Mixed news on Ben Nevis paths this week. The popular Steall trail is closed for several weeks following a massive landslide. Meanwhile work starts soon on upgrading the eroded 'North Face Footpath'.
The bad news:
On night of 13-14 September a landslide occurred on Meall Cumhann, sending a large amount of debris into the Steall gorge and across the popular trail up Glen Nevis. As a result the John Muir Trust has closed the path in the interests of public safety, pending remedial work which they say could take between two and five weeks.
Although the damage to the path is less serious than initially feared, there is a significant amount of debris on the path, including large and unstable blocks. More seriously, tens of tonnes of loose boulders remain scattered above the footpath, some entangled with fallen trees, others precariously perched on the Meall Cumhann cliff, 400m above.
The Trust has already begun surveying work with a view to clearing away any unstable debris.
This will be a complex operation, they say, requiring a team with rope access qualifications to deal with the upper slope. It will also involve the removal of loose boulders from the woodland area around the footpath, where some loose boulders are caught in the branches of trees. Some fallen trees will also need to be removed or stabilised.
Alison Austin, the John Muir Trust’s Nevis Land Manager, said:
“The damage to the footpath is not extensive, but we will need to bring specialised contractors to remove substantial quantities of debris from the path to remove any potential dangers to the public."
“Unfortunately, the incident has forced us to close the path for the time, but we are in working flat out to make sure that the work is carried out as speedily as possible. It is unlikely to be reopened within the next fortnight and it could take until late October before we can give it the all-clear."
The closure will affect this weekend's Salomon Ring of Steall Skyrace, which has had to be re-routed.
- Until the trail re-opens, the JMT advise anyone wanting to access the mountains or paths beyond Steall to ascend to the bealach north of Meall Cumhann (NN178700), drop down into Coire Guibhsachan and descend to Steall Ruin (NN188688)
The good news:
Plans are afoot to improve the boggy path that connects the Halfway Lochan and the Allt a' Mhuilinn near the CIC Hut. Running below Carn Dearg, this spectacular but informal route is heavily eroded in places, and now needs attention according to the Nevis Landscape Partnership.
The path, which is currently in a state of deterioration, contours below the immense north face of Castle Ridge to reach the Allt a' Mhuilinn just downstream of the CIC. It has been trodden in by decades of wear and tear which has led to a spread of muddy, ground.
Between now and 2018, work is planned to tackle the worst of this erosion in order to protect the ecology of the SSSI. For anyone who fancies lending a hand, a volunteer work party is planned for 26-28 October.
"The work proposed for our residential path party will begin from the CIC Hut each day onto the boggy path leading to Halfway Lochan, working our way up as we progress" says Freja MacDougall of the Nevis Landscape Partnership.
"We would hope that between 8-10 volunteers we could improve around 200m of this path."
"Our project “LP.C3 North Face Footpath” which this volunteer weekend feeds into will also employ path contractors to conserve and upgrade this route which connects the Halfway Lochan with the CIC Hut."
The project will involve a range of targeted solutions, says Freja, including re-stabilisation, surfacing, upgrade, drainage, pre-emptive erosion control and full rebuild in key sections.
"The design philosophy will be one of minimal intervention and a ‘light-touch’ approach to ensure minimal impact to the biodiversity, habitat and landscape character" she says.
"The area has an especially wild sense of place which must not be eroded through inappropriate or ‘heavy’ infrastructure."
- To book on the volunteer work party see here