In the bag: the Ben Nevis clean-up collected 153kg of rubbish. Photo: Real3 Peaks Challenge

In the bag: the Ben Nevis clean-up collected 153kg of rubbish. Photo: Real3 Peaks Challenge

Public-spirited volunteers removed more than half a ton of rubbish from Britain’s three national peaks.

They believe they managed to find, among other things, a century-old rubbish stash on the UK’s highest mountain on Saturday.

Organisers plan to repeat the successful Real3Peaks Challenge next year.

Ben Nevis, Snowdon and Scafell Pike were the target for the 88 outdoor enthusiasts who cleared the mountains of the collected debris of countless thoughtless hillgoers, some of which was the result of the popular Three Peaks Challenge, in which members of the public attempt to summit all three in 24 hours.

Snowdon topped the league for litter gathered, with 205kg bagged by 36 people who took part in the event. The 39 volunteers who scaled Scafell Pike collected almost 156kg or rubbish, just ahead of the 13 on Ben Nevis, who brought down 153kg.

Previous oddities found by volunteers included an octopus on England’s highest mountain. This year, the litter was more mundane, though a catheter bag was discovered on Ben Nevis and the Scafell Pike team came across a 10.5kg tent, which they say will be donated to a Scout group.

Guide Rich Pyne, who came up with the idea, said: “I started the Real3Peaks Challenge back in 2013 because of the littering issue I encountered on the summit of Ben Nevis, filling two carrier bags in as many minutes.

“I was appalled by what I found up there, so with a few months of planning, The Real3Peaks
Challenge was born. Initially, I was going to try and complete the challenge myself, cleaning each hill, one after other, but soon realised that wouldn’t be effective enough to make a difference.

“So I soon got together a modest group of leaders, used to working in the outdoors with individuals and groups, to manage each hill. These were myself on Ben Nevis; Kelvyn James, International Mountain Leader, on Scafell Pike and Ross and Kate Worthington, from their ‘spare time’ between running a daughter and their company, who are involved heavily with clearing the way on Snowdon throughout the year on other events.

“Now its third year, we have steadily become more visible within the outdoors industry and with land managers, local organisations, conservation charities, landowners and activity providers.

“With 30,000 people reached via our Facebook page posts, before and after the events. We aim to increase this traffic throughout the months in between an annual event on the mountains.

“Those working in the outdoors, landowners, conservation charities and land management teams have all been managing litter issues for a long time, but I do not believe these efforts have had enough exposure with the general public, as well as those visiting these particular mountains. Now there is more potential to increase visibility.”

Organisers of this year’s event said: “Back in October 2013 we managed to clear around 265kg off major routes on Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon. In 2014, we removed 423kg. We knew where to look.

“But this time round, in 2015, our haul of 513.5kg does show we know very well where to locate older items, now finding debris that has been hidden or buried for generations.

“These include historical drink cans, thick glass bottles, industrial waste from building sites and even a rubbish stash that looked to be dating back to when the Observatory was running on Ben Nevis, back in early 20th Century.

“Teams on Snowdon removed 500 plastic bottles. Each mountain has its own unique story about its development as historical tourist destinations – with summit buildings and industry claiming the summits of Ben Nevis and Snowdon, for example, since Victorian times. Year on year, we are hoping to clear these sites of a build-up of debris, as well as promote the practice of ‘leaving no trace’ for today’s walkers enjoying the beauty and health benefits of our UK mountains.”

In a clear-up lasting almost 12 hours, the Ben Nevis team found tissues, fruit peelings, plastic goods including bottle components, multiple socks, gas cartridges, sanitary towels and tampons, sole units, long johns, a catheter bag, letters and memorials, plus enough walking pole parts to open a shop and a duvet.

Scafell Pike attracted most volunteers. Photo: The Real3 Peaks Challenge

Scafell Pike attracted most volunteers. Photo: The Real3 Peaks Challenge

Kelvyn James, who co-ordinated the clean up on Scafell Pike, said: “A huge thank you to the wonderful 39 volunteers who made this the most successful R3P yet – even better because we took less rubbish off the fells this year – 68.5kg from Seathwaite, including a 10.5kg tent we’ll be donating to Scouts, 55kg from Wasdale and 32kg by Langdale.

“It was especially nice to get so many thank yous from the general public we encountered and the runners doing the Langdale Horseshoe.”

Snowdon’s effort got a little powered help with a special early morning train on the Snowdon Mountain Railway transporting 33 volunteers to the summit of the mountain.

Co-ordinators Kate and Ross Worthington said: “Everyone spent an hour or so around the summit area which turned up a staggering amount of broken glass compared to most other things.

“Seven very full bags were sorted for recycling and left with the SMR and their recycling storage, to be removed by train later that day. This included about 12kg of broken glass and a lot of plastic and metal. The summit area always turns up interesting remnants of old industrial waste, as well as everyday items. Did we say a lot of broken glass? Oh, and Top Deck from the 80s.

The clean-up on Snowdon. Photo: Real3 Peaks Challenge

The clean-up on Snowdon. Photo: Real3 Peaks Challenge

“The general cleanliness of the main paths on Snowdon is pretty good considering the amount of diverse visitors, and this is based on general opinion, surveys and word of mouth that is heard from speaking to lots of people, a lot of the time.

“But teams were scouring hidden corners, turning up old stashes, scraping around scree slopes, wading in streams, sifting through soft rush, poking in old ruins and clearing out helicopter lifting bags, for current path maintenance work, of dumped articles. A lot of the items would have been years, sometimes decades old.

“We also hope to help the message of Keep Wales Tidy.”

Next year’s event is planned for Saturday 8 October.

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