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Our Month: Mountaineering Scotland in November 2023

Wednesday 29th November 2023, 4:09pm

Welcome to the November 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.

November started with the quarterly Board meeting, which was also attended by our incoming Directors and President. As well as the normal business, the Board agreed to recognise two volunteers, Scott Forsyth and Dave Gordon, with Honorary Memberships due to the significant contribution they have made to Mountaineering Scotland. I had attended the Mountain Training Scotland Council meeting earlier that afternoon, which is always a good opportunity to get an update on how the delivery of leadership and skills courses is going, with some useful information on the level of female engagement in the qualifications scheme as well as the diversity of candidates registering.

Early in the month, along with outgoing President Brian Shackleton, I took a trip to Onich to visit the Alex McIntyre Memorial Hut. The AMMH is one of three national huts in Scotland, and is co-owned by the BMC. It was established in recognition of the contribution Alex McIntyre made in pushing the boundaries of light and fast style alpinism, particularly in the high ranges, before his death in the early 1980ís at the age of 28. The volunteers on the management committee have been doing a power of work behind the scenes to arrange for some badly needed maintenance work to be carried out in 2024, and we are looking forward to seeing how that progresses.

The 2023 AGM and Members Gathering was held on the 11th of November at the Birnam Arts near Dunkeld, and we were fortunate to have a cracking blue sky autumn day to enjoy the autumn colours of highland Perthshire. 

As well as the presentation on the annual report, the key highlights included the adoption of the revised Equality Diversity and Inclusion policy and the appointment of Mountaineering Scotlandís first female president, Anne Butler. We also welcomed new Director for Mountain Safety Brendan Hughes and Hugo Allan for ClimbScotland, with Nigel Clark and Lucy Fraser stepping down along with President Brian Shackleton, all of whom completed their four-year term of office. A huge thank you to all of them for the significant contributions they have made to the organisation during their time on the board.

I also attended a meeting with one of our key partners, a charity called the Common Wheel, who are based in Glasgow and support people who are recovering from mental health problems. Calum McBain, from the ClimbScotland Team, has been leading that relationship, and it was great to hear about the work that has been taking place and how climbing is really benefiting the individuals who are engaging with the programmes.

Later in the month, along with Access and Conservation Officer, Davie Black, I met with the individual who has volunteered to lead the clean-up of the Old Man of Hoy, following the recent consultation. All the comments and feedback have now been passed on and will be taken into consideration in developing the final proposals. 

I also attended a very interesting and thought-provoking online session delivered by SpÚrs Gŗidhlig introducing outdoor professionals to some of the common Gaelic place names we experience every time we open a map or read a guidebook.

To finish the month off, I even managed to sell a few beanies on the Mountaineering Scotland stall at the Dundee Mountain Film Festival, which we were delighted to support this year! 

This month we attended the Upland Path Advisory Group meeting at Ben Lawers to discuss hill path usage and maintenance issues, and see the work that the National Trust Scotland (NTS) path repair team have done on the route to the summit - very challenging terrain above 100m with extensive braiding on loose stone and eroded vegetation, fixed with huge stones helicoptered into place to aid walkers following the route to the top and back. Good to see the experimental vegetation re-establishment taking on the loose stony slope.

We are still campaigning for a sensible solution to Shared Rural Network initiative. We objected to a mast nestling in the quiet remote glen lying between Liathach and Beinn Dearg. Torridon Community Council donít want one there either and are writing a letter to the UK Government Minister about it, which we are supporting. If you are annoyed by this blunt, top-down project for digital connectivity, then please contact your MP about it. It is delivered through the Scottish planning system, but only the UK Government can change the terms of the initiative. 

We find ourselves in the rare situation of withdrawing an objection to the Grayside windfarm proposal, near to Tinto in South Lanarkshire. This scheme was split into two arrays, east and west. We objected to the eastern array due to its proximity to Tinto and the surrounding hills, a popular hillwalking location in the area. The close proximity of six turbines was out of scale with the views of other turbines in the landscape. NatureScot maintained an objection due to the turbines from the eastern array overtopping the hills and impinging on the Upper Tweeddale National Scenic Area. The developer revised the turbine layout by removing the six turbines in the eastern array. This allows us to withdraw our objection to the scheme, leaving the remaining turbines fitting better in the landscape with the other windfarms already constructed.

I kicked off November by attending the Snow and Avalanche Foundation of Scotland (SAFOS) meeting which meets twice a year as a forum for discussion, support and research on avalanches in Scotland.

This was closely followed by what is one of the biggest events of the student mountaineering club calendar Ė The SMART Weekend. We take over Glenmore Lodge (thank you!), invite over 60 students from affiliated university clubs and the deliver training in all things safety in the mountains, from night navigation, beginner and improver rock climbing skills, through to mountain first aid and mountain rescue. This is only possible with the amazing support of a gang of volunteers from across Scotland (and one from England) who give up their time to pass on their knowledge. Big thanks also to Braemar Mountain Rescue Team who have supported this event financially the last three years.

Ben and Kirsty were out delivering the last of the Night Navigation courses in the Pentlands and Stirling after recovering from the student SMART weekend. They managed to take advantage of the spells of cold but pleasant weather.

Malcolm Airey, St John Scotland Mountain Safety Instructor has also been incredibly lucky with the weather while out each weekend delivering safety training to the affiliated university clubs. If youíre interested in seeing what heís been up to, give him a follow on Instagram

Finally, this month we have released the Mountain Incident Survey, which is looking for people to share their experiences and stories of being rescued in the mountains. This might be by a Mountain Rescue team, but could be by a passer-by or a group member in your own party. By adding the stories of those that are rescued to the information already collected by the Mountain Rescue Teams, we hope to get a better picture of how and why these incidents happen. This will then inform our safety courses and advice, enabling people to have adventures, but come home safely without calling on mountain rescue. If youíve been rescued, please fill it out. Even if youíve not been rescued, please share the survey and spread the word! 

November is the time for the ClimbScotland team to reflect on 2023 and in turn, start thinking about and planning for 2024!

At the beginning of the month, we sent out our ClimbScotland Winter Newsletter to our ClimbScotland Newsletter subscribers. We are excited to announce and publish more Inclusive Climbing Workshops for December and January 2024. Which are filling up fast! If you donít manage to grab a space, donít worry as we have an active waiting list and are hoping to publish more dates soon.

Consultation is currently out on our 2024 squad programmes and we are excited to see what people think about what we have planned and any feedback is greatly appreciated and welcomed by the team. We have also published our 2024 Scotland Development and National Squads Selection processes too. 

The Scottish National Bouldering League is now well underway with two rounds now under our belt. The next round will be on Saturday 9th December at the Ledge in Inverness. Results are now live - check out our website to find our more! 

We were sad to see our Competition Coordinator, Scott Forsyth, retire from his role at his last competition as Chief Judge for us at Round 4 of the YCS at Above Adventure, Kilmarnock on Saturday 4th November 2023. Scott was presented at the end of the competition with card and gift from the ClimbScotland team, as token of our appreciation.

New ScotRock Podcast is now available where Robert MacKenzie interviews Robbie Phillips as part of a two part special! Robbie been part of ScotRock since almost the beginning as a regular guest on our controversial episodes, but he has never been given the chance to have his own story told.

Finally, Jack Davis attended the Youth Climbing Series Ė Grand Final at Parthian Climbing in Southampton along with the Scottish finalist! Well done to everyone involved and that took part. Check out our social media for some snaps of the competition.  

As the weather turns colder, the team has been planning this year's #ThinkWINTER mountain safety campaign with our Mountain Safety Group partners which will officially launch in early December.

Communications Officer Fiona and Member Services & Communications Manager Helen spent a day with Matt Smith (Police Scotland) and Ben Gibson (Mountaineering Scotland) in the Cairngorms filming a new #Smartnav video to go alongside the information on our website about using smartphones for navigation, and picking up some of their top tips for winter too. 

Mountaineering Scotland were delighted to attend the Dundee Mountain Film Festival on the 24 and 25 November promoting the Itís Up to Us campaign, chatting to lots of people and enjoying the wide variety of films and talks. As usual, there was a great buzz around the festival and lots of familiar faces!

The agreement for winter vehicle access to Glen Strathfarrar for members of Mountaineering Scotland resumed on 1st November, and office staff have been busy dealing with your requests. This year an online form has been introduced to help streamline the process. Members are reminded that at least two working days notice is required to process requests, and to read all the information provided before your visit. For full details visit the Strathfarrar vehicle access page on our website.

And finally, the long-awaited 100th issue of Scottish Mountaineer has arrived! We are delighted with the fresh new look of the magazine and would like to say a massive thank you to all the contributors, advertising partners and our brilliant new suppliers, Connect Communications, for making it such a special issue in both the print and digital format. There has been a lot of fantastic feedback from members already, and hope you all love it as much as we do. The next print magazine will be in June 2024, with a new online publication taking the place of the February and August magazines.