October 2001

Schiehallion lottery bid

The conservation trust that owns of one of Scotland's most popular mountains, Schiehallion in Perthshire, will know later in the year whether it has been successful in securing an £800,000 lottery grant. The John Muir Trust, which bought the eastern section of the hill two years ago, has submitted its second stage National Lottery application for £816,962. A decision is expected on December 13. Recently the trust secured a £30,000 grant towards the cost of work on Schiehallion's summit ridge from the Brown Forbes Memorial Fund. The fund aims to reinstate the natural beauty of the Scottish countryside and to encourage and promote enjoyment of it. A public appeal to buy and conserve Schiehallion reached its target of £300,000 last year. However, it remains open to help the trust fund conservation work on the eastern side of the mountain. This will include re-alignment of the badly eroded footpath from the Forestry Commission car park at Braes of Foss to the summit. Schiehallion is one of Scotland's best known and most popular peaks. It attracts thousands of hillwalkers every year, but erosion from the sheer weight of boot traffic has resulted in the main path deteriorating into an ugly scar visible for miles around. As part of its package of proposed conservation measures, the trust is looking at altering the line of the path to allow vegetation to regenerate over the existing route. Consultation is being undertaken with local people and public bodies, including Perth & Kinross Countryside Trust, Scottish Natural Heritage, Perth & Kinross Council, and Scottish Enterprise Tayside.

Schiehallion lies within a National Scenic Area and the 915 hectare estate bought by the trust includes a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Hostel quality standards

Scottish tourist chiefs and independent backpacker hostel operators are closer to reaching agreement over a quality standards inspection scheme. VisitScotland - formerly the Scottish Tourist Board - has its own grading system for such hostels. However, at the moment only the Scottish Youth Hostels Association (SYHA) and 66 independent hostels subscribe to this. Independent Backpackers Hostels Scotland (IBHS) group and Highland Hostels Ltd - which between them account for more than 100 independent hostels and over 500,000 bed nights annually - have failed to reach agreement with the board over its grading scheme.

Both organisations - which receive many of their bookings from outwith the traditional tourist board network - have their own quality standards which members must adhere to. Over recent years there has been a huge growth in the number of independent hostels in Scotland. They offer low cost, no-frills accommodation for backpackers and budget travellers. However, many independent hostel owners have been reluctant to engage with current VisitScotland thinking on the issue of quality and have been unable to endorse the board's existing grading scheme. Now new research is to be carried out with their aim of developing an inspection scheme that can be agreed by both sides. VisitScotand and representatives of the IBHS and Highland Hostels met with MSP Fergus Ewing in a bid to break the current impasse. They agreed a likely way forward for an independent, cost effective scheme for assessing quality in hostel accommodation.

VisitScotland quality assurance manager Lorraine Thomson said: ``It was agreed that new research be commissioned to look critically at the need for a scheme, how best it could be operated and the most appropriate body to undertake the task. ''We will look together at all options leading to a relevant consumer led scheme which would be trade endorsed and cost effectively operated,'' she added. IHBS has confirmed its annual inspection of member hostels will continue until a more comprehensive system has been devised as a result of the proposed research. Highland Hostels say they will continue their work towards achieving a consumer perception quality of stay measurement alongside a sensible validation of statutory requirements.

The research will take into account the different roles hostels play in each of the Scottish seasons and also acknowledge the differing needs and perceptions of visitors to city and rural hostels.

Skye mountain rescue bases unveiled

Two new mountain rescue bases were officially inaugurated on the Isle of Skye on Saturday, October 6. The facilities at Glenbrittle and Sligachan, which cost a total of £130,000, were formally unveiled by clan chief John MacLeod of MacLeod, current owner of the Cuillin peaks. The funding for the new bases came from the Order of St John, which is undertaking a £1 million Scotland-wide programme to update the country's mountain rescue facilities. The bases provide essential storage and maintenance areas for vital equipment as well as space for training members. The Skye mountain rescue team also took delivery of a new Land Rover vehicle. Leader Gerry Akroyd said: ''These purpose-built bases, one on each side of the Cuillin, means Skye now possesses fundamental communication links in 21st century mountain rescue.'' The Order of St John plans to fund further bases for mountain rescue teams in Lochaber, Torridon and Kinlochewe. The commitment follows on from the success of a £250,000 base donated to the Aberdeen Mountain Rescue Team in 1998.

Hillwalker dies in Cairngorms

A hillwalker died at the weekend after collapsing on Mullach Clach a Bhlair, above Glen Feshie. The man, who has yet to be named but is not thought to be local, was reported to have fallen ill on the afternoon of Saturday, October 13, by another walker using a mobile phone. A rescue helicopter from RAF Kinloss was scrambled to recover the man who was taken to Raigmore Hospital, Inverness, where he later died. In a separate incident, at about 7.50pm on Saturday, police at Glencoe were alerted over concerns for a lone male walker who was seen in the area of the Lost Valley. The walker was thought to be making very slow progress in his descent. Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team attended and assisted the male walker off the mountain. He was otherwise uninjured. The man did not wish his details released to the press. About an hour earlier on Saturday, Louis Kennedy (38), of Clayton-le-Moors, Lancashire, who had injured his knee while making his descent via the mountain track on Ben Nevis, phoned the police. Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team attended and found Mr Kennedy. He was stretchered off the mountain and taken to Belford Hospital, Fort William.

Cairngorm funicular coaches arrive

The company behind the £15 million Cairn Gorm Mountain Railway has taken delivery of its new carriages. After years of planning and months of construction, the controversial scheme is now steaming ahead and is well on track for a December inauguration. Led by solo piper, Calum Fraser, the 12-tonne coaches passed through Aviemore after an 1,100-mile journey from manufacturers in Switzerland. The arrival of the carriages for the first Scottish funicular railway where carriages are pulled up and down by cables attached to fixed motors was hailed as a massive boost for tourism across the Highlands. The railway is due to open in December and will transform the Cairngorms from being a predominantly winter sports area to a year-round visitor attraction. Almost 3,000 jobs in surrounding Badenoch and Strathspey are already tourism-related and, as well as protecting these existing jobs, new jobs will be created locally as a result of the development. Bob Kinnaird, chief executive of CairnGorm Mountain Ltd, operators of the funicular railway, said: "Today is a historic day for all of us involved in the funicular partnership. The arrival of the carriages not only sees one of the last pieces in the jigsaw being put into place, but also sends out a very positive signal for a regeneration of tourism across Badenoch and Strathspey, as well as in other parts of the Highlands. We look forward to opening on schedule in December to cater for a massive increase in the number of visitors coming into this area." One of the partners in the project was Moray Badenoch and Strathspey Enterprise, and chief executive Douglas Yule said: "These carriages represent a substantial landmark that has the potential to underpin Badenoch and Strathspey's reputation as a high-quality visitor destination, alongside the benefits to be gained from national park status and our efforts to secure a redevelopment of the Aviemore Centre." The mountain railway replaces the 40-year-old chairlift. With numbers expected to increase from the present 50,000 per year to 165,000, the new railway can carry up to 1,200 passengers per hour in winter, almost double the present rate, and up to 500 per hour in summer. In replacing the car park and White Lady chairlifts, the journey time between the car park and the Ptarmigan will be impressively reduced, with the two kilometre journey now being taken fully enclosed from the elements, in a fraction of the previous 25 minutes by chairlift. New facilities at the Ptarmigan station, near the summit of Cairn Gorm, will include an inter-active mountain experience exhibition, a retail area and a restaurant, which will not only be the highest in the country, but also will enjoy some of the most spectacular views. Cairngorm Mountain Ltd, is wholly owned by Cairngorm Mountain Trust, of which there are no shareholders and all revenue generated from the company's activities will continue to be invested in the site for the benefit of both the visitors and the environment.

Climber speaks of his survival bid

A climber forced to make a splint for a broken leg from his rucksack has spoken of his ordeal. Craig Reid, from Somerset, spent two nights in the open on Bidean Nan Bian in Glencoe after falling several times as he battled to get off the mountain. Mr Reid set off to climb the peak on good weather on Thursday, October 4. Shortly after reaching the summit, however, the weather closed in and he was on his way down - but not by the route he had planned. "The ground came away from underneath my feet and I fell 30 feet down loose gravel," he said from his hospital bed. The 34-year-old was unhurt at this point, but unable to climb back up to the path or find a safe route down. After half an hour he fell again, about 30 feet, and broken a bone in his right leg. "My foot was completely uncontrollable and the sock at the top of my boot was double the size it should have been," he continued. "That fall took the top off my rucksack and I lost vital equipment. I lost my waterproof trousers and some food. When I hit the bottom I was on a very insecure ledge in a waterfall, and I had to get off it." The only escape was to make a deliberate 20-foot drop to a basin below - hoping not to land on his injured foot. His new position was still in the gully cut by the waterfall, with water running through it. Mr Reid changed his clothes, sorted what remained of his equipment, and prepared for a night in the open. He said: "My compass was broken, my camera was broken, but my headlamp worked. The weather got worse and the waterfall increased in power and started to fill up with water. I moved to a ledge and built up stones to keep my foot out of the water." On the Friday morning, he decided he had to do something about his injury. "I could not lift my leg without it hurting badly," he said. He hacked at his rucksack to remove the metal struts sewn into it, and used them to make a splint. ''I was very fortunate that the rucksack had a frame that was bendable. It took a bit of planning to work out how to stop my foot from dropping down and twisting from side to side." He broke the straps off the rucksack and used his knee-length gaiters to bind the splint into place. Moving was painful, but he realised his remote location meant he could not afford to wait for rescue. Eventually it was boredom that spurred him to go, carefully planning a traverse to the east and south. "I made may way down on my bum, to about 800 feet, I guess. I was hoping to get down that night. I pulled my head lamp on to see me through the night and it was broken." He now knew where he was - at Stob Corrie Nan Bian, a meeting point of two mountains - but he would be stuck there for 11 hours of darkness. "The weather was wet, windy and about 5 degrees centigrade. I knew I was heading towards hypothermia," Mr Reid added. On Saturday morning, he saw two rescue helicopters, alerted by his wife Karin when he failed to ring her. He struggled to a hilltop and Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team reached him at the same time as the helicopters. Within an hour he was at Fort William, being treated for hypothermia. Mr Reid was praised by his rescuers for his remarkable resourcefulness. On Sunday he was transferred to Raigmore Hospital at Inverness, where a plate and pin were inserted into his leg. "There were all sorts of emotions. I was thinking of my family, and getting back to them as soon as possible. Of course there were times when I thought I would not make it because of the conditions I had to go through, but they didn't last long," he said. A full-scale air and land search operation for Mr Reid was headed up by John Grieve, of Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team. He said they had not expected to find him alive. Mr Grieve added: "We were expecting a fatality, especially when someone's been missing that long. But at 11.30 we saw someone waving on the hillside trying to attract our attention. "It was a very bad break, the bone was sticking out he'd made a splint from his rucksack. He was in shock and had a low temperature and getting to the drastic stages of hypothermia. But he was a tough bloke, he did well." Mr Reid had been reported missing on Friday night at around 8.30pm. He had been walking in the Glencoe area and after failing to return to the Red Squirrel campsite in Glencoe the alarm was raised. Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team was initially deployed on to the Aonach Eagach Ridge to search for him, but the search was called off at around midnight on Friday. At 8am on Saturday the rescue effort was resumed with further teams from Oban and Kinloss, as well as the assistance of two rescue helicopters, one from RAF Lossiemouth and another Navy helicopter from Prestwick. By 11.15am on Saturday one of the helicopter crew spotted him in the Coire Beith area. He was then airlifted to the Belford Hospital in Fort William before being driven on to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.

An Aberdeen man was rescued at the weekend after falling down a gully. The 26-year-old man, who has not been named by police, fell in Glen Nevis at 12.50pm on Saturday, October 6. Police in Fort William were called and members of the Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team alerted. The climber had suffered head and leg injuries and was taken to Belford Hospital in Fort William. He was later transferred to Raigmore.

A 52-year-old female was airlifted from Ben Nevis after falling on the mountain. Mary Durkin, from Coleraine in Northern Ireland, was taken to Belford Hospital with broken bones in her back. A man climbing in the Cairngorms had to be rescued after he fell and broke his ankle. The 41-year-old from Aberdeen, who asked police not to release his details, was taken to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary with a fractured right ankle. His brother, who was climbing with him, raised the alarm on his mobile phone after the accident in the Gairnshiel area at around 4.45pm on Saturday, October 6. Police said the pair had been descending in heavy showers and high winds at between 2,500 and 3,000ft when the climber slipped and fell. A rescue party consisting of around 20 people, including 13 members of Grampian Police, and members of Braemar Mountain Rescue teams were called to the scene. Led by police constable Jim Wood, the teams found the injured hillwalker 500 metres from Corndavon Lodge and placed him on a stretcher. He was then taken to a 4x4 vehicle and transported to a waiting ambulance.

Killin left out of national park

The town of Killin is set to be left out of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park because an environmental watchdog believes it looks more like a place in the Highlands, much to the consternation of residents. Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), which has drawn up the map on behalf of the Scottish Executive, has also excluded the remainder of the east Glen Dochart area, on the grounds that its appearance is not in keeping with the rest of the landscape for Scotland's first proposed national park. But the west of the area, which takes in Tyndrum and Crianlarich, has fallen inside the boundary. The case for Balfron to be incorporated into the park was also put to the Scottish Parliament's rural development committee. Members heard that, in a local referendum, residents had voted by 14-to-one in favour of inclusion. The committee agreed to write to the Executive suggesting, in separate letters, that the cases for Killin and Balfron merited serious consideration. The draft designation order setting the park's boundaries was issued earlier this year. Consultation on the order was recently completed. Stirling MSP Sylvia Jackson appeared before the committee to speak on behalf of Killin. She said there was unanimous local support for it to be part of the National Park, which was believed to meet the criteria of outstanding natural and cultural heritage. "Adjoining community councils feel Killin is part of their area, there's a common secondary school and it's part of the area that forms Stirling Council," she said. "So, in a social sense, it's part of the bigger area that's within the national park. Every organisation I can think of that is, or will be, concerned with this has been bringing it to the notice of the Scottish Executive. I can't find a reason why this area should not be included within the National Park." SNP rural development spokesman Fergus Ewing said that, while a member of Lomond Mountain Rescue, he had been on many exercises with the Killin rescue team. "We covered areas in common, with no obvious geographical divide or feature which separates or in any way differentiates the areas," he said. "It seems completely arbitrary." Scottish Executive official Andrew Dickson explained the reason for SNH's proposal to keep Killin out of the park. He said: "That recommendation wasn't an absolutely clear, open-and-shut recommendation. It was one on which there was a difference of priorities between SNH, acting as reporter to assess objectively put to them, and test them against the criteria; and SNH as advisers to ministers."

Midge misery for Monarch of the Glen stars

Producers of the BBC's popular Sunday night series, Monarch Of The Glen, have been forced to put up special nets to protect the actors from insects. They say thousands of midges on set are causing misery to the cast. Filming of the third series of the BBC drama, based around Ardverikie House (pictured) and Loch Laggan has just begun. Actors have also been provided with portable buildings which are virtually bug proof. Susan Hampshire, who plays Molly, says the midges seem to pester her the most. "I have found it hard to concentrate on emotional scenes when they are crawling in my ears, or on the face of the actor I am talking to. But we have improved things this summer a bit - thank goodness," she said. "They're horrible but I do believe that, without them, this lovely area would have been ruined by developers. As it is, the area's been left alone and real nature lovers can appreciate it. The area is magical - midges or no midges." Monarch Of The Glen will be shown on BBC1 on Sundays, beginning October 28.

Water authority sinks sheep farms

One of Scotland's largest sheep farms is to be cleared of its 8,000 livestock because of a cost cutting drive by a water authority. West of Scotland Water, which owns the Loch Katrine farm in the Trossachs, said the move would also reduce the risk of infection to Glasgow's water supply. The water authority said the 9,500 hectare farm and another smaller neighbouring farm, at Craigdarroch near Afton, had both failed to make a profit in recent years and were no longer viable. West of Scotland Water said it was also concerned about the risk of contamination from sheep droppings - the authority was fearful of an outbreak of cryptosporidiosis, an infection of the intestines which can lead to diarrhoea, cramps and vomiting. The loch was suspected of being the source of an outbreak of the disease in Glasgow last year, although no link was ever proved. Chief Executive Charlie Cornish said: "The decision has been taken due to a combination of reasons. Firstly, our farming interests overall make a loss and as a public authority, we have a duty to minimise business operations which may need to be subsidised either now or in the future. We need to demonstrate to our customers that we are as cost-efficient as possible, and minimise the degree by which charges have to increase. "Secondly, non-core business operations, especially those which are loss-making, as in this case, require serious re-assessment. Thirdly, the authority also has cost efficiency targets to take into consideration it is required to meet the Scottish Water Industry Commissioners efficiency targets, totalling £80m per annum, by 2005/6. "The fourth reason for our decision to withdraw from our sheep farming interests is to minimise any potential risk of contamination to the Loch Katrine water supply by animal droppings." He added: "Our over-riding objective as a public water authority must be to safeguard public health and we believe it is prudent to be proactive and withdraw from sheep farming as a precautionary measure following the cases of cryptosporidiosis in Glasgow during late spring 2000. "The outbreak control team established by Greater Glasgow Health Board concluded that the organism responsible was waterborne, although no conclusive evidence identified the actual source." Claims that the decision will be a devastating blow to the local economy have been dismissed by the authority who insist no jobs will be lost. Mr Cornish said: "Our immediate priority will be to work closely with the six shepherds and one team leader currently involved in our sheep farming operations to ensure that they are provided with suitable alternative options, and/or retraining, and can take advantage of other opportunities within the authority.

New climbing centre for Dundee

By Steve Page

A planning application has been submitted to Dundee City Council for a new indoor climbing centre to be built in the city. The location an old church in Blinshall Street currently used as an auction house - isn't particularly large but a self standing constructed in the centre of the building will maximise the use of the available space. Facilities are to be provided on this central structure for lead and top roping rising to a height of 10 metres and extending over a width of some 50 metres. Bouldering will be accommodated in smaller atriums which offer a height of just over four metres. Developers Simon Jenkins, a professional mountain guide, and Ian Richardson, a climbing enthusiast and businessman, estimate that the capacity of the venue will be around 60 visitors although they expect actual numbers are unlikely to exceed 35 at any one time. The centre is intended to be open seven days a week, operating from 10am to 10pm with no membership fees but a minimum age limit of 12 years. The planning application has been generally welcomed by Dundee City Council, but with the proposal being within a registered historical building it will be subject to further discussions. Allowing for construction works, the centre should open in spring 2002.

Missing walkers return safely

An Aberdeen man and woman stranded on mountains overnight have been traced safe and well. A major rescue hunt search was called off after they made managed to make their own way down the Cairngorms. It is understood city businessman John Duncan and Aberdeen woman Caroline Lindsay became stranded in the Ben Macdui area after bad weather set in. A mountain rescue search was launched after Mr Duncan, of Braemar Place, failed to return home on the evening of Saturday, October 27. His worried wife alerted police just before midnight. Although her husband was carrying a mobile phone, Mrs Duncan was unable to contact him on it. The missing woman Mrs Lindsay was reported overdue by her former partner. Mr Duncan, who is an experienced hillwalker, had set off from his home at 7.30am to go hillwalking. His exact location destination was not known. It is understood he and Mrs Lindsay contacted police by phone just after 10am. Members of Grampian Police Mountain Rescue Team had left a note on Mrs Lindsay's car, which was parked at the Linn of Dee, informing them that a search was under way. A police spokesman said: "The teams always leave notes on cars belonging to the missing party so they can get in touch with officers when they come off the range to let them know they are safe. It would appear they were stranded overnight due to high winds and were unable to make their way off the range. They decided to take shelter overnight and wait for the weather to settle down." It is understood the pair later made their way to Braemar by car to speak to members of the rescue teams. An RAF helicopter from Lossiemouth and Grampian Police's mountain rescue team were due to search Ben Macdui for any trace of the pair.

Climber injured in rockfall

A climber was flown to safety after being injured by a falling rock in Glencoe on Sunday, October 28. Kenneth Hornsby, from Airdrie, was climbing Crowberry Tower on Buachaille Etive Mor with three friends when the accident happened. Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team was called out and a rescue helicopter was scrambled from RAF Lossiemouth after the alarm was raised as 10.55am. Mr Hornsby was taken halfway down the mountain on a stretcher before being picked up and flown to Belford Hospital in Fort William. He was treated for a broken arm and cuts to his face.