collaborations for later in the year! 

Meanwhile, the It’s Up to Us campaign to #SaveMountainPaths has now reached almost £40,000, with new sponsors coming onboard and several generous donations from clubs and other supporters. We’ve also been delighted to feature profiles of our campaign ambassadors, including Keri Wallace, and Markus Stitz. We look forward to introducing you to more of our ambassadors and influencers soon! 

Our popular Mountaineering Scotland baseball caps sold out in several colours last month but…don’t worry - they’re back in stock! And you now have the chance to buy one in black, alongside some of our brighter colour options!

Finally, there was an update to the JustGo event section, which allows members to now search for courses and events by date and location, as well as by name. 

ClimbScotland's newest competition kicked off in July! The ClimbScotland Fun Boulder Competition (CSFBC) is Scotland's entry-level bouldering competition, The CSFBC focus is on young climbers who are just starting out in competitions. It offers a great way to have a go at competition climbing, perhaps for the first time ever, and compete against your friends whether they are from your school, in your youth group or your climbing club or squad. 

Bookings are now open for the ClimbScotland 2023 Youth Climbing Series (YCS) - the main competitive event in Scotland for young climbers. It is a great way to meet other young climbers as different climbing walls host the event each year. 

The ClimbScotland team were delivering RealRock courses this month and (despite the weather forecast!) there was plenty of sunshine at Bennybeg, where they were joined by nine young climbers. Some of those on the course were taking their first steps into outdoor climbing, while a few were getting their first lead climbs. It was nice to have some helpers  working towards their RCI assessment too (thanks Jess and Scott!) 

ClimbScotland also released two new videos in July. Have you ever wondered what goes into route setting for a competition? Or the creative process behind route setting? Or simply why the route setters look so tired on competition day?!  

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.