We really ought not to be all that shocked and dismayed by a single act of environmental vandalism when we live in a country in which Government endorsed ecocide happens as readily as day becomes night.
The ‘Identifiable Victim Effect’ is the tendency of individuals to be more concerned about and offer more aid to an identifiable specific individual ( a ‘victim’), as compared to a large vaguely defined group with the same need.
There are many hundreds of street trees needlessly felled in this country every day.
Some of the oldest trees in the land were felled to facilitate access to HS2 works – and some of those accesses were unused after the trees were felled.
Contractors for Plymouth Council felled 100 trees in a night.
Contractors for Sheffield Council decimated the historical tree canopy in parts of the city.
When acts of ecocide are supported and normalised by councils and government they become normalised – the shock about them on the collective conscience – is reduced.
You ought not to wear your fingers down typing ‘in disgust’ at the felling of one sycamore if you’re not even raising an eyebrow at the government sanctioned widescale ecocide going on across the country every single day.
In a previous life i used to lead teams using technology to find high value targets.
Nowadays i use technology to find high value outdoor gear, ideally for a pittance.
However the principles are the same – set up your parameters and leave the technology alone to do the searching – don’t tinker – leave it be – and eventually – after weeks or months (or years) it will ping and lead you to the courier that leads you to the compound, or alternatively to a pair of unused MSR Lightning Ascent snowshoes complete with tails for virtually nowt.
When the day job interrupts almost every day of your holiday it’s not a holiday.
The provision of free public transport (bus, rail and town centre ‘mulet’ bus) sets the benchmark for all conurbations in National Parks
The Tour de Mont Blanc (170km high level trail) passsd my apartment. I spoke to lots of people that had had a great time on the trail. I also saw and or spoke to a lot of trekkers either struggling under massive rucksacks or struggling to keep warm and dry with ultralight kit in early Autumn.
Mid grade French via ferratas are quite full-on.
In a 2 week period (4-17 Sept) the weather went from mid 30c on the trails and glaciers to a few evenings of snow up high.
If you visit after the end of August research the closing date for refuges and lifts – they’re weather and customer dependent and some uplift (eg Prarion) moves to weekends only in early September.
Les Houches is much quieter than Chamonix, and the indoor wall is a 10 min walk in crap weather. There are enough shops and eateries there, and if you’re in BelleVue / Prarion there is a small (grades 3 – 6) crag near the lake.
If you travel in to Chamonix daily by train you don’t have to cope with crazy bus drivers.
Buying an uplift pass for your whole stay the day you arrive is significantly cheaper.
The Chamoniard update / safety weekly newsletters (available via the UK Alpine Club twitter feed) are essential reading – and moreso as the impacts of climate change accelerate in the high alpine. Following the social media accounts of British and French Mountain Guides is useful for daily conditions updates.
Flying is one of the principle causes of climate change. Climate change is the principle reason the Mer de Glace is shrinking at such an alarming rate. People (including me) fly to see what is left of the glacier. The Compagnie de Chamonix Mont Blanc is busy building another chair lift (opens 2025) so we humans can get closer to the glacier (that is retreating) without having to walk as far. Scarring the moutain side with construction so that ‘we’ can get closer to what is one of the most visually impactful examples of human caused climate chang. Jesus Christ.
I can’t recall the name of it but at the end of the Spring and Summer seasons every outdoor shop in Chamonix takes part in a 2 day long major sale of ‘last season’ kit. It was 9-10 Sept this year. Stuff with up to 40% off. By mid September the gear shops are full of full on winter gear.
As always the Maison de Montagne (mountain info office) and the Tourist Info offices in Chamonix were super helpful.
There is a ‘Tour de Pays de Mont Blanc’ TPMB walk now (in addition to the high level TMB). This is daubed yellow and red on signposts and circumnavigates Mont Blanc on lower ground.
If you fly EasyJet look out for the dreaded email in the wee hours of your day of travel either delaying or cancelling your flight. My son managed to get here only with the help of Air Ethiopia !!
Went to the Tourism office in Les Houches to discuss multi day lift passes. I had heard from a guide in the supermarket last night that the weather may be crap from Monday so i asked the woman if she thought that was the case (so i didn’t waste ticket days ) and she said ‘why would i care about the weather next week, i only live for one week at a time’.
That told me.
Got my €210 uplift pass for 10 days. Got the bus and cable car to Refuge Flegere and set off along the TMB to the start of the Via des Evettes via ferrata.
I geared up and realised a) i’d forgotten my water and b) i’d forgotten my via ferrata lanyards.
It was 32c and the via ferrata started with 3 vertical pitches.
Sweating like a great big sweaty thing i realised near the top of the 3rd pitch that my heath robinson lanyard contraption was neither economical of effort nor safe.
I knew there was a family not far behind me on the vf so i downclimbed 2 pitches before i met them and then opted to descend the slope back to the TMB rather than get in the way of the family.
I dropped out the trees on to the TMB and frightened an elderly German couple. I then retraced my steps to the Refuge and bought a litre of water a coke and a cornetto for only €16 and put them all in my mouth at once.
Then made my way to Chamonix to find it closed for the siesta. So i decided to get some value out of my card and nipped up the Aiguille du Midi to breathe some slightly thinner air (i had had a few days on the Arcteryx Academy where i struggled above 3500m).
I wandered round the high altitude disneyland. At €75 per person per return trip my 10 day card was looking to be a good buy.
I was just passing the ‘ice tunnel’ (the access to the ramp that leads to the glacier and climbing for mountaineers) when i saw a man in dancing trainers and chinos pulling a wheeled suitcase and he climbed over the ‘warning – very dangerous – mountaineers only’ gate and tootled off through the tunnel pulling his suitcase !!!! I think he understood what i was trying to tell him.
I watched workmen disassembling the stone netting near the South face of the AdM and letting boulders various hurtle down the slope. I also took a few pics of climbers topping out on both the S Face and the Cosmiques. Found the climbers in question to share pics with them.
Then went back down in full to capacity bins.
Went for a 1.2% abv beer in Big Mountain Bar. The frickin’ enormous human in front of me ordered a 1 litre stein of beer and made very short work of it.
Passed the laundrette on my way to the bus stop. A man with a well bandaged head wound (bandage = 40% of head) was loading a washing machine with blood stained mountaineering clothes.
Off to the bus back to Les Houches. Except the bus got stuck in the queue of a major RTA (helicopter on road etc) and had to detour back towards Cham. So i jumped off and walked about a mile doen lanes to the next bus stop towards Les Houches. As i was about 100m from the bus stop – but on the other side of the road – a bus passed me. I got to the bus stop and read the timetable and it said no more buses for the night. So i rang an Uber. €16 for the 2 miles to Houches. After 20 mins Uber couldn’t find a driver – presumably due to the earlier RTA – and they cancelled my booking. At which point i re-read the bus timetable and realised i’d misread the bus timetable and there was one in 7 minutes. And there was.
And i hobbled in to La Tour de Pizz for a pizza looking 100% like some Englishman abroad that had been out in the sun WAY too long. I pointed at the biggest pizza ‘le cannibal’ and was told ‘take-away only and the wait is 40 minutes’ at which point i agreed to wait as long as i could drink beer outside and type up my incompetences various.
The person that vacated the table next to me left half a pot of peanuts which i’ve just demolished. The sunset is painting the Aiguilles and the Gouter Refuge up above me in evening red
My second beer has arrived ……… cheers.
* tomorrow i’m staying in and doing soduko all day.
Forgive me for giving @leavenotraceorg another little push. I don’t see a UK-centric programme with this reach and accessibility so, believing as i do that appropriately resourced educational initiatives are the most important way of achieveing the behavioura change that is urgently needed to save our home planet, i’ll just go ahead and sing its praises as well as recommend it.
I wrote a long(ish) article on my blog the other day about the excellent ‘Leave No Trace 101 Course.
Anyhow there is also A) a PEAK (Promoting Environmental Awareness in Kids) Online course – it includes videos and activities to help kids (recommended ages 7-12) understand the 7 Principles and how Leave No Trace skills and ethics can help protect the outdoor places we love. When you successfully complete PEAK Online, you will be able to download a digital Certificate of Completion!
B) a Zero Landfill Course. Each year, over 100 million pounds of waste are generated in (U.S.) national parks by park operations, visitors, and other sources. This course shows how you can help minimize waste in National Parks
…. the courses are ‘American’ in their examples and statistics but are robustly referenced and scientifically supported and very easily transferrable to your experice in a National Park or open space here in the UK. I can highly recommend them.
Although i haven’t yet found anyone running a LNT course that i can join the inner geek in me decided to have a bash at the Leave No Trace ‘Master Educator Refresher’ Course online and gone got me a pass 🤓.
Get involved with these free resources and see how simple changes to your actions outdoors can have a positive impact.
‘Though the Leave No Trace concept is over a half-century old. Care, responsibility and stewardship for the outdoors is not a new idea. Many Native and Indigenous cultures around the world teach and embody stewardship values, and have done so for eons.
In 1987, a “no trace” program was formed for wilderness and backcountry travel. The U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management cooperatively distributed a pamphlet entitled “Leave No Trace Land Ethics.” In the early 1990s, the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) was enlisted to develop hands-on, science-based minimum impact education training for non-motorized recreational activities. Then, in 1993, an Outdoor Recreation Summit with land management agencies, NGOs and members of the outdoor industry convened in Washington DC to form an independent Leave No Trace organization. Leave No Trace, Inc., was incorporated in 1994.
The organization develops and expands Leave No Trace training and educational resources. Leave No Trace conducts important research that impacts public lands and the general public. It engages with a diverse range of partners from the federal land management agencies and outdoor industry corporations to nonprofit environmental and outdoor organizations and youth-serving groups.
Today, the Leave No Trace program reaches over 15 million Americans and dozens of countries each year with conservation initiatives, education, training, research and outreach. Corporate partners, individual members, foundation support, and the sales of Leave No Trace educational materials provide the primary support for the organization’.
Why do an e-course about Leave No Trace
The ‘Leave No Trace 101 e-course
The course is based around ‘7 Principles’. The 7 Principles of Leave No Trace provide an easily understood framework of minimum impact practices for anyone visiting the outdoors. The Principles can be applied anywhere — from remote wilderness areas, to local parks and even in your backyard. Each Principle covers a specific topic and provides detailed information to empower you to minimize your impacts.
A deeper dive in to each of the principles is available here
It takes about 45-60 minutes to do and includes articles, videos, questions and images.
Although principally aimed at hikers and campers there is really sensible content on how to live your daily lives (eg not just when you’re out in the countryside) in a LNT way. To me this is a REALLY important aspect because current ‘learning’ requires people to adopt a different ‘code’ of behaviours when they go to the countryside as opposed to when they are at home or on the walk to school or commute to work or walking the dog. This is nonsense. All of the actions and inactions impact the same planet and by normalising Leave No Trace behaviours in all aspects of out lives we maximise the benefits to the planet.
(There’s a bit more on the ‘daily life’ aspects of LNT here )
It is widely acknowledged that the missing piece in respecting, protecting and enjoying the countryside and uplands of the UK is education (and the financial resources to deliver an accessible and sustainable education programme). Perhaps David Attenborough simplified the problem best …..
… and this e-course provides a free and accessible way to learn why and how to care.
LNT here in the UK ….
There are very few LNT courses in the UK and the concept of LNT is often tripped off the tongue without any reference to what it means and why. Perhaps a part of the reason for that is that each organisation and charity involved in access here seems intent on having their own take on messaging rather than having one coherent message like LNT.
If you take the time to find and read many of these statements / documents / codes like the Scottish Outdoor Access Code or the Countryside Code of England and Wales it is apparent that putting the advice of these Codes in to practice requires a level of understanding about our natural environment (without necessarily providing it !!!). Generally speaking the Codes for England, Scotland and Wales centre around four key principles:
Respect the environment
Take responsibility for your actions
Leave no trace
….. and as if by magic this FREE e-learning Leave No Trace course provides the understanding and (simple) science behind number 4 (and lots of 3 and a lot of 2 and quite a bit of 1 too …. )
Spreading the Word
If you‘re teaching any level of outdoor skills or instructor course you could send a link to this e-course as pre-learning activity and use it as a lunch-stop discussion group.
It is part of the curriculum for lots of youth organisations in the USA and ergo millions of young people get to understand how the impact of their activities in the outdoors can be minimised. 25 million people per year engage with Leave No Trace learning and training in the USA.
Imagine if this e-course became a building block of Scouts, Cadets, Girl Guides etc over here. Imagine if every hiking, running, cycling, paddling, horse riding, wild camping, dog walking, bird spotting and wild swimming club in the UK all promoted it to their members and each member sat down and did it with their kids or young relatives ….. imagine that !!!
The e-course is FREE (*it requires you to enrol via email – but you do get a printable PDF certificate) consists of 47 short lessons and there is a link to it HERE