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Our Month: Mountaineering Scotland in October

Friday 29th October 2021, 2:11pm

October 2021 brought a bit of a milestone for us, being the month when our membership figures passed 15,000. We must have been doing something right!

On the subject of doing things right, we’re hoping we’ve pitched the next three years well enough. At the end of September we submitted our investment application to sportscotland for the next three-year cycle and our CEO and President attended the investment review meeting on the 20th of October where we had the chance to demonstrate the scope of the work that Mountaineering Scotland delivers on behalf of our members, and where we want to focus our work both with sportscotland, and in partnership with other organisations across the outdoor sector. We were pleased to be joined by our colleagues from Mountain Training Scotland for the first part of the review meeting to share some of the areas that we would like to collaborate on based on our shared priorities.

There was more work for the CEO and Directors in preparing for the AGM in November.

Following the decision by the board to go online again for the AGM there was much work behind the scenes to prepare the necessary paperwork and also seek legal advice on the change to the articles  proposed as a special resolution at this year’s EGM. We are now entering into the final stages of developing our new strategic framework and intend to present an update to members in the Q & A session which will follow the AGM and EGM, opening up an online consultation on the new approach which will enable members to share their views on our direction over the next three years.

With all that behind him, our CEO Stuart Younie probably deserved his week of annual leave – although it turned out to be a bit of a busman’s holiday. Instead of festering in front of the telly, he headed up to the Cairngorms where in less than impressive weather he sat and passed his Mountain Leader assessment. Congratulations Stuart!

Mountain safety

With our safety and skills courses back up and running again after lockdown restrictions, the Mountain Safety team had a particularly busy time this month, reaching 60 people in one weekend alone, with St John Scotland Mountain Safety Instructor Ali Rose teaching hill skills to six students from Heriot Watt MC on each of two days, while Mountain Safety Advisor Ben Gibson spent two days with Wyvis MC, with six members each day, and Heather Morning ran navigation courses in the Arrochar Alps, reaching a total of 18 people a day.

This month has also seen the Communications team working with Heather and with colleagues in Glenmore Lodge, Mountain Training, Scottish Mountain Rescue, Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland and SnowsportScotland, to develop the #ThinkWINTER campaign for the coming season. Each year we work with our partner organisations to deliver a mountain safety message across the winter and much preparation goes into keeping the messaging current, relevant and in formats which will reach the maximum number of people.

This is in addition to our normal mountain safety messaging through traditional and social media, which, following a few recent incidents, included this reminder about packing a headtorch and warmer clothes. We also had a reminder of the power of social media when a post we made on Facebook, debunking a less than helpful meme about phones and safety, triggered some vigorous debate and reached over 400,000 people!

Youth climbing

The first climbing competitions that ClimbScotland have managed to organise after the lock-down periods through 2020 and 2021 have got off to a brilliant start with a new and revamped Scottish Youth Climbing Series. Ratho hosted the first roped event with over 70 competitors, Eden Rock the first bouldering event with nearly 80 competitors and Perth UHI the second roped event. The final round of the Scottish Series will be held at TCA The Prop Store.

The new format is working well, with a shorter day of competing, and a new live web-based scoring system developed by one of the Competition Coordinators, Alexander Bosi, and means competitors and parents can see results on their phone.

Coaching Workshops

The FUNdas workshops have also been on hold for over a year and half. With lock-down preventing indoor workshops, our providers piloted a couple of outdoor workshops at suitable crags. These worked well but are obviously weather dependent. Indoor events kicked off only recently with several private ones for staff at the new climbing centre in Hamilton. We took the opportunity during the pandemic lock-down to revamp the contents of F1 and F2 along with the BMC and MI. In addition, the Mountaineering Scotland FUNdas Resource Packs had an overhaul with clarification of some themes, added information about the new youth physical training model, additional background information and further reading. We are starting to put together a calendar of public workshops for 2022, so look out for them.

Conservation and Access

Planning casework this month included ongoing windfarm scopings, applications and variations in turbine number and height being received. The general trend is for slightly fewer turbines, but which are taller, with a greater rotor span. We assessed the two new applications submitted this month to have no mountaineering impact.

The Moray West windfarm is a large turbine array in the Moray Firth, needing an onshore grid connection.  Early plans indicated a broad area of search west of Portsoy, that included Redhythe Point, a popular costal climbing venue. The project developer was contacted and advised of the recreational interest in that area and concern was expressed about destabilising rock as they make the landfall and onshore connection.  Latest plans indicate that their preferred landfall now lies further west of Redhythe Point, which should protect the climbing routes from disturbance, although we await more detail to make sure.

Access matters this month involve the usual crossings of deer fences and locked gates, and an issue with foot access and MTB trails in Leanachan Forest for walkers wanting to reach Aonach Mor from the north side – sorting it out with Forestry and Land Scotland and the Nevis Range resort.


Also causing concern is the lack of an agreement with the estates involved in vehicular access to Strathfarrar. From the 31st October 2021 the gate on the road through Glen Strathfarrar is closed.  The winter vehicular access arrangement to access the mountains is currently under negotiation with Braulen and East Monar estates. Non-motorised access rights and responsibilities remain unaffected.

Mountain Writing Competition

Entries have been coming in for our 2021 Mountain Writing Competition, although as we head into November there's just one week left to go, with the deadline for entries on the 5th of November.

Photo: Competitors 'reading' the route at the Youth Climbing Series.