Protecting the Peaks Together

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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

The Season begins!

This week, our upland Ranger team have taken delivery of 75 tonnes of rock onto Scafell Pike.

Gathered from the surrounding fell sides, it will be used to repair erosion on the ever popular Brown Tongue route to the summit.

Great Gable Airlift


The team are planning to do 200 days of work on this route at a cost of around £42,000; this is only the start of the repair works and the plan is to carry on at this level for at least the next 5 years. So……………..

WE REALLY NEED YOUR HELP!

 

 

 

 

 

Consider donating as part of your challenge, It costs about £150 to repair 1 metre of pitching and there’s a lot of mountain to fix.

Volunteer your groups time, join the Rangers and help put something back. Now this is a proper challenge.

Follow our guidelines, if it ain’t eroded, it don’t need fixing – avoid shortcutting and keep to the pitched paths not on the grass to the side.

 

While you’re out and about on Scafell Pike you might notice these signs:

Path alignment sign

They’re part of a path re-alignment project across Wasdale. DON’T PANIC, the paths aren’t moving, we’re just adjusting the maps so that the line on your map will actually correspond with the path on the ground unlike this map of Hollowstones on Scafell Pike.

Hollowstones

Hopefully the changes made will help with navigation in the future and make maps more accurate and readable.

The signs will be removed in early May.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Volunteer Wardens return on Snowdon!

We’re very fortunate here on Snowdon to have a team of Volunteer Wardens and we were delighted to welcome them back early this year for Easter and the new season ahead!

The role of a Volunteer Warden is diverse with every day different to the next. It can be challenging at times especially in extreme weather! The role includes providing information, advice regarding route choice and the importance of safety on the mountain whilst out on the busiest paths. They also do some path maintenance and litter picks which goes a long way towards reducing the problem.

Some have been with us from the start but it’s also great to welcome new faces to the team!

This year there’s ten new Volunteer Wardens joining the team so before Easter we had a day to welcome everyone and provide some training whilst out on the mountain.

It was great to see the Volunteer Wardens that’s been with us from the start sharing their experiences with the new group. We had a few scenarios whilst out in different locations on our journey. This included providing information to a group at Bwlch y Moch regarding the conditions on Grib Goch and talking to mountain bikers by Llyn Llydaw about the voluntary agreement on Snowdon.

We really appreciate all their efforts and commitments here on Snowdon and we look forward to working with them in the new season and hopefully years to come!

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Ben Nevis hits new high after trig point restoration

18 March 2016

Recent summit repair work by the Trust and Nevis Landscape Partnership helps Ordnance Survey recalculate height of UK’s highest peak

Trig point before repair work completed
Trig point before repair work completed

The official height of Britain’s highest mountain has risen by a metre as a result of a new Ordnance Survey measurement made possible by recent summit repair work carried out by the John Muir Trust and the Nevis Landscape Partnership.

The work included restoration of the base of the triangulation point that had become hollowed out and unstable because of the double impact of the weather and its popularity as a platform for people to stand upon for photographs.

After its sides and steps were rebuilt, Ordnance Survey was able to mount a sophisticated satellite positioning receiver on top of the structure. This in turn allowed the surveyors to record two hours of data from the highest point of the summit, providing a more exact measurement than was possible back in 1949 when the height of Ben Nevis was last measured.

The height of the mountain, previously recorded as 1,344m, is now 1,345m. Alison Austin, the John Muir Trust Nevis land manager said: “We are proud to have played our part – along with the Nevis Landscape Partnership and the local contractor Stonescape – in helping Ordnance Survey make this historic revision to the record books.”

The recently completed restoration work on Nevis also included the improvement of three kilometres of footpath, the upgrading of 16 of the 23 navigational cairns on the Ben, and the cleaning up and repair of the summit shelter.

The work was jointly funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Ordnance Survey and the John Muir Trust

Lifting materials to repair trig point
Lifting materials to repair trig point

“Winter is Coming!”

Rhys Wheldon-Roberts from the Winter Conditions Reporting Team

By Rhys Wheldon-Roberts – Assistant Area Warden on Snowdon, Snowdonia National Park Authority

Autumn and winter brings a very different feel to Snowdon. By the time November arrives many of the things that add to the hustle and bustle of Spring and Summer have gone: the train and Hafod Eryri (summit building) have closed, most of the mountain birds are either gone or quiet and the number of hill walkers are now much less. However work continues on Snowdon throughout the year and late autumn gives the Wardens and Estate workers a timely window, between the busyness of summer and the snow of winter, to do some much needed repair work to the paths.

The PyG track in winter conditions
The PyG track in winter conditions

November marks the start of our Ground Condition Reporting which report on the winter conditions on Snowdon throughout the winter. The Wardens head up Snowdon to assess the snow conditions with the aim of compiling a simple report, for the public, of what the conditions are like. In addition the the conditions the Wardens will give some basic advice on what sort of equipment the conditions dictate. These reports are compiled 3 to 4 times a week and are submitted to the Met Office to display on their Mountain Forecasts.

The mountains are very different place in winter, the weather conditions and short days combine to make a hike a much more serious undertaking. Taking a look at the forecasts is essential for an enjoyable day in the mountains, as is the appropriate kit.

For information on the latest mountain weather forecasts you can visit: http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/public/weather/mountain-forecasts/snowdonia#?tab=mountainWeather

Or follow the Ground Condition Reports on Twitter: @snowdonweather, @MountainSafe

For guidance on winter walking see: http://www.ukhillwalking.com/articles/page.php?id=4261

Work to begin on Ben Nevis Mountain Path

Path Signs

Press Release: From the Nevis Landscape Partnership

Vital work has begun this week on Britain’s highest mountain to upgrade and repair over three kilometres of the Ben Nevis Mountain Path. This ambitious project will stabilise and improve over half the total length of the track between Achintee and St. John’s Wall as part of a £1m project lead by Nevis Landscape Partnership and funded by Heritage Lottery Fund, Scottish Natural Heritage and Highlands & Islands Enterprise.

In total the work will take three years to complete, with this year’s contracts running from now until March 2016 to avoid the mountain’s extremely busy spring/summer period. The work carried out each year will dramatically improve this world class route.

The work sites present major safety considerations, both for the contractors and the people using the path during the construction phase, due to the steep cross‐slope that the path is benched into which zig- zags up the mountain. Walkers may wish to consider alternative routes up the Ben during the this period such as starting at the North Face car park, however those choosing to take the Mountain Path should be aware of the works and follow the bypasses and instructions from the on-site contractors. We would also like to advise extreme caution for any night climbs or descents using the Ben Nevis Mountain Path during the construction period.

The Ben Nevis Mountain Path is an extremely popular and well-used route and very much in need of these works to improve long-term stability of the path and reduce erosion. Ben Nevis visitor numbers are in excess of 100,000 annually and in addition to individual walkers there is an ever-growing number of charity climbs, challenge events and Three Peak groups. The lower Ben Nevis Mountain path is currently in a very poor condition and we need to take action now in order to safeguard the mountain path for future generations to enjoy. One way to alleviate unnecessary pressure is to ensure you register your group events with The Three Peaks Partnership or Ben Nevis Visitor Centre.

Cathy Mayne, Scottish Natural Heritage said,

“We are delighted that work on this iconic and much-used path is now underway. The team from the Nevis Landscape Partnership have worked hard to put together an excellent package of contractors, working through the winter to limit the impact on public access to our highest mountain.”

Lizzie Cooper, Nevis Landscape Partnership said,“We are extremely grateful to our funders for their commitment to the repair and upgrading of the Ben Nevis Mountain Path, it will make a huge difference to this mountain route and help reduce erosion. However, all mountain paths need ongoing maintenance to keep them in good condition, so we would encourage all those who want to help look after our iconic mountain to sign up for a volunteer footpath work party with Friends of Nevis and John Muir Trust. It is a truly amazing experience, if not a little addictive!”

To find out more about the work going on and around Ben Nevis, and how you can get involved and support it go to www.nevislandscape.co.uk.

NOTES FOR EDITORS

The Nevis Landscape Partnership Program is a 5 year £3.9m scheme, consisting of 19 projects aiming to encourage the public to engage with the natural and cultural environment of both Ben and Glen Nevis. Across the program there are opportunities for people get involved through volunteering, school participation, experience events and training opportunities. In addition we have a major ‘leave no trace’ interpretation project to promote sustainable use of the area.

Our key partners are: Heritage Lottery Fund, Scottish Natural Heritage, Highland Council, Forestry Commission Scotland, John Muir Trust & The Nevis Partnership who are the host organisation for the programme. In addition we have a number of smaller funders feeding into specific projects.

For further information contact Freja MacDougall, Communications freja@nevispartnership.co.uk / 07979671806 / 01397 701088