Bagging a Munro gets easier as volunteers fund repairs to mountain paths

<span>An Teallach in the north-west Highlands is popular with ‘Munro baggers’ who try to climb all of Scotland’s 282 mountains.</span><span>Photograph: James Roddie</span>
An Teallach in the north-west Highlands is popular with ‘Munro baggers’ who try to climb all of Scotland’s 282 mountains.Photograph: James Roddie

One of Scotland’s most impressive and recognisable mountains will have its walking paths restored after hillwalkers and charities clubbed together to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Mountaineering Scotland and the Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland (Oats) launched a campaign last May to raise £300,000 for essential path repairs on An Teallach in Wester Ross, in the north-west Highlands, asking walkers and climbers to “give the hill a few quid”. The It’s Up to Us campaign has announced that £218,000 has already been donated.

More than 3km (two miles) of paths on An Teallach, a popular target for “Munro baggers” who try to climb all 282 mountains in Scotland, need repairing. The funds raised so far have already allowed contractors and volunteers to repair 340 metres of badly eroded path.

Walking tourism is worth £1.6bn a year to Scotland’s economy, according to the campaigners. A 2019 study identified more than 400km of Scotland’s path network in need of repair, at an estimated cost of £30m and at least £400,000 a year for maintenance. Over time, mountain paths can become damaged by rainwater, heat and footfall, with the problem spreading as visitors divert from damaged paths and put additional strain on surrounding land. As well as ensuring hillwalkers, climbers and runners can safely access mountains, keeping them to paths is essential for protecting local plants and animals.

Alongside its fundraising, the It’s Up To Us campaign is calling for the government to carry out a full audit of Scotland’s mountain paths and develop a funding model for their management. Government funding only covers path maintenance in national parks and NGO-managed land and does not cover repairs on privately owned land, which includes An Teallach. Funding previously available from the EU for privately owned land has not been replaced following Brexit, the campaigners say.

Dougie Baird, chief executive of Oats, said: “We are hugely grateful for all our individual public donors and will be encouraging other hill users to follow their fine example in the coming year to help fix the badly eroded path on this iconic mountain.”

Stuart Younie, his counterpart at Mountaineering Scotland, said: “There is still a lot more to do to deliver our ambition of establishing a sustainable funding model to support the maintenance and upkeep of our mountain paths. An Teallach is one of many mountains in Scotland that needs our support, and it’s up to all of us to do something about it.”

Alan Dobie, a campaign volunteer involved in restoring the first 340 metres of path, said he was keen to see more involvement from the outdoor community in restoring and looking after paths. “It would be great if we could get more outdoor people, more hillwalkers, realising this stuff doesn’t just happen – whether it’s a contractor spending two or three years on a path, or a group of volunteers, there’s a huge amount of effort going into improving and maintaining paths.

“Everybody’s got a role to play, whether it’s just making a small monthly contribution or physically coming out and volunteering.”

Among the campaign’s ambassadors are Keri Wallace, a mountain runner and rock-climbing instructor, and founder of Girls on Hills, a trail running, fell/hill-running and skyrunning company for women.

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“Whether you’re a hillwalker, climber, trail runner or mountain biker, you’ll have used hill paths to access the mountains you love,” Wallace said. “These trails not only make the approach easier and aid navigation, but they are also essential to protect the mountain environment.

“By sticking to the mountain trails, we help prevent widespread erosion and damage to fragile mountain flora. This is especially important around popular mountains like An Teallach that see a lot of footfall each year.

“Everyone assumes that these trails are centrally funded, but in reality there is a desperate need for independent investment in the repair and maintenance of trails outside Scotland’s national parks and NGO estates. It really is ‘up to us’ as mountain-goers to give something back by donating towards this campaign and helping raise awareness about the significant funding gap.”