BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page was last updated in November 2003We've left it here for reference.More information


Accessibility help
Text only
BBC Homepage
BBC Radio
TodayBBC Radio 4

Today
Listen Again
Latest Reports
Interview of the Week
About Today
Today at 50
Message Board
Contact Today

Contact Us

Like this page?
Send it to a friend!

 
Weekdays 6-9am and Saturdays 7-9am How to listen to Today
Latest Reports

Dangerous Mountaineering


PRINT VERSION


Huw WilliamsBy Huw Williams
Mountaineers have condemned Britain's biggest selling hill-walking magazine as irresponsible. 'Trail' magazine suggests three routes which, it says, are snow-free, even in the depths of winter.

Listen
Listen to Huw Williams report on the row between some senior British mountaineers and 'Trail' the biggest selling hill-walking magazine - about the dangerous routes the magazine has recommended.
Walking in the mountains

The Lairig Ghru from the Cairngorms on a clear day.
USEFUL LINKS

Trail Magazine

The Mountaineering Council of Scotland

The British Mountaineering Club


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites

Mountain Rescue

John Allen from the Cairngorm Mountain rescue team.
The British Mountaineering Council is one of a number of organisations which are writing to the magazine, complaining that the article is factually inaccurate and could put inexperienced walkers at risk.

One of the routes the article recommends is the Lairig Ghru through the Cairngorms - possibly Scotland's most famous mountain pass. It rises to almost three thousand feet, and goes through wild and stunning scenery between some massive peaks. The piece says "even the worst winter weather" can't spoil the route, and "there will be no deep snow".

But John Allen, leader of the Cairngorm mountain rescue team says that's just not true. He says "you get snow on the Lairig Ghru all year round. In fact, I've seen snow there in June, in the mid-summer". He told me the story of several climbers and walkers his team have had to rescue from chest-high snow on the route - some as late as April.

The other walks featured are on Stac Pollaidh in the Highlands, and round Great Gable in the Lake District. The magazine promises they "guarantee a high time below the snow", and are routes you can do any-time without "the faff" of ice axes and crampons.

But, Tim Walker, the Principal of Sport Scotland's national mountain training centre at Glennmore Lodge, says "all three are quite serious under-takings, and certainly could not ever be described as being snow-free year-round". He said even if conditions seem to be good anyone attempting any of those routes in the winter should carry a bivouac bag, an ice axe and crampons, and know how to use them.

The editor of "Trail" told me his magazine is written for, and read by, regular hill-walkers. He said his readers "do not need dire warnings on every page of the myriad potential dangers which await the unprepared, that the weather is unpredictable, or that conditions in the mountains on the day you want to walk are the ultimate make-or-break factor".

But that hasn't reassured the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, or the British Mountaineering Council. They're both writing to the magazine, complaining that the feature is factually inaccurate, and could mislead inexperienced walkers, putting them at risk.

Fergus Ewing, the Member of the Scottish Parliament for Inverness East - which includes most of the Cairngorms - is unhappy, too. He's a former mountain rescue team member he's run and walked through the Lairig Ghru and he knows how terrifying it can be to be caught in a white-out on the hills, when you literally can't see your hand a foot in front of your face.

He's calling on the magazine to print a follow-up article as quickly as possible, so its readers "know what they're taking on".
Mountaineering legend Sir Chris Bonnington agrees with that. When I went to see him at his home near Caldbeck in Cumbria, he told me the magazine is normally excellent. But this time, he said, "they've made a mistake". If the experts who really know the area - like the mountain rescue team and the instructors at Glenmore Lodge - say you get snow on the Lairig Ghru, he said, "Trail" magazine "would be very wise to listen to them, and print a retraction".


Back to Reports Homepage

Latest Reports

Back to Latest Reports Homepage

Audio Archive
Missed a programme? Or would you like to listen again?
Try last 7 days below or visit the Audio Archive page:

Thursday
Friday
Saturday
Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday

Today | Listen Again | Latest Reports | Interview of the Week | About Today | Today at 50 | Have Your Say | Contact Today



About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy