Ealier this year, Girls on Hills became an ambassador of the ambitious It's Up To Us campaign. This joint campaign by Mountaineering Scotland and the Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland (OATS) aims to raise awareness of the desperate need for investment in the repair and maintenance of informal mountain paths to protect the fragile mountain environment and for the safety of trail users like us!
Credit - Brodie Hood
According to the International Trail Running Association (ITRA), trail running is one of the fastest growing sports in the world. As more runners than ever before take to the trails up and around Scotland's mountains, it's time to consider our impact and our reliance on these informal and paths. We use them for access to wild spaces and high places, to journey, to explore and to find adventure. These trails protect the fragile mountain environment and help keep us safe. They assist our navigation and ease travel for the inexperienced, the old and the young, taking their first steps into Scotland's upland landscapes. We use them to train and we use them to race - thousands of thousands of footfalls every year. All this takes it's toll in terms of wear and erosion, as does the passing of time and exposure to the Scottish seasons/weather. But we still take them for granted. But who pays for repair and maintenance? Most of us are unaware of the high costs involved, as well as athe lack of funding. There is a desperate need for investment in the repair and maintenance of all informal mountain trails situated on land outside of Scotland's national parks and NGO estates - so it really is up to us runners and hillwalkers (and all mountain goers!) to help.
Girls on Hills as Ambassadors
Girls on Hills Co-Founder, Keri Wallace spoke at the launch in May, which marked the start of the campaign's three prongs:
Fundraising for path restoration projects, kicking off with an ambitious project to raise Ł300,000 to address decades of erosion on An Teallach, one of our most iconic Scottish mountains.
Raising the profile of the challenges facing land managers in Scotland in finding funding for path repair and maintenance, the need for further investment in this are and the social and economic benefits.
Engaging with stakeholders and Government to develop a framework for funding for upland paths.
Contractors directed by OATS have already begun work at An Teallach, working their way up from the bottom, replacing the old rough, badly braided stalkers’ path.
An Teallach Project Awarded €60,000
This week it was announced that the An Teallach project has been awarded European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA) of €60,000 - a massive boost bringing the fundraising total for It’s Up to Us to over £200,000. The current total, two thirds of the £300,000 project budget, secures essential contract works on An Teallach until at least May 2025.
On their website, EOCA highlights the only UK project to win a grant award in this round: "It's Up to Us will bring together those who care for mountains and conservation to help raise awareness and funds to fix the path erosion scars on An Teallach, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, through path restoration using natural local rock materials. The 1250m of upland path and 1300m of light touch path works will protect the hill from further loss of biodiversity and allow habitat recovery in the eroded area. The project will use habitat restoration techniques to recover 4.95 acres of the lost upland peatland habitats."
Chair of the Outdoor Access Trust Scotland, Duncan Bryden, said: “An Teallach – Gaelic for the (Blacksmith’s) Forge – towers alpine like above Little Loch Broom. One of Scotland’s great mountains, it delivers a special mountaineering experience for many people. OATS are delighted and grateful that EOCA member companies recognise the mountain’s special needs and have given this fantastic award to the It's Up to Us project to help restore paths for both people and nature. It is a great example of businesses from the outdoor sector giving back to wild places."
Credit - Brodie Hood
Get involved - Fort William Mountain Festival
We're excited to be a part of this important project and look forward to communicating its relevance to the trail and mountain running community. We'll be doing just this, as part of the headline Running Night at the Fort William Mountain Festival on February 16th 2024, which will feature athlete Jamie Aarons, talking about her record breaking self-propelled Munro Round. We look forward to talking to an audience of trail running enthuisiasts about why this project is so important and relevant to the sport we know and love! You can book tickets to Running Night here and make a donation to the It's Up to Us campaign by clicking the button below!
Girls on Hills will be (quite literally) running to Running Night! Join us for a guided night/winter run over nearby Cow Hill, accompanied by a Petzl rep, to try out some Petzl demo products. Together Girls on Hills and Petzl will show you the way, over the hill and through town to arrive on time for the Running Night opening at the Nevis Centre. Tickets are only £5pp and can be purchased here. We have a number of other Explore Events on over the festival weekend, inlcuding guided guided winter running, navigation skills and a 2-day Winter Skills 101 course for women. We look forward to seeing some of you there...