Sunday, 11 October 2015

It's the little things...

On Sat 10th October we took part in the Real 3 Peaks Challenge - an idea initiated by Mountain Training Association (MTA) members  Rich Pyne, Kate Worthington and Kelvyn James.  Each year around October time (when most challenges are over and done with) the three of them rally other like minded MTA members and co-ordinate litter cleaning crews on each of the peaks on the "3 Peaks Challenge" route - Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon - to clear up all the rubbish left behind.  Clearly these aren't the only 3 mountains that suffer with a litter problem, but because they attract more visitors, they attract more litter.

It would be very easy at this point to slam the 3 Peaks Challenges but the reality is they raise a huge amount of money for charity and encourage folks, who wouldn't normally venture to the tops of the high fells, to push their limits and discover some fantastic scenery along the way.  The problem is that some of the events aren't as well put together as they could be and a huge amount of litter gets left behind.

On Scafell Pike, because it's the night route for most challengers, the route up from Wasdale is littered with abandoned glow sticks and marker tape - the guidance for using these items is simple: if you take it up with you, bring it back down again.

Our group headed up from the Langdale Valley, meeting with the other 2 groups (1 from Seathwaite and 1 from Wasdale) on the top for lunch.  One of the other groups found an enormous abandoned tent and we all had depressingly similar stories to tell about the things we'd found along the way.

In previous years the big and obscure finds have made the news - the octopus on the top of Scafell Pike last year for example - but having been part of this years litter pick we found that not that many people carry an octopus and it's all the little stuff that really causes the problems, things like...

  • Fag ends
  • White tissues
  • Clear plastic tops from water bottles
  • 1 cm long plastic seals from water bottles
  • The corner from a pack of sweets
  • Orange peel
  • Banana peel
  • Chewing gum (which according to Keep Britain Tidy can take 1 million years to decompose!)
  • Boiled sweet wrappers
There's a great time lapse video here from Mike Raine (@Mikerraine) showing what happens to banana skins an orange peel when left to decompose.  When you watch it bear in mind that this was taken at a low altitude - the higher you go up, the longer it takes.

Looking to Scafell Pike
We also found a range of less savoury items such as poo, used tampons and a used condom (possibly from someone who confused mountain safety with mounting safely).  Moving a few stones on the cairns usually revealed items tucked away in an "out of sight, out of mind" way - plastic bottles, glass bottles, sardine tins, more poo bags etc. - but hiding it doesn't mean it isn't there and by the end of the day our team, on the quietest of the 3 routes, had gathered around 30Kg of rubbish.

One of the nicer sides to the day was the number of people who paused to say thank you to us for our efforts - especially the fell runner who passes us at Esk Hause having run all the way up from the Langdale Valley.

If you want to join in next year's Real 3 Peaks Challenge you can follow their Facebook page here and, in the meantime, if you see any litter on your hikes pick up what you can even if it's just 1 piece of plastic; as one famous supermarket would say "every little helps".

There really is no big or complicated message here - just take your litter home with you - it's not difficult.

If you want to get involved in this year's Real 3 Peaks event click HERE.

The 3 litter crews n the summit
Great Gable - one of my favourite fells.


Lovely flock of Herdies on the way down