The Angry Corrie 8: Jul-Aug 1992
Summer's here and the time is right for... all kinds of charity walks in the Scottish hills. If it isn't 50-day attempts on the Munros, it's dragging llamas up the Ben. If lowlevellers aren't endlessly crocodiling through the Lairig, balaclava-ed hordes will be planting their boots on every Munro across Scotland. Now this is all well and good: the participants are wellmeaning, the ideas wellintentioned - but our hills are also becoming well worn away - the more so each year the lack of a decent winter denies paths the chance to lie fallow awhile.
'Charity' has become so ubiquitous nowadays witness Telethon, Children in Need, Comic Relief, anything involving Terry Woebegone - it's easy to accept without question as a Good Thing. But there have to be questions asked about damage to the land itself - and not just in terms of erosion. Hill charity events - even the miles of Nevis and Lairig traipsers - are of course much smallerscale than the TV donation orgies, but surely do nothing to help resolve the growing problems re access. Many landowners, happy to accommodate lone or smallgroup walkers, justifiably flinch when massed ranks breenge their way uphill.
Like it or not, marketing is god nowadays, and as our hills see ever more recreational use, the pressing need is notsomuch to market the hills themselves - bookshelves already creak under the weight of overkill - more the way we hillusers are viewed by the world at large. The prevailing mediaview is of hills swamped under a tramplement of overuse - yet surely the truth is only certain areas are swarmed over. The rest - and, for many, the best - remain places where the solitude quotient is high. You know this, we know this, but a lot of folk who don't climb hills are being led to believe otherwise.
Thus the broader question of large parties on the hill - be they charitywalkers, bi-monthly climbing clubs, 100-strong fellraces or the ever more elaborate last Munro gatherings (200 per year at the current rate?) needs looked at - and looked at by hillusers themselves. While nobody should ever be denied access to wild places, there's a danger they'll eventually be denied for us - and this would, if so, be partly our own fault. The way we all suffer when a few idiots abuse bothies is discussed elsewhere in these pages, yet there's a similar need to ponder the consequences of the way we're currently treating the major hill areas, especially those including Munros.
Perhaps to jab a finger at charity walks is slightly unfair, but we live in an age when criticising such events is one of the New Taboos, when Vlad could have a sponsored impale, 10p a time, and a good many kindly folk would still cough up. We're not suggesting the denial of access to the masses - just the opposite in fact - but there's a crying need for self-regulation, for a spreading of the load. To take the line that hills can be treated carte blanche will, like most examples of selfish individualism, take us nowhere fast.