Ben Nevis, the upper reaches of which are mostly owned by the John Muir Trust

Ben Nevis, the upper reaches of which are mostly owned by the John Muir Trust

A plan to airlift a vintage car to the top of Britain’s highest mountain has been grounded.

Enthusiasts had hoped to use a helicopter to hoist a Model T Ford on to the 1,344m (4,409ft) summit plateau of Ben Nevis to mark the centenary of a similar car being driven up the mountain.

But the John Muir Trust, which owns most of the upper reaches of mountain, has put the brakes on the scheme, saying it can’t be allowed on environmental grounds.

Organisers, including Model T owner Iain Blyth, wanted to fly the car on to the summit as the climax of the Ben Nevis Centenary Challenge Tour, marking the May date when, in 1911, Edinburgh car dealer Henry Alexander spent 10 days preparing a route up the mountain and a further six days driving and cajoling the 20-horsepower Ford to the summit as a publicity stunt to demonstrate the car’s ruggedness.

But even back in July last year, organisers had been told an airlift was out of the question.

JMT chair John Hutchinson, a Lochaber resident, said: “Although we recognise the historical importance of the event, our staff and Trustees were clear that uplifting the Model T by helicopter could not be supported on environmental grounds.

“Local parties may still carry a Model T to the summit, more faithfully recreating the original six-day ascent.”

Mr Hutchinson said local trust members might be willing to help if a suitable plan could be agreed.

“The event is part of the social history of a mountain in our care, and members may wish to support this if it goes ahead. I certainly will,” he added.

As grough reported in November 2009,  Mr Blyth was told the car could be carried up in pieces and reassembled on the mountain-top, or a cardboard cutout used. He said he finds the decision incomprehensible and that a helicopter airlift would be the most ecologically sensitive solution.

A Model T Ford, in 1912. Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives CC-BY-2.0

A Model T Ford, in 1912. Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives [CC-2.0]

The Lochaber Mountaineering Club, which owns a small patch of the summit on which the emergency shelter sits and another on Carn Dearg where a similar structure used to stand, has also said it would help carry the car up and down.

John Hutchinson said: “So long as the event matches our principles, we are keen to help in any way we can. However despite several meetings we have been unable to get the organisers to agree to a firm plan of action.”

Mr Blyth said he had also been in talks with other landowners about the possibility of an airlift to Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe, the ‘halfway lochan’. That part of the mountain is owned by Rio Tinto Alcan which is represented on the Nevis Partnership, of which the JMT is a member, and which carries out most of the path maintenance on the mountain.

The summit of Ben Nevis has seen its share of oddities, including a piano unearthed by JMT volunteers in a cairn and a wheelchair found buried on the zigzag path leading to the summit. Glasgow University medical students also pushed a bed to the top, accompanied part-way by the late newscaster Reginald Bosanquet.

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