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The Real three peak challenge

I spend a lot of time in the hills and mountains as you'd expect. I tend to stay away from the popular 'tourist' routes when I'm guiding as much as possible. This has the advantage of spreading footfall rather than concentrating it in one area.

As a mountain professional I'm fully versed in the latest around environmental impact, and as a PhD in evolution and molecular genetics, also fully aware of biodegredation. But I'm regularly having to tell folk (not in my groups) not to leave banana skins, apple cores etc.

"Yes I know they are 'natural', but they are not natural here, take ages to degrade, alter the pH of the thin fragile alpine soils, mess up the micro-environment and look awful."

I have been inspired by Richard Michael Pyne who decided to address the mess left on Ben Nevis after a summer of three peakers and other visitors leaving tonnes of rubbish. He got noticed for his efforts and the Real Three Peaks Challenge emerged - clearing the rubbish left by visitors on The Ben, Scafell Pike and Snowdon tourist tracks.

In the five or so years that this initiative has been going, it now covers the Cairngorms, Yorkshire Three Peaks, Other places in the Highlands and Lakes, Peak District and for the first time in 2018, the North York Moors.

I teach beginners navigation on the iconic Roseberry Topping on the North York Moors. It's 320m high but stands out as a sentinel from the northern slopes of the Moors, dominating the plains of Teesside. It's also an extremely popular hill all year round with paths and tracks everywhere, the Cleveland Way running over it, and an enormous amount of rubbish strewn over it.

This is even more of a shame as the National Park and National Trust provide enormous bins in the car parks.

I decided to coordinate the Real Three Peaks Challenge here and one of my regular clients joined me for the day. This is an entirely volunteer-led initiative and in the lower forest area we picked up over 50 dog poo bags, and even more plastic water bottles, loads of tissues, lots of clothing (randomly) and a glass bong. When we got down we discovered we'd collected 50kg of garbage but neither Joanne or I felt we'd really done more than a superficial clean.

This is quite depressing really. Why wrap dog poo in a plastic bag and leave it? There are poo bins by the car park. Why are dog poo bag manufacturers making them out of non-biodegradable plastics? Why are people flinging plastic water bottles into the undergrowth? It dies back in autumn and they are exposed in their hundreds.

There has been a huge drive about plastic waste getting into the ocean but why are we still messing up the land. We live on the land. There really is absolutely no excuse at all. If you have a dog carry the damned poo out and put it in the bins provided.

As for plastic bottles - buy a reusable bottle and fill it at home. Personalise it. Make it your hill bottle. If we stop buying single-use the 500ml bottles, manufacturers will have to do something about their packaging. We do have choice.

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