Garish markings left by the organisers of an “exclusive” ultramarathon are still highly visible on an Arran mountain, despite their clean-up efforts over the weekend.
Main image: One of the ‘cleaned’ markings, with paint still clearly visible. Photo: Lucy Wallace
Organisers of the Highland Kings race, which costs more than £15,000 per person to enter, were heavily criticised on Friday for leaving dozens of bright yellow markings on Goat Fell for participants in the race to follow.
They committed to cleaning the markings over the Bank Holiday weekend, but local mountain instructor and The Great Outdoors contributor Lucy Wallace, who surveyed the mountain on Monday, says the clean-up efforts have made little difference, and warned the markings could be present for “a long time to come.”
Speaking to BBC Scotland on Tuesday morning, Lucy said the organisers have attempted to clean some of the markings, but said: “All it seems to have done is move the yellow paint around. It has widened the problem for the lichens on the rock. The aim was to reduce the visual impact but it’s still very very clear.”
Other markings appear to be untouched by cleaning efforts. Lucy said: “Marks that haven’t been cleaned up are still as bright as when they were put on. I fear we’re going to be living with this for quite a long time to come.”
Organisers have previously said they had used a ‘high quality biodegradable chalk’, and that it had always been planned for the race team to return to the course on Friday morning – the day after the race – to wash down all surfaces.
Lucy said: “I think they really didn’t think this through. Perhaps they were taken in by the marketing on the chalk. They’re a big company, they should know about the impact their actions have on the environment and they clearly didn’t think it through in this case.
“These marks are every 20 metres along a really obvious path. No need for this whatsoever. There are quite a few successful and sustainable mountain-running events held here. They use marshalls and flag markers which they take off the hill after the event.
“I don’t think they’ll be able to clear up the mess they’ve made. There’s been no apology, no attempt to make reparations with the community. They’re acting like they’ve done nothing wrong when quite clearly they’ve made a terrible mistake and they really need to hold their hands up to it.”
Lucy said she was concerned about the future impact of the marking controversy on the running community, saying: “I’m really worried that the mountain running community in general will be negatively affected by this. Communities are not going to be feeling like welcoming new events into their landscapes if there’s a risk of something like this happening. I feel it’s just reflecting badly on the sponsors, on the athletes, on everybody involved with the mountain running community.”
Goat Fell sits within the Arran Northern Mountains Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and Arran’s mountains are all designed as a National Scenic Area.
Under the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004, it is an offence to “intentionally or recklessly damage, disturb or destroy land known to be an SSSI.”
A spokesperson for Nature Scotland encouraged anyone with concerns about damage to an SSSI to contact Police Scotland.
The organisers of Highland Kings have been contacted for comment.
UPDATE: Since this article was published, the organisers of the Highland released a statement which said: “Since the event ended, the Highland Kings team has been working with the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) to remove all traces of markers from the course.
“We sincerely apologise for the upset we have caused in relation to route markers on our recent ultra-marathon event.
“It was always in our operations plan to have our team return to the route in the days following the event to remove all trace of the biodegradable chalk.
“This has now been completed as planned with every step retraced to ensure the markings are removed thoroughly and satisfactorily. We are working with the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) to ensure that the removal meets its standards.”