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Our Year: Mountaineering Scotland

Thursday 22nd December 2022, 11:02am

It was a bittersweet start to 2022 as Mountaineering Scotland said goodbye to Heather Morning, who delivered her last course as Mountain Safety Advisor at the end of January before taking up the post of head instructor at Glenmore Lodge.

January also saw the relaunch of the Scottish Snowsports Touring and Managed Ski Resorts Code. Snowsports touring (using skis or snow boards) is one of Scotland’s fastest growing mountain activities, with more people than ever moving away from managed resorts, skinning uphill and accessing more remote areas by ski or board. Under access legislation, snowsports tourers only have access rights within managed resorts if they do not interfere with the primary recreational activities – hence the need for the snowsports touring access code. 

At the beginning of February, the Mountaineering Scotland team gathered - for the first time indoors since the start of the pandemic - to discuss the new strategic framework and operational planning priorities for the year ahead. It was great to reconnect face-to-face, something which everyone really enjoyed after two years of Zoom and Teams meetings!

Later in the month, the ClimbScotland team also attended the opening of Above Adventure's state of the art bouldering wall in Kilmarnock.

For International Women’s Day 2022 on 7th March, we used our social media channels to celebrate the achievements of a number of women in the mountaineering world, but it was one of our own directors, Ilona Turnbull, who led the way with an inspiring blogpost which proved a hit with social media followers and was widely praised and shared.

March also was a busy month for our Mountain Safety Team and saw Mountain Safety Advisor, Ben Gibson, out with five different mountaineering and hillwalking clubs over six days, totalling 40 members.

April was an exciting month as the new Mountain Safety Team came together, with Mountain Safety Advisor Ben Gibson being joined by fellow advisor Kirsty Pallas and Ross Cadie, who took on the position of Senior Mountain Safety Advisor.

The first Going the Extra Mile course also took place in April. The special program of affordable navigation courses for young adults 18-25, possible thanks the generous donations of people touched by the story of Sarah Buick, the young woman who tragically died on the south side of Ben Nevis in 2021. The aim is to make this type of training accessible to as many young people as possible and provide them with the skills they need to be more confident in the hills and enjoy hiking safely.

In May, Mountaineering Scotland joined with The Cockburn Association, Ramblers Scotland and Scotways to send a letter to the Chief Executive of Historic Environment Scotland (HES) over access issues at Holyrood Park in Edinburgh. Following on from previous correspondence with HES about the security fencing that excluded everyone from the Radical Road and South Quarry, we asked for a joint urgent meeting with members the HES senior management team.

Mental Health Awareness Week also took place in May, and we were delighted to have hillwalker and mental health campaigner, Ross Cunningham, kindly share a blog post explaining how climbing the Munros helped him through severe depression and how being among the hills can help us all maintain or regain our mental wellbeing.

The summer got off to a busy start for the ClimbScotland team, who attended the Scottish Youth Climbing Championships, Scottish Youth Speed Climbing Championships, Paraclimb Scotland Festival and Scottish Lead Climbing Competition. The popular ScotRock podcast also returned, with the team chatting to Rebekah Drummond.

A joint meeting between Mountaineering Scotland, Ramblers Scotland, Scotways and the Cockburn Association was held on the 23rd of June to discuss the ongoing concerns about the action taken by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) to close the Radical Road and Salisbury Crags. It was a helpful meeting and, importantly, there was a commitment from HES to engage with the public and key stakeholders on the proposed solutions.

The Mountain Safety Team delivered a range of courses throughout July, including navigation courses in the Ochils and Pentlands and the last of the ‘Going the Extra Mile’ navigation skills, as well as launching the Women’s ‘Ready to Rock’ courses - designed for women who want to learn to climb or progress from climbing indoors to learning the key skills to climb outdoors on real rock.

During July, our online survey on using mobile phone and GPS for navigation went live and had a phenomenal response from members and non-members alike, with over 3,700 people taking part. New guidance stemming from the results of the survey will be launching early next year.

The Finance Advisory Group and Board both met in August, with preparations starting for the upcoming AGM, alongside the publication of the Mountaineering Scotland annual report for the financial year 1 Apr 2021- 31 March 2022.

August also saw the launch of the annual Mountain Writing Competition, which has been running since 1987. This year’s competition winners will be announced in the February issue of Scottish Mountaineer, with prizes for Prose and Poetry.

September was a month of change as we welcomed Karen McVeigh, who took on the role of Membership and Events Officer, and said a fond farewell to Jane Anderson, who retired on the 26th after 16 years with the MCofS and Mountaineering Scotland.

Later in the month, the ClimbScotland team attended and supported the 2022 IFCS Climbing World Cup in Edinburgh, while Round 1 of the ClimbScotland Youth Climbing Series took place at Transition Extreme in Aberdeen with 66 competitors from across Scotland.

October was another busy month for staff changes, with Fiona McNicol joining the team on the 3rd of October as our new Communications Officer. Fiona spent October working closely with Neil Reid before we said a fond farewell to him on the 28th of October, when he retired after nine years working for Mountaineering Scotland.

CEO Stuart Younie and Senior Mountain Safety Advisor Ross Cadie also spent a blustery day in the mountains with eBony Hikers – the online-based walking group which aims to inspire, encourage and support people with Black ancestry in the UK who are interested in exploring the outdoors through walking and hiking.

November saw the popular Student Mountain Rescue and Training (SMART) weekend take place at Glenmore Lodge. This involved about 70 students from Scotland University’s walking, climbing and mountaineering clubs spending a weekend gaining valuable safety skills and knowledge.

The YCS Grand Final also took place in November at Rockstar Climbing Wall in Swindon. Team Scotland came 5th overall all which was a fantastic achievement!

November finished on a positive note, as Stuart travelled up to the Dundee Mountain Film Festival and along with Dougie Baird the CEO of the Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland accepted the Scottish Mountaineering Trust Diamond Grant award. The significant contribution of £100k will kick start a three-year campaign to raise money for mountain path restoration titled “It’s Up to Us”.

The annual #ThinkWINTER! Campaign launched in December – a partnership between Mountaineering Scotland, Scottish Mountain Rescue, Mountain Training Scotland, Glenmore Lodge, Developing Mountain Biking Scotland, Snowsport Scotland, The Scottish Avalanche Information Service and Police Scotland aimed at providing clear, relevant, and knowledgeable sources of information on winter activities.

It was also a busy month for Mountain Safety Advisor Ben Gibson, whose Winter Skills for the Hills talks kicked off with events in Perth, Aberdeen and Glasgow. Further talks in Fort William, Edinburgh and Aviemore are scheduled for January and February 2023.