Friday, 22 August 2014

Botanists on Ben Nevis

Getting ready to set off
Image: J. McIntosh
Jim McIntosh has been in touch to tell us about a joint initiative to conduct a botanical survey of the north face of Ben Nevis. 

Work was carried out over the past fortnight and involved BSBI members.  

Climber recording new location for Arctic Mouse-ear
on North-east Buttress
Image: I. Strachan 
Jim said "The BSBI recorder for the area, Ian Strachan, has been the main botanist involved, but Gordon Rothero helped out on the first of the two weeks and I spent a day helping on Wednesday. 

"It was an amazing experience surveying with climbing guides in such precarious places.

Highland Saxifrage, Comb Buttress
Image: I. Strachan 
Whilst it was great seeing good populations of Sibbaldia procumbens, Veronica alpina (Alpine Speedwell), Cerastium cerastoides (Arctic Mouse-ear) – it was absolutely fantastic seeing healthy populations of Tufted, Drooping, Brook Saxifrages (Saxifraga cespitosa, S. cernua & S. rivularis).  

A new record for the north face of Ben Nevis was Alpine Saxifrage (Saxifraga nivalis) – thanks to Ian".

Thanks for letting us know about this, Jim. I also got in touch with Ian Strachan, who said "I had an amazing two weeks - extreme botanising!

"It was a major highlight of my botanical life. This project is a unique opportunity to work with local climbing guides, who know the North Face intimately but are now seeing it from a different perspective - it was great to see how enthusiastic they became about the rare plants. 

Alpine saxifrage in Number 4 Gully
Image: I. Strachan
We got to places I never dreamt of reaching and found new localities for 11 nationally rare or scarce species, including S. cespitosa (Tufted saxifrage) which seems to be struggling elsewhere in Britain.

This blogpost by one of the climbers and also this one have some good photos showing what I got up to - a kid on Christmas Day indeed!
I also found this one on another of the climber's blogs,  taken just after I had struggled back up No 2 Gully!"

Jim and one of the climbers
Image courtesy of J. McIntosh
Thanks, Ian! And thanks to the funders and sponsors: the project, which is led by the Nevis Landscape Partnership working in collaboration with Midland Valley Exploration, is funded by Scottish Natural Heritage, Heritage Lottery Fund, The Highland Council and is sponsored by equipment manufacturer Mammut.

If you’d like to hear a bit more about the Ben Nevis survey, you can listen to a report from BBC Radio Scotland's 'Out of Doors' programme. This is available here on BBC iPlayer - about 44m 40 sec in. 

If you'd like to read a bit more about the survey, you might be interested in this article in the Scotsman

It must have been amazing surveying up on Scotland's highest peak! 

Ian and Jim's photographs are so great, I just have to show you another one, preparing to climb... click on the images to enlarge them.
Coire na Ciste, preparing to climb
Image: I. Strachan