This week from Monday 7 May, community-owned Suilven in Sutherland will be at the centre of four days of helicopter activity to carry hundreds of tonnes of stone and gravel to the high slopes.
The airlifts mark the start of a new phase of repair work on the path from Glencanisp, which will carry on through the summer, with the £200,000 project expected to be completed in August.
The mountain is bracing itself for an upsurge in visitors following the release later this month of the film ‘Edie’, starring Sheila Hancock as an octogenarian who makes a life-changing decision to climb its steep, remote slopes.
The restoration work is being carried out by the John Muir Trust and the Assynt Foundation under the umbrella of the Coigach & Assynt Living Landscape Partnership. the first phase of the project was completed last summer and involves two path contractors and ten workers.
Footpath Officer for the John Muir Trust, Chris Goodman who is overseeing the work said: “When we began the work last year, the main approach route was boggy and waterlogged and had begun to widen into an unsightly scar on the landscape. After four months of intensive work, we managed to transform it into a robust path that looks natural and blends in with its surroundings.
“This second phase will focus on a higher stretch of the route leading up to the famous summit. I’m confident that our great team of highly skilled path workers from contractors ACT Heritage and Arran Footpaths will do an equally outstanding job in the months to come, making Suilven a mountain of which the community can be even more proud.
“With the film Edie about to be released in cinemas across Britain, we expect to welcome a lot of visitors onto Suilven this summer, so the work is taking place at a fortuitous time. Last year’s repairs and the work we’re starting now will help minimise trampling damage to the vegetation and peat that runs alongside the path.“
The fundraising appeal to support the work has been backed by mountaineering legend Sir Chris Bonington who said last year: “The most magical walk I have ever known was on Suilven in 1952. I was still at school and I was climbing with a young undergraduate, staying in bothies, and we did this walk and climb humping all our gear with us. I will never forget that view looking south over Loch Sionascaig.”