One of the waymarks for the Highland Kings event

One of the waymarks for the Highland Kings event

Organisers of a ‘luxury’ ultrarunning event in Scotland have been widely criticised for marking parts of the course with yellow paint.

Lucy Wallace, Ramblers Scotland president and an Arran-based Mountain Leader and member of Arran Mountain Rescue Team, discovered the waymarks on the Goatfell massif on the island.

Ms Wallace said, as well as being an unsightly intrusion into the wild terrain, the Highland Kings markings, which organisers said were biodegradable chalk, risked damaging the environment, specifically acid-loving lichen. Parts of the mountain are in a protected site of special scientific interest.

Numerous postings on social media supported Ms Wallace’s position.

Entrants in the event paid £15,000 to take part in the 120-mile trail run in the West of Scotland, described by Primal Adventures the company behind the venture, as an exclusive and revolutionary luxury wilderness ultramarathon designed by ex-special forces, over four days along rugged coastlines, high mountain passes and with 10,000m of ascent.

Participants were promised luxury overnight glamping during the run and a gala banquet on the final night with adventurer Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

Ms Wallace said: “On the section of the ridge between North Goatfell, Goatfell and the shoulder where the corrie and Brodick paths split, I recorded 35 bright yellow marks.

“This is just a small section of the Highland Kings route. There’s lots more yellow paint elsewhere, I know because I’ve seen it on the Goatfell path, and been sent evidence of paint in the saddle too.

“There’s some signs that someone has attempted to wash some of them away. Looking at the damage, it seems that this has simply spread the paint around, widening the potential harm to the acid-loving lichens, without reducing the visual impact much. I’m now questioning whether the scrubbing is doing any good at all.

“Other marks look absolutely brand new, despite 10 hours of rain on Saturday. ‘Harmless chalk’ this is not.

“Many of the marks serve zero navigational purpose, on boulders every few metres next to an obvious path.

Mountain Leader Lucy Wallace the president of Ramblers Scotland and a volunteer mountain rescuer

Mountain Leader Lucy Wallace is president of Ramblers Scotland and a volunteer mountain rescuer

“Others are navigationally ambiguous, and I fear will actually lure unsuspecting walkers into tricky terrain.”

A spokesperson for the National Trust for Scotland, which owns Goatfell, told the BBC: “We had previously made it clear to the organisers that we expect all events on trust land to be operated on a ‘leave no trace’ basis.

“We have been in touch with them again to remind them of this and expect that they will take steps to remove the markings and ensure no damage to flora and fauna.”

A spokesperson for the event organisers said: “Since the event ended, the Highland Kings team has been working with the National Trust for Scotland to remove all traces of markers from the course.

“We sincerely apologise for the upset we have caused in relation to route markers on our recent ultramarathon event.

“It was always in our operations plan to have our team return to the route in the days following the event to remove all trace of the biodegradable chalk.

“This has now been completed as planned with every step retraced to ensure the markings are removed thoroughly and satisfactorily. We are working with the National Trust for Scotland to ensure that the removal meets its standards.

“Together with marshals, support runners, GPX routes pre-programmed on watches and daily athlete briefings the route markers were planned to support athlete safety as they were unfamiliar with the region and this type of terrain.

“All materials during the event were specifically selected to protect our green spaces including the use of biodegradable chalk. Living and working in the area, we are acutely conscious of the environmental impact that events such as Highland Kings have and will learn from this experience.

“We would like to assure anyone concerned about the lasting impact of the Highland Kings ultra that we are absolutely committed to delivering a sustainable legacy for the region.

“We welcome all comments and would be delighted to work with anyone concerned on future Highland Kings ultra events to ensure we continue to create unique experiences our community can be proud of.”

Ms Wallace said: “It’s a strange statement and seems to infer that all the marks have now gone from the hill. I find this incredibly hard to believe, having recorded so many late yesterday afternoon, with no sign of anyone cleaning them.”

NatureScot, the Scottish Government’s advisory body for the outdoors said: “NatureScot is aware of this incident and our staff are in contact with interested parties and are monitoring the situation.

“It’s crucial that all event organisers understand the responsibility that accompanies the right to responsible access and take all necessary steps to ensure that protected areas, such as the SSSI at Goatfell, are respected and that events leave no trace afterwards.

“If anyone has any concerns about damage to a protected area, they should contact the landowner and Police Scotland.”

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