From path erosion to overcrowding, the year-round popularity of Britain's national high points brings many problems. Perhaps the worst is the rubbish that the hordes leave in their wake. Here's a chance to redress the balance. On Saturday 4 October a deep cleaning litter pick is being organised simultaneously on Ben Nevis, Snowdon and Scafell Pike. Taking its name from the charity challenge that's most associated with environmental issues on these hills, this event entirely relies on volunteer litter pickers.
'The Real 3 Peaks: Cleanse & Conserve' was dreamed up by Mountain Training Association member Richard Pyne. Horrified at the amount of rubbish he'd seen on Ben Nevis, he took to social media to share his concern with colleagues.
'Very quickly a small group of fellow outdoor instructors agreed it was a worthy concept as they had seen an increase in litter on other popular mountains, Scafell Pike and Snowdon' explains Ross Worthington of RAW Adventures, who are organising the Welsh leg of this year's event.
The Real 3 Peaks had its debut in 2013 (see UKH news here), and the hope this year is to build on the success of the inaugural event, which not only collected hundreds of kilograms of rubbish, but helped to highlight the hard work already put in by local volunteer groups, charities and organisations that manage the three mountains.
'In the first year nearly 750kg of litter was recovered from these three honey pot peaks and the support from fellow instructors, members of the public and local businesses was overwhelming. Sharing a day on the mountain with like minded individuals of all ages, educating the public and collecting some very unusual items was hugely rewarding' says Ross.
As in 2013 this year the event is again being supported by the Mountain Training Association and the British Association of International Mountain Leaders, along with local charities and national bodies such as British Mountaineering Council, John Muir Trust, Lake District National Park, Snowdonia National Park Authority & Snowdonia Society.
'The hope is for the message to be spread far and wide so holiday visitors, charity fundraisers and the next generation of mountain walkers and climbers all know that they need to take their rubbish home and not to 'fly tip' in the mountains' says Ross.
The Real 3 Peaks is a decentralised community effort, coordinated by different people on each of the peaks. They emphasise that this is not a series of guided walks: volunteers need to be hill fit, well equipped and self reliant. They also have to be prepared to cart full rubbish bags down the mountain.
Kelvyn James of Mountain Services is the co-ordinator for England's highest peak. Last year saw four teams cleaning paths to the summit from Wasdale, Seathwaite and Langdale. Kelvyn says: 'It's quite a challenge co-ordinating the various routes up Scafell Pike, so the more volunteers the better. If people can email me on email@example.com, confirming that they're coming along, AND which starting point they'd like to join, then we can add them to the volunteers list. We'll be confirming definite numbers closer to the day.'
Kate and Ross Worthington from RAW Adventures are organising efforts on Snowdon, with the assistance of volunteers from the Snowdonia Society. With a busy summit cafe and train station, and six main paths, there's a lot of ground to tread, but National Park wardens already cover the main routes. Instead they aim to concentrate on the harder-to-reach areas where litter can blow, popular bivi sites, and more obscure corners of the range away from the named routes. The more volunteers they have, the more areas they can focus on. 'Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your interest to assist and we can start to coordinate who we can allocate to which area' says Ross.
Rich Pyne will be looking after the Ben Nevis collection. 'We will certainly be collecting debris off the main footpath, but with enough help there is a possibility of scouting around below the North Face too' he says.
'If you do come along to help out here, please be aware that even the "Tourist Track" can be very rough underfoot, and it is also a long drag up and down, so you do have to be hill fit, being able to carry full mountain kit (it did feel very wintry last year on the summit), and a bag of rubbish too. If we end up below the North Face, sturdy boots are a must as we will be on boulder fields and some very rough ground, and if it is raining the rocks can be incredibly greasy.'
You can email him on email@example.com if you are interested in a day on The Ben.