Just back from the hills after taking part in my first Real3Peaks Challenge litter pick, leaving Ben Macdui and Cairn Gorm a cleaner place.
What started five years ago as an event clearing up Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis expanded last year to cover more hills and this year will cover 15 events, most happening next weekend, with teams of volunteers picking up all the litter they can find.
After volunteering to take part I found myself volunteered to organise the Macdui/Cairn Gorm event. We ended up with a group of just 5 people and one dog, which is small by the standards of Ben Nevis, but it was gratifying to note that a bigger groups would only have resulted in people fighting over pits of rubbish, for, in the whole day, we found just 3.5 kg. That’s still, as some have pointed out, too much, but a lot less than on most other targeted hills.
We started from the Coire Cas car park, armed with litter pickers and bin bags and went out across the bottom of the Northern Corries to take the Lurchers’ path up onto the plateau and into the cloud. By the top of Macdui we were sub-zero, with remnants of last week’s snow hanging on in sheltered corners, and after doing a tour of the stone wind shelters we retired to the Sappers’ Bothy for some shelter from the wind – not strong, but biting – while we ate lunch.
Then there was another tour of the summit area before, the sky clearing, we headed back north, this time following the path along the top of the Northern Corries and up onto Cairn Gorm, where we found refreshingly little rubbish before descending by Windy Ridge.
The easy-to-carry 3.5kg we gathered was heartening to a degree, but any complacency was destroyed just half an hour later as I parked the car near Glenmore Lodge to walk in to Ryvoan Bothy for a night’s kip before heading home. On the short walk in – about 3km – I was depressed by the amount of rubbish I saw. I’d no bag to hand then, but went prepared as I walked out in the morning, collecting a large carrier bag-full of tissues, sweetie wrappers, plastic bottles and drink cans – far more metre for metre than we’d found on the plateau.
So is it a depressing picture? I really don’t know.
Certainly there seems to be more and more rubbish littered around our hills and glens. When I walk in and out from Corrour and Bob Scott’s Bothies, which I do often, I can’t remember the last time I didn’t pick up rubbish on the way, and of course, there’s the perennial problem of fol leaving rubbish in bothies.
But there does seem to be growing awareness of the problem. As we walked out and back to Macdui on Saturday we explained to everyone who would listen what we were doing and all recognised and deplored the need for it.
But what’s really needed – apart from for people to stop leaving rubbish – is for more people to start picking up.
So make an effort. If you were in your own home and saw a biscuit wrapper lying on the floor you’d pick it up without thinking about it. Yet out in the hills, where we presumably go to get into nature and take pleasure in unspoiled nature, you just walk past. It would be the simplest matter to bend over and pick it up and stuff it in a bag – or even those netting side pockets most rucksacks have these days.
I know, it’s not easy sometimes. When I decided to start picking up bits and pieces I found I would stop when other people were about. Why? Was I embarrassed? Why should anyone be embarrassed to be seen picking up rubbish to make the place better for everyone?
It’s progress that people are talking about it more, but it’ll be real progress when picking up litter becomes natural for everyone and ceases to be something worthy of note.