It's all change as the John Muir Trust replaces two crucial cairns on Britain's highest mountain.
Following a consultation earlier this year, the John Muir Trust has rebuilt two navigationally useful cairns high on Ben Nevis, Britain's highest mountain.
The first of these is the Coire Leis cairn which serves as a marker for anyone wanting to head directly down into Coire Leis following the line of old fence posts, from blurry editorial memory. Situated at NN171 710, the new cairn is a handsome chap, as you can see from the image to the left, stands approximately two metres high and features a distinctively shaped capstone. So, if you meet him in the mist, you'll now know exactly where you are.
The other new cairn stands at the top of the climbers' descent route down Number 4 Gully and replaces the previous aluminium marker post. Again it's a pretty distinctive pile of rock and just to make sure you know what it is, the oversized capstone features two aluminium number '4's, one facing N/NE and the other facing south.
The cairn is located in the same place as the old aluminium marker - NN 159 717 - with the base being constructed partly from remnants of the original cairn. It's also worth noting that the base of the cairn has been populated by a couple of rare plant species, erm, 'rare vascular plant assemblage, including Cerastium ceratoides (picture 2a) and Cerastium articum – both mouse-ears' it says here.
After some head scratching, we reckon that means you should refrain from peeing on the cairn please, no matter how inviting it might seem in the middle of a Lochaber blizzard.
Ethics And Cairns
The JMT's statement about the new cairns makes a point of saying: 'The John Muir Trust supports the Mountaineering Council of Scotland and recognises the importance of developing self-reliance in the mountains.'
A bit of a reference to the lively ethical debate about constructing artificial aids to navigation in the mountains, where some purists believe passionately that cairns are an abomination and should be torn down.
Safety and skills information can be found at: www.mcofs.org.uk/mountain-safety.asp
More about the John Muir Trust at www.jmt.org.