Mind you, I'm not against interventionist maintenance of the highland environment in Britain. For example, I can think of a lot of Munros with terribly eroded paths which would be much better replaced by proper stone-masonry all the way. Where this sort of intervention has already happened-- e.g. on several of the main paths on Bidean nam Bian-- it isn't intrusive. And stone paths wear out far less quickly than peat and turf ones.
So intervention isn't the issue with way-marking. Pointless and possibly counter-productive intervention is.
Interesting. I was on the radio talking about this this morning and on TV tonight. Funnily enough I am also working at Outward Bound tomorrow. McWhirter must have had a shit instructor or just be clueless.
> (In reply to Donald M)
> well, he was saying that his opinion was that of a knowledgeable hillwalker and climber with experience of the alps, dolomites and scottish hills.
One person's opinion. I'm sure it wouldn't be hard to find other knowledgeable hillwalkers and climbers with experience of the alps, dolomites and scottish hills who think that waymarking would be a crap idea.
not half, and he kept talking over dave gibson from the MCoS whenever he tried to make a point. t'was mince indeed.
a punter phoning in was proposing markers that count down the distance to the summits for the tired and demoralised hill walker too... that was a high point!
fortunately they got a guy from dundee online who's involved with MRT and he at least was speaking sense right at the end of it all, by which time dave gibson had just gone quiet and given up on the whole thing.
In reply to AG:
Actually I'm in agreement with him, we should do away with this form of elitism that is all to prevalent - the insistance that people should have a basic set of skills to match the activity and equipment in question is plain unfair and discriminatory. When we put the countdown markers down we'll have to agree a set of fair timings though - afteral its plain elitist to insist that someone who has never been on the hill before should do the hills in the same time as an experienced walker!
After we put up the marker posts and build paths to and between all notable sumits, the next logical and long overdue step is to abolish the absurdly elitist idea of a "driving test" and the similar unfair restrictions that blight Britain today and prevent people from freely accessing the hills.
More seriously, whit a nupmty! The mind truely boggles at his logic. Gone whiteout happy perhaps?
In reply to AG: I've often wondered how two such very different attitudes towards waymarking grew up in Britain and the rest of Europe. I'm quite capable of navigating my way around the Highlands using map and compass, and do so regularly, but for me it wouldn't spoil the 'wilderness experience' to find signs and waymarks, any more than it does in the Alps. I always take a map and compass in the Alps. I can recall using the compass once in the Alps, when it helped us avoid getting lost, but I really appreciate the fact that on the Continent you can spend less time pondering over the map, and more time enjoying the scenery. I suppose I'm just a bit lazy - generally if I have a 'navigation malfunction' in Britain , it's because I couldn't be bothered to get the map out.farmland, where
In reply to Doug Hughes: There is no 'wilderness experience' on waymarked trails in busy bits of the Alps, it's not remotely comparable to darkest Scotland. For what it's worth the waymarks and signposts on the Continent really spoil it for me and the lack of them over here is one of the reasons why walking in the UK is so much more interesting. Given Scotland's habitually poor visibility signposts etc would only lead the unprepared into more bother that they would have been without. On misty days they'd be worse than useless. The idea is just environmental vandalism and adulteration of the hill experience into some suburbanuised theme park, dressed up as inclusiveness.
Good post until the last sentence which degenerated into hysteria.
There are some signs already in remote areas such as those put up by the Scottish Rights of Way Society. I know that McWhirter is not talking about those, he is just talking rubbish. His column in the Sunday Herald is sometimes good though so he shuld stick to that.
My boyfriend grew up in the Alps (Austria). When he started hillwalking in Scotland his friends from home warned him to be careful as Scotland was really dangerous!
When I went up a mountain with him and his father and sister last year when we were in Austria visiting them, I'm fairly sure his father had a map, but we didn't use it very much - just when we decided to take an alternative route down. But I don't think we would have used a map much more without the waymarking - it was a beautiful day, and there was an obvious path.
This spring, his sister and a friend came to visit us and we went to Skye. We didn't get out in the hills as much as I would have hoped, but his sister and I did go up Blaven - again visibility was good. Her comments on waymarking were interesting - when we were going down we had to pick our way down an awkward boulder/scree slope, and her comment was that waymarks would have meant that we knew we could get down by the route we were taking. But we got down anyway, we didn't get lost, and I think maintaining waymarks in that sort of environment would be a lot of work for someone, for what gain? Having seen the sort of low-level "fuzzy navigation" that I'd done that day, she and her friend went up Beinn Eighe without incident.
I guess the thing that is different between Scotland and the Alpes is that the weather can change much more quickly here - that is what the bloke says - so you are much more likely to need to be able to navigate in cloud.
It's a bit depressingly really. We have fantastic hills, we have great access to these fantastic hills, we have no requirement for insurance when we enjoy this access, we have free MRT services - how much more bloody accessible does he want the hills to be?
No I don't think this will happen at all. I was at a council meeting last night where they were consulting on the Highland Council Main Issues report, it informs planning principles for the area. The council wants to promote development in remote areas. *note* not on this hills.
In reply to AG:
Mmm 280 odd Munros, 200 of corbetts, average about , whit 3 routes each up the (let's be conservative), so there is about 1500 routes to signposted already. Then there will have to be walking routes through glens, how many there? another 1500? 3000? 4500? Might as well fling in caostal walks as well.
Ro...we could ignore yet another bawbag journo wanting to get heard on the radio.
In reply to dan bailey: First of all, sorry for the couple of extraneous words that appeared at the end of my post - maybe I should use that 'preview message' button more. I'm not advocating waymarks in Scotland, but I just find it interesting that many other countries find their mountain walking experience is not ruined by waymarks. Also, I'm not sure, in comparing busy bits of the Alps to darkest Scotland, that you're comparing like with like. Yes, of course there's no wilderness experience on Kleine Scheidegg, but then neither is there on Ben Nevis. The other week I was on Foopass and later Richetlipass, with plenty of snow and no-one else in sight - maybe that's more comparable to Scotland. And in those places, I really didn't care one way or the other about the signposts on top.
Don't worry though, this is Britain, and someone would have have to pay for all the waymarks - ain't going to happen, is it?
Couldn't believe my ears when I heard McWhirter say (BBC Scotland news at 1.30pm) that way-marking would prevent erosion. His reasoning was that without way-marking people just wander all over the place getting lost but if there are signs it stops the erosion. I actually shouted at the TV, "What a load of pish".
How can he seriously believe that is logical? He has certainly gone down in my estimation because he came across as a complete idiot.
In reply to Doug Hughes: No, hopefully not. It'd be the hillwalking equivalent of retrobolting classic mountain climbs - yes they'd be made easier and more 'accessible' that way, but an essential element of the reason for going there would have been removed. For me, following lines of bolts up cliffs or signposts and waymarks along paths are essentially similar experiences, and not a tenth as interesting or memorable as DIY-ing it.
> (In reply to AG)
> Couldn't believe my ears when I heard McWhirter say (BBC Scotland news at 1.30pm) that way-marking would prevent erosion. His reasoning was that without way-marking people just wander all over the place getting lost but if there are signs it stops the erosion. I actually shouted at the TV, "What a load of pish".
You're right, that is complete drivel. The worst erosion is always on the common paths, when underfoot conditions push people off the paths onto the surrounding areas, promoting further erosion. The best way of avoiding erosion is to spread the load, perhaps by getting people to wander all over the place, rather than all sticking to one route.
I would hate even the popular hills in Scotland to start looking like bits of the Dales - for instance the three peaks path from Ingleborough to Horton, where you get two bloody great signposts with destinations in all directions marked to stop the poor souls from breaking off four metre wide path and plunging into Crummackdale or Selside.
Ian McWhirter writes for the Herald and the Sunday Herald, usually political stuff. He has also in the past been on Newsnight on BBC2, always came across in the press, on TV as sensible and he knew what he was talking about.
But what he said today plumbed the depths of illogical stupidity.
Fireglow26 Aug 2009
In reply to dan bailey:
Signposts of any kind in the mountains put my hackles up. I resent them and I resent the mentality that assumes people need instructions.
Their inclusionist argument is a load of gob-shite. The elitist one sounds too much like the ill-informed judging people by their own standards, at least where ordinary Hill-folk are concerned. We've all come across those who would look down their noses at anyone not a member of their club but they're nothing to do with me, nor the massive majority of Hill-folk I know.
So what do they propose, signposts pointing the way to A, B, C, and the Almshaus or Hutte, and wee red and white arrows painted on rocks along the track, as they have on the Continent? For one thing, we don't have restaurants on top of mountains in Scotland and I hope we never do. Nor do we have an Alpine population to run to for help. If they haven't noticed, our Alpine population was disposed of quite a while ago.
I've seen signposts in the Alps which were pointing the wrong way entirely and I've spent days in the hills when I couldn't see a hand in front of my face, let alone a wee red and white arrow.
Simple common sense says that if you need signs to tell you where you are in the mountains, you shouldn't be there.
What is it MacWhirter thinks he's talking about, a Sunday stroll in The Queen's Park or The Meadows?
> Ian McWhirter writes for the Herald and the Sunday Herald, usually political stuff. He has also in the past been on Newsnight on BBC2, always came across in the press, on TV as sensible and he knew what he was talking about.
> But what he said today plumbed the depths of illogical stupidity.
Yep that’s what I was thinking. I'm sure any hillgoer would read that article and say "he really should stick to stuff that he knows about – politics and international relations".
It has just occurred to me that he maybe read some of the pish re. Megrahi that’s been spouted on UKC (by myself amongst others) and decided he’d let us see how it feels.
The good thing is it seems that the only people who actually want an alpine marking system in the British hills are so terminally incompetent and adventure averse I doubt they'd be much good putting one in place...
I'm not too comfortable with the idea that not using waymarking only leaves the hills accessible by the 'elite'. I'm very far from that but I'm still perfectly capable of reading a map and compass ffs. It really isn't that difficult.
> (In reply to johnSD) Does McWhirter need a signpost telling him his arse from his elbow?
Just listened to the radio debate and thought the whole thing was horribly orchestrated. There was no clear statement of intent set out (i.e. what is being proposed and what is the current situation), and it immediately descended into a rowdy tele-conference with confusing interruptions and straw men from both sides. I'm sure if they all sat down and talked things though then we would realise that MacWhirter wasn't quite as much of a numpty as he made himself out to be, and that the MCoS might be okay with better signage in honeypot areas. Who knows... All I know is that's half an hour of my life I won't get back...
In reply to AG: Instead of spending a fortune on first, getting the signs organized, made and put up and then maintaining them *ALL* to a good enough standard to do the intended job clearly, why not spend it on educating people with some basic navigation skills?
In reply to bivy spirit: I think that these people don't realise what they are letting themselves in for. Perhaps it's because of how well known mountains like Ben Nevis are, people don't really associate it with danger etc.
> (In reply to Fireglow)
> Somewhere I saw a reply from MCoS saying, that waymarkers are all very well, but what happens if you miss one?
Which would almost certainly happen in bad visibility, mist, rain, and when they are obscured by snow, conditions that all too frequently occur in Scotland. Those are precisely the conditions that people need to be able to navigate properly, not when you can see where you are going.
It's just been on BBC Scotland again, McWhirter is being given too much credence by BBC Scot, mind you it's Jackie Birdbrain that is presenting the news. 'Nuff said.
yes mike, i absolutely see what you're saying man. but how can we go about educating folk on nav'? realistically it can't be done much more than it already is:
the MCoS exist to provide guidance in this respect, but macwhirter just discarded this and was accusing dave gibson of being elitist for talking about folk learning to use a map and accquire basic hill sense: dave quoted the MCoS website as a source for such information, but macwhirter said this isn't readily available to the public. erm... click on the link and read the info? how inaccessible is it really? he's at it!
folk have to take responsibility for themselves and that's the true joy of the hills- self reliance- and that's surely the one thing that all ukc'ers would hope to defend above all else?
it's just about the only aspect of british life that isn't regulated! at the risk of sounding grandiose (who me?!) it feels like the last bastion of freedom...
but that's the one thing that macwhirter and many self-serving media mouthpieces and politicians would happily steal from us in order to further their own agendas (eg self-publicity/ political mileage).
they don't give a toss about folk on the hill, wether hillwalkers, tourists, mountaineers or climbers.
they care about themselves and their careers, while shamelessly messing with our national heritage and our freedom to enjoy it in the process...
> (In reply to AG) I've often wondered how two such very different attitudes towards waymarking grew up in Britain and the rest of Europe. I'm quite capable of navigating my way around the Highlands using map and compass, and do so regularly, but for me it wouldn't spoil the 'wilderness experience' to find signs and waymarks, any more than it does in the Alps. I always take a map and compass in the Alps. I can recall using the compass once in the Alps, when it helped us avoid getting lost, but I really appreciate the fact that on the Continent you can spend less time pondering over the map, and more time enjoying the scenery.
Hmmm. I was in the Alps about 6 weeks ago, and while it's true that the more well-trodden and objectively safer routes and walks around honeypots are signed, once you get into the wilder areas the signs aren't there. I needed map and compass several times on my trip to confirm which ridge lines we should be heading for, etc.
I don't understand this argument that it will stop erosion. Surely it will just focus all the erosion on certain paths? People wondering aimlessly around mountains WILL NOT ERODE THEM. People walking along the same paths will! It's logical really...:S
I also don't understand how this will make routes safer. Surely it will encourage more people to try routes, which are perhaps past their physical capability?
Also, in the radio debate, Iain said when he gets lost, he find his way back by 'trial and error', but then he only goes to places he knows well, so he doesn't get lost? He managed to avoid admitting to blatantly needing map and compass skills to get himself back on track and then when David went to point this out, the interviewer interupted. Then when David went to correct Iain after he had misquoted David as saying places abroad don't have a mountaineering tradition, again, the interviewer interupted David and stopped him. If I were David, I would of got bored, shouted abuse and put the phone down.
I think this Iain Macwhirter needs to get over going abroad climbing a few times, he seems obsessed with what is being done abroad. I also struggle to see what he gets out of this.
Well that's my view anyway, I think I have spent too much time thinking about it, but never mind, I'm bored.
Nice one David by the way (If you read this), it was great to see you keeping calm, I don't think many people could of listened to that muppet go on about "Bavaria and the Black Forest" for that long without teling him to shut up!;-)
I am not advocating the introduction of waymarking through the Scottish hills, but having frequently walked the waymarked mountain routes of Europe the lazy side of me has to admit that it is very relaxing to just follow paint splashes without thinking and enjoying the scenery until..... you miss one and suddenly find yourself lost. Then comes frantic scrabling around in your sack for your map which hasn't seen the light of day for the last couple of hours whilst you orientate yourself, no mean feat as you haven't being paying much attention to relative landmarks. Then comes a feeling of indignant outrage! How dare 'they' mark the path so badly that 'you' get lost?
Then comes the realisation that you have fallen into the trap and become a real live grockle.......
First off - is there a transcript of the interviews online anywhere - I find it hard to use iPlayer as I'm currently not in the UK......
One of the glorious things about the Scottish hills that sets them apart from those on the continent is the very fact that there are no waymarkings. In a country as densely populated as Britain, it's marvellous that there are still places where one can walk for days in beautiful scenery in mid summer and not see anyone. These wild places are extraordinarily special and need to be kept this way. I don’t suggest keeping people from the hills - they are, of course, not just for the enjoyment of the few. However, unnecessary impact should surely be avoided. Generally, I'm pretty laissez faire about developments in the hills - I wouldn't condone retrobolting a line, but I have neither the skills nor the balls to go on a bolt chopping mission. I wouldn’t add to a cairn, but I wouldn't unilaterally remove one either. However, for me, signposting is a completely different matter. These additions to the hills would be intrusive, and I fail to see what purpose they would serve. Arguments about them reducing erosion have already been demonstrated to be complete fallacy, as have those suggesting that they would be useful for assisting those in trouble (in bad weather, for example) to get down. The only purpose they will serve is to bring more people into the hills who do not (yet) have the skills to be in those places. This is not an elitist attitude, and to suggest so similar to suggesting that having a driving test is elitist. People are not allowed to drive alone on British roads without having taken a test because they are both a danger to themselves and everyone else on the roads. Personally, I'm not too concerned if people are going to be a danger to themselves, but what about the MRT who have to go and pick them up when they've missed a signpost in mist and risk their own necks into the bargain? Would you call the hills, or the weather itself elitist? For sure, in winter, it discriminates very heavily against those without warm clothing.... should we build heated, covered walkways up our mountains for winter usage? Of course not. Map and compass skills are not elitist - nor are they difficult to learn. It is indeed the least you can do to reduce your chance of needing to burden other people with rescuing you. You need not go on an expensive course, you just need to build up experience gradually, one step at a time.
I don’t object to all signposting in all hilled areas of the UK- for example, signs in Glenridding in the lakes telling you the direction for the path up Helvellyn are very useful - but also very different in that they are still in a village, and can hardly be compared to being in the real wilderness areas of Scotland. Nor do I object to all human intervention in the hills - paths in Torridon have been vastly improved due to the dedication of volunteers turning them from dirt tracks to being paved with the natural stone. This is clearly a human intervention, but one done to prevent further erosion and scarring of the landscape. However, constructing paths is about REDUCING man's impact on the environment, and signposting can in no way be said to do the same.
I have enjoyed many a walk on the way marked paths of the US or continental Europe (I currently live in Bavaria, so I’m pretty familiar with them), however, if this were not already the status quo, or, if you wish, “local ethic”, then I would object just as strongly to them. I for one feel it removes part of the challenge, enjoyment, and beauty of these wild places to have such waymarks in place. For me, people don’t have a right to be in these places, we must merely pass through, and to leave more than the bare minimum sign of human impact in these landscapes feels on some level to be vandalism.
Ok, ranting over. What I would really like to know is, having not been able to listen to the debate, who is proposing this? To whom can I write? What are the chances of this actually coming into place? And finally, having seen the unanimous and passionate consensus of this forum (which I realise is no way a fair representation of the public at large etc. etc.), do people think that, should these signposts come into existence, we will see parties akin to bolt choppers heading into the hills with a hacksaw to remove these signs?
In reply to Epic Ebdon: Good post, not at all ranty. And in answer to your final question, yes definitely. Hacksaws at the ready. But i wouldn't worry prematurely - I get the impression this is just some ill informed journalist mouthing off because he likes the sound of his own voice; it's not (as yet?) a serious proposition proposed by anyone serious.
> (In reply to AG)
> having frequently walked the waymarked mountain routes of Europe the lazy side of me has to admit that it is very relaxing to just follow paint splashes without thinking and enjoying the scenery until..... you miss one and suddenly find yourself lost. Then comes frantic scrabling around in your sack for your map which hasn't seen the light of day for the last couple of hours whilst you orientate yourself, no mean feat as you haven't being paying much attention to relative landmarks.
Been there, done that: missed a waymark at a junction of paths in a dense conifer forest in Spain and discovered (1) that our Spanish 1:25,000 map wasn't nearly as detailed as the OS equivalents, and (2) we had very few landscape features to work from since our view was restricted by all the bloomin trees! I actually think that that is an example of where reliable waymarks can be useful, because the kind of map and compass skills you use on an open Scottish hillside are of less use when you are pretty much constrained to following the existing tracks and trails (unless you want to start hacking through dense underbrush). I'm sure we've all headed confidently off down an "obvious path" that was leading in the right direction, only for it to take an unexpected turn the wrong way after you'd gone just far enough for it to seem better to go just a little bit further before admitting that you'd been misled and being forced to retrace your steps...
> There was no clear statement of intent set out ........ I'm sure if they all sat down and talked things though then we would realise that MacWhirter wasn't quite as much of a numpty as he made himself out to be, and that the MCoS might be okay with better signage in honeypot areas.
I also ended up confused what was actually being proposed. Towards the end it seemed like he (Ian) was talking more about honeypot area signage alone.
I am opposed to waymarkers in general, and value the ability to "wander aimlessly"(?!) on hills with no paths or signs.
Practically, I don't see how the "European system" would work on the Scottish mountains in general - the terrain is too different. Waymarkers dotted all over the Cairngorms are clearly a ridiculous idea - if you walk in slightly the wrong direction you'd never find the next one. And as stated by someone else, once you actually move onto ridges etc in the Alps (i.e. off the main through routes, which are generally clearish paths), there are no signs anyway.
However, for routes such as Ben Lomond, Ben Nevis main track etc, inexperienced walkers are going to use those paths regardless of whether there are signs or not, and many will not consider taking a map and compass either. As long as these routes are not advertised as being "totally safe no navigation required" paths, I don't see why a few small signs (on the main path) wouldn't help a few of those inexperienced people who find themselves up there without a map, in some situations.
In general, though, the idea of telling people to head "left or right at a path junction" in the Scottish hills makes the assumption there is a path to go left or right along....
Columbia75327 Aug 2009
In reply to bivy spirit: Am all for having the hills open to every one but if way markers were introduced surely all the chavs etc would be on the them?
If you can't go into the hills with out getting into trouble because of getting lost or bad weather etc should you be there in the first place?
In reply to AG: I was very disappointed to hear my favourite journalist making so little sense on a subject that matters to so many of us. The radio broadcast was most unsatisfactory, BBC Radio Scotland had no idea of what they were getting into nor how to mediate such a debate. Terms were not defined, contributors argued bad-temperedly from all premises, made sweeping statements and generalisations they couldn't justify.
I am one of the few contributors to this forum who could put up signs all the way up a 4000 foot mountain if I wanted. Even if I wanted to, I would have to undertake considerable expense to get them made, transported and put up. I would have to maintain them to keep them there, and then - killer punch, this - I would have to stand up in court to justify their presence (or absence) when the first litigation arose. Relax, lads and lasses, it's not going to happen.
Trail head signs are often considered differently. Even so, the trail head signs at Cairngorm are very vague, referring to the name of the path "Windy Ridge Path" not the destination. At the path junction west of the car park, in order to raise awareness of a newly-repaired path, and take pressure off the boggy burn-side, we used a tiny engraved plate with the one word "Sneachda", and on the other face of the post "All other routes", along with an apologetic panel "Temporary sign to establish route use". They have all gone now, though the burn-side and other cross-country routes got a real pasting last winter and I hope to consult on this issue in the next MCofS Mountaineer.
Many visitors - and British ones, too - arrive expecting a "Tourist Path" experience up Cairn Gorm, one which they can nearly have because of the development of the ski area (not something I would advocate as a solution!), but they are on completely different territory when they go for Ben Macdui. Many come straight from doing Ben Nevis the previous day. I always advocate a map and compass for this adventure. When they cavil at the price of something they will only use once, I encourage them to regard it as their most useful souvenir. They may use it again on another walk.
Finally on management, the most effective signpost is anything which produces the wish to go the right way. This may be people ahead or a well-made path. There may be a good case to sign important junctions on forest and low ground paths, but the wording of the sign and the design, materials and maintenance are all important issues. If a few people wander around, there is not much erosion and disturbance. What usually happens is that increasing numbers of users do initiate linear erosion, and occasionally (Stac Pollaidh) choose an unsustainable line. Generally, though, the line they use is the best and that gives the path managers the line to choose for repair and maintenance if necessary.
Contributors may not like the idea of management, but it does happen on some hills, and where it fails to happen, we have paths which get wider and wider, human waste and litter, cairns and memorials proliferating and a clear indication of the lack of respect held by society for the mountain.
Several years ago, on the way from Inverness to Kintail, I picked up 2 Swiss hitch-hikers in Drumnadrochit. I clearly remember one of the first things that was said about their plans was "Ve are lookeeng for ze real vilderness." so they seemed to be headed in the right direction. They talked about treks they had done in the hills at home and expressed an interest in walking cross-country in the north-west. I stopped at a couple of places to look at a map and point out some possibilities for them. At one point when we were talking about An Caorann Mor, Affric YH, Maol Buidhe and and so on, one of them said "Are there many signs?" Oops. On deeper questioning, these guys were clueless, yet they talked convincingly about substantial experience of walks in the Alps. The fact that these hills were only 1000 or 1100 metres and the glens were 300 or 400, to them meant this was all easy and harmless. They had no idea that they were 9 degrees south of the Arctic circle and only a few dozen kilometres from the North Atlantic, and even less idea of the implications for their safety.
Generally, the ones that get as far as Kintail are pretty switched on. When I see the class of numpty that rangers and MR have to deal with in the Cairngorms and on Ben Nevis it makes my heart sink.
Thinking ahead ten years, when an entire generation has grown up using satnav just to get to the shops, I hate to think what it will be like.
I am fairly clear in my mind about the standard of management that is appropriate in these hills. It seems to me that paths and markers similar to the ones used by those who lived and worked in the hills one or two centuries ago will be useful and neither cause damage nor visual offence nor safety concerns. When I think of those things, I am reminded of my mother telling me about an old lady in Quoich who told (this telling was in the 1920s) that it was her job when she was young to walk over to Kintail every couple of days for the milk. Some of the paths in those days simply evolved through tread of foot but there were also engineered paths and sometimes those were in the most extraordinary places. That seems consistent with the path building that has taken place in recent years.
In reply to Jim Fraser: Meanwhile back in the land of the never ending cairns....
A news item has just been on R4; Keswick Mountain Rescue have had twice the callouts this year - reason given, "forgetting" map and compass.
M Council of Scotland28 Aug 2009
In reply to Mike Nolan: Thanks for the kind words Mike. The radio debate was not the most constructive conversation I've ever had. It was clear that the presenter hadnt really got a handle on the debate or the issues. I didnt hang up - the reason I didnt say more was because the producer told me that they only wanted to take callers and then cut me off! As I didnt have a radio in the office I missed some of the later comments and Alfie's contribution at the end.
In reply to AG:
A couple of things, some people have said that wandering randomly all over the place causes less damage to the environment than everyone on one path. Is that really true? I believe some plants and ground can get seriously damaged from being trodden on just a few times.
Also, the problem with Ben Nevis, for example, is that the normal route is often named the tourist route. If it is a tourist route, it should have signage, otherwise they should rename it serious mountain route, which it is.
My view is that you need to accept that people want to go up the popular routes, as they already do, and I think it's worth ensuring there is a good path up them, with laid stone blocks, solely so that the environment can withstand the heavy traffic. There is then no need for signs, as the route is obvious, and if the weather is such that you can't follow the path, you wouldn't be able to see the signs anyway.
We could just let them go ahead with placing signs, and then a couple of years later, when the number of accidents and deaths has rocketed from people who got lost when the weather changed, or it got dark, they will decide that they should take down the signs as it encourages people to go out in to a dangerous environment, and we'll never hear about it again...
And the planet will be rid of some useless gene lines (darwin award and all that)
> (In reply to AG)
> My view is that you need to accept that people want to go up the popular routes, as they already do, and I think it's worth ensuring there is a good path up them, with laid stone blocks, solely so that the environment can withstand the heavy traffic. There is then no need for signs, as the route is obvious, and if the weather is such that you can't follow the path, you wouldn't be able to see the signs anyway.
That argument fails once the "tourist path" crosses ground that doesn't actually need to be stabilised against erosion. A straightforward example might be Schiehallion, where the John Muir Trust have laid a solid path avoiding the area that used to get churned to a quagmire, but once you get up on to the boulder field there's no need for it. I believe I've already seen at least one complaint that someone didn't know where to go once they got to the end of the new path. Although the route is pretty obvious in good visibility, it's still possible to get disorientated in heavy clag (which, as others have pointed out, is also when waymarks tend to be least effective).
Basically, not every route to a popular summit in Scotland crosses fragile ground for its entire length.
it was quite reassuring to spot this affair getting mentioned in the metro paper yesterday... they didn't go into it other than to declare that the MCoS had rejected a call for waymarking from macwhirter.
i half expected the media to club together on the topic (as it seems to me the radio scotland production team had done with their journo pal, judging from the way they co-ordinated the radio 'interview') but instead it came across as if the metro were saying: 'some journo has called for this but the authority on such things, the MCos, have said nah bollocks'...
it would be great to see this thrashed out in the public eye as a real debate, but on the other hand: what's to discuss? after all, macwhirter's obviously speaking mince and just putting himself about for presumably publicity reasons and/or liking the sound of his own voice a little too much. hopefully this will disappear before some politician jumps on it and starts causing real grief.
mind you- i think that while the waymarking thang has pretty much drawn a concensus opinion from the ukc (blimey) and beyond, i'm very interested in the erosion debate: a subject that i've been unable to really make my mind up about over recent years.
Well made paths mean there is less erosion. I went from Achnashellach to Beauly on bikes last weekend and where the old stalking path has dissappeared several new and very boggy paths have appeared. This in in Gleann Fhiodhaidh I mean.
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