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Mountain Apartheid

Signposts and Waymarking on Scottish Mountains.

neil wightwick

on 22 April 2015

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Transcript of Mountain Apartheid

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Away from the Lowland bridleways there is virtually no waymarking in the Scottish Highlands. If you spend any time hill walking in Scotland you rapidly discover that it is almost impossible to find your way around without a map and compass and a good deal of local knowledge. Especially on the higher mountain routes where knowing where you are can be a matter of life and death.

My Conclusion
I conclude that:
Having signposts on every one of Scotland’s mountains is not the answer. It would be impractical to manage, expensive to maintain and potentially dangerous for inexperienced uses.
However, popular mountains and routes should be sign posted.
Warning signs should be displayed at a trailhead including a rough guide to distance and time for the trail. Mountains which would benefit from such signing and have a positive impact on tourism include.:
Ben Nevis, Ben Lomond, Cairgorm and Shehallion.
These mountains already attract a disproportionate amount of tourists; by improving signage on these mountains I believe the safety record would actually improve due to:
Less likely to get lost
Participants would get regular information on how far it is and how long it should take.
Markers would act as a point of reference for potential rescues.

For Climbers / Scramblers . Marking the bottom of popular routes with easily identifyable markers would make access for oversees and local climbers much easier. Routes such as Curved Ridge, Tower Ridge and Anaoch Eager require a little local knowledge to make access simple. By confirming the location of these popular routes parties could climb / scramble in the knowledge they are in the right place. This would, once again prevent parties from getting into difficulty by climbing the wrong route.

27 Jul 2009
"I go up Curved Ridge on Buachaille Etive Mor three or four times a year, and I still sometimes start on the wrong buttress. One of my favourite hills is Liathach in Torridon - one of the great mountain ridge walks of the world. But when you come to the end of it, there is a choice of paths and if you rely on a compass you will almost certainly take the wrong one. A simple marker, a daub of paint, a cairn and there would prevent a lot of damaged knees."


27 Jul 2009

But suggest anything like this in Scotland and you are likely to get a tirade of abuse. It is a hugely explosive issue. Even cairns are considered an act of vandalism. Many Scottish mountaineers and ramblers believe the purity of the land would be destroyed were anything like the continental system introduced here, even though some Scottish hills are being destroyed by erosion from random walkers. Why is Scotland alone afflicted by this mountain nihilism? In part it is history and land ownership. Scotland used to be a game reserve for the English upper classes, and they didn't want to encourage ordinary people onto the moors.

Mountain elitists today argue that people should not be encouraged to go into the hills without a compass and a knowledge of how to use it. Well, yes, in an ideal world everyone would be able to navigate in a white-out, but there are precious few who can. I've been on Outward Bound and mountain leadership courses and I've been going into the hills for 30 years but I still can't navigate confidently in bad weather. But the main point is that on many mountain walks a

One of my favourite hills is Liathach in Torridon - one of the great mountain ridge walks of the world. But when you come to the end of it, there is a choice of paths and if you rely on a compass you will almost certainly take the wrong one. A simple marker, a daub of paint, a cairn and there would prevent a lot of damaged knees.

Sacrilege! To deface the mountain amounts to criminal damage in the eyes of many Scottish hill fraternity. To which I say: if you really want to keep Liathach to yourselves, don't build a path up it. For, incredibly, there is now a stone-built path - NOT waymarked of course - leading almost to the start of the ridge, from where walkers are left entirely to their own devices. To lure people up mountains and then not show them how to get down is as irresponsible as it is incomprehensible. It is the same on many popular mountains in Scotland.

These stone staircases have been built to combat erosion. But the principle cause of erosion is the impact of the aimless feet of thousands of hill walkers losing their way. Some mountains, like Stac Pollaidh in Wester Ross, will probably never recover. There are whole hillsides in Glencoe that have been completely destroyed, like Clachaig Gully descent route from the Aonach Eagach.

It is amazing that there are so few accidents on the Scottish mountains given the absence of waymarking. Anyway, it is a kind of conceit, a form of vanity, that only people who are experts in hill craft should be allowed to go on the hills. It is mountain apartheid. The paradox of wild land is that it has to be managed to keep it that way. It's time to start telling hill walkers where to go.
Rationale We Do Have Some Path Markers Scotland has 570km of marked mountain footpath.
Some long distance pathways are marked, like the West Highland way.
Foresty Walks
Coastal Walks
Some starting points to mountain walks

Why more waymarked paths? Thousands of people come to Scotland from all over the world to experience Scotland's mountains
Cut down on erosion on non essential paths
Show the start of poular but difficult to find routes; eg Curved Ridge

To Increase Tourism.
Surveys suggest that in any one month of survey, 4 to 5% of the Scottish population go climbing, hill-walking, or mountaineering (MacGregor & Martin, 1999).
Mountain-based recreation is economically important to many communities, with tourist spending averaging at £4bn per year. Wikapedia
Where for the waymarks and signposts? On popular hillwalking routes
On popular mountaineering / scrambling routes.
Car parks at the start of popular routes

Colured dots to mark the start of popular routes
Car park signage with directions, distance and appox timmings
Car park signage with warnings about objective dangers.
Summit signage with height.
On route markers and signage with distance (time) to summit or objective.

Local Council in conjunction with:
National and Regional Parks
Land owners
Tourist Board Who would decide on and maintain the infastructure? Possible Impacts Positive
Decrease in accidents, less people get lost.
Decrease in people getting lost
Decrease in environmental impact
Easier access to mountains
Increased tourist numbers
Negative Increased environmental impact
Increase in accidents as the number of participants increases

Possible Types of Signage The fact only people who are experts in hillcraft should be allowed to go on the hills is a kind of conceit, a form of vanity.
Scotland stands accused of ‘mountain nihilism’ in its continuing opposition to adopting the practice of waymarking footpaths on its high ground.
Wilderness land is a paradox, to keep it that way it has to be managed. “The number of mountaineering incidents has varied little since 1980 despite many more venturing to the hills,” the MCofS chief says. “The fact that there are so few mountaineering accidents isn’t due to one factor; it’s due to a wide range, including improved clothing and footwear; availability of navigation courses, better guidebooks and maps; improved information on mountain safety, avalanche conditions and mountain weather; better training of mountain leaders; and better educated and informed hill-goers.” Other Countires Have More: Toursim Is Scotland Largest Industry By improving access to Scotlands mountain areas
we will encourage more tourists to Scotland which will
in turn benefit the whole economy.
France. Almost every significant mountain pathway is colour-coded and signposted. If you go into the mountains in Haute Provence or the French Alps you will find red, white and yellow markings at almost every juncture telling you where you are. The 240,000km of waymarked routes , maintained by 6000 volunteers, are considered a great national resource and an essential tool of mountain management.
Germany: In the Black Forest alone there are 45,000km of waymarked hiking routes. MOUNTAIN APARTHEID Sign Posts In the Scottish Mountains.......
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