Walkers may be asked to pay a pound to pound the Ben Nevis zigzags

Walkers may be asked to pay a pound to pound the Ben Nevis zigzags

Would you be prepared to pay to walk up Britain’s highest mountain?

Walkers could soon be asked to put their hands in their pockets before they head for the summit of Ben Nevis, according to a report today.

The story on the STV website quotes Brian Wilshaw, manager of the Nevis Partnership, as saying: “Ben Nevis attracts more than 160,000 ascents every year, which means that the access track needs constant maintenance.

“We would like everyone who goes up the ben to pay just £1, which would secure our future and the future of the maintenance of the ben track. That small donation would make all the difference.”

The Nevis Partnership, a charity with board members from the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, the John Muir Trust, Scottish Natural Heritage, Lochaber Mountain Access Group, Sport Scotland and local authorities, is due to be wound up next year after funding from Highland Council was cut.

Earlier this year, Mr Wilshaw said: “We got core funding from the Highland Council and Scottish National Heritage. The SNH grant has remained constant, but the Highland Council funding has been cut by more than 50 per cent over the last four-year period.

“We have got no guarantee of funding beyond 2012.”

Journalist and broadcaster Cameron McNeish, who chairs the partnership, said in March: “While I fully appreciate the current squeeze on funding will create casualties, I’m also concerned that Ben Nevis and Glen Nevis attract many thousands of visitors from around the world to Lochaber.

“More so, Ben Nevis, as the highest mountain in the UK, is of national importance and has been described by many as ‘iconic’. Over 150,000 per year climb to its summit, putting a huge amount of pressure on the mountain’s footpaths and facilities.”

“We have been aware of the potential cuts in funding for some time and we have spent an appreciable amount time examining our various options, but it has become quite clear that if public bodies really appreciate the importance of the Nevis Area, then they must all be willing to contribute sufficient resources to allow an organisation like the Nevis Partnership to manage the area effectively.

“The partnership directors are extremely disappointed that the magnitude of the cuts to our funding means that it has become impossible for the partnership to continue.”

The Land Reform (Scotland) Act guarantees responsible access to mountain such as Ben Nevis, so any charge to walkers would have to be voluntary.

Controversial fees already charged to charity challengers using Ben Nevis to raise funds were at the centre of a row in January this year when access campaigner Andy Strangeway declared compulsory booking and charges of £250 for organised groups broke the Scottish access law.

He said: “Under the [Land Reform Scotland] Act, no one, be it an individual, group or charity, has to book in advance to exercise their access rights responsibly across Scotland. All have a legal right of free access.”

But a spokesperson for Highland Council said that charging event organisers for additional services at the Glen Nevis visitor centre, which has been in place since 2006, did not constitute wilful restriction of access to Ben Nevis and was not illegal.

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