Outdoor lovers head for a new decade as we look back on 2009

Outdoor lovers head for a new decade as we look back on 2009

As the decade which seems to have become known as the noughties packed its bags and prepared for the trip into history, its final days had a familiar ring: winter catching out climbers and walkers, with tragic consequences.

But 2009 was in many ways a remarkable year, with some truly memorable events and a fair smattering of oddities and eccentricities. Here, we take a look back at 12 months in the great outdoors.

The two most significant events will probably turn out to be the passing of legislation to allow an English coastal path and the announcement, after more than 60 years, that the South Downs national park would become a reality. However, even more significant to the many hillwalkers in Britain may be the worrying trend for mountain goers to reach for the mobile phone rather than resort to a map, compass and self-reliance.

Many of the country’s mountain rescue teams have reported a doubling of callouts compared to last year, a situation that is putting an immense strain on the men and women who turn out in all weathers to help those in need on our mountains. Sooner or later, this worrying trend will have to be tackled if our system of volunteer teams is to continue to function properly.

Cows: the new danger to walkers?

Cows: the new danger to walkers?

Sadly, there have been reminders that walking and climbing on our mountains can be a dangerous pastime with the Highlands, Snowdonia and the Lake District all seeing a death toll among walkers and climbers. But, oddly, cattle seem to be turning their anger on hikers and there have been several incidents involving injury and death when the normally placid herds of cows have trampled or cornered walkers.

We lost in 2009 some outdoor greats including one of the world’s most audacious climbing stars in Slovenian Tomaž Humar, who died after a fall while soloing a route on the Himalayan peak Langtan Lirung.

John Evans

John Evans

Mountain rescuer and experienced climber John Evans died while descending from Clogwyn y Grochan above the Llanberis Pass. He was mourned by his many friends not just in the mountaineering and rescue community in Britain, but across the world.

We also lost one of the giants of the hillwalking world with the passing of Yorkshireman Irvine Butterfield, aged 72 – writer and major figure in the mountain world in his adopted home in Scotland.

Butterfield’s death was followed within weeks by that of Blyth Wright, co-ordinator of the sportscotland Avalanche Information Service and larger-than-life figure in Scottish mountaineering and politics.

The head of the Government’s advisory body on the natural environment, Natural England, died after a long illness in March. Sir Martin Doughty, a keen walker with a love of his Peak District, fought hard to protect the interests of everyone in outdoor recreation.

A heroic young man who spent the final months of his life pushing himself to the limit to help others died in May. Cancer patient Tom Buckley’s selfless completion, in difficult wintry conditions, of the Wainwright Coast to Coast Walk was one of his final acts and raised more than £100,000 for the Christie’s cancer centre in Manchester.

Yorkshire Dales authority chair Carl Lis on Pen-y-ghent

Yorkshire Dales authority chair Carl Lis on Pen-y-ghent

The year opened with the announcement of an OBE for the youngest of the 1953 Everest team, George Band. Also picking up gongs for their service were mountain rescuers Roy Cooksey and Barry Gregory and Eric Wallis for his service to the South West Coastal Path Association. Yorkshire Dales national park chair Carl Lis gained an OBE.

As we moved into the New Year, the focus of attention was Snowdonia, where eight mountain rescuers were themselves injured while trying to get two climbers to safety in 110mph (177kph) winds. 17 people had to be rescued from Snowdon over the Christmas period – a harbinger of worse things to come the following month.

Mont Blanc, scene of the double death fall. Photo: Alain Wibert

Mont Blanc, scene of the double death fall. Photo: Alain Wibert

But January was a grim month for mountain deaths, with the passing of Anthony Smith in the Grey Corries, Paul Percy in Dungeon Ghyll, Great Langdale, Rob Gauntlett and his climbing partner James Atkinson, both 21, on Mont Blanc, Michael Freeman who collapsed on Aconcagua, and Kirsty Densham on Westmorland Crag on Great Gable.

An avalanche in Coire na Tulaich on Buachaille Etive Mòr claimed the lives of brothers Eamonn and John Murphy and fellow An Teallach Mountaineering Club member Brian Murray.

Flight Lieutenant Wales – better known to you and me as Prince William, started the first stage of his training to be a search and rescue helicopter pilot.

While the second in line to the throne was getting to grips with his joystick, two medics were attempting to debunk the idea that people lose most of their heat through their heads. Rachel C Vreeman and Aaron E Carroll, writing in the British Medical Journal, proclaimed it was more like 10 per cent of lost body heat that went north through an uncapped head.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown

Prime Minister Gordon Brown

Almost 7,000 people told Gordon Brown not to introduce new charges for mountain rescue teams’ radio frequencies, while a holiday company offered ‘chav-free’ breaks hillwalking, climbing and abseiling and gill scrambling in the Lake District.

As the recession deepened and bankers’ popularity plummeted like a dropped ice axe down a Cairngorm gully, growing retailer GO Outdoors said it would create 1,000 new jobs after securing £18m of finance.

Military training on Dartmoor. Photo: Chris Hargreaves, MoD

Military training on Dartmoor. Photo: Chris Hargreaves, MoD

Walkers and outdoor enthusiasts expressed their dismay at the decision to allow Britain’s military to use Dartmoor for live ammunition training for a further 24 years.

Stalybridge man Paul Manchester was left looking foolish after he sparked a major rescue mission by stamping out the word ‘help’ in snow on Slioch. Alert residents of Kinlochewe spotted the message and Torridon Mountain Rescue Team was mobilised and a Coastguard helicopter put in the sky. The escapade, reckoned to have cost more than £5,000 in rescue costs, eventually hit Mr Manchester in his pocket, as a sheriff at Dingwall handed out a £600 fine.

In February, the burghers of Kendal decided it would be a good idea to commission a statue of one of their most famous adopted sons, Alfred Wainwright.

Wainwright was the town’s borough treasurer for many years, giving him an ideal base from which to make his weekend forays to compile his celebrated pictorial guides. Honister Slate Mine owner Mark Weir suggested instead placing the sculpture above his via ferrata. We think he had his tongue in his cheek.

An Cliseam or Clisham, Harriss high point

An Cliseam or Clisham, Harris's high point

The inhabitants of Harris, in the Western Isles, voted in favour of turning the island into a national park.

The winter death toll continued with Teresa Conalty perishing on Cairn Gorm; Christopher McCallion, 30, and his brother James, 35, died on Snowdon; Brian Roberts slipped and fell on Pavey Ark in Great Langdale, dying later in hospital. At the head of the same valley, Jeremy Lloyd Ayrton perished on the Climbers’ Traverse of Bowfell. Gwyn Norrell and Brian Mount added to Snowdon’s terrible toll of four deaths in 11 days

Robin Davies’s family said he ‘loved the outdoors and the mountains and will be sadly missed by his family and friends’. He and his terrier Tilly died on Fuaran Diotach, a gully on the eastern edge of Carn Bàn Mòr.

Sir Martin Doughty, right, chats with then Environment Secretary David Miliband at the Kinder event in 2007

Sir Martin Doughty, right, chats with then Environment Secretary David Miliband at the Kinder event in 2007

Tributes were also paid by acting chair Poul Christensen after Natural England chair Sir Martin Doughty’s death. He was, said, Mr Christensen, ‘held in enormous respect and esteem by so many people.’ He died in March after fighting cancer.

The prospect of more feet hitting the hills was raised as HF Holidays and the Outdoor Industries Association both said the recession was prompting more Brits to take ‘staycations’ and holiday within the UK.

The exceptional conditions in the Lake District prompted authorities to put up warning signs for ill prepared walkers heading for the fells as the Langdale and Ambleside team faced a surge in callouts.

Michael Tunney, who survived a near-fatal fall on Beinn Achaladair

Michael Tunney, who survived a near-fatal fall on Beinn Achaladair

One man who survived a near fatal mountain accident decided to help out the mountain rescue team that carried him from Beinn Achaladair. Transport policeman Michael Tunney announced he would attempt the Scottish 4,000-footers – all the Highland munros over 4,000ft – and 14 other munros en route to raise cash for the Oban and Arrochar teams and the Northern Police Convalescent Home.

In March, Devon County Council voted to record two rights of way across one of the most contested parcels of land in the country, Vixen Tor – excluded from the access land map and put out of bounds by owner Mary Alford.

The Ramblers new branding: the apostrophe went, as did the association, to be replaced by strife

The Ramblers' new branding

Changes were afoot too at the Ramblers’ Association. The loss of the apostrophe and its associated noun were signs that the organisation was changing emphasis: more urban walks; a younger image; fall-outs and contention as falling revenue led to the axing of staff and the near annihilation of its staff in Scotland and Wales. Ramblers north of the border threatened UDI and the simmering discontent lingers. The venerable organisation is due to celebrate its 75th birthday next year.

Convicted liar and former Tory chairman Lord Archer brought his imagination to the conquest of Everest with his imaginative account of Mallory’s conquest in Paths of Glory, a tome sadly missing from the grough library and from those of most New Zealanders, who accused the former MP of colonial arrogance in supposing Sir Edmund Hillary wasn’t first to the roof of the world.

Six-year-old Tom Fryers became the youngest completer of all 214 Wainwright peaks in the Lake District – a record that would not see out the year.

Sir Chris Boningtons collection was saved thanks to a lottery grant

Sir Chris Bonington's collection was saved thanks to a lottery grant

Sir Chris Bonington’s collection of mountaineering memorabilia was moved out of his shed into a more accessible resource thanks to the Mountain Heritage Trust, a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and some cash from the British Mountaineering Council.

In a demonstration of how not to go mountaineering, a 42-year-old Manchester man was rescued from Snowdon for the second time in five months. The first time he was mistaken for a bundle of rags at the summit station; he was subsequently recognised by Llanberis MRT as a ‘previous client’.

Also risking exposure were two brave souls making for the Outdoors Show in nothing but boots, socks and rucksacks. Fiona Lincoln and Mark Stephenson made the walk to publicise Oxfam’s Fabric 4 Life campaign.

MP Tim Farron: backing the MRTs VAT campaign

MP Tim Farron: backing the MRTs' VAT campaign

There was more pressure on Prime Minster Gordon Brown with a petition to exempt mountain rescue teams from paying VAT, a call that would be taken up later in the year by Westmorland and Lonsdale Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron, so far without success.

Campaigners against a Peak District quarry won a victory in a long-running legal battle when an Appeal Court judgement ruled in favour of the national park’s enforcement action against Backdale Quarry’s operators.

Cave rescuers in the Yorkshire Dales had to do some detective work to find potholers who went down the wrong hole and pulled their ropes through, thinking they could work through to its far end, only to find they were in a different cave completely and couldn’t get out.

Rae Lonsdale of the Cave Rescue Organisation explained: “Turbary Pot and Simpson’s Pot are in roughly similar positions in two successive enclosures along the Turbary Road. So they went underground in the wrong field!”

Roman Deans’s body was found on Tryfan after his friends, concerned he had been missing for some time, found his car and alerted rescuers. The same month, April, saw expert mountaineer John Evans die in a fall from Clogwyn y Grochan.

Julia Bradbury at the start of the Coast to Coast Walk, St Bees Head

Julia Bradbury at the start of the Coast to Coast Walk, St Bees Head

Walkers’ pinup Julia Bradbury hit the small screen again, this time tackling the 309km (192-mile) Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk in a typical sustained summer downpour. She would later be cleared of allegations of irregularities regarding her Virgin Atlantic Flying Club account.

After the celebrity ascent of Kilimanjaro came the follow-up effort by singing ‘star’ Justin Timberlake, along with improbably named rapper Lupe Fiasco and an Ethiopian-born singer Kenna.

Heather Morning took up the post of mountain safety adviser

Heather Morning took up the post of mountain safety adviser

Soon to become a real-life mountain film star in her safety video, Heather Morning was appointed the Mountaineering Council of Scotland’s mountain safety adviser and set about the task with gusto. Previously responsible for persuading winter climbers in Cairngorm to bag up their poo and dispose of it more thoughtfully, Ms Morning immediately started making her mark on Scotland’s mountains, as did her search and rescue dog Milly.

More bizarrely, a group of cricketers took their willow and leather to Everest base camp to raise cash for the Himalaya Trust and Lord’s Taverners with a match on the frozen lake in the shadow of some of the world’s highest mountains.

Clothing manufacturing company founder Rab Carrington beat renowned Everest summiteer Doug Scott in the election for the post of BMC president.

Planners threw out an application to build a holiday village of eco-lodges in Borrowdale on the eastern fringe of the Lake District. The opposition had been led by Sir Chris Bonington.

Princess Anne visits the Snugpak factory, during which she presented the award

Princess Anne visits the Snugpak factory, during which she presented the award

More successful enterprises came from two rarities: companies manufacturing outdoor equipment in the UK. Snugpak and Blizzard Protection Systems gained Queens Awards for Enterprise and Innovation respectively.

By April, the record for the youngest Wainwright completer had fallen further as five-year-old Robin Regan polished off the 214 peaks, just as his sister Ellen had done three years previously at the then record age of nine, trumped by her younger sister Kerry, aged seven.

Sculptress JOEL is pictured with the bronze sculpture of Ruswarp, and her own cavalier king charles spaniel Chloe

Sculptress JOEL is pictured with the bronze sculpture of Ruswarp, and her own cavalier king charles spaniel Chloe

A heroic effort of a different kind was marked by the unveiling of a bronze statue of Ruswarp at Garsdale station, near the summit of the Settle and Carlisle Railway in the Yorkshire Dales. The border collie stayed by his fellwalking owner’s body for 11 weeks on a Welsh hillside, succumbing himself within hours of Graham Nuttall’s funeral.

Stuart Walker, a buildings engineer from Leeds, prepared for his challenge to get from the Isles of Scilly to the tip of Shetland by boat, bike and on foot.

Bear Grylls, the new Chief Scout

Bear Grylls, the new Chief Scout

In May, another adventurer took up a post as head of Britain’s largest youth movement, the Scouts. Bear Grylls, an Everest summiteer and television presenter, took over as Chief Scout from another TV personality, former Blue Peter frontman Peter Duncan.

In case there weren’t enough confusing hill classifications about, Jim Bloomer and Roddy Urquhart added to the listmania with their metric Prominent Peaks tables, containing 1,564 hills with at least 500m of height and 100m of prominence. The list was launched on Ben Nevis.

One mountain clearly tops all the lists, and eccentric explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes finally made it to the top of Everest on his third attempt. Later in the year he revealed in a television interview that he insists on having no Yorkshiremen on his expeditions, nor anyone with vertigo or frostbite – except himself of course.

The Cuillin ridge claimed Matthew Elliott’s life in May, and Louis Lebel died after falling into the Water of Nevis in the Steall Gorge.

Irvine Butterfield: his High Mountains of Britain and Ireland became a hillwalkers bible

Irvine Butterfield: his High Mountains of Britain and Ireland became a hillwalkers' bible

We also lost Tom Buckley, Irvine Butterfield and Blyth Wright within days of each other in May. Sadly, Jonathan Groves died on Ben Alder after becoming separated from his walking companions.

In June, the death of a 26-year-old man on Aonach Eagach would be followed by Connecticut woman Laura Woodberry Jessiman’s demise in a fall in Sutherland.

A group of hairdressers from Dunkeld, Perthshire, continued Ben Nevis’s reputation for strange pursuits with their charity snip to take a British record for altitude hairdressing.

David Allan, chairman of Mountain Rescue England and Wales, was appointed an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List and mountaineer Ron James, who helped found the Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue Organisation, an MBE.

Hafod Eryri on the summit of Snowdon. Photo: Andrew Woodvine CC-BY-2.0

Hafod Eryri on the summit of Snowdon. Photo: Andrew Woodvine [CC-2.0]

The controversial cafe on top of the highest mountain in Wales finally opened, more than a year behind schedule. Construction of Hafod Eryri on Snowdon’s summit had been hampered by bad weather.

Graham Jackson, Myrddyn Phillips and John Barnard’s quest to measure Britain’s hills led to the elevation of a sub-marilyn to the status of marilyn for Creag na Criche in Perthshire, with a prominence of 150.85m squeezing it into the list.

The Welsh 1,000m Peaks Race was hit by 80mph (130kph) winds, low cloud and near freezing conditions, leading to eight people being taken to hospital.

This article is continued on this page.