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Our Month: Mountaineering Scotland in June 2024

Monday 1st July 2024, 9:00am


Welcome to the June 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.

June started with the Scottish Youth Climbing Championships - one of the biggest events of the year - which I attended on the 1st of the month. The standard of climbing is improving year on year, with some fantastic performances in the finals - itís a real challenge for the route setters to keep up with the progress our young climbers are making! It was also a great opportunity to chat to some of the volunteers and staff from ClimbScotland and Edinburgh Leisure as itís a real team effort to put on such a big competition. Well done to everyone involved!

In other climbing news, planning continues on the delivery of the 2025 International Winter Climbing Meet with Glenmore Lodge now booked, £5k funding secured from the BMC and £3k from the Alpine Club. I also wrote to the Chief Executive Officer of Eurostar following feedback from members that they were still having issues with the carriage of mountaineering equipment on the service, particularly on the return journey from Paris and Brussels. Eurostar have confirmed that they are working with the various security authorities to ensure consistency and that mountaineering equipment is authorised on the service. We're are awaiting an update from them. 

I also dialled into a strategic partners meeting on 6th of June, hosted by the BMC at Plays Y Brenin. In attendance were representatives from Mountain Training UK and Ireland, the Association of British Climbing Walls, the National Indoor Climbing Award Scheme, and Mountaineering Ireland. The object of the day was to bring everyone together to identify areas of overlap across the organisations and explore how we can work together more effectively for the benefit of the sector. Key topics included the delivery of coaching and route setting training, deliver of climbing competitions, and the role of the national centres.

There was also a lot of activity in June relating to Mountaineering Scotland's finances; closing off our end of year accounts, reviewing the draft budget for 24/25 and attending training on QuickBooks - a new online platform which will deliver efficiencies in staff time and streamline how we manage, monitor and report on our finances. Particular thanks to our Office Administrator, Fiona Kerr, for all her work over the last few months on these areas. 

Finally, we kicked off our strategic review on the 18th  June with an in person session held at The Granary, attended by staff and directors. It was a very productive session with lots of ideas on how we build on the framework of the current strategic plan but importantly look at the areas we need to focus on to ensure we are financially sustainable and can continue to deliver the priorities of our members.  A key date looking ahead is the submission of our investment proposal to sportscotland which has been confirmed as 24th Oct 2024.

Access

Progress has been made to identify a safe walking route between Aonach Mor and the Nevis Range car park. The challenge lay in passing through Leanachan Forest where the extreme downhill mountain bike routes wound their way through the trees, following the most accessible ground.

The landform brought boots and bikes close together at places to cross burns and around steep ground, where sightlines were restricted, placing both walkers and riders at risk of collision.

Working with staff from Nevis Range and Forestry and Land Scotland, a route has been identified that works both on ascent and descent and doesnít involve lengthy detours for tired legs. Nevis Range has said that waymarking will be completed this summer and the route mapped for downloading along with the bike routes.

This has been a lengthy process delayed due to Covid lockdowns, winter ski seasons and mountain biking championship contests, but we are finally just about there...

Environment

Last year, we had the proposal for the Earba Pumped Storage Hydro Scheme near Loch Laggan. This year we have another huge scheme at an early stage in planning, scoping the likely challenges for a range of topics Ė Fearna, a proposal that will massively expand Loch Fearna, sitting in the bowl of the hills above Loch Cuaich, near Invergarry.

Along with our Director for Access and Environment, I visited the location with the developers to discuss the implications of this scheme for the landscape and for recreational access as the proposal would, if the dam was given planning consent, inundate the route from the Munro Spidean Mialach.

June didnít start as we were expecting! Although it isnít unheard of to have winter flurries on the tops of the mountains during summer, it was quite unusual to have a full Ďreturn to winterí with the prolonged snowfall and sub-zero temps. 

Mountain Safety Advisors, Ben Gibson and Kirsty Pallas, were out running the Cairngorm and Glen Coe navigation days, with the participants donning a few extra layers. This also marked the end of Ben's time working for Mountaineering Scotland, as he leaves the job for pastures new. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Ben over the last two years and have appreciated his hard work and support. We wish him all the best for the future! 

I was asked to present at the Scottish Student Sports Conference held at University of Stirling about the specific support Mountaineering Scotland give to student club members. There was a lot of interest from National Governing Bodies from other sports about the level and specificity we give Ė they were suitably impressed!

Just as the weather started to warm up, I was out on the Luss Hills with Connect Outdoors and Boots and Beards talking about the importance of good planning for staying safe and what to do if you need to call mountain rescue.

During the last week of June, I attended a meeting with the BMC to review the 'Near Miss' reporting system. There had been an error in the system which is now resolved. Thanks to all those that have submitted their stories and completed the form so far! 

I also attended the Mountain Training (UK&I) AGM which was held this year as an in-person meeting at Glenmore Lodge. It was great to spend time with all our partner organisations from across the UK and Ireland, comparing notes and discussing future projects.

Next month, I hope to be writing about the summer weather (fingers crossed!) 

At the start of June for the ClimbScotland team were at Edinburgh International Climbing Arena delivering the Scottish Youth Climbing and Speed Climbing Championships. This competition is part of the Nation Cup Series and was the final round for this yearís competition. In total, 150+ competitors from across the UK took part in the competition. Well done, as always, to everyone involved! Special thanks to our Competition Coordinators, Scott Forsyth who was our Jury President on the day and was supporting Neil Ross who will be stepping into his role as Jury President for our future competitions, along side Tony Brown. Our Talent and Pathway Officer Jack Davis was the lead organiser for the event and did a fantastic job pulling everything together. Robert MacKenzie was our acting head setter for the competition, and along with the setting team, produced some awesome routes for the competitors to get stuck into. Final thanks goes to EICA for hosting and supporting the competition.

Moving outdoors, Robert and Calum were out supporting an Urban Uprising group, giving them their first taste of outdoor climbing following their 9-week block of climbing at Glasgow Climbing Centre. Venue of choice was Auchinstarry Quarry were the group had the opportunity to try out some of the routes on top rope and also put into practice their belaying skills. The group had a great day at the crag and enjoyed their first experience of climbing outdoors on real rock. 

The drop-in qualifying rounds for the ClimbScotland Fun Boulder Competition started on the 9th June till 12th July. This years competition will include a final which will take place at Block 10 in Dundee for those who qualify. There are 10 host venues across Scotland. 

The Scottish National Squad had a boulder competition preparation session at TCA Newsroom in the lead up to the Junior British Bouldering Championships. This was run by our National Coaches, Mike and Pete who worked with the small group of climbers on a fresh set of competition style boulders. It was a really positive day for the squad and hopefully set them up well for the competition.

On the facilities front, the team were excited to see the public announcement of the new boulders being built in the EICA arena supported through sportscotland facilities investment and linked to our facilities strategy for Scotland. 

The ClimbScotland team are looking forward to some annual leave in JulyÖ bring on the sun!

The month started with me joining the ClimbScotland team and volunteers at the Scottish Youth Climbing Championships at EICA Ratho. It was brilliant to watch all the young climbers in action and chat to our own members and also the visiting BMC and Mountaineering Ireland members that had come along to take part. As always, I marvelled at how well run the comps are and what an amazing job the volunteers do to make the magic happen!

Membership & Events Officer Karen McVeigh and I met with the BMC membership team to share some insights into how our organisations have been approaching various aspects of member services and discuss some common ground. Karen has also been supporting clubs through their membership renewal process and organising a second Mountain Weather Workshop with the team from MWIS, which is now sold out. Weíre working on a winter-specific workshop and a few other new offerings for members so watch this space!

Communications Officer and Editor Fiona McNicol put the final touches to the latest issue of Scottish Mountaineer at the start of the month, and this should now be with members in both print and digital format following a small delay due to an issue at the printing press. Iím sure youíll all agree it was worth the wait! Work will soon start on the next issue of Mountain Matters, our new digital members publication which will be out in August, followed by the November issue of Scottish Mountaineer.

Planning for the 2025 International Winter Climbing Meet continues and we have been opened applications for the volunteer roles of Hut Hosts and Climbing Organisers for the event which are key to the success of this joint venture with The Alpine Club, SMC and BMC.