Press release: Snowdon isn't working, says BMC

Posted by Tina Gardner on 15/08/2014
A busy day on Snowdon's summit. Photo: Ray Wood
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A well-funded, long-sighted strategy to tackle the problems and risks caused by booming numbers of visitors on Snowdon is needed, says the British Mountaineering Council (BMC).

The call comes after the Snowdonia National Park Authority agreed to remove ‘false paths’ from the summit of Snowdon and made comments that were interpreted as warning families with children to stay away from summits.

The BMC believes these approaches are misguided and reflect short-term thinking. With Snowdon seeing 477,000 walkers in 2013, a long-term plan is needed to address the key problems of preventable accidents and environmental damage. Central government funding to the park should also be upped, to reflect Snowdon’s status as Britain’s busiest mountain.

Elfyn Jones, BMC access & conservation officer for Wales, said: “In the last few years there has been a huge increase in the numbers of people on Snowdon – in 2013 there were 477,000 walkers, an increase of 23% on the previous year.

“Many of these visitors are unprepared casual walkers, and there has been a significant increase in the number of avoidable callouts to rescue teams, parking problems, traffic congestion and litter.

“The current practice of managing the paths by reacting to individual problems such as ‘landscaping’ and smoothing out natural obstacles has done nothing to alleviate the issues. If anything it has created a bigger problem as many walkers and visitors are under the impression that Snowdon is a “tourist attraction”, similar to a fully waymarked country park trail. User groups such as the BMC have had little opportunity to input into the strategic management of the mountain.

“The park authority should prioritise education and awareness-raising, putting effort into ensuring visitors are better prepared, instead of treating Snowdon as if it was an urban environment and attempting to physically engineer it into being ‘safe’. This is simply impossible.”

Mr Jones also responded to stories in the media which have given the impression park personnel have warned families with young children to stay away from mountains summits. In a BBC story, the park’s head of wardens and access Mair Huws was quoted as saying: “It can result in children having very negative attitudes towards walking for the rest of their lives.”

Mr Jones said: “It is disappointing that the park authority is sending out messages that are being interpreted as telling families with young children to stay away from summits.

“If parents have the right knowledge and experience there is no reason why children cannot have rewarding experiences on mountain summits. In fact many people who go on to lead active, healthy, outdoor lives cite the experience of being taken into the hills as a youngster as vital in forming their later perceptions.”

The BMC also commented on the national park’s announcement it would remove ‘false paths’ from Snowdon.

Following the conclusions of the coroner during the inquest into the tragic death of Dylan Rattray, 21, on Snowdon, the park authority agreed to remove ‘misleading’ paths on the mountain such as those leading into hazardous terrain.

Jon Garside, BMC training officer, explains: “To some people it might seem easy to blame ‘misleading’ paths for accidents. But simply removing paths is not the answer.

“It is wrong to say that paths, summits or any other physical aspect of the mountain environment are inherently dangerous. The key factor is people themselves and their ability to deal with the hazards they encounter. To stay safe people must be taught to rely on their heads, not cues provided by artificial pointers.

“Promoting and teaching the skills needed to operate in mountain environments is not a quick fix, it takes time, patience and resources. But it is ultimately a far better insurance against accidents than ‘landscape improvements’. This is where the focus of the national park’s efforts should be.”

The BMC also pointed out that the Snowdonia park authority’s funding, like all national parks across the UK, has been drastically cut in recent years. It said that to properly manage a mountain of Snowdon’s popularity would require a substantial investment in money and resources. 

Mr Jones said: “With continued cutbacks to national park funding, the park authority is clearly struggling with the resources it has available to deal with the considerable problems that managing an area such as Snowdon poses.

“Snowdon poses unique and special problems for any organisation trying to manage and conserve its special qualities. With over 477,000 walkers on its main paths each year it is arguably the busiest and most popular mountain in the world. It needs a vision and a funded work programme that’s agreed and shared with all stakeholders to provide the resources required to protect the special qualities of this unique and often abused mountain area.”

GET STARTED: Read our five steps to starting hill walking

WATCH: an inspiring short film exploring the question 'why walk?' by Ben Winston on BMC TV

 

                                                     -Ends-

Notes to editors

  • For further information please contact Elfyn Jones (BMC access & conservation officer for Wales) on 07554 998910 / elfyn@thebmc.co.uk or Tina Gardner (BMC Press & PR Officer) on 0161 438 3337 / press@thebmc.co.uk
  • The British Mountaineering Council (BMC) is the national representative body for climbers, hill walkers and mountaineers in England and Wales and is recognised as such by government.  The BMC is committed to promoting the interests of climbers, hill walkers and mountaineers and good practice in all activities related to these pursuits.
  • An inspirational short film ‘iWalk’ about hill walking is available on BMC TV for you to embed in your article.
  • The BMC launched an ‘Open Wales’ campaign in January 2014 calling on the Welsh Government to extend and simplify access to the coast and countryside for responsible recreation. The campaign raises awareness of the Welsh Government’s review of the law surrounding access to the outdoors and its forthcoming Green Paper and demonstrates our support of the many benefits a more accessible countryside would bring.

 



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1) Anonymous User
15/08/2014
It always amazes how many people insist on going up in difficult conditions. It's easy for me to say seeing as I live locally, but even if people have driven for hours to reach the mountain - they shouldn't be so hard headed. The conditions must be taken into account. I've oftened encountered sniggering tourists asking why I'm turning back when conditions look like they are turning for the worst, my reply usually surmounts to "I live locally, the mountain will still be here tomorrow".
2) Anonymous User
16/08/2014
It's incredibly dismaying to see that people's vacuous reaction to this important press release is: "I saw someone go up in flip flops once" ... Please, lets think out of the box here for once. The problem isn't the so called imaginary people in flip flops (who I've never seen on Snowdon by the way) the problem is the way that they are managed. Or actually not managed at all.

Let's not point the finger at the people who know no better, lets point the finger at those who should know better (Hint: the snowdonia national park authority). They are patently an abysmal organisation who have completely forgotten their soul reason for existence. All of this rubbish about the flip flop people is just flak which serves to distract from the real villains of the story i.e. the backwards farming Mafia who are so obviously in control of such an important national asset.

It's time for a massive change and hopefully a few rolling heads.
3) Anonymous User
16/08/2014
This is an awful, half baked so called press release by the BMC. Why don't you explain what that last paragraph of management speak actually means and how it can realistically be implemented? Instead , you seem happy to insinuate that the national park authority is solely responsible for the safety of half a million walkers and their navigation training whilst blaming them for merely complying with a coroners court verdict. The BMC seem a bit confused between their struggle for access rights against what this actually means in reality.
4) Anonymous User
17/08/2014
Oh Mr Jones!! I actually feel embarrassed to be a member of the BMC with such a narrow minded poor piece of journalism verging on slanderous. Who are you to Police the mountain? There is no point in having a rant if you're not prepared to be constructive. What are your suggestions, because your press release is thin on the ground with positivity and are you not all supposed to be all working together to promote safety in the mountains?

Today I went up Snowdon and observed two mountain rescue officials (Collecting not rescuing) and 3 wardens of the National Park all of whom seemed to be engaging with the public giving advice etc. I have worked within outdoor education for the past 15 years and agree that it takes time, knowledge and experience to safely enjoy the outdoors. Therefore what do you propose that the National Park do? Interview everyone? I myself have various outdoor qualifications but have sometimes made errors in the mountain but I have learnt valuable lessons and gained more experience. I'm not suggesting that we do nothing but feel there is only so much that can be done and have to accept that the mountain environment is a rugged exciting place full of adventure and with that comes danger. Furthermore, you state there has been an increase in visitors to the mountain by 23% and continue to write that there has also been an increase in the need for Mountain Rescue. Is this number proportionate to the increase in visitors? I would like to read a revised press release with some content and facts and maybe some opinions of people from the National Park/Mountain Rescue, where maybe you could all work together???
5) Anonymous User
18/08/2014
Its such an accessible mountain and with accessibility comes complacency. Nearly half a million people visiting Snowdon is astounding, though. Wow!
6) Anonymous User
18/08/2014
I agree with Mr Jones, recognising the press release was exactly that, a press release. The important point made is that stakeholder dialogue is needed to address the long term solution. The ill considered reaction to the coroner's comments by the National Park is a failure to give meaningful and sensible thought to the problem, and as Mr Jones points out, landscaping a mountain is not the answer.

The fact is the very landscaping of Snowdonia, which the National Park Authority have been pursuing for a number of years, shares some responsibility for the accidents now occurring as they don't seem to understand that forging 'motorways' through a naturally hazardous terrain is sending the message to casual visitors that it is safe to proceed. The natural effect of this to many casual visitors is responsibility for their safety is the National Park Authority's, which of course it isn't and couldn't be.

We really do have to ask ourselves what do we want from the mountains, do we want theme parks with street lighting, seats, litter bins, shops, cars, snow clearance, gritting, etc, or do we want wild and beautiful places where we find real peace and tranquillity from the madness of everyday life?

One irrefutable fact is every time we succumb to 'an improvement' it is setting a precedence for the next 'improvement', and the next, and the next. This is the way it generally is. But we have to decide what we want and there needs to be a wide debate across all stakeholders to decide and agree on what it is. I know what I want, and it isn't landscaping. The only certainty is once you've lost it, you've lost it for good....

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