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The Diabaig bolts: what you said

Thursday 7th March 2019, 10:38am

Consultation within the climbing community has underlined support for existing guidelines on placing bolts at crags.

Mountaineering Scotland launched a consultation in January after climbers approached us expressing concerns over bolts being placed at Diabaig, near Torridon, to replace in situ trad anchors for abseiling.

Our online survey received 452 responses, with a decisive majority of 74% upholding the view set out in the current climbing guidelines that the placement of bolts at Diabaig would not be supported.

The relevant section of the guidelines states: “Mountain and sea cliffs with a wild, remote character (also reflected in their surrounding environment) and adventurous nature are not suitable locations for bolts, either for the development of routes or their limited use in order to facilitate easy retreat: self-rescue and descent without fixed equipment are all part of the adventurous nature of traditional climbs.”

Mountaineering Scotland recognises this is a sensitive issue which has attracted much comment, and a variety of views were expressed during the consultation. We will be approaching the individual concerned to share the results of the survey and asking them to respect the consensus view and consider removing the bolts.

Mountaineering Scotland respects the role of the climbing community in self-regulating its own activities and is here to facilitate discussion, not to police the actions of individual climbers. We encourage climbers who may be considering placing bolts in future to make reference to the Climbing in Scotland statement, and we would ask that they consult with the community before taking action. We can assist with this if required.

The consultation also asked whether or not there was support for the reinstatement of trad abseil points. Views on the use of removable trad gear are not so cut and dried but generally in favour, with 59% of respondents supporting the reinstatement of trad abseil points at Diabaig.

As thinking on conservation and the environment has developed, we would encourage climbers to adopt an approach which has minimal impact – including in-situ protection. The ethos of leaving no trace is one worth further discussion but, in some circumstances, we understand that it may be necessary to leave some kit behind. Safety is an important factor and climbers will need to judge what is appropriate given their circumstances.

We recognise that the placement of bolts and the development of climbing ethics is an ongoing conversation in the climbing community, and an important reference point is what can be regarded as responsible behaviour in the outdoors, as defined in The Scottish Outdoor Access Code.

The Main Slab at Diabaig. Photo by Kev Howett.