Radio Scotland are providing a platform for those who want signposting and due to a reference to France, presumably paint splodges on the hills of Scotland.
Their spokesman was whinging on about the hills only being open to a "mountain elite".
The lines are open now, Programme at 0900.
The debate about whether there should be waymarked routes up Scotland's mountains continues. BBC Radio Scotland and BBC TV Reporting Scotland both featured coverage of the debate today.
aha... alfie MRT guy from dundee: the voice of reason.
did you hear that guy saying we should have signs telling you how far you are from summits? graeme i think his name was... said he'd climbed in the alps and the dolomites sheeesh and that people "shouldn't need to know how to use a map and compass..."
i just love the example the graeme guy gave when he was saying how often ascending walkers ask him on his descent "are we there yet?" and this was his justification for countdown markers. he actually said he thought a sign saying "you are 3 hours from the summit" would be a good idea... countdown markers... wow.
if that exchange had occurred on here without the sound of his voice i would have assumed he was kidding..
What was all that inane talk about Stac Pollaidh? The path is very obvious from the car park and I don't see how signposts would improve on people from straying from the paths and causing erosion. I could see the point of having a sign at the carpark saying to stay on paths to avoid the erosion, but that's a s far as it should go.
aye- i think it was around about this stage in the proceedings that dave gibson of the MCoS finally gave up entirely and went quiet... who can blame him? in fact, it sounded like he hung up the phone... but i may well have imagined that!
It is so frustrating to hear somebody say that bascially, map and compass skills shouldn't be something people need when in the hills. It's like telling somebody who is about to go sky diving that they do not need a parachute, for example. I think the whole idea is pathetic.
Is there any recordings of the full debate? I missed it!
which is a kind of generous description of events!
i felt pretty bad for dave gibson: he's obviously not as used to the media as macwhirter and was being polite rather than going for the jugular from the outset.
it improved when he got a bit fed up and became a little more assertive, but to be honest the interviewer was pretty lousy and the gig never came close to addressing the crux of the matter...
people see headlines of deaths/injuries on the hill, then hear crap like this, next thing a politician leaps on it smelling a little bit of mileage opportunity... then bang, new legislation is discussed in parliament etc etc etc.
also rather hilarious was the choice by radio scotland to feature a self confessed supplier of signs as a phone in guest... although at least the guy from dundee with MRT connections bought a little sense to the proceedings at the end.
boo hiss radio scotland! not just because i'm on dave's side on this, but because it was plain lousy reportage.
In reply to bivy spirit: Good to see the feedback here. The producer / interviewer didnt give me any opportunity to speak after the guy talking about Ben Nevis. The mcofs website news section has a clear statement on our position. And I'll try not to be so polite next time I get into a debate with a journo! cheers
hi dave- aye, your restraint was admirable! if you get another chance though... go get him!!
by the way- did you hang up eventually? he really wasn't playing fair at all, talking over you every time you got to actually comment...
as i've just said on the other thread: self-serving, self-publicising agenda going on there.
anyway, i salute you.
Did the German tourist on BBC Scotland news really say that it would be safer if he didn't have to use map and compass?!
"I always get lost..... I get back through trial and error..." McWhirter. Blimey! I think I see why he wants signposts
David Gibson26 Aug 2009
In reply to bivy spirit: No I didn't hang up. I was told by the producer that they wanted to take calls - then they cut me off, so I miised Alfie Ingram's comments at the end of the piece. Alfie is the chaor of MRCofS.
David Gibson26 Aug 2009
In reply to Toby S: I thought he said he thought it was essential.
David Gibson26 Aug 2009
In reply to rogerwebb: MCofS position was arrived at through discussion by the MCofS Mountain Safety Committee. The MSC comprises representatives from MRCofS, Glenmore Lodge, AMI, mountaineering clubs including elected members of the MCofS Board and Executive, the MCofS Mountain Safety Adviser and myself.
I've just listened to the discussion...and have to ask, have you been media-trained? You approached the discussion as if it was going to be 2 hours long and conducted in a "fair" and balanced way. It's not! It's a few minutes of sound-bites and you have got to get your 3 key messages across in punchy style. You lost the fight during the intro.
This isn't criticism (just for clarity) - and I agree absolutely with what you were saying - but it's a tough game and you need to be properly spammed up before taking it on.
David Gibson26 Aug 2009
In reply to John Lisle: Good point John. Media training is on my to-do list!
In reply to John Lisle: I disagree. I appreciated the well spoken and calm, logical responses that David gave, and I think in this circumstance he shone through as being the wiser and more believable of the interviewees.
I would like to know how sign posting would in any way help people out in the hills. Footpaths frequently cross terrain that is not amenable to a clear pathway - most summits - and other paths may run alongside or near tracks that look like paths but are in fact sheep trails, scree slopes, dried up streams. When cloud comes down, wind picks up or heavy rain sets in it takes minutes to lose the path, what then? With no compass you are really stuffed. By the same token what is the point in saying that X is five miles away if the person has no concept of how long it will take to walk five miles, are these signposts to say; "X is 5 miles away over steep ground which may take you 2 hours or even 3-4 if you are unfit or with children. Also if the weather closes in it could take a lot longer - enjoy your walk!" How will sign posting help on the Ben, a dozen signpost every 10 feet saying 'not this way, go that way".
No one has to learn the minutia of micro navigation, but it helps to know what direction you are travelling in and where you are going to.
In reply to Fat Bumbly2:
Based on my personal experience of the Scottish mountains I can't see how anything short of a bloody great flashing beacon every 10 yards is going to help. If you wander off a path in good visibility then I don't think much can be done to help you, but when the weather craps out which it often does with very little warning then no 'subtle' waymarkers will help. I've walked down the Nevis ski range and I couldn't see the button lift and it was only a few feet above my head
> What was all that inane talk about Stac Pollaidh? The path is very obvious from the car park and I don't see how signposts would improve on people from straying from the paths and causing erosion. I could see the point of having a sign at the carpark saying to stay on paths to avoid the erosion, but that's a s far as it should go.
I think he was using the current (newish) path on Stac Pollaidh as an example of how well constructed and marked paths were an improvement on the old erosion scars on that mountain.
In reply to Fat Bumbly2: it seems that people are assuming that the signposting will be rather prominent and on a lot of mountains in the Highlands.
After walking the Southern Upland Way fairly recently, I don't have a problem with the SUW type of waymarking (which mostly consists of occasional slim wooden stakes about 4 feet tall - no fingerposts) and found it reassuring at times (not at all a replacement for map and compass, but still useful to let you know that you're definitely on the correct path).
Quite a suitable type of waymarking, in my view, for that particular route.
Also suitable (IMO) is a set of reasonably discreet markers at key positions along a limited number of very popular paths in the Highlands. It doesn't mean that you have to waymark EVERY path, and for those who want some kind of quasi-wilderness experience: well, you won't be on a popular path anyway.
But as so often, there's no one-size-fits-all solution.
In reply to Andy Stephenson:
I'm unsure what the point of subtle signage or waymarkers are? For them to be any use in poor visibility they need to be obvious.
If you get lost in good visibility then nothing short of tarmac and a handrail will help, but what I would assume is normally the problem is people getting caught out when the weather closes in.
The path up the Ben is fairly easy to spot until the cloud closes in then you suddenly need navigational aids and if you can't see the path 5 feet in front of you then a subtle stake at 20 yard intervals isn't much help.
I say NO to the "management" of the Scottish Mountains. Here in Derbyshire Severn Trent Water "Manage" the country parks which surround their reservoirs,It must be seen to be belived. Everywhere one looks there are signs, bins, pointers, wardens staff etc. It is a shrink wrapped, pay and display travesty of what the countryside should be. When I go into the mountains I want to avoid that kind of thing. It's not too much to ask to learn to read a map, use a compass. If that is elitist then so be it.
Just because we have a right to roam does not mean we should despoil the countryside with signs because one does not know ones arse from ones elbows. Freedom and personal responsibility go hand in hand.
> (In reply to Fat Bumbly2)
> I say NO to the "management" of the Scottish Mountains. Here in Derbyshire Severn Trent Water "Manage" the country parks which surround their reservoirs,It must be seen to be belived. Everywhere one looks there are signs, bins, pointers, wardens staff etc. It is a shrink wrapped, pay and display travesty of what the countryside should be. When I go into the mountains I want to avoid that kind of thing. It's not too much to ask to learn to read a map, use a compass. If that is elitist then so be it.
> Just because we have a right to roam does not mean we should despoil the countryside with signs because one does not know ones arse from ones elbows. Freedom and personal responsibility go hand in hand.
Umm that's fine in country parks? They give a lot of enjoyment to a lot - and I mean a lot, of people. But, like you, I believe that that approach shouldn't be used in 'wild' places.
> Just because we have a right to roam does not mean we should despoil the countryside with signs
Having the right to roam removes the main reason for needing signposts, which is to guide people along paths where they're allowed, and away from areas where they're not allowed. Hence the need for public footpath signposts in agricultural areas in England and Wales (don't know the Scottish positionin low country), to take people across/around the correct fields. And pre-CROW, signs were often needed on the hills in places like the Yorkshire Dales, but since we can now legally go pretty much where we want they're no longer this justification. Even less so in Scotland of course.
> (In reply to Andy Stephenson)
> I'm unsure what the point of subtle signage or waymarkers are? For them to be any use in poor visibility they need to be obvious.
The point is NOT to replace other means of navigation, but to assist. So occasional markers reassure you that you're still on the correct path, and markers at path forks, junctions and notorious accident sites help you decide on the best option.
They don't have to be great big signposts, or visible for more than a few yards, and I emphasise that this isn't a proposal for every path or every mountain; but it has its place.
You mention France in your OP. The situation in France is slightly different than in GB. There is a history of marking paths, whereas in GB there isn't and therefore some folks think it's a big deal. Personally (and I live in France) I think it's often OTT over here - huge GR footpaths blazed with paint... However, often in early summer, then again early autumn, the paths can be covered with snow and the paths hard or indeed impossible to find (cue map and compass comments - whether I agree is not the point, that's how it is). A worrying development is the sprouting up of signposts everywhere. There's even one on the summit of the hill opposite our house, the Aiguillette des Posettes. I mean, if your on the summit, you know and don't need a 2.5m sign to tell you... We sawed it down a couple of years ago, but it's grown again. I feel a bit of pruning coming on.
TainaJ28 Aug 2009
In reply to Andy Stephenson:
Hesitate to take part in this discussion since difference of opinions seems not to be allowed - as is usual with forums. They seem to be only for the like-minded. However, rather agree with Andy, some small assistance would be helpful without going for the full waymarking.
(Mountain weather can change quickly in any corner of the world. Even in Canary Islands the temperature can drop 20 degrees and turn into hail in about 15 minutes.)
Spending a trekking holiday in Scotland three years ago, we found out that guidebooks are not that good (unclear drawings instead of digital photos which seems funny considering the day and age), not very helpful texts, either. Meant more for people who already know the area anyway.
Sometimes difficult to find where the track starts, so having a sign at the start would save time - but must say we did not visit very popular mountains where tracks would maybe be easy to find.
Scottish mountains have a lot of scree and wet paths where waymarking is not possible so you need to have mountain knowledge anyway but this does not necessarily mean you have to reject all and any kind of waymarking.
We thought it odd that some people feel the need to destroy cairns made by others to help people find the way in places of difficult navigation in a fog. We thought that the real and true reason behind this is that they want to keep the mountains to themselves, no foreigners or strangers wanted. Well, we got the hint which is a pity in a way - Scottish mountains are beautiful.
> we found out that guidebooks are not that good ... Meant more for people who already know the area anyway.
Can't say for certain without knowing the books you used - but most walking guidebooks for Scotland are intended to be used in conjunction with a map and compass. You use the guidebook before you set off to work out the route on the map, and then use that to actually find your way. Most people then leave the book in the car.
> Sometimes difficult to find where the track starts, so having a sign at the start would save time
That can be a problem, yes. Some tracks are marked where they leave the road - by eg Scottish Rights of Way Society, or National Trust, or local estates where they want to steer people onto certain routes.
But you can start just about anywhere, sometimes following a path, sometimes not. It's not practical (or desirable) to mark every one.
> We thought it odd that some people feel the need to destroy cairns made by others to help people find the way in places of difficult navigation in a fog. We thought that the real and true reason behind this is that they want to keep the mountains to themselves
The main problem is that such cairns proliferate, and you end up with a line of huge piles of stones often several metres across - an eyesore (there are countless examples of this in Snowdonia or the Lake District). And also, they're often constructed in inappropriate places, where they can hinder navigation rather than aiding it.
Occasionally they can be useful - for instance, marking passes on the Cuillin Ridge, some of which are so seldom used that there is no path to tell you the safest point to begin descending. But if there's a line of cairns along the ridge, then you can no longer know which one marked the bealach.
So if they waymark the routes to open them up to the 'non-climbing elite' then are they taking responsibility for the accuracy and use of them? i'm suprised at the keeness to take on liability for encouraging people into thinking it's ok to follow signs in the fog with no nav aids. or does signing not carry any responsibility in law?
in the alps they sign the way to huts and that's ok, but signing routes up hills isn't necessary, either you can find your way or you can't and that's part of the appeal of the outdoors. maybe city folk don't feel at home without signs, but many of us don't feel at home in cities or want the peaks to feel like a street either.
yup, that's me and why i go there! i can't see a majority of hill walkers or climbers wanting this for that exact reason, but its probably easy for this all to sound like a good way of adding tourist income to areas.
Waymarked man-made MTB trails draw large numbers of riders and add a lot of £ to areas of wales and scotland but this is different, natural places have to be left as natural as they can be.
The potential problem is the city folk who go to follow the blue route up the pretty hill - it must be easy, it's marked.
There's one really obviously signed route round the hills at Loch Ewe in Torridon(ish), and it's a great tourist path into scenery, but worst comes to worst you could walk off it in 20 mins for help. Not so up the back of Glencoe.
In reply to TainaJ:
>... we thought that the real and true reason behind this is that they want to keep the mountains to themselves, no foreigners or strangers wanted. Well, we got the hint which is a pity in a way - Scottish mountains are beautiful.
I disagree with that entirely. Scottish/British climbers and mountaineers don't necessarily have an encyclopedic knowledge of the hills. We still have to learn to read maps and use common sense. Being local is no guarantee that I know what I'm doing! I've never been to Ben Cruachan before, so if I was to arrive at the foot of the hill at the same time as a Frenchman on a walking holiday then we’re going to be starting on an equal footing. The only thing separating us is our general fitness and/or technical ability and no amount of signage is going to compensate for that!
In reply to TainaJ:
"We thought that the real and true reason behind this is that they want to keep the mountains to themselves, no foreigners or strangers wanted. Well, we got the hint which is a pity in a way - Scottish mountains are beautiful."
The real reason is to keep Scottish mountains beautiful.
Cairns are useless - they proliferate and often will lead you astray. You soon learn to ignore them.
We should distinguish between some types of cairns, some are of historical significance.
Gone for good28 Aug 2009
In reply to Fat Bumbly2: Cairns are an eyesore at the best of times but not as much as an eyesore as waywarked trails to the top of our hills would be. The hills belong to us all but it goes without saying they present risk and potentially danger to both the experienced and inexperienced. In my opinion the risks would be greater by luring people up hills that then become dangerous due to weather conditions/incompetence/lack of fitness etc etc. Leave the hills alone and let us enjoy them for what they are - peaceful, sometime remote, sometimes romantic places of natural beauty and enjoyment.
> (In reply to Andy Stephenson)
> We thought that the real and true reason behind this is that they want to keep the mountains to themselves, no foreigners or strangers wanted. Well, we got the hint which is a pity in a way - Scottish mountains are beautiful.
What a ridiculous thought. No Scottish mountain is inaccessible due to lack of waymarking. Learn to read a map and use a compass and you can go where you want. I think you will find the locals are more than welcoming of strangers and foreigners and would laugh at your suggestion that deliberate attempts are made to exclude them.
I would have thought that the most effective argument against this kind of nonsense is that it would require a massive increase in the SAR facility in Scotland. If waymarking is going to encourage tourists who cannot actually navigate to wander onto the hills, then increasing numbers of them are going to get into difficulties.
At some point, the voluntary MRT network that currently exists will simply be unable to cope - and might lose the will to attempt to cope if the context in which they operate changes so drastically - and the government is then forced to create a statutory organisation to deal with the situation.
Given the level of vitriol that is currently directed towards badly equipped walkers who require rescue at no real cost to the tax payer, it's likely that a publicly funded body will foster this type of scrutiny, leading to questions of insurance...
... and we end up in a situation where you have to have insurance to go out on the hills, or face footing the cost of your rescue personally. Insurance companies will want some evidence that you are competent before they insure you, meaning the proliferation of MLTB type courses, a qualifications framework...
... and, hey presto, the imaginary elitist scenario that was presented as the pretext for the debate is brought into being by the very actions being mooted to challenge it.
In reply to Fat Bumbly2: went trecking in iceland the other year and the trails there are marked with 2ft white stakes every so often,i think they were mostly a conservation measure but considering how far out in the wilderness i was it was reassuring although i did have a map and could have coped without the stakes, if i couldnt i would have had no place being there.
there is no need for stakes in most instances although marked and constructed paths do sometimes have there place from a conservation point of view (ie the path up rosset gyll, langdale)
> (In reply to Fat Bumbly2)
> I would have thought that the most effective argument against this kind of nonsense is that it would require a massive increase in the SAR facility in Scotland. If waymarking is going to encourage tourists who cannot actually navigate to wander onto the hills, then increasing numbers of them are going to get into difficulties.
> At some point, the voluntary MRT network that currently exists will simply be unable to cope - and might lose the will to attempt to cope if the context in which they operate changes so drastically - and the government is then forced to create a statutory organisation to deal with the situation.
or as in Iceland, where there is no SAR service apart from the navy which bill you after rescue, people are generaly more than well prepared when they venture out in to the wilds. it seems we in the UK see MRT as some god given right-we can go out unprepared, get lost, hurt etc. call for help then go home.
maybe its a care of wait and see, the zeitgeist will swing back our way soon enough
> Insurance companies will want some evidence that you are competent before they insure you, meaning the proliferation of MLTB type courses, a qualifications framework...
I think that is the one thing that is not likely to happen.
You can buy insurance from people like Snowcard and the BMC to cover you for climbing, alpinism, mountaineering, backcountry skiing and who knows what else without (in my experience so far) any need to provide any proof of competence. As far as I know the same goes for insurance cover provided by alpine clubs on the continent. Certainly when I lived in Italy I joined the ski club of Italy to get their ski insurance and no-one ever asked me for any qualifications or other proof of competence.
It might be that you could get cheaper insurance by waving a qualification at the insurer. That sort of thing is not unknown the car insurance world eg an IAM qualification. As things stand, though, the only hillwalking/climbing/mountaineering qualifications that I am aware of are to do with different levels of instructing, guiding, leading or supervising others. From my understanding of the laws around duty of care, if you have a qualification like that then if anything your insurance is likely to be higher, because of the greater risk of being found negligent in the event of something going wrong.
To the best of my knowledge it's not compulsory to have insurance to go out in the mountains on the continent, it's just that the potential cost of rescue means that it's a good idea.
That's a fair point - I realised after I'd posted that I have travel insurance which covers me for all sorts of activities including mountain biking, but no one's ever asked me about experience or qualifications.
However, it also occurs that they don't seem to have such a litigation happy culture of blame in Europe, so I guess that would have to be factored in to any attempts to predict possible outcomes to a proliferation of waymarking in the UK and it's implications for SAR and insurance requirements.
TainaJ31 Aug 2009
In reply to Toreador:
We had maps and compass and ability to use them. Would not venture into mountains without them, we are too experienced.
I seem to remember that most problems we had was with scrambling guidebooks. Compared to many climbing guides we have used for different countries (which have had digital photos), the Scottish scrambling guides were rather unhelpful. Though scrambling is naturally different kettle of fish from walking.
I just noted the issue with cairns because we have trekked, scrambled and climbed in different countries for nearly 20 years. In many countries it is usual to find a cairn in those kind of tricky places. Even with the ability to read a map and use a compass, in a fog a cairn may be a nice confirmation that you have indeed read the map right. Especially if descending from a narrow ridge with only one good way down, and there is no track as such to be seen. But I see the problem if cairn are put in wrong places.
In reply to Toreador: I've hesitated to get involved in this thread, I'd prefer to keep the Scottish mountains free of signs & the vast majority of cairns, etc - but, I know that on occassion I've been very relieved when certain cairns (such as at the top of Fiacaill a Coirre Cas) appeared out of a near white out and think a few such key landmarks should be kept.
But on the low ground I think there's a lot to be said for the French/ Spanish and no doubt elsewhere system of small paint marks and I think its a lot less obtrusive than the ridiculous signposts that often appear in the UK. I also can't see why we so often have to have a post when there's a trees or wall nearby
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