Our website uses cookies throughout our system and to help us provide a better service. Continue to use the site as normal if you're happy with this, or click here to change your settings

Our Month: Mountaineering Scotland in May 2024

Thursday 6th June 2024, 9:00am

Welcome to the May 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.

At start of May, our CEO Stuart Younie met with representatives from Adventure Smart UK to explore how they could work with the Mountain Safety Group to share information and collaborate on the delivery of public safety messaging. Adventure Smart UK originated in Wales, with a focus on the tourist market, and now partners with a long list of organisations south of the border. As a result of that discussion, Paul and Emma from Adventure Smart UK were invited along to present to the MSG later that month. The MSG agreed that Stuart and Ross Cadie would continue to liaise with Adventure Smart UK to develop closer links and we are interested to see where that takes us.

On the continuing theme of mountain safety, there were two more important meetings which Stuart attended. The first, with Access & Conservation Officer Davie Black, was an interview with Building Digital UK on the Shared Rural Network project which are increasingly using public safety to justify their proposals for masts in wild, remote and unpopulated areas. Mountaineering Scotland's position is that, unless there is a sound business case improving connectivity for local people and businesses, we should be focused on making people safer for the mountains...not the mountains safer for the people. 

Stuart also attended a meeting of the International Mountain Safety Group at the end of May - a small group making important global connections across organisations focussed on promoting safety and the prevention of incidents and accidents in the mountains. The group was initiated by the Mountain Safety Council of New Zealand and recently adopted a new terms of reference based on the TOR we have in place for the Scottish Mountain Safety Group. Other organisations represented are Colorado Search and Rescue, Adventure Smart British Columbia, National Parks Tasmania and Adventure Smart UK. The focus for this meeting was the funding model and history behind each organisation which provided a fascinating insight into the politics and funding models which support the promotion of mountain safety in each country.

May is also an important month in the governance cycle of Mountaineering Scotland, with both the Finance Advisory Group and Board meetings taking place. The key topics under discussion were the budget for 2024/25, and the review of our current strategic plan. Given the significant financial problems facing the BMC which have come to light recently, the Board and staff are looking to prioritise the areas of work that matter most to our members, whilst ensuring financial stability is delivered over the next strategic cycle - a significant challenge in the current economic climate. A refresh of our current strategy offers us an opportunity revisit our priorities to build on our partnerships, increase membership and ensure we continue to have tight controls over our budgeting and expenditure.


Action to maintain our access rights and reminding of the responsibilities that come along with them is a constant activity. This month it included discussions with a landowner and climbers developing new sports routes on an outcrop, where a pair of peregrines decided to nest. A voluntary exclusion for a specific area and time was agreed to keep the peregrines safe while nesting.

Also discussed was a locked gate in a deer fence, which the landowner said had been locked as walkers had left it open and let deer into a woodland, causing extensive and expensive browsing damage. Yes, there are access right – but we always need to be mindful of the responsibilities. Further discussion is planned to reach a balance.


Planning casework for digital telecoms mast has been a constant activity the past few months, checking if they are likely to have a harmful effect on our mountaineering interests. There have been so many recently that we have had to produce criteria to define our red lines, whether we object or not.

We are also working with other recreation, conservation and community organisations to collectively produce a system of ‘traffic light’ criteria to assist the Shared Rural Network agencies and operators in prioritising where new telecoms mast proposals are likely to have most benefit and come up against little opposition. This is in the hope that it will reduce the number of proposals in the middle of remote and wild places and help communities with the connectivity that they need.

May started with the first of the Mountain Skills Weekends, held in stunning Glen Clova in the Southern Cairngorms. Two contrasting weather days brought fantastic navigation practice in the poor visibility, then sunshine on day two while we looked to movement over rough and steep ground and discussed what to do if we need to call for help.

Malcolm Airey, St John Scotland Mountain Safety Instructor, was on Skye with the last of the student club meets before they break up for the summer. Malcolm is now in the process of contacting the clubs to pin down dates for Autumn Semester. We will hopefully be able to send out details for the student SMART; Winter Skills and Winter Climbing weekends too as a ‘Save The Date’ for student clubs. 

Mountain Safety Advisor Kirsty Pallas and I managed to meet up in person to start looking at the winter courses, locations and dates for next winter...already! We did eat some cake and drink tea too, which helped sooth the thoughts of cold weather.

It doesn’t happen often, but the three Mountain Safety Advisors were all working on the same course together. Ben Gibson, Kirsty and I met in Glencoe to run the first of the ‘Intro to Scrambling’ courses, which is a great way for members to progress their knowledge, skills and confidence on the steeper parts of the mountains – be that because you want to explore them, or because you want to know what to do if they go there by accident! 

We were delighted to welcome Lucy Ross to the team in May. Lucy has taken on the new role of Head Route Setter for ClimbScotland. Lucy is a Route Setter from Glasgow who came up through the ClimbScotland comps and started route setting seven years ago at TCA Newsroom. Since then, she has worked all over the UK in lots of different roles, setting competitions and as part of the GB National Setting Team. In Lucy’s words: “I’m excited to join ClimbScotland because I really enjoy setting comps and I’m looking forward to helping the new generation of climbers develop their skills and find community." "I love route setting when I can bring the joy I feel outside onto the wall and share it with other climbers.”

Our RealRock programme in May has seen young members get outside to try Trad taster and bouldering sessions. We’d love to see more young climbers make the transition from indoors to outdoors and have spaces available on upcoming sessions, so get in touch if you are interested. 

ClimbScotland's Jack Davies and Calum McBain, along with Mike Mullins and Emma Davidson delivered a mock lead climbing simulator at Edinburgh International Climbing Arena (EICA) for the ClimbScotland Development Squad. 

The team, including our amazing route setters and volunteers, were then kept busy preparing for Scottish Youth Climbing Championships on the 1st June. 

May marked one year since the launch of It’s Up to Us, the joint campaign by Mountaineering Scotland and the Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland to raise awareness of the urgent need for funding for the upkeep of the upland path network. We were delighted to announce that to date the campaign has raised £218,000 of the £300,000 target from grants, corporate and public donations to repair the badly eroded path on An Teallach, a project which we hope will highlight what can be achieved with the support of the mountaineering community. Public fundraising has reached over £24,000 so far but we need more! If you haven’t yet given your support, please give as much as you can – details of how to donate are on the It’s Up to Us website

Earlier in the month, we were joined by club representatives on the quarterly Clubs Connect Zoom call. These calls are an opportunity for clubs to share any issues, challenges or successes and for us to update clubs on all the work we do on behalf of members. The main topic for this session was club membership and what clubs need to think about if they would like to expand their membership to include young people and families. The next meeting is scheduled for Monday 6th August.

Member Services & Communications Manager Helen attended a Risk Communications Workshop with Mountain Safety Team members Ross and Ben in Stirling, organised by the Scottish Avalanche Information Service and University of Stirling. This was a follow up to a session in 2022 which has helped shape some of our mountain safety messaging and strategy in the last few years. Helen and Ross gave short presentations on some of the work we have been doing in this area including the #ThinkWINTER campaign and the recent Mountain Incidents Survey.

One of the hot topics of the past few winters have been whether microspikes are suitable for use in the mountains. To find out more about how people are using microspikes versus crampons, and when/why they chose to use them, we shared a survey this month on behalf of the Mountain Safety Group. The survey attracted more than 1300 responses and will be used to create guidance so that people can make informed decisions about the appropriate use of microspikes and crampons.

And finally, following the first issue of our new digital members publication – Mountain Matters – in March, we asked readers to provide some feedback to help us develop the content and style of the publication moving forward. Many thanks to those that shared their opinions, and we hope you are looking forward to the next issue in August. But before that, look out for issue 101 of Scottish Mountaineer, which will be with members mid-June.