Davd Morris. Photo: Dave MacLeod

Davd Morris. Photo: Dave MacLeod

A long-time campaigner for outdoors rights has been recognised for his work.

Former Ramblers Scotland director Dave Morris has received the Scottish Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture.

The award was made by organisers of the Fort William Mountain Festival, which this year took place online because of coronavirus restrictions.

A festival spokesperson said: “Dave Morris has devoted most of his life to protecting and promoting access to the wild landscapes of Scotland.

“From the Lurchers Gully enquiry in the 1980s to masterminding the whole campaign for access in Scotland prior to the publication of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, he has been a stalwart figurehead environmental campaigner.

“Without his painstaking work over many years, the country would not enjoy the world leading access legislation that so many take benefit from today.

“As a director of Ramblers Scotland for many years he made great use of the media to persuade politicians, landowners and the general public to see the enormous benefit our wild landscapes give us.

“On his retirement from this post in 2014, well known outdoor writer Cameron McNeish described Dave Morris as the ‘closest thing we have to a John Muir figure, a wild-country champion who could lift up the eyes of an uncaring public and show them that in wildness lies the hope of the world’.”

McNeish was himself a recipient of the award in 2018. Others honoured include Colin Prior, Andy Nisbet, Dr Adam Watson, Jimmy Marshall, Myrtle Simpson, Ian Sykes, and Dr Hamish MacInnes.

Dave Morris also represented the interests of Scotland as president of the Mountain Protection Commission of the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation for eight years.

The spokesperson said: “He is a lifelong climber, skier and hillwalker. He has been an incredible source of inspiration in the last few years having battled with a laryngectomy operation, due to throat cancer. Now breathing through a small hole in his throat, Dave has defiantly managed to climb to 20,000ft in the Himalayas, ski mountaineer in Alaska and climb alpine rock routes in Norway.”

Julia Stoddart, chief operating officer of Jahama Highland Estates, which sponsors the award, said: “We are delighted once again to show our support for the festival by sponsoring the Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture and congratulate this year’s winner Dave Morris, an outstanding recipient.

“A tireless campaigner for public access rights and for the environment, Dave is a seminal figure in the Scottish outdoor access world, and it is right that his dedication and commitment are recognised through the award. Jahama Highland Estates is an inspiring landscape that attracts access-takers of all kinds, and we fully support the right to responsible access as enshrined in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, which owes so much to Dave’s work.

“The benefits of SOAC to the public have never been clearer than during the pandemic. Outdoor exercise has taken a central role in many people’s wellbeing during the past year, and Jahama continues to work with local stakeholders to ensure that recreation forms a key part of ‘building back better’ from Covid-19.”

Mikayla Parton. Photo: Dave MacLeod

Mikayla Parton. Photo: Dave MacLeod

A 23-year-old downhill mountain bike racer is the recipient of the festival’s Scottish Youth Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture.

Mikayla Parton of Fort William said she was shocked to receive the honour.

Parton was late to the sport of mountain bike racing. She got her first downhill bike about 17, competing in her first race at Innerleithen in the Scottish Borders just a week later. Festival organisers said: “From that moment on she was addicted – the adrenaline, the tracks, the people, the noticeable progression.

“Her first downhill race win came at Nevis Range in May 2017. After multiple wins over the next year-and-a-half in the senior women’s category she made the giant leap to the elite racing circuit. In 2019 Mikayla was not only crowned Scottish downhill champion, she also grabbed her first elite podium finish, second place, in the final round of the UK national downhill series. She competed in her first race overseas and in her first UCI mountain bike world cup races.

“Despite the pandemic in 2020 Mikayla had a fantastic race season. She was Great Britain’s highest placed women’s elite finisher at her first UCI mountain bike world championships, at Leogang, Austria, in an impressive fifth place, with two top 10 results on the world cup circuit.”

Previous winners of the youth award are: Tim Miller, Rob Cochrane, Shauna Coxsey, Robert Mackenzie, Natalie Berry and Zeki Basan.

Mikayla Parton said: “I am pretty shocked and very grateful to receive this fantastic award. It’s pretty cool to have my name alongside the likes of Shauna Coxsey. It was very unexpected and still is. Thank you so much to the mountain festival.”

Festival organisers said: “The festival’s youth ambassador award, established in 2015, celebrates adventurous young people, the landscapes they choose to explore and the outdoor pursuits in which they excel.

“The young winner needs to have shown resilience and determination to succeed within their chosen area of expertise, shown results through their own efforts and ideas, given back to their community, while being thought of as an example of excellence by others.

“Mikayla Parton epitomises these winning principles perfectly. Her meteoric rise to the top of the international downhill mountain bike race scene, from riding her first trail bike in 2015 to placing fifth at the UCI mountain bike world championships 2020 in just five years can be attributed to an obvious raw talent, constant hard work, dedicated training, motivation, focus and a dogged determination for success.”

Mikayla Parton is a privateer in her sport, competing without the backing and benefits of a factory racing team. She has the support of a few loyal sponsors including Greenpower, Nevis Range, Trek Bikes, and Endura. She foots the bills for her pro-racing career herself, making her own travel plans and logistics arrangements and keeping her own bike race-ready, whilst calling in favours wherever she can.

To make ends meet she is a soap scientist, handmaking soap and skincare products. She has also been part of the Nevis Range ski school team for many years, working as an instructor in the winter months.

Chris O’Brien, chief executive of Nevis Range, said: “We are delighted to see Mikayla Parton being honoured with such a fantastic award. Having achieved so much at the highest level of downhill mountain biking in such a short period of time, it is thoroughly deserved.

“With such hard work and determination, we are excited to see Mikayla progress even further in the next few years. We are very proud to have her as part of the Nevis Range family, a true inspiration to the mountain biking community of Fort William.”

Lydia Rohmer, principal and chief executive of West Highland College UHI, which sponsors the award, said: “We are delighted that this year’s recipient is not only an alumna from our school of adventure studies, but that Mikayla remains committed to her sport and her own development; it’s what this award is all about.

“The qualities of resilience and determination are what we endeavour to instil in all our students. We wish to send our congratulations to Mikayla and wish her every success in her future career.”

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