Last week the Scottish government opened up travel for people living in the Republic of Ireland which meant that Laura and Ultan were able to come over on their honeymoon to explore the best of the Scottish Highlands. As part of their trip they wanted to summit Ben Nevis and they'd lucked out with a dry day on the forecast. It looked breezy though so we started from the top car park and headed up the grassy slopes to the half way lochan, keeping our options open for also doing CMD Arete. Laura and Ultan made easy work of the ascent and we were soon on the summit of Ben Nevis in much lighter winds than expected.
With plenty of time and energy and not much wind it made sense to head down to the arete. We dropped out of the cloud, the wind became a breeze and we enjoyed a very pleasant traverse of CMD Arete on nice snow and with fantastic views of the Aonachs, over the Mamores to Glen Coe and across to the North Face of Ben Nevis. There was only a handful of people on Ben Nevis and it is not often at all that you get to do CMD Arete with only a raven for company.
CMD is the best way for hill walkers who are looking for a little more challenge to experience Ben Nevis, and it was fantastic to be back out guiding on this stunning route once again. It's great that folk from the Republic of Ireland are able to visit our mountains again, and we cannot wait to welcome people from England, Wales and Northern Ireland back here soon!
For those of us who climb on Ben Nevis regularly, this tree is a welcome sight. After a hard day of climbing and a long walk out, this tree signifies that you are only five minutes from the van. Yesterday, Rob, Ali and I had an amazing day on Ben Nevis climbing Darth Vader. The weather was perfect, the climbing conditions were excellent, and very few other climbers were out. Very few people are allowed to travel to Ben Nevis to go climbing. In fact, the majority of the population of Scotland is currently not allowed to travel to the Highlands to go climbing. The vaccine is out and we are at the start of the way out of covid-19. However, we are not there yet.
Who in Scotland can travel to Fort William to go climbing?
If you live in a Level 3 or Level 4 local authority area you must, by law, remain within that area unless you have a reasonable excuse. Going climbing or hill walking for leisure is not a reasonable exception to this law.
Who can travel to Scotland from other UK nations and Ireland?
Nobody from England, Wales, Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland is allowed to travel to Scotland to go climbing. Travel guidelines are on the scot.gov website here https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-on-travel-and-transport/#travelbetween
Under current Scottish regulations, given the state of the epidemic in these countries, unless you have a reasonable excuse you must not travel between Scotland and:
This applies to people who live in Scotland and to people who live in any of these countries who are thinking of coming to Scotland.
These rules will be kept under review and if the prevalence of the virus in all, or part of, any of these countries reduces it may be possible to relax these restrictions for some areas.
When will this change?
Our problem right now is that we don't know when this will be reviewed, when the border will open or who will be allowed to travel here once it is open. Clearly, this is a problem for people who want to plan a trip to the Highlands to go walking and climbing, and it is a problem for people who want to book some guiding or instruction with us.
We have committed to follow government advice and we will continue to do so. If you book with us and travel restrictions do not allow you to come here, we will not bend the rules. We will give a full refund instead and tell you not to travel here. If you have already traveled here against government advice, you will have broken the law and we will not take you climbing.
What we can do is take your booking and hope that the travel restrictions change before the dates of your booking. We hope and expect the travel restrictions to relax before Christmas, but this is our guess and there has been no indication from the Scottish Government.
What about the five days of free travel at Christmas?
Here's what the advice says -
Between 23 and 27 December, to help reduce loneliness and isolation:
The five day period is not intended for people to travel to go climbing or hill walking. Please don't ask us to take you climbing in this period unless you have traveled to the Highlands to form a bubble with friends or family.
Will the vaccine change this?
Yes, but not for a few months. It might not be until after the winter that the vaccine starts to have an effect.
So, what can we do if we want to go climbing?
Follow the guidelines, maintain good hygiene and spacing, and encourage everyone else to do so as well.
It's really hard for us to say no to people who want to book some guiding with us. We normally do everything we can to help people get into our mountains. And we know this sounds preachy but it's all we can do to help everyone get past covid-19.
Self reliance is a fundamental principle of mountaineering. By participating we accept this and take responsibility for the decisions we make. These blog posts and conditions reports are intended to help you make good decisions. They do not remove the need for you to make your own judgements when out in the hills.