The Scottish Hillphones scheme is back in operation with the opening of the stag hunting season.
Ben Lui: now on Arran?
The series of recorded messages allows walkers to check to see if any stalking and shooting is taking place before they head for the hills. The scheme is now in its 12th year.
The Mountaineering Council of Scotland is working with the Association of Deer Management Groups, Scottish Natural Heritage and estates to extend the scheme. The council stresses it is not intended that walking is subject to a total ban during stalking, but co-operation with estate managers should mean a destination should always be able to be reached by an alternative route during shooting.
The MCofS says: “A typical Hillphone message might say that stalking is taking place in the corries on the east side of a mountain and it would be appreciated if walkers would approach from the north or west on that day.”
The Hillphones website is run by Scottish Natural Heritage and covers 13 separate areas in the Highlands and on Arran. Visitors can also search 87 individual munros and 33 corbetts to see if stalking reports are available though, it has to be said, there are bugs in the system. Ben Lui, for instance, seems to have been transported to the isle of Arran, and other mountains appear all over the place.
Hillphone messages should, wherever possible, include stalking forecasts for the next few days to increase the likelihood of walkers co-operating.
Stalking, according to the MCofS, is the biggest cause of local access problems, which is why the scheme was established. Originally, booklets were produced, in 1987, containing contact numbers for estate managers and stalkers. This led to estate staff spending much of their time answering queries, so the idea of recorded messages was adopted.
The council also advises walking up ridge routes to mountain tops rather than taking short-cuts across corries, which is where stalking is likely to be taking place.
The deerstalking season runs from August to October.