August 2001

Busy weekend for mountain rescue teams

Mountain rescue teams and emergency services were busy tackling a variety of incidents over the weekend of August 4 and 5. A Danish mother and son, who became stranded on Ben Nevis on Friday night, were talked down to safety via their mobile phone. Helena Schatz (44), and son Jakob (21), made an emergency call to police at Fort William at about 9pm to say they could not find their way down. At the outset of the incident, they were thought to be near the top of the mountain. Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team leader Terry Confield was alerted and passed instructions to the stranded walkers. He gave them directions every five minutes, pointing their way to beaten paths and eventual safety. Mother and son were able to navigate their way to the bottom. Their descent was monitored by Mr Confield every 15 minutes, and then every half-hour. The drama ended for the Danes at 2.30am on Saturday. Later in the day, a woman walker injured an ankle in a fall on the Saddle, Glen Shiel. Six members of Kintail Mountain Rescue Team and the RAF Lossiemouth rescue helicopter attended. The injured woman was carried down from the hill, which lies four miles south of Shiel Bridge, and taken to Broadford Hospital, Skye. She was later transferred to Raigmore Hospital, Inverness, for treatment to a broken ankle. And in another incident, a woman walker had to be airlifted to hospital in Inverness after falling near a 370ft waterfall in Lochalsh. A member of the public alerted the police at about 5pm on Saturday that the unnamed woman suffered a leg injury while walking near Falls of Glomach. The woman was airlifted by RAF helicopter to Raigmore Hospital.

Lochaber provided a wet and muddy welcome for 2,700 entrants who poured into the area on Saturday, August 4, for the start of the Scottish Six-Day Festival of Orienteering. Part of the event campsite, near the festival HQ at Lochaber High School in Fort William, was flooded. That meant relocating some competitors, along with their families and friends. But heavy conditions underfoot failed to deter entrants in the first event a four square kilometre course near the Loch Eil Outward Bound Centre. The festival attracted 30 Russians, who spent three days travelling by coach from Moscow, and, for the first time, competitors from Turkey. The 20 Turks hope to boost orienteering in their country and achieve recognition by the sport's governing body. They were joined by runners from 31 countries, including Sweden, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Many are combining the festival with a Highland holiday giving a lift to the beleaguered tourist industry. Local tourist officials say the festival has brought around 6,000 people into Lochaber, boosting the area's economy and providing some consolation for the loss of the Scottish six-day motorcycle trials, a victim of foot and mouth restrictions. The visitors have taken up much of the area's self-catering accommodation, some of which has been booked for over a year, at a traditionally busy time in the Lochaber tourist season. But organisers say entries are down in the two-year festival last held in Inverness due mainly to the impact of foot and mouth, and competition from last week's European championships in Finland. But festival co-ordinator Lynne Walker from Dunoon said the numbers were higher than they had first hoped for. She and colleagues from throughout Scotland were welcomed on Saturday night at a civic reception given by Highland Council's Lochaber area convener, Olwyn Macdonald, at Caol Community Centre. The competitors will tackle courses in the Gorstean and Strathmashie area at Laggan, then move to Ardchattan, near Oban

Final phase of red kite re-launch

The third and final phase of a project to reintroduce the red kite to Scotland is being completed. The raptors have already been released in north and central Scotland as part of a 10-year project to repopulate the species. Now the famous bird of prey will fly free at a secret location in Galloway. The £250,000 project is a collaboration involving the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Scottish Natural Heritage and Forest Enterprise. The species has not been seen in the skies over Galloway for more than 150 years. But that changed when 19 birds are released at a secret location on Thursday, August 9. Several of the birds were recovered by police from thieves in Germany. It will be their first taste of freedom since they were placed in quarantine on arrival in Scotland last month. German birds were also part of earlier releases in north and central Scotland and have since gone on to breed successfully. A spokesman for the RSPB said the release was the most significant bird event in Galloway for decades. He added that the secrecy surrounding the operation was to give the birds every chance to acclimatise.

Healthy circulation

Ever wondered how many copies your favourite walking magazine shifts? Well, here are the official figures for the UK's leading camping, walking and climbing titles. The nation's best seller is EMAP Active's Country Walking which pumps out, on average, 51,140 copies a month. Of this, 30,384 copies are sold through newsagents and shops while 20,200 are sent direct to subscribers, making a total of 50,584 copies actively purchased. Free copies (to advertisers, contributors, etc) and multiple copy and sponsored subscription sales account for the rest. Peterborough-based EMAP Active take second slot too with Trail which shifts, on average, 36,453 copies a month. News stand sales account for 25,382 copies while 9922 copies are mailed to subscribers. With a total of 35,304 copies actively purchased, the remainder go out as free copies or as multiple copy and sponsored subscription sales. In third place is TGO (The Great Outdoors), published by Glasgow-based SMG Magazines Ltd, part of the Scottish Media Group. It has an average circulation of 16,357 copies a month, of which 11,137 are sold through newsagents and shops and 5070 are sent to subscribers. The remaining 150 copies are distributed free or as multiple copy and sponsored subscription sales. In the world of mountain biking, Mountain Biking UK (Future) has an average monthly circulation of 57,663 copies and Mountain Bike Rider (IPC) has an average monthly circulation of 40,200. The figures are published by the Audit Bureau of Circulations (, who compile and check figures for the country's publishing industry.

Holy row over right of way

The Right Rev Mario Conti and another leading Scots churchman, the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, are both facing interdict proceedings at Aberdeen Sheriff Court in a legal wrangle over an obstructed right of way. Several residents in the city's Altens area had complained to the council and the action was raised after attempts to resolve the row failed. Now Aberdeen City Council says it has reluctantly resorted to the law to ban the churchmen from blocking a local path known as Lochside Farm Road. The landowner of the path, beside the Loch of Loirston, is the Charleston Trust and the Bishop and Archbishop are two of the trustees. A spokesman for Aberdeen City Council said: "Attempts to resolve the issue with the landowners have been unsuccessful ... reluctantly we have found it necessary to commence an action at Aberdeen Sheriff Court asking for declarator that the path is a right of way and interdict to stop the landowners obstructing or allowing obstructions." The path, which has been used by walkers for around 20 years, has been blocked by a five-bar metal gate. According to Cove and Altens Community Council secretary Sally Henderson, the wrangle has been dragging on for years. She said: "It is a small road, more like a farm track actually, and runs from Wellington Road through to Redmoss Road and people have been using it for a long time. A gate was put across it a couple of years ago and animals put into the field so they stopped because they didn't want their dogs to worry the animals." She said the community council was approached by the city council's former paths officer and subsequently appealed for anyone who used the path to contact them. The action was lodged on Friday and no hearing on the wrangle has yet been held. But local city councillor Kate Dean hopes the right of way will be re-opened as soon as possible. A spokesman for the Catholic Church's Aberdeen diocese said: "All I can say is that they [the bishops] will act responsibly on the advice of their factor."

Grampian crash report

An official report into a light aircraft crash in the Grampian mountains said the survivors were fortunate to be found alive by rescue teams. Four people escaped from the wreckage of the Cessna 172 plane after it came down above Glen Callater, near Braemar in January. The aircraft had been travelling from Peterborough to Inverness when it crashed 3,000ft up a mountain after flying low to escape ice forming on the wings.

Mark Peacock (22), and his girlfriend Judy Laidler (19), escaped with minor injuries while pilot Stephan Broughton (53), and his 38-year-old co-pilot who did not want to be identified, suffered broken bones.

After the crash the survivors walked about a kilometre in freezing conditions until they found a cove where they huddled together for warmth. They had all been close to giving up when they were spotted by an RAF helicopter and flown to hospital. All four were suffering from mild hypothermia due to a lack of appropriate clothing for the extreme weather conditions. The air accident report stated that Mr Broughton, from Ipswich, had thousands of hours of flying experience. It confirmed that the Cessna aircraft had no de-icing capability.
The report said that there was initial confusion over the location of the crash from the Cessna's emergency beacon. The survivors were found walking away from the beacon, which was their only location aid.

The report concluded that their chances of survival were slim as temperatures began to plummet with the onset of darkness. It adds: "When rescued they were already suffering from mild hypothermia. Sunset that evening was 4.26pm after which the chance of locating the survivors would have been remote. They would then have been forced to spend the night on the hills in extreme conditions without appropriate clothing, protection or any location aids." An RAF spokesman said the case highlighted the importance of light aircraft carrying emergency beacons. Aviation journalist Jim Ferguson said: "It was absolutely unbelievable that they survived, they were very, very lucky indeed. The report confirms what we knew. The plane flew into cloud, it wasn't supposed to and the report does not make it clear why. The pilot had an awful job keeping control and he crash-landed on the slope.''


Three separate rescue operations were launched in the Scottish Highland within hours of each other over the weekend of August 25 and 26. A 30-year-old German woman was airlifted to hospital after he fell 20 metres on Aonach Dubh, in Glen Coe at around 12.45pm on Saturday. She was being treated for injuries at Belford Hospital, in Fort William, where her condition was said to be comfortable. An RAF rescue helicopter airlifted a 17-year-old male walker who fell while descending Ben Nevis. Lochaber Mountain Rescue was also involved in the rescue The teenager, who was walking with a 17-year-old friend, was taken to Belford Hospital, but his injuries were not serious. At 7.40pm two walkers had to be guided off a hill by mountain rescue personnel at Kintail after getting into difficulties. The 40-year-old man and a 34-year-old woman were not seriously injured.

Arctic Team Challenge 2001

The world's top adventure racers gather in Greenland to compete in the Arctic Team Challenge 2001. Seven teams from around the world pit themselves against each other in one of the harshest natural environments on the planet. Amongst them is a Scottish team of four. The first episode of this thrilling adventure (screened on BBC2 on Thursday, August 9 at 7.30pm) covered the gruelling selection process by which the Scottish team was chosen from 700 hopefuls over a weekend in the Cairngorms. Adventure racing is, for an ever-increasing group of enthusiasts, the ultimate challenge, and this summer four Scottish athletes will be carrying the hopes of the whole Nation as they compete in the inaugural Arctic Team Challenge. They'll be undertaking a truly memorable journey to the isolated community of Ammassalik in eastern Greenland, but they won't have much time to look at the scenery as they run, mountain bike, kayak, travel across glaciers and race up mountain peaks. During five days of continual exertion, their physical and mental reserves will be tested to breaking point - and perhaps even beyond! Almost 700 people answered a BBC Scotland appeal earlier in the year to find the country's best athletes and 27 short-listed hopefuls competed in a gruelling selection weekend in early June at Glenmore Lodge in the Cairngorms. Over two days of knockout events we were left with 11 final competitors from which the Scottish team was chosen. Producer Richard Else says that what makes adventure racing so exciting is the super fitness of the competitors. ''These are people who are operating at the peak of human fitness - it's absolutely awesome. It's even more impressive when you realise that these people aren't professional athletes. They all have day jobs and adventure racing is one of the few events that is still predominantly amateur,'' he added. This year's Arctic Team Challenge is the inaugural one and what particularly impressed Richard about it is the location. Last year he made two research trips to Ammassalik. ''It's one of the most remote communities in a virtually deserted country,'' he continued, ''The landscape really has to be seen to be believed. Stunning Alpine-like mountains, huge fjords dotted with ice flows that can be the size of an office block and a pristine wilderness that's as beautiful as anything on earth.'' Richard Else is a director of Triple Echo Productions, which specialises in extreme adventure filming, and he has travelled to some of the most remote places on earth - including a dog sled trip through Baffin Island in winter where the temperature, with wind chill, plummeted to minus 100 degrees Celsius!

Bridge work completed

Two new bridges have been installed on the Drumguish to Stronetroper right of way, to the west of the River Feshie. The work has been undertaken by army units thanks to a funding package pulled together by the Cairngorm Partnership. The project was supported by Strathspey & Badenoch Paths Project and the Scottish Rights of Way Society. The bridges, crossing the Allt Chomhraig and Allt Mor, will be maintained by Highland Council. This project was initiated by the Scottish Rights of Way Society because of difficulties and dangers experienced in crossing the two watercourses.

Cairngorms crash site re-opened

The Cairngorms crash site of two US aircraft has now been handed back to its landowners following conclusion of the wreckage recovery operation. Two F15 jets came down near the summit of Ben Macdui during a low-level training operation earlier in the year, resulting in the deaths of both pilots. The wreckage was spread over a large area of the mountain and there were fears the important upland conservation area could have become contaminated by aviation fuel. After the crash on March 26 atrocious weather conditions and heavy snow on the ground hampered the initial search and posed problems for the team sent up the mountain to recover the various pieces of the two planes. About 250 personnel were involved in clearing the site. They removed 25 tonnes of debris and contaminants. In addition, 750 tonnes of snow were taken away from the site, 250 tonnes of which were contaminated by fuel. Although small quantities of oil are still present at the crash site, testing has shown the amount is so low that even sophisticated detection equipment has not been able to register it. However, the public has been advised not to drink water direct from mountain streams in the area. With the recovery and clear up operation complete, the ground has been handed back to the National Trust for Scotland and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). This means that access restrictions imposed in the area by the military have now been lifted. Investigations into the crash are continuing.

Beinn a' Bhuird scar healed

With the International Year of the Mountain imminent, and the creation of the Cairngorms National Park anticipated in 2003, the National Trust for Scotland is intensifying its work in enhancing and protecting one of Scotland's most treasured mountain landscapes. Beinn a' Bhuird, at 3927 feet, is one of the most remote hills on Mar Lodge Estate in the Cairngorms, a broad topped mountain rich in plant and animal life, with magnificent cliffs tucked away in the hidden corries. Unfortunately it has one big drawback for those who wish to get away from it all - a track slashed right across the ridge to the top, with the scar visible for miles around. The track was put in place in the 1960's for a failed ski development and was just left as a monument to this poorly thought out attempt at development in the middle of Scotland's largest block of last true arctic-alpine wilderness. Until now, that is. NTS are just starting the final phase of work to completely remove the 4,500 metres of track leaving only a very narrow informal footpath in its place. Work has been carried out since 1999 using a mixture of machine and highly skilled manual work, effectively recreating a mountain landscape that has more in common with the sub-arctic than anywhere else. Key to holding the re-instated soil together has been the effective transplanting of rare and fragile vegetation in one of the most inhospitable places in Scotland. Kate Proctor, the trust's ecologist has been monitoring the success of these transplants and reports a more than 90% survival rate, with evidence of natural regeneration taking place already. Path project manager Dougie Baird said: ''We have taken our time developing the techniques used to make sure we get the right style of work. If we get away from all the technical issues, this is about making sure there will be wild and special places in Scotland for future generations to enjoy.'' This initiative is very much in line with the thinking behind the rest of the trust's work. Alister Clunas, property manager at Mar Lodge Estate said: ''This is probably one of the most exciting and innovative mountain restoration projects in the Cairngorms, if not in the UK and has healed an ugly landscape scar." Dr Adam Watson, the leading authority on ecology and wildlife in the Cairngorms, said: ''In publications I deplored the construction of this bulldozed track, which I believe was the worst act of vandalism to high land in the Cairngorms over several decades. I praise the trust for its brave decision to remove this scar and reinstate the ground. The staff on the hill are to be commended for their care and sensitivity in carrying out this difficult project so successfully. The NTS has set a good example here. Other estates which bulldozed vehicle tracks on to high hills should follow this example.'' The project is supported by Scottish Natural