A walker who was reported overdue on Saturday, November 3, was found by mountain rescue teams in the Scottish Highlands the following day. A search was launched at first light on Sunday in the Beinn Tharsuinn area of Achnashellach after the alarm was raised at about 2200 hours on Saturday. The Torridon Mountain Rescue Team, assisted by a helicopter from RAF Lossiemouth, located the man shortly before 0900 hours. He was taken by helicopter to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness to receive treatment for hypothermia. His condition is not believed to be serious. The man is believed to have wandered into mist and became separated from his group. After a futile search by the group they raised the alarm with Torridon team. Team leader, Neil Hinchliff said: "We were pleased to find him so quickly. It had been a wet and windy night and the showers were becoming increasingly wintry."
Two stranded hillwalkers used a camera flash bulb to attract the attention of a rescue helicopter after becoming lost without a compass in the Cairngorms. The walkers, both men from the London area, became lost after snow and mist enveloped the peak of Ben MacDui. Police were alerted by a mobile phone call from the walkers at about 2pm on Sunday, November 4. John Allen, leader of Cairngorme Mountain Rescue Team, said: "I spoke to them at 2.15pm and they were in the mist and cold and didn't know where they were. Unfortunately they had a map but no compass without a compass it's impossible to navigate because the Cairngorm Plateau is so featureless." To make matters worse, the two men had no whistle and no torch, although one had a camera flash. Mr Allen advised the walkers to follow the descent of a river to lower ground. The RAF Lossiemouth helicopter crew were in the area on a training exercise and Mr Allen was going to ask for their assistance when the aircraft was called away to Fort William to pick up a male hillwalker suffering from chest pains in the Bridge of Orchy area. Members of the Cairngorm and Braemar mountain rescue teams readied themselves for a search for the men as darkness fell. However Mr Allen asked the helicopter crew to take a look in the Cairngorms before heading off back to Lossiemouth and they saw the flash from the camera near Loch Avon, where the men had managed to descend. The walkers, who were not hurt, were picked up and taken to Glenmore Lodge where they were told of the necessity of having and being able to use a compass on the hills. Mr Allen said: "One of the men said they would be going walking on Monday so he was advised to buy a compass from a local climbing shop and to learn how to use it before going out. You should have a compass with you at all times, and if you are going out in winter you should carry a compass, map, whistle and torch. "It is unforgivable that they only had a map. This is a timely reminder to people who ring us on mobile phones when they are in trouble that we cannot direct them to safety if they don't have or can't use a compass."
A search by Skye Mountain Rescue Team was stood down just as it was ready to begin on Wednesday night after two men arrived safely back from a walk. The pair - a 56-year-old and a 17-year-old - were reported overdue after setting out on the morning of Wednesday, November 7, from Sligachan to walk to Loch Coruisk in the heart of the Black Cuillin. They were due to return by 4pm but failed to do so and the mountain rescue team was assembled. However, the pair, who had no food and water or waterproof clothing with them, turned up at 8.45pm. They had not been equipped to walk after dark, having no torch.
The Mountaineering Council of Scotland, the British Mountaineering Council and the Mountaineering Council of Ireland are launching a new Access and Conservation Trust - ACT. ACT will provide a focus for sustainable access to cliffs, mountains and open countryside in order to support rural access and conservation projects that protect access and promote sustainability; educate and raise awareness and understanding of conservation and responsible conduct issues; research the benefits and impacts of mountain recreation and tourism, and train and support access volunteers. ACT will have charitable status, enabling it to receive tax efficient donations. The broad geographical coverage will allow money to be channelled into the areas that are most in need of support, be they in England, Wales, Scotland or Ireland. With large scale support and sponsorship ACT will be able to fund larger projects, increasing its effectiveness to ensure sustainable use and conservation of our outdoor environment. ACT will be officially launched to the public at the Festival of Climbing in Birmingham in December. The launch will focus on a celebration of the natural environment and the importance of our freedom to enjoy it. During the Festival of Climbing visitors will be invited to draw and write on the ACT freedom mural, recording their vision of the natural environment and its importance to personal freedom.
A Scottish Executive minister has pledged that the proposed Cairngorms National Park will be an "asset to the nation". But Rhona Brankin stressed the project's success depended on striking a balance between commercial initiatives and sustainability. During a visit to the area, the Deputy Minister for Environment and Rural Development said the Executive is committed to establishing Scotland's National Parks to ensure they form the basis for thriving local rural communities. She also promised that the creation of the park in the Cairngorms area often described as Scotland's last true wilderness will be underpinned by a commitment to ensure local involvement in its management. She said: "The Cairngorms National Park will enhance the social and economic development of communities and ensure the protection of our natural and cultural heritage. "Business opportunities will, I am certain, also arise from the creation of the Cairngorms National Park. However, a sensible balance must be struck between quality commercial initiatives and sustainability." She added that the Scottish Executive is now considering the terms of a draft Designation Order, which will be the subject of further consultation with a view to ensuring the success of the park. During her visit, the minister met local people to discuss issues surrounding the park proposals and to hear about local eco-tourism businesses. Stewart Fulton, chief executive of Cairngorms Partnership, was impressed with Ms Brankin's commitment to these issues. He said: "The draft Designation Order is the most important legislation so far in the creation of the park. There will be a consultation period in the spring and after that work will begin on establishing the park. "Ms Brankin intends to make sure that the people in the area find their way forward. It is good to see the minister's commitment. It is a very nice feature of the Scottish Parliament to see the ministers on the ground getting involved." During her visit, the minister also opened a new display exploring the history and flora and fauna of the Highland's ancient bog woodlands at Glenmore Visitor Centre. The exhibition has been built as part of the Wet Woods Life Project, a £660,000 scheme to breathe life into rare fragments of ancient bog woodland and floodplain forest. The new display explores the world of bog woodlands and highlights the importance of protecting these internationally recognised sites. Part funded by the EU Life Nature Programme, the work has been carried out by a partnership of Scottish Natural Heritage, the Forestry Commission and its woodland management agency Forest Enterprise, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Highland Birchwoods. It is understood that the Cairngorms National Park will start being established from the beginning of 2003.
Four heroes of the hills were honoured in the first Scottish distinguished service awards for mountain rescue members at the weekend. All 28 mountain rescue teams in Scotland were represented at Glenmore Lodge, near Aviemore, for the Mountain Rescue Committee event on Saturday, November 10. And the four men honoured two of whom have 30 years' service each have experience that ranges from the highs of successful rescues and treks to major disasters that affected the whole country. Moffat Mountain Rescue Team member Andy Newlands was the only one of the four honoured who was able to make it to the meeting the other three could not attend due to a combination of illness and being out of the country. Mr Newlands (71), has 30 years under his belt as a rescue-team member. But despite his years of service and work for the hillwalking community, he still was not expecting to get the award. He said: "It came as a surprise when they said they'd give it to me." Flight Sergeant Dave Whalley, of RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team, was unable to receive his award due to illness. But he said later: "The mountain rescue is a real part of each community, and I'm proud to be involved. I accept this for the team." The other award winners, Bill Bain of Braemar MRT and Angus Campbell of Lomond MRT, were also unable to attend. Although England and Wales have held such award ceremonies for years, this is the first year that the Mountain Rescue Committee has honoured its own members in this way. Mountain Rescue Service Scotland chairman Willie Marshall, who is also head of Assynt MRT, said: "We felt that Scottish rescuers deserved a similar award ceremony to the rest of the country. The events won't take place annually they'll be awarded periodically on an 'as and when' basis. This time, we're catching up with the people who would have got awards in the past." Mr Marshall presented certificates to Mr Newlands, and three MRT members who accepted the awards on behalf of the absent recipients.
The future of one of Scotland's most prized Highland estates is in doubt because of a financial crisis facing its Danish multi-millionaire owner, who made his fortune from a famous chain of fashion shops. Glenfeshie, a 42,000-acre estate in the Cairngorms, is owned by businessman Klaus Helmersen who founded the Carli Gry fashion house. The company's trademark cotton clothes, including Cottonfield and Jackpot, earned him £90 million. But now, according to a report in the Sunday Herald newspaper, Helmersen's business empire, which no longer includes Carli Gry, is tottering because of a series of high-risk investments in the US. A high-powered group of Danish banks and finance institutions are so worried that they have launched an investigation to protect the millions of kroner they have loaned him. This has sparked fears among environmentalists that Glenfeshie could be put up for sale again, threatening its precious remnants of ancient Caledonian pine forest. Helmersen bought the estate for over £6m in 1997, outbidding a powerful consortium of government and voluntary agencies. ''It's a scandal that such an important tract of land is subject to the roulette wheel of international finance. There have been attempts to bring the estate into public ownership since the 1960s, and still the lottery continues to this day,'' said Dave Morris, director of the Ramblers' Association Scotland. ''It highlights the need for MSPs to make sure that the forthcoming land reform legislation can prevent this problem from arising ever again, by making it impossible to trade such valuable land on the world property market. If Glenfeshie does come on to the market again, the government should move in with compulsory purchase powers.'' Helmersen left Carli Gry in 1999 but continued his wide-ranging business through a company called St Frederikslund. In the past three years the company has made a string of multi-million pound investments in US firms. To make the investments Helmersen borrowed large sums of money from Danish banks and financial institutions. But now, according to the Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende, they have had a crisis meeting in Copenhagen ''to discover how close Klaus Helmersen is to being bankrupt''. Glenfeshie is at the heart of the new National Park proposed by the Scottish Executive and is famous for being the place where Sir Edwin Landseer painted his well-known picture of a stag, Monarch of the Glen, in the 1830s. The estate is owned by Helmersen through a company called Glenfeshie Estate Limited, which is registered at 10 Blackfriars Street, Perth. Renowned among walkers and mountaineers for its dramatic wild landscape, Glenfeshie has been a source of dispute for many years because its ancient pine trees are dying out due to high deer numbers. In the past the number of deer on the estate has been kept in the thousands in order to make sure that there were plenty of stags available for landowners and their guests to shoot for sport. Andy Wightman, an expert on land ownership, warned that Helmersen's financial crisis could be the start of a whole new chapter in the sorry story of Glenfeshie. He said: ''It has long been evident that public ownership is the only way of ensuring the future of such important places. If Glenfeshie is to be sold, the Scottish Executive should step in and declare its intention to buy it through compulsory acquisition. It has the power to bring an end to decades of appalling management and profiteering by successive private owners.'' Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) said it was aware of the reports of Helmersen's financial difficulties, though it had heard nothing through official channels. The government conservation agency was involved in a public bid to buy Glenfeshie in 1997. SNH has a legal agreement with the estate aimed at protecting the Caledonian pine forest by culling a significant number of deer. ''We are content with the way that the estate is implementing the management agreement we have with it, and we would expect any owner to do the same,'' a spokesman said. Karl Peter Lyhr, the manager of the Glenfeshie estate, admitted that Helmersen's business had a problem, but he insisted that there were no current plans to put the estate on the market. He said: ''Even with these difficulties, Klaus Helmersen is still a very wealthy man.''
The Mountain Bothies Association looks set to press ahead with plans to create a new bothy at Slugain Lodge, in the hills to the north of Braemar. The lodge, which lies at the foot of Meall an t-Slugain on the Invercauld Estate, is currently ruined. However, the MBA made an initial approach to the estate with a view to renovating the building and has received the green light from the landowner. The project has, however, create something of a split amongst MBA members. The Eastern Highlands area committee, in whose patch Slugain Lodge lies, rejected the proposal at their autumn meeting. Concern was expressed about taking on new projects when there was plenty of work to be undertaken on existing bothies in the area. Fears were also voiced that a bothy at Slugain Lodge may lead to the existing track being extended further up the glen and that a bothy there could have a detrimental impact on existing howffs in the glen. The question of re-opening Corndavon bothy on the same estate was also raised but the estate has made it clear they do not want to see this happen, although do open the building during the TGO Challenge and make the key available to MBA members on request. The Eastern Highlands area committee decision looks likely to be over-ruled by the MBA Management Committee. It has stated it sees no valid reason why the project should not go ahead. In a letter to members, chairman Colin Scales confirmed that the MBA has already been actively seeking funding for the project. ''Before it was destroyed, Slugain Lodge was regarded as a valuable access point for Ben Avon and Beinn a Bhuird and was not considered obtrusive,'' he states. ''The existence of a 'secret' bothy in the vicinity is not the concern of the MBA, nor is the closure of Corndavon, although in that case we were in fact consulted and our members assisted with shuttering up the windows. The reasons for its closure were legitimate in that it was being used by an undesirable element and there was evidence of drug taking.''
An Angus youth hostel has been put on the market after falling victim to a restructuring by the Scottish Youth Hostel Association. Glendoll House, a former 19th century shooting lodge located at the head of Glen Clova, is for sale at £120,000. The move follows a review by the SYHA carried out in response to the foot and mouth crisis and changing tourism trends. Glendoll hostel has provided a base for walkers and climbers in the popular glen for around 50 years. It is the second accommodation facility in the glen to be lost. The nearby Forestry Commission campsite closed during the foot and mouth outbreak and has still not re-opened.
A new 10-year plan providing an environment and visitor management strategy for Ben Nevis and its surrounding area has been launched. The Nevis Strategy was devised jointly by Highland Council, Scottish Natural Heritage and Lochaber Enterprise, along with financial backing from the European Regional Development Fund. The vision was developed by the Nevis Working Party, following a number of consultations in 1999 with the local community, land managers and wider interest groups. The result is a framework action plan which aims to safeguard and manage the local environment and maximise the number of visitors to the area. The detailed strategy covers a large number of issues, from car parking to reviewing planning policy. Rhona Brankin, Deputy Minister for Environment and Rural Development, who launched the Nevis Strategy in Fort William said it was significant that both local and national organisations have come together to develop a plan which is vital for the future of the area. She said: "Denying local stakeholders access to the management of their own areas is tantamount to ignoring the valuable expertise that these groups have to offer. The level of understanding that local people have of local concerns and issues needs to be tapped into if areas such as Nevis are to grow and prosper in a sustainable way. The Nevis area, like so many other parts of Scotland, is both unique and significant to our natural heritage and it is of vital importance that a plan is put in place that safeguards the environment of the area for future generations, not just our own. The Nevis Strategy will go a long way towards achieving this and I wholeheartedly welcome its publication and look forward to witnessing the improvements to the area that its implementation will bring about." Fort William councillor Neil Clark, chairman of the Nevis Working Party, said he was looking forward with confidence to the benefits that partnership working will bring over the next 10 years. He added: "A total of 13 different organisations and agencies are members of the Working Party, which was formed two years ago. Ben Nevis and Glen Nevis are cherished by the people of Lochaber and all who visit us. The conservation and environmental management of the Nevis area is essential to safeguard the area for the future." Mr Clark also stressed that a sustainable balance was needed between the area's outstanding natural heritage and landscape qualities on one hand, and tourism and recreation activities and pressures on the other. Representatives from Highlands of Scotland Tourist Board and the John Muir Trust, which owns part of Ben Nevis, also attended the meeting to welcome the strategy. However, local author and naturalist Niall McKillop rejected the plan, suggesting it was a pre-emptive move towards a national park which would eventually cover the whole Highland Region. He said: "There is no need whatsoever to manage' this area of the Highlands. The plan is in danger of being taken over by un-elected bureaucrats, for example the conservation groups involved with it. They have a larger agenda than simply the conservation of Ben Nevis, and ultimately are looking for more power and control."
By Steve Page
A rare fungus, which scientists feared may have been extinct in Britain because it was not seen for nearly four decades, has resurfaced in a Caledonian Pine Forest near Braemar. The Boletopsis, which has a black-brown cap, grey pores and fine orange, woolly hairs at the base of the stem, was found as a result of a fungal survey funded by Scottish Natural Heritage, as part of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. The species is associated with ancient and primeval forests, so its presence is thought to reflect the antiquity of Scotland's original Caledonian Forest. This is the first time that the Boletopsis has been found on Deeside. It was last discovered on Speyside in 1963 by an eminent British mycologist rumoured to have happened as he ate his picnic lunch. He took one glance at it and thought it was just a common toadstool and threw it over his shoulder. As it flew threw the air, he realised he had made a mistake and scrambled to find the treasured specimen. Fungi are a key element in maintaining biodiversity in the environment. Invertebrates and mammals also use them as a source of food and around 80 per cent of plants and trees rely on fungal association to help them thrive on poor soils. Fungi aid the decomposition process by breaking down complex organic compounds and releasing minerals into the soil, which trees then take up. Fungi like Boletopsis form an intimate relationship with the roots of trees such as the Scots pine. Nutrients which they scavenge from the soil are made available to the tree and nutrients made with the aid of sunlight in the tree canopy are in turn thought to supply the fungus. Stephen Ward, advisory officer for SNH said: ''Fungi play a valuable role in the ecosystem but scientists are still uncovering the extent to which they are threatened.''
A new indoor rock and ice wall climbing centre is set to open in Kinlochleven next year. It is proposed that the facility will include a 70 foot high climbing wall, overhanging in places by up to three metres, an ice wall, a dedicated multi-pitch training bay for instruction, a drying room, cafe, sauna and jacuzzi, lecture and meeting rooms plus 6,000 sq feet of retail units. The project, which will be housed in the town's former aluminium smelter complex, has the backing of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland and sponsors include Gore-Tex and Red Bull. Planning consent has been granted and the centre is due to open in autumn 2002.
The Scottish Access and Rights of Way Society has reported that there are now new or replacement bridges at five locations in Scotland where either there were no bridges before or those which existed were in an unacceptable condition. The society has been directly involved in all of these projects and has contributed financially to four of them. A second bridge has just been completed near Clashgour (GR NN 238 421), making passage safer along this route westward from Loch Tulla to Glen Kinglass and Loch Etive. This work was supervised by Argyll & Bute Council and contributions to the work are recorded on a plaque on the bridge. These include the Society and Garrion Ramblers, one of its affiliated clubs. Perth & Kinross Council have just confirmed that the bridge (towards which the society made a substantial contribution) has just been replaced over the Allt Eigheach (GR NN 435 604) on the Road to the Isles. The route between the two recently completed bridges in Glen Feshie has been waymarked and plaques recording contributions to the building of these two bridges will be added shortly. The society made substantial contributions to the cost of both these bridges, installed on the Drumguish to Stronetroper right of way, to the west of the River Feshie. They cross the Allt Chomhraig and Allt Mor. This project was initiated by the Scottish Rights of Way Society because of difficulties and dangers experienced in crossing the two watercourses. Earlier in the year, Borders Council proved very willing to replace a particularly ramshackle structure at Manorhead. Sandy Valentine of the society said: ''We feel we have to stress that bridges are built almost exclusively where a threat to human safety has become apparent, as in the case of the society's first venture into bridge building in Glen Tilt in 1886 following the drowning of a young visitor from England. ''Last year the Society made a substantial contribution to the cost of refurbishment of this Bedford Memorial Bridge over the Tarf Water where it joins the River Tilt,'' he added. Another dramatic bridge built by the society in response to potential loss of life is to be found at NN 914886 (OS sheet 43), 700 metres upstream of the point where the dramatically beautiful but dangerous Eidart joins the River Feshie.
Scotland's Adventure Centre is set to open in January 2002. It's combined facilities represent a bold step towards providing both Scotland and the UK with a high profile centre for adventure sports development and practice. Whether a first timer, recreational activist or an Olympic class athlete, the Adventure Centre will allow people of all ages and abilities to fulfill their potential in a safe, exciting and unique environment, preparing them for enjoyment of these challenging sports in the outdoors. It will be home to the National Rock Climbing Centre of Scotland, the Adventure Sports Gym, the National Judo Academy and Deep Blue Scuba. The site lies in the centre of Scotland's motorway network within an hours travel of 3.5 million people, at the east end of Silicon Glen, the largest concentration of IT computer manufacturing businesses in the UK. It is ten minutes drive from Edinburgh's International Airport and three minutes from the large motorway interchange at Newbridge roundabout, linking Glasgow, Livingston, Edinburgh, Stirling and Perth. The unique configuration of the site with its impressive natural rock surfaces is situated in established deciduous woodland near Ratho Village and provides a splendid natural setting for the centre. The quarry forms a huge amphitheatre, 130 metres across and 20 metres deep and has an average cliff height of 18 metres. It will be one of the most unusual and spectacular climbing and sports training venues in the world. The aim of the centre is to act as a focal point for the climbing and adventure sports communities in Scotland, the north of England and beyond. The project will provide teaching, training and dedicated facilities for adventure sports at every level and will provide Scotland with a national rock climbing facility of world-class standard and renown. It will be home to the largest climbing arena in the world, sporting 2400mq of artificial wall surfaces including over 400mq of bouldering area. The walls will provide teaching and training areas for rock climbing in all its forms, and will cater for climbers of all abilities - from beginners through to competition level. The bright and spacious design of the hall results in a cliff-like ambience. Following competitive tendering, the Austrian company, Red Rooster was awarded the contract to build the walls, having achieved the best mix of high tech expertise, climb-ability, and aesthetics.
The search to find a suitable site for the Adventure Centre began in 1994 and after looking at various locations, Ratho quarry on the outskirts of Edinburgh was identified as the perfect spot. It offered scope for excellent natural climbing facilities as well as space for the unique architectural plans that were a key part of the project. Ratho quarry is first recorded as a quarry of Sienitic Greenstone but by 1907 it had evolved close to its current form, with much of the stone having been utilised and shaped into kerbstones for London bus stops. Climbers soon spotted the potential of the quarry and began to visit the site. The activity was at first sporadic but then really took off in the late 1970s when members of the Jacobites Climbing Club made some notable ascents. Over the years various plans had been mooted for the site, including a shooting range, total destruction and in-filling. In 1995 whilst looking for a site to build a climbing centre the three founder directors of the project formed the Ratho Quarry Company Ltd and acquired the site in order to secure it as an asset for climbers. All three were convinced that it would provide an exciting platform for the proposed new centre and following an approach to the original owners, the site was bought in May 1996. During the creation of the indoor climbing arena 250,000 tonnes of blast material was removed from the oldest portion of the quarry that had been back-filled during the later stages of the mineral extraction. The majority of this stone is now being reused for the Centre's development and is being utilised within the building and surrounding grounds. Upon its completion in January 2002 The Adventure Centre and associated facilities will comply with the criteria for Olympic Accreditation, and will form an integral part of the Scottish Institute of Sports Elite sports training systems. For more info log on to www.nrcc.co.uk