IT was heartening to see such a massive response to last week’s blog about litter problems in the great outdoors.
The mission statement ‘Leave no trace’ cropped up many times and, while it is a noble one, unfortunately our species is forever doomed to come up short in its fulfilment.
Wherever the human race sets foot, it leaves a mark. It’s no surprise that many birds regard us as some kind of giant pig, creatures you can bank on leaving a trail of crumbs.
In the Black Cuillin, the ravens have taken it one step further. They have sussed out how to break into stashed rucksacks, even opening the zips on pockets. Those taking a detour dash to an outlying peak are advised to leave a heavy rock on their temporarily abandoned bags.
While most walkers go out of their way to avoid leaving anything behind, accidents do happen. The amount of gear lying around in the hills is testament to that.
Gloves, maps, compass, walking poles, sunglasses, and rather bizarrely on one occasion, trousers. The mind boggles at what you have to have been doing to have lost a pair of trousers on a wind-swept mountainside.
I found a GPS during a spring walk round the Grey Corries ridge. It was buried under feet of ice and snow, still in its case, and my crampons had uncovered it. It was beyond repair, the screen broken and water damage showing through. I took it home, dried it out, then tried a fresh battery but it was finished. I made a cursory attempt at tracing its owner without success.
It was the same result when I found a pair of Leki walking poles in a remote glen near Loch Tay. They were propped up against a tree, probably placed there by someone who had just finished a walk and was getting changed for the drive home, and then they were forgotten.
Again, the weather had taken its toll. They had seized on at full stretch and my attempts at trying to free them resulted in them snapping into more sections than the manufacturers had allowed, and again, attempts to find the owner proved futile.
Sometimes there is a happy ending. Many years ago, we found a telescope on the top of a mountain at Crianlarich. We handed it in at the local cop shop and a few months later were told it had been claimed.
It can be quite disconcerting when you find a map and case lying on a hillside. My first thought is always: I wonder if they found their way off safely? I have never gone along with this idea of having your map on a cord around the neck, preferring to keep it somewhere more secure.
I also learned the hard way that lending your map to someone else while travelling on a fast boat is not a good idea. You can read the result at this link http://munromoonwalker.com/blog/maps-boats-and-k2-a-cautionary-tale-from-knoydart#sthash.qsfEtoCf.dpbs
I have managed to lose a fair bit myself over the years. During a struggle up Beinn Teallach in gale force winds, the rucksack cover was torn from my back by a ferocious gust and gone in seconds. If you happened to be in Fort William that day and had your head swallowed by a fast-moving grey bag then I apologise.
Shortly after leaving the summit of Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan during a 24-hour round of the Mullardoch and Affric peaks, I realised I had left a pair of gloves at the cairn. I was out on my feet and didn’t have the strength, physical or mental, to go back. I hope someone got some use from them.
I did reclimb 500 feet or so to a remote Munro Top in Glen Affric after realising my camera was missing to find it sitting there waiting for me.
Sometimes it’s just too dangerous to contemplate chasing after lost gear. Once when climbing the Long Leachas on Ben Alder, my poles slipped out of my bag. I managed to reach one but the other was tantalisingly out of reach and the descent looked dodgy.
I was alone and a long way from help, so reluctantly I decided to let it be. The litter impact of a lost pole would be nothing compared to a fallen body.