The Highland Kings ultra race has been accused of vandalism on the isle of Arran, after race organisers marked 'hundreds' of rocks on Goat Fell with bright waymarkers. The exclusive event, which charges over £15,000 per entrant, claims on its website to be "one of the most sustainable endurance events in the world".
Arran-based Mountain Leader Lucy Wallace stumbled across the markers when out on Goat Fell:
"Last night while I was having a brilliant time on Goatfell with my friends, (yet somehow leaving no trace of our presence), we saw that the mountain had been daubed in hundreds of these sprayed on yellow waymarks. I didn't take any photos, mostly because it was too dark, but this one has been shared with me today."
"It was painted by a mountain running event: Highland Kings" says Lucy.
"I contacted the event organisers [...] for more info and they told me that it is biodegradable chalk and therefore OK. I have since spoken to a number of event organisers who say that this really goes against accepted practice, especially as this stuff takes a lot longer to wash off than advertised. I also understand that it will fatally change the pH of the granite boulders and kill the lichens that grow there. Goatfell is a SSSI and a landscape that is precious to a great many people.
"As far as I'm concerned this is criminal damage, vandalism. If this was done by ordinary folk the police would have had a word by now, but somehow the organisers of this event, who charge £15,000 per entrant, think this is OK.
"I have so many questions about why they skimped on marshals in favour of this method of marking the route, about how the brands associated with the event feel, and about what the organisers are going to do to put this right."
The four-day, 120-mile race, which finished a few days ago, was billed as "the first of its kind on Scottish soil combining trail running over some of the west coast's most iconic islands with transfer by speedboat and luxury accommodation at the end of each day."
At a time when many people are struggling to meet the rising cost of living, the existence of a hill running event charging upwards of £15,000 per head could best be described as an anachonism. Some in the hillgoing community have expressed concern about the 'gentrification' of outdoor spaces, and the exclusivity and alienation that premium events might imply:
For their ultra-level entry fees, Highland Kings participants might have expected the highest regard for environmental stewardship.
We asked Highland Kings organisers for comment.
"Living and working in the area, the team are acutely conscious of the environmental impact that events such as Highland Kings have" they told us.
"As such we sourced and used high quality biodegradable chalk for the event, but we are aware of the impression any sort of marking can have, so had always planned to have a team returning to the course this morning (the day after the event) to wash down all surfaces.
"We did carry out industry research and went over and above to source material recommended for this type of event. The route markers were only used purely from a safety point of view for the athletes.
"Moving forward, we are always looking at best practice and working with the local community is of paramount importance to us, and so feedback such as this is extremely helpful."