Protecting the Peaks Together

News

Ben Nevis weather station

For the first time in 113 years Ben Nevis has a weather station. The station is part of the National Centre for Atmospheric Science’s (NCAS) “Operation Weather Rescue”. This recent citizen science project aimed to digitise all the raw weather observations from the observatory which once stood on the summit of Ben Nevis. Between the 1883-1904 weather data was collected every hour of every day resulting in endless spread sheets of figures.

In the summer of 1881, Clement Lindley Wragge climbed the mountain daily to make initial observations, leading to the opening on 17 October 1883 of a permanent observatory. The building was manned full-time until 1904, when it was closed due to inadequate government funding. The twenty years of readings still provide the most comprehensive set of data on mountain weather in Great Britain.

The Ben Nevis weather observatory.

With the present day weather station it will be possible to compare the data from over 100 years ago. The old information is still useful because it can shed light on past storms in the Scottish Highlands as well as providing ongoing insights into how weather systems evolve as they pass over Scotland’s largest mountains.

It is planned that the weather station will be removed in December and the results will be presented in the UKCP18 report which will detail projections of how the UK climate could change. Although temporary, NCAS hope to secure long term funding to place a permanent weather station on the summit of Ben Nevis.

 

The temporary weather station currently on Ben Nevis.

Would you like to see a permanent weather station on Ben Nevis? Comment with your views below.

The Real 3 Peaks Challenge

On a very wet and windy Saturday a team of 109 volunteers took on the real 3 peaks challenge. Not to be confused with the national three peaks challenge, this particular challenge is intended to clean up the litter left by the hundreds of thousands of walkers who visit the UK’s most popular mountains. Started in 2013 by mountain guide Richard Pyne after he was appalled by the litter on Ben Nevis, the challenge takes place every year after the peak walking season is over. The growth and support of the challenge is reflected in the dedicated volunteers who give up their time to help. In the past, the challenge has usually just taken place on Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowden but this year many other popular mountains were included such as Ben Lomond and Man Tor.

This year on Ben Nevis, 14 volunteers set off from the visitor centre at 8am and headed up the freezing cold and blustery footpath. The weather was grim but spirits were high! Having reached the summit the group spent some time clearing the immediate area around the summit shelter and the shelter itself, by this point everyone’s first bin bag was already full. Later we walked across the plateau in a line trying our best to pick up as much litter as possible. The usual suspects were being found, tissues galore, banana peel, orange peel, bottle tops, tampons and panty liners, sweet wrappers, foil, crisp and sandwich wrappers, plaques, flags, bits of walking poles, and some very old tin can drinks. Most shocking was the discovery of a peanut packet with the best before date of Jan 1987! The rest of the day was spent descending the mountain and picking as much litter along the way as possible. The area around the Red Burn and John’s wall received a lot of attention!

In total, around 120kgs of litter was taken off Ben Nevis this year, thankfully less than previous years. This is largely due to increased litter picks throughout the summer months by the John Muir Trust and the public becoming more aware of the litter issue.

Across the entire challenge over half a tonne of litter was removed. Here are the results for each mountain,

Ben Nevis – 120kgs from 14 volunteers
Scafell Pike- 55kgs from 34 volunteers
Snowdon – 280kgs from 29 volunteers
Lochnagar – 13.4kgs from 3 volunteers
Ben MacDui – 7kgs from 4 volunteers
Ben Lomond – 16kgs from 8 volunteers
Mam Tor & Dovestone – 77.5kgs from 17 volunteers

 

570 kg s from 109 Volunteers!

The John Muir Trust would like to thank everyone involved and we hope that one day this challenge will no long be necessary.

Take part in a study regarding the 3 Peaks Challenge!

Promoting mountain safety, protecting the landscape, and enhancing the outdoors experience in mountaineering challenge events.

 

You are being invited to take part in a study on your perceptions and experiences of the 3 Peaks Challenge. This study is being conducted by Dr Antonia Ivaldi and Professor Mark Whitehead from Aberystwyth University, in collaboration with the Snowdonia National Park Authority. Before you decide, it is important for you to understand why the research is being done and what it will involve. Please take time to read the following information carefully and ask me if there is anything that is not clear or if you would like more information. Thank you for reading this.

 

What is the purpose of the project?

This pilot qualitative study aims to examine a range of perspectives, knowledge, experiences, and values aligned to the 3 Peaks for walkers and stakeholders alike. Outdoors challenge events, such as 3 Peaks, produce a complex interplay of promoting knowledge of mountain safety practices, good decision making and planning, and awareness of how to protect the landscape, whilst increasing tourism to the national parks that can result in a lasting engagement with the outdoors, that has additional recognized benefits for health and wellbeing. This is important, given the research that documents the value of outdoors engagement on an individual’s health, well-being and enjoyment. With the overall aim of gaining additional empirical support to complement existing guidelines and advice, this study aims to explore walkers’ and stakeholders’ perceptions and experiences of the event, in particular, walkers’ reasons for engagement, decision making strategies, and overall experience for enjoyment, health and wellbeing.

 

Do I have to take part?

You have been asked to take part as you are a walker who has taken part in the 3 Peaks in the last year. Taking part in this research is entirely voluntary, and if you do not wish to take part please say so. If you decide to take part you will be given this information sheet to keep (and be asked to sign a consent form). If you later change your mind and no longer wish to take part, you can withdraw from the study at any time, and without penalty, until January 16th 2018, after which the data will written up for dissemination. As a small gesture of gratitude for your participation, the project team would like to offer you a £10 e-voucher for Cotswold Outdoor.

 

What will happen to me if I take part?

You will be asked to take part in one individual interview lasting approximately 45 mins. This will take place at a time that is convenient to you and via Skype. You will be asked questions on what are your perceptions and experiences of the 3 Peaks Challenge as a walker, why you wanted to take part, your decision making and preparation strategies, and its role for enjoyment, health and well-being, for example. If there is a question that you do not wish to answer, you are not obliged to do so and you are free to move onto the next question. Please note that, as the research is being conducted by a non-Welsh speaker, the interviews and further correspondence will take place in English.

 

What are the possible disadvantages and risks of taking part?

There are no foreseeable risks associated with this study and it is hoped that you enjoy taking part. In the unlikely event that you find the interview emotive, or it raises health issues associated with walking, and you wish to talk through some of the issues raised with a trained adviser, you will be referred to the helpline SupportLine 01708 765200, or your GP, as appropriate.

 

Will my taking part in this project be kept confidential?

Only the research team (Dr Antonia Ivaldi, Professor Mark Whitehead, and an external transcription company who will sign a confidentially agreement) will have access to the data. All personal information relating to you (e.g., contact details) will be kept confidential and your consent form, which contains your name and signature, will be stored securely in a locked filing cabinet in the lead researcher’s office. Your interview will be fully anonymized so that there is nothing in the interview that gives away your identity. Extracts of the interviews may be used in the reporting of the results and in future publications, but these will also be fully anonymized. The audio file of the interviews and subsequent transcript will be stored securely on a password protected computer.

 

What happens immediately after data collection?

You will have the opportunity to ask further questions regarding the study should you wish to do so.

 

Who has reviewed the project?

This project has been reviewed by the Department of Psychology’s Research Ethics Committee, Aberystwyth University. The research will be conducted in accordance with the British Psychological Society’s Ethical Code of Conduct.

 

Contact for further information

Dr Antonia Ivaldi, C.Psychol.

Department of Psychology

Penbryn 5

Aberystwyth University

Penglais

Aberystwyth

Ceredigion

SY23 3UX

Telephone: 01970 62 8467

Email: ani@aber.ac.uk

Training for our Volunteer Wardens

Our Volunteer Warden team have been very busy for months now providing information to the public as well as collecting hundreds of litter bags from litter that’s been left on the paths. On Sunday we had quite a different day as we ventured to quieter parts of Yr Wyddfa to learn more about the geology of the area with expert Paul Gannon. A very interesting day that everyone enjoyed!

 

A busy time for our Volunteers on Snowdon

We’re very fortunate to have the help of many volunteers on Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) that help with a variety of tasks.

With the number of walkers reduced significantly in recent weeks it’s vital to do as much repair and maintenance work as possible on the footpaths. A group of Tesco workers volunteered to help open up drains and ditches on the PyG track as well as work in our Wildlife Garden in Beddgelert. The following day we had Snowdonia Society volunteers help us do the same work on the Llanberis path.

 

We’re very grateful of their help as it’s vitally important work to do before the heavy rain and winter storms start!

 

Alpine wildflower recce on the North Face of Ben Nevis

Standing looking up from the CIC hunt situated below the north face of Ben Nevis with its eternal snow patches and towering alpine cliffs it is hard to believe that anything would call this deadly environment their home. To most this mountain may seem alien and uninhabitable but believe it or not Ben Nevis is bursting with life! For those daring enough to venture, the north face can offer some very unique biodiversity which is rarely seen elsewhere in the UK.

The North Face of Ben Nevis from the CIC hut.

Over the last three summers the “North Face Survey” project run by The Nevis Landscape Partnership and Scottish Natural Heritage aimed to study this rare biodiversity. Bringing botanists, geologists and mountain guides together, the survey managed to access areas of the mountain never before explored by the trained eye of experts. It goes without saying the project was a huge success with many rare alpine species identified throughout the ragged cliffs and surprisingly green gullies.

Sadly this summer there was no survey and with a year gone by since the project finished, myself and Nevis property managed, Alison, decided it was important to revisit some of the sights to check on the progress of these secluded plant communities.

It was one of those rare Scottish summer days, with a warm light breeze and sunshine. From the car park we approached the CIC Hunt – An alpine hut situated within the corrie below the North Face of Ben Nevis. Here we had a bite to eat and pondered our route. We decided to venture onto Ledge Route, a simple but still very adventurous day on the mountain.

Setting off from the CIC hut we picked our way through the small rock bands and scree slopes searching for plant life along the way. Parsley Fern and Mountain Thyme were resilient within this ever mobile area of mountain side.

Having reached the grassy bank of Ledge route we were starting to find many of the more rarely sighted alpine species. Within No. 5 Gully Starry saxifrage and Alpine Speedwell were making an appearance. Hare’s-foot Sedge, a species that is at home in Svalbard, also was found. Moving our way onto the scramble section we were finding Starwort and Arctic Mouse-ear, both of which seemed comfortable considering the location they inhabit.

Alison scouting the plant line in No.5 Gully

Although the day was warm and sunny, having experienced Ben Nevis during periods of intense winter conditions and remembering how cold it can be, I found it hard to believe that these little, seemingly delicate, wildflowers call this environment their home.

Arctic Mouse-ear

After the short scramble we topped out onto Carn Dearg – A north eastern peak the Ben Nevis. From here we hand railed the cliff edge where we came across a friend and local mountain guide, Mike Pescod. Mike was part of the team during the North Face Survey and has developed a keen eye for rare alpine species. He reported to us that during his day with clients he stumbled across Highland and Alpine Saxifrage around No.4 Gully, both of which are very scarce!

Mike Pescod with his clients making their way down Ledge Route

Having topped out, we ended our day by joining our route up with the main mountain path and litter picked our way down the mountain.  With Ben Nevis usually shrouded in cloud and pelting rain, our day in the sun was a perfect remind why we do this type of work for a living.

Ben Nevis in the rare sunshine.

 

Ben Nevis Work Party

A wet but positive day on Ben Nevis!

On the 10th of June a gang of our committed volunteers gave up their Saturday to take on the glorious Scottish summer and help clean up Ben Nevis. The weather was uninviting to say the least but thanks to our hardy group we had a very successful day.

As you all know, Ben Nevis being the highest mountain the UK, can offer various degrees of challenge. One of them is getting to where we want to be so we can do the necessary work. A usual trip to Ben Nevis takes about 7 hours so as you can imagine most of our day was taken up by reaching where we wanted to be.

Having reached our spot we aimed to “de-roughen” the path. The path itself is in good nick but typically over a period of time large stones and scree can migrate their way onto the path making it hard for walkers. So it was up to us to tidy this! And what a mighty fine job our volunteers did! almost like a new path!

Whilst this was happening, a small  group continued onto the summit of Ben Nevis to carry out a litter pick. In particular we aimed to give the summit shelter a clean out. The summit shelter is rarely used as a refuge in the summer and is often used as a bin, so when possible it is important to arm yourself with bin bags and give it a clean out. To our surprise it was in relatively good shape. Although, the rest of the summit was a different story! Thankfully we had plenty of hands and bin bags. Filling our bags to capacity we carried as much as we could down the hill.

Having said this, it was great to acknowledge the fact that when compared to previous litter picks on Ben Nevis there was much less litter. Now, it is not obvious if this is walkers being more responsible but what is clear from experience and talking to others is the collective community that are working together to respect Ben Nevis. Many mountain guides operate on Ben Nevis and from first-hand experience we know they are a vital part of our team! Many guides practice a leave no trace policy and some even take more of the hill than they brought up! So from us at the 3PP and John Muir Trust, thank you to all that have helped keep the mountain litter free over the years.

Because of the weather we did not get the chance to take many photos but it was safe to say we had a very successful work party and the mountain is doing well!

Ben Nevis footpath work party in the sunshine!

A team of volunteers and staff from the Friends of Nevis, John Muir Trust and Nevis Landscape Partnership have taken part in a triple path maintenance and clean-up.

Every year, 30-40,000 people seek to complete the Challenge by reaching the three summits in a single trip, which can put strain on the footpaths and surrounding vegetation additionally the Challenge can also generate serious litter problems.

The volunteer work party on Nevis this month concentrated on clearing drainage and water bars and channels on 3km of the Allt a Mhuillinn path to the North Face to keep rain off the path and prevent it from washing away

Susan Nicholl from the Friends of Nevis and Nevis Landscape Partnership said:

“Looking after mountain paths is like painting the Forth Bridge. With 100,000 people ascending Ben Nevis every year, it involves a continual cycle of work parties just to carry out essential maintenance and to clear up litter.

“Fortunately we had glorious weather and were able to get through a huge amount of work, so we’re satisfied that the Ben will be capable of shedding whatever amount of water pours down from the skies in the coming months. Our volunteers have been brilliant and we can’t thank them enough for their dedication and commitment to this magnificent mountain.”

Between 2014 and 2017, the Nevis Landscape Partnership invested £540,000 on repair contracts on the lower half of the main footpath, and expects to spend a further £330,000 by 2019 as part of a five-year Heritage Lottery Funded project.

Alongside the thousands of individuals who take on the Challenge it is recognised that the weather also plays a role in wear away the mountain path. In recent weeks Ben Nevis has witnessed high snow fall which can be seen on the North Face throughout the summer. With a combination of 100,000 walkers, melt water from snow during the warmer months and heavy rainfall, the Ben Nevis mountain path is fighting a constant battle against erosion. The clearing of water bars and drainage was an attempt to reduce the effects of the extreme weather so that water can flow freely away from the path and walkers.

Alison Austin, the John Muir Trust’s Land Manager for Ben Nevis urged people carrying out the Three Peaks Challenge to come properly prepared:

“We welcome individuals and groups coming to Nevis to raise money for a range of charities which do wonderful work. At the same we would appeal to those participating in the Three Peaks Challenge to be aware that this is a sensitive landscape.”

 

 

Scafell Pike – lovely and litter free!

Team Scafell Pike!

Scafell Pike is sitting pretty after a great team effort on Saturday involving the National Trust, Fix the Fells volunteers and the Lake District National Park. We couldn’t have asked for better weather for our annual pre-season drain-run, litter pick and maintenance day and along with a great turn out for the event, we had a terrific day.

Ascending the Pike on the Brown Tongue path, there were some real highlights. Firstly, the number of happy people out-and-about, doing good-weather-recces for their upcoming Three Peaks Challenge. I met hillwalkers Dave and Carl from Brighton who were scouting out each of the Three Peaks over the course of three weekends and, having taken the advice from our website, had decided to make the most of three consecutive weekends away in Scotland, England and Wales. Well done Dave and Carl!

To our absolute delight, there was hardly any litter on the Pike. We’re pretty sure this is down to local fell runner Lindsay Buck who runs up the Pike several

Hard at work clearing drains

times a week with a bin-bag! Thank you Lindsay! Lindsay’s outstanding efforts have earned her a National Trust Beatrix Potter Award in the ‘Local Hero’ category and she certainly deserves our special thanks. Moreover, we’re pretty sure the ‘broken window theory’ applies here; the less litter people see on the ground, the less likely they are to drop litter. We’re just really thankful to both Lindsay and everyone who climbs up the Pike, for taking their litter home with them.

So, the drains are clear of stone and there isn’t a plastic bottle or banana skin in sight this morning and with the National Trust footpath teams continuing their hard work on path maintenance this season, things are looking up for Scafell Pike – all 978 metres of it!

Busy, busy on the Pike

 

 

Snowdon Race

The Snowdon Race is a big day for Llanberis and the surrounding area each year. Hundreds turn out to watch and support the runners starting from the village and to cheer them on their way back down to finish. Many are also seen on the Llanberis path towards Snowdon summit to have a close look at the runners as they do their best to cope with the harsh elements of the race on the mountain. Read more