Reports have been posted on the UKC/UKH Winter Climbing forum regarding the recent removal of the marker post at the top of No.4 Gully on Ben Nevis. The post seems to have been thrown down the gully in what looks like an act of vandalism by parties currently unknown.
The post had been in situ for many years to mark the top of No.4 Gully, a popular (grade I) winter climbers' descent route from the summit plateau into Coire na Ciste. Generations of climbers have been relieved to find it in a Ben Nevis hoolie, though its existence as a safety aid was not welcomed by all. Latterly talk of its possible removal led to lively discussion among climbers.
The long term fate of this post and the absil posts in Coire Leis has been the subject of an ongoing consultation between landowner the John Muir Trust (JMT), members of the climbing community and other interested organisations. However no decisions had yet been taken.
In response to the reports of its removal Rory Syme of the JMT said this morning:
'For now I just want to state that the John Muir Trust wasn't behind this action. This is an act of vandalism which we condemn in the strongest possible terms. We were, as mentioned above, in the middle of a consultation process regarding the No 4 Gully Marker and the abseil posts in Coire Leis.
Whatever work was agreed was to take place next summer, after everyone with an interest had been given a chance to express their views.
It's a shame someone has decided to take matters into their own hands.'
Update: Local instructor and UKC regular Alan Halewood has just contacted us to say that he re-placed the post this morning.
'I made an ad hoc repair having nothing with me, as I'd come up Tower Ridge' he told us.
'I went down [No.4 Gully] and recovered the post. I ignored the bags of bits (they may have just been ballast) and towed the post back to the plateau. I dismantled the cairn (loose rock and what was either mud and gravel or aged rotting cement at base) and replaced the marker burying it up to over a foot from its base and covering both x-shaped crosspieces (one at base, one a foot up) with boulders.'
For more see his blog.
Second update: The JMT have made a further announcement on their website this afternoon:
Mike Daniels, the Trust's head of land and science, said:
'We've been discussing the future of the Number 4 Gully marker with key stakeholders. Everyone we've spoken to so far including the MCofS has said that this is an important navigation point for many climbers and is also needed for abseiling.'
The JMT are now proposing to remove the top abseil post at the top of Coire Leis and replace it with a cairn at the best point for making a descent from Ben Nevis, and retain the Number 4 Gully marker post.
They have now opened up the consultation to general views. Comments from anyone with an interest are welcomed; details of how to do so are now on the JMT website.
'I'd like to thank Alan Halewood for replacing the post after it was dumped in the gully' said Mike Daniels. 'We now need to inspect it and determine whether it is secure or if further work is needed.'