Work has begun on a major programme of repairs to the main path up Bla Bheinn. It should all be over by Christmas. But today or tomorrow, depending on the weather, the route will be closed for a helicopter airlift.
Because of its huge popularity, and its exposure to the fierce Skye weather, the 3.8km footpath from Loch Slapin to Bla Bheinn has begun to suffer serious erosion.
Earlier this year the John Muir Trust, which looks after Bla Bheinn, won £24,000 towards the repair costs in an online poll organised by the European Outdoor Conservation Association. At the same time the Trust launched an appeal among its members and supporters to match the funding.
This year they have also been consulting with interested parties on exactly what path work is needed, and where, on their Skye property (see UKH news here).
The company in charge of the work, Upland Access, will be staying near Elgol for the duration of the work while helicopter company PDG will be brought in to fly in stone to the path site for the repair work.
Chris Goodman, Footpath Manager for the John Muir Trust, said:
'Blà Bheinn, which guards the entrance to the Black Cuillin, is one of the most magnificent mountains in Scotland, with awe-inspiring views across land, loch and sea.'
'It is also one of the more accessible peaks of the Cuillin range, which attracts all sorts of people to Skye, from hardened mountaineers in the winter months to family and schools groups in the summer.'
'The sheer numbers trekking up the footpath, together with high rainfall, has led to the erosion of sections of the path. As well as creating a visible scar on the landscape, these pressures can also damage plants and soils.'
The Trust encourage people to take to the hills, they say, so their preferred way to deal with the problem of heavy footfall is to keep the main footpaths in good shape.
'That can be expensive' says Chris Goodman, 'but fortunately we’ve been able to raise the necessary money from our members and supporters, bolstered by the funding we won in the EOCA poll.'
During the work, which is expected to last until Christmas, the path will remain open. The exception is today (Thursday 16 October) or tomorrow - weather depending - when a helicopter airlift will be flying in the 100 tonnes of stone required for the work, and walkers are asked to avoid the route.
On top of the £45,000 investment the Trust has also spent £2000 on new interpretation boards recently installed at the Loch Slapin car park.