NOTHING stands still so it's important to have mountain routes regularly updated to keep pace with the constant changes to our landscape.
The Klondyke-style boom in hydro schemes and wind farms mean even the newest guide books can be out of date by the time they are published.
Access points may be different, fence lines and paths obliterated, familiar guidance points obscured or removed. There are other factors, so I thought I would do my bit by posting the following route:
"Take the track out of the car park past the dumped barbecue, bottles and food wrappers and immediately branch left on a good path. Follow the trail of paper tissues and wet wipes until you come to a wall stuffed with banana skins.
"Move on to more open ground using more dropped tissues as a handrail. Pass a prominent cairn and its attendant cigarette butts and head to the main summit.
"The trig point can be found inside a circular shelter cairn, along with discarded orange peel and a few plastic bottles stuffed into a bag and left lying inside. If you are unlucky, you may find some used toilet paper lying around. If you are lucky, you may avoid stepping in whatever the paper was used for."
Yes, we are talking rubbish again. It seems that with high summer now in full swing, the litter louts are out in force.
Some recent highlights include a drystone wall with several banana skins jammed into the cracks, a pair of underpants left dangling on a fence, and a still erect tent dumped off the South Shiel Ridge after the final peak.
Who goes to the effort of climbing seven Munros and then discards their tent rather than taking it down with them? Sometimes, the mind really does boggle.
On a recent visit to The Merrick, I reached the summit cairn to find someone had tidied up their rubbish, put it in a bag, and then left it wedged into the cairn. Waiting for the next bin collection obviously. There was also the aforementioned soiled toilet paper blowing around. I just hope someone had used it to wipe smears of chocolate from their face.
What's even more depressing is that this is not just being done through ignorance - some of this mess is being left by supposedly caring walkers and climbers. How else to explain the orange peel lying scattered amongst the rocks in the higher reaches of Lota Corrie on Skye? This is the realm of the mountaineer not the casual tourist.
Now some of this may be down to a mistaken belief that the likes of orange peel and banana skins biodegrade quickly. They don't. It takes around two years for them to disappear. Cigarette ends are worse, taking up to ten years to vanish.
Meanwhile, the discarding of paper tissues is reaching epidemic proportions. Like most people, I stopped using cotton handkerchiefs in favour of tissues many years ago.
A few days on the hill in soggy conditions, and I quickly realised the cotton option was a better bet in my pocket than a pile of mush which then tended to disintegrate and blow away in pieces over the day.
And what is with wet wipes – have we all become so paranoid about even the most miniscule contact with our surroundings? A small bottle of disinfectant hand wash is all you need.
As with the tissues, there seems to be a belief that wet wipes will quickly disintegrate. That's not the case. It can take months, and in the meantime they will just keep piling up, a constantly expanding eyesore lying on our paths, amongst the grass and flowers, floating down streams, hanging from trees. If we are truly caring about the environment, then let's all start playing our part.
Footnote: While we are on the subject of rubbish, I thought I'd mention a disturbing find I made recently during a walk in the hills above Loch Eil.
I visited the remote Glensuileag bothy, where someone had spent some time scrawling rambling, threatening, racist messages on torn-off strips of newspaper.
Safe to say it could have been an unpleasant night for anyone unfortunate enough to have had to share the shelter with the writer.