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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 September 2005, 16:14 GMT 17:14 UK
Mountain memorial storm gathers
Ben Nevis
There are already dozens of memorials on Ben Nevis
Mountaineering groups are calling for a debate over whether memorials should be placed at popular beauty spots.

Some sites in Scotland have attracted plaques and personal items which the mountaineers describe as intrusive, inappropriate and worse than litter.

But grieving friends and families argue that they should be allowed to remember the dead in the places that they loved.

The Mountaineering Council of Scotland wants a debate to be held on what should and should not be allowed.

'Just litter'

One estate in the Highlands has described a path which features an engraved stone memorial slab screwed to a boulder, a shrine to someone's mother surrounded by pot plants and a plastic plaque on the shores of a nearby loch - all within a few hundred yards of each other.

Mountaineers and walkers believe the proliferation of inappropriate monuments destroys the very qualities that make wilderness areas special.

Cameron McNeish, editor of The Great Outdoors magazine and president of the Ramblers Association in Scotland, told BBC Scotland: "Mountain tops are not cemeteries, mountain tops are not memorial gardens."

He added: "My friend and I climbed to the mountain top and there, crudely cemented into the summit cairn, were some children's toys.

Ben Nevis memorial site
The John Muir Trust wants to move tributes to a dedicated site

"Obviously a young child had died and the parents thought the best way to remember him was to take some of his toys and cement them into the summit cairn.

"While it touched them, and perhaps made them feel a bit better about everything, I think to anyone else coming on the mountain this was just litter."

However friends and relatives claim that attempts to control the commemoration of the dead are insensitive.

Mo Leadbitter and Morag Robinson, from Blairgowrie, are planning a fundraising walk in memory of their friend Aisla Isles, who died last year of breast cancer.

They are raising thousands of pounds by climbing Ben Nevis and they want to leave a memorial on the mountain to their friend.

Ms Robinson said: "It's the highest point in Britain, and there's nowhere in Britain where you can be closer to heaven."

Ms Leadbitter added: "It seems to be that people are drawn towards mountain tops, to lay to rest their memories of people and to let things go.

"It just doesn't seem right that somebody's trying to tell us where we can and can't say goodbye to people."

'Wild and beautiful'

There are already dozens of memorials on top of Britain's highest mountain, Ben Nevis.

The John Muir Trust, which owns most of the mountain, wants to set aside a dedicated memorial garden near its visitor centre at the foot of the Ben.

The plan is that from next summer, all the monuments, cairns and plaques that are on the mountain will be moved down to the new site, and any new bereaved friends and families will be encouraged to put future memorials there.

The trust is hoping to work out how it will persuade the bereaved to use such a site at a meeting with Highland Council officials on Wednesday.

Director Nigel Hawkins said he thought that there should be memorials on Ben Nevis, but at the foot of the mountain where they could be more accessible.

He added: "The top of mountain is wild and beautiful and we want to keep it wild and beautiful."

We asked for your views on mountain memorials. The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we received.

My sister scattered her late husband's ashes from the top of a hillside in the Lake District. This was a fitting memorial tribute, with no negative impact on the mountain environment.
Malcolm, Aberdeen, UK

Seeing a lone memorial on the top of a mountain can be quite moving, especially after a hard climb. People however should realise somebody got there first, and they should move on to somewhere else. Let's not spoil our beautiful mountains. When Diana died, the picture of one bouquet of flowers hanging on Kensington Palace gates would have moved anybody, the aftermath of thousands more being added was crass and insensitive.
Kevin Murphy, Edinburgh

If someone died at a spot on a particular mountain I think I can understand and accept a memorial but other than that no thanks. People who want these should join a council and jump on the bandwagon of building on green field sites - same mentality
Andrew Beaumont, Glasgow

I used to be a "proper" mountaineer. I climbed as well as walked and was in a well known Edinburgh club.

A friend in my club died in Glen Coe and, as a club, we took his ashes to the top of the Buachaille Etive Mhor and scattered them there.

It would never have occurred to any of us that a monument should have been erected there. And it would never have occurred to him either. He climbed to be in the wild empty places and would have been horrified had we desecrated a mountain in his honour.

What these people who place monuments forget is that they are destroying the very thing that their loved ones craved. These monuments are for the living, not the dead.

If we must have memorials let them be at the bottom where the living can get at them.

Tony Romain (Midlothian)

No. Except carry some extra stones to build up the existing cairns,
Rob, Troon

It's so inappropriate; it's another one of those fads, post-Princess Diana. Memorials to nobody shared by everybody. Death is not in itself an achievement. I say keep mountains clutter-free.
Alex Hetherington, Glasgow

I can see it both ways. When I go I want my ashes let loose from the top of The Cobbler at Arrochar as I am from there and would like to return there when I'm gone. But, mountains are dangerous places and I can see the 'litter' point of view. Not so much plaques which are fairly intrusive - if permission is requested and given - but teddy bears, mini-gardens etc, if placed incorrectly can be dangerous, and yes, cause an eyesore to a lot of people.

Also from the danger point of view, though the mountains here in Britain are small in comparison to the Alps, for example, they are just as dangerous. In the Alps the mountains are much higher, but you start the climb much higher. Here the climb may be just as high, just as dangerous, but as you tend to start at sea level, people don't realise it. The Ben Nevis memorial garden is a fine idea. Maybe, if possible, a designated boulder people can affix plaques too, or even a memorial garden in the local graveyard. But don't strew stuff all over the countryside, there's getting to be little enough left as it is.
Katrina, London

If a person dies on a mountain I can understand their relatives wishing to place a plaque or a brass plate at the spot. The summit of Ben Nevis is a bit cluttered and probably needs managed. I have came across other memorials which are quite thought provoking. As a dedicated mountain man with a love of wild places I would have to say that control is required. Plant a tree or a shrub even some bulbs by all means but certainly no pseudo religious shrines please.
Jim Brown, Kilmarnock

I think memorials are inappropriate on the hills and for one I do not want to be reminded. We all know the risks involved in hill walking. Scatter their ashes on the hill and have your memorial in a more appropriate place. The memorial garden seems a better idea.
Ann Waugh, Scotland

Can you feel mortified even though you are dead? If so, I'd be mortified if someone vandalised a mountain in my name. You don't need to leave something behind to remember someone. The best tribute to the dead is a fond thought.
Sandy Mutch, Dundee

A memorial garden might BE apt, but definitely no 'memorials' on the mountains. The mountains are wild and beautiful and should remain so. The proliferation of ad-hoc memorials is tacky and perhaps indicative of the 'mourning sickness' from which Britain seems to suffer these days.
Tom, Isle of Skye

I love the hills of Scotland, therefore the last thing I would want my family to do is to defile them with crude memorials after I'm gone. Scatter my ashes on as many hills as you can climb and I'll make my own way from there.
Simon Wallace, Edinburgh

Let's move the monuments to a more accessible place. Also reserve any monument garden for people who have actually died on Ben Nevis. On Uluru (Ayers Rock) there are simple plates with the names of those who have died trying to climb it and they do not detract from the overall majesty. The vast bulk of people do not want to be walking in a cemetery when hiking up mountains.
Ian, Melbourne Australia

Mo thanks, they are a complete eyesore. If someone left a mountain top memorial for me I'd come back and haunt them! Surely a better, more lasting memorial would be to donate some money to organisations such as the John Muir Trust and help ensure generations come get to enjoy the mountains?
Gary Dickson, Sheffield

I think there are way too many memorials scattered all over the place already. It's terribly mawkish and ugly, grieving friends and relatives should really find some other way of remembering. Can you imagine what Britain would be like if there were inappropriate memorials placed for everyone who died? You wouldn't be able to walk up the street never mind up a mountain. People should be encouraged to remember in some more personal way without expecting everyone else to share their grief.
Kay Millan, Edinburgh

We have places for memorials, they are called graveyards. For how long will people climb these mountains to go back to the memorials? I rather suspect that they are visited very few times by the relatives and friends. I don't think it is appropriate that these are used as places of memorial as most people who visit will not have known, let alone remember these people.
John, Amersham, Bucks

I agree that there should be no random memorials. I have, however, seen some ways where it can be done in a non-obtrusive way. How about repairing an existing stile over a fence on a path and leaving a plaque. Alternatively help repair a dry stone dyke or a path. My granddad spent his whole life climbing the hills and I think he'd turn in his grave if we erected a statue or plaque for him on top of the cobbler or Ben Lomond.
Angus Nimlin Wardlaw, Edinburgh/Nürnberg

No, I don't think memorials should be allowed on mountains, etc. What makes them special is that they are relatively untouched by human trappings and should stay that way. People should be able to climb mountains and remember loved ones but these places are for everybody and no individual has a right to place their mark on it just because they feel like it.
Brian, Edinburgh

While I have not seen any mountain-top memorials, I think that to put memorials in wilderness places is like hiding them in a corner. A memorial should be placed in an easily accessible place so that it causes us to remember the person more often. Some say that mountain tops are nearer to heaven, but that is sentimentality. God is all around us, and heaven is where He is.
Stewart Goudie, Edinburgh, Scotland

I have no problem about memorials on mountains set in place near where people died - like the ones near the summit of Ben Ledi or Helvellyn or the one at the top of the Glenogle Pass. They enhance one's understanding of the rich interaction between mountains and people over the years and have a real poignancy and often I will just quietly reflect on the lives lost. However, to put memorials on mountains just because they are high places seems to me an unnecessary and gratuitous intrusion.
Alan Macgregor, Banff, Scotland

The only memorials allowed should be those that enhance the area; perhaps a bench for walkers to sit on or signposts.
Ed Newton, Kingston Upon Thames, England

By leaving anything in a wilderness or mountainous region, be it memorial or rubbish, you destroy the very wilderness which one has gone to seek.
Mike Sheil, Faringdon Oxfordshire

I think flowers or a flower beside the loved one's photograph would be better.
Mary Allan, Inverness-shire

To destroy the peace and solitude of a beauty spot is to destroy the very thing the deceased loved. By all means scatter ashes which will be incorporated into the environment by nature; but a more permanent memorial spoils the mountain for others. A dedicated garden of remembrance would seem to be a good compromise between the two points of view and I am sure is an idea that will be widely supported.
Garda, Yorkshire

This is a much better idea. Having it controlled rather than any old thing scattered around, should keep it all pleasant to look at rather than an eyesore in one of the most picturesque places in the world.
Mike, Dundee

I've been up the Ben many a time and there is already enough rubbish up there without adding memorials! What a great idea to have a memorial garden at the base. Let's keep our precious beauty spots unspoilt, litter and memorial free.
Nic, Cardiff

They should definitely be stopped and have no place in wild areas. The mountains are serene and beautiful in their own right, this should be sufficient to honour loved one's memory. Everyone dies, so it is inappropriate for any relative to argue that their case is special, no amount of man-made tack can ever compete with nature.
Tim Birch, St Leonards on Sea

Parts of Ben Nevis are deadly in winter and have claimed scores of mountaineers. A small stone memorial to those who died on the mountain would be fine, but placing memento's of people who've died elsewhere seems bizarre. I doubt if Edinburgh Castle or Holyrood Palace would allow it so why should it be allowed on Ben Nevis?
Peter, Nottingham

I have lost a number of climbing friends on mountains but I am sure they would have had no wish for friends or family to litter the tops with pointless memorials. The hills in Scotland are already covered in lots of unnecessary cairns which only detract from the wilderness we are all so keen to protect.
T Sharp, Invergordon, Scotland

I can see why people want to leave memorials to those who actually died on the mountain, but I don't think it is appropriate to place memorials for people who were never there. I hike for fun and exhilaration, I do not want to be reminded of death at every turn of the path...
Chris Jefferies, Mullingar, Ireland

If I am up in the hills I know there is a risk element to it. Death is tragic for those involved but if I died up in the hills I would not want a 'personal' memorial to me to spoil the enjoyment of natural beauty for others.
Rob, London

I cannot understand why people have a desire to create shrines at the location of the death of a loved one. If we allow this to happen unhindered, will I have a right to enter someone's house and erect a shrine in their living room as that is where one of my relatives has passed away? As I drive around I see these shrines popping up all over the place and feel that, as with any "development", planning permission should be applied for and granted before they are put in place. Else we will end up with an ever increasing number of these shrines and in time they will increase in size.
Chris Penny, Cardiff Wales

Personally, I am against these in any wild place. Be it the middle of the forest or the top of Ben Nevis, this is not the place for these mawkish displays. True memorial is carried personally.
Ian, Forest of Dean, UK

People should in no way be allowed to litter in these beautiful places. It is not insensitive to want an area of great natural beauty to remain unspoiled, but it is insensitive to presume that you can dump any old "tat" wherever you feel like it under the "memorial" banner. I don't see why people would want to do this, in particular if their loved ones did not die on the mountain? If this has to be allowed then a memorial garden at the foot of the hill would seem like a reasonable compromise. Memories of those who have passed away live in the heart of those who knew them and do not need to be plastered all over our spectacular countryside. It is totally selfish to think that leaving junk on the hill does not affect the way other people perceive these places when they visit.
Scott, Perth, Scotland

No memorials as such, why not simply plant a tree or flowers instead?
John Venn, Broadstairs, UK

As a keen hillwalker I would prefer it that my friends and family remember me in the natural environment rather than giving homage to a pseudo idol in the form of a memorial that would only taint the places I love.
Lindsay Craik, Dunfermline

I couldn't agree more with Cameron McNeish. Having climbed most of my life in Scotland I would not want some cheap shrine erected in my remembrance, which without doubt ruins the wildness and the very reason people climb hills and mountains in the first place. I think those who erect shrines etc probably have no appreciation of this "wildness" in the first place. As for a cemetery at the foot of Ben Nevis, I don't think walkers want to see this at the start of their day.
a walker, Dunfermline

If a mountain was particularly special to a loved one, wouldn't it be more appropriate to find a quiet place to scatter their ashes up there, rather than erect a monument? That way, relatives have a special place to remember their family member, and the natural environment is preserved.
Jo, Sheffield.

The people who say it isn't right that someone else tells them where they can and can't say goodbye to people are themselves forcing others to put up with their memorial plaques etc. They can say goodbye to their loved one anywhere they like - just don't leave a proliferation of inappropriate things that will spoil the wild beauty for the rest of us.
Barbara, Edinburgh

It isn't just mountains, it's riversides, forests and many other wonderful places. I can see reasons for doing it, but walkers and climbers don't escape to the hills to have other people's grief forced on them. My wife plans to dispose of my last mortal remains on top of Buachaille Etive Mor, but not until I've been shoved in a box, incinerated and ground into powder. With the wind up there, there should be no visible sign of me whatsoever!
Graeme, Perth, Australia

If I die in a wild place that I love then I would not consider any memorial which lessens the wildness of the place to be a fitting one. If anything I would consider it an insult. These litter louts should be prosecuted.
Vaughan, UK

Wild places must not be desecrated by a tasteless minority.
John Johnson, Edinburgh

I was recently at the top of Ben Nevis (June this year), and I personally found the memorials, photos and assorted other memorabilia a bit distasteful. While people should be remembered, I don't think that spoiling an otherwise wild landscape is the way forward.
Peter Bull, Ormskirk, United Kingdom

Mountain memorials and cairns, plaques, brass name tags etc should not be allowed to adorn our wilderness areas. Scatter the ashes of your loved ones on the mountain by all means but leave the areas as your loved ones would have wanted them - unspoilt. One of my friends has already had a rather unfortunate incident whilst relieving himself on a mountain in the mist (an un-emptied urn in a sheltered hole) and I am sure that this is not how people wish to be remembered! These are wild areas not memorial gardens, please keep them this way.
, Edinburgh, Scotland

I have had ashes of mountaineering friends scattered on the mountains but we left no mark just a lasting memory. Its bad enough travelling on our roads and seeing roadside memorials at every sharp corner or bend, so don't spoil the countryside by expanding this silly craze onto the hills.
Gary, Sheffield

There should be no memorials on the hills. But that means that all such memorials should be removed, even the long-established ones that have been there for decades. It cannot be selective or elitist.
David, Dumbarton

My teenage son was killed last year in a road accident so I can understand the need for some to place memorials but grief for me is private. I do not like to see memorials on roadsides and would certainly not want to see one on a mountain top. I am a keen walker and believe you should only take pictures and only leave footprints.
Julie Jeffs, France

As a hilwalker, I do not want the hills to suddenly become littered with these memorials, as most of the roads in the Highlands have become. Why I enjoy the hills is to get away from the pressures of work and people. To be constantly reminded of people's misfortunes or unhappiness spoils this. The idea of a memorial garden at the base of Ben Nevis is an excellent idea, and would certainly be easier to visit than the top of the mountain.
Stephen Ross, Dunfermline, Scotland

I disagree with the placing of memorials in these areas unless they are in a specific place such as a memorial garden. Whilst remembering the bereaved is a very personal matter, everyone has the right to enjoy these areas - and what would the deceased have said if their view included a stone memorial, a plastic pot and some children's toys?
Matt Hunt, London

I recently lost my godmother and we shared a special affinity with the mountains to which I intend to honour her memory by scattering her ashes at the top of a favourite mountain. While I believe this is important for people to mark their loved one's passing with a poignant and memorable event I do not condone the scurrilous blight on a wild and beautiful landscape. Yes, a memorial area at the foot of popular mountains would be fitting but given people's opinion and determination, this is still unlikely to prevent more memorials being placed.
Neil McLean, Dunfermline, Scotland

Whilst I am very sorry that people have lost their lives on mountains, it was their choice to go there. It is a disgrace that relatives and friends should deface the natural countryside so that it depresses other visitors to the area. It is a common problem on our roads now where make-do memorials are found for years with wilting flowers and faded photographs. If people want to remember their loved ones, they should do it in private. I have no wish to be reminded each time I go out to enjoy our increasingly cluttered environment.
John Stych, Pershore United Kingdom

There's a popular saying amongst the outdoor fraternity, 'take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footsteps'. If a teenager remembered a lost friend by scribbling their name on a rock with a marker we would view it as vandalism - is a brass plaque all that different?
David Booth, Leicester

I was with my brother when he died in a climbing accident. One of the principal reasons we climbed is because we loved the hills. We enjoyed the natural unspoilt beauty. I can go to the crag on which he died, or indeed any mountain, and quietly remember him without the need for any shrine or trinket. He would certainly not have appreciated 'messing' up the hills and in any way spoiling the wilderness or beauty in any way.
Mick Upton, Hampton, England

These 'memorials', however well intended, are an invasion of other people's enjoyment of the great outdoors. Grieving relatives would be better using the cash to support charities and organisations that protect our countryside, not polluting it.
Neil MacLeod, Carnoustie, Scotland

While some of us are walking the hills, carrying our litter home and burying our orange peels in order not to spoil the experience for others, it's wrong that some people are carting cement, plastic tat etc. into the hills. Surely a more permanent and appropriate memorial would be the planting of a tree to bring some wildlife back to the hills.
Derek Knox, Inverness, Scotland

Memorials to climbers and walkers who have died should be removed from the hills, coasts and wild places - I am sure they would not have approved of such intrusions spoiling the wild places they loved. All other memorials should also be removed as they are not far from being litter. By all means scatter ashes or visit their favourite spot/view to remember them. I do not believe it is insensitive to keep the wilds as unspoilt as we can and it is in fact inconsiderate of the bereaved to place monuments in such places.
Eddie Lynch, Badicaul, Kyle of Lochalsh

I love mountain tops partly because of their desolate emptiness. I would hate for someone to spoil that natural beauty by leaving a memorial for me there. Surely you can remember your loved ones without having to have a physical reminder?
Jane, Wales

While I sympathise with people who have lost loved ones, grief is a very private thing and should be kept that way
Alasdair Gillies, Bishopton, Scotland

I can't understand why it is that the people who create these shrines believe they have an unshakeable right to do so. If everyone did so, the mountain tops would soon become covered. If I wanted to go walking in a cemetery or garden of remembrance then I would - I would rather walk in beautiful and (as far as possible) unspoilt countryside.
Irritated walker, Edinburgh, Scotland

Like the tatty, tacky roadside memorials which blight our verges, these are just out of place in our beautiful hills and mountains. It always feels like an intrusion to come across one of these in an otherwise unspoilt place. I realise that people want to remember lost loved ones but it would be more appropriate to do so in a private, dignified way.
Alex, Scotland

It is inappropriate. I am not much of a climber or walker myself but to walk up a mountain path and see clusters of toys, dead flowers etc is unsettling. It does amount to littering because there is no-one around to clear away the empty plastic flower packets for example. It is a similar situation to seeing bunches of flowers at the site of road accidents - it is distracting and, I think, unnecessary. Graveyards are where memorials should be placed or donations could be made to the mountain rescue service - a much more appropriate way of spending money
Hilary, Edinburgh

Having lost a close family member through a hillwalking accident, I can understand the desire to have a monument at the spot of accidents as it seems more poignant.

I don't think I ever really thought about how many people might be in the same position though and what effect this might have on the landscape. I think that dedicated sites at the foot of mountains might be the best idea as it would also allow bereaved families to see they are not alone. It wouldn't be right to destroy the landscape loved by the people we've lost.
John, St Andrews, Scotland

I agree that folk should be allowed to place memorials to loved ones, but I think it a good idea to have a dedicated area for them by the visitor centre. Surely if people do place memories at other points on the been, these could, after a fixed amount of time, say 3 months, be brought quietly down to join their fellows in the memorial garden.
Lois Gordon, Glasgow

Since man walked this land people have lived and died on the mountains, for them the mountains themselves stand as memorial. A small unobtrusive sign or plaque placed at the foot of the mountain is fine, but why deface places of such wild beauty with modern shrines and plastic pots that will mean little in a generation.
Stephen, Innerwick, East Lothian

I am very pleased that finally someone has called for a debate on hillside memorials. We really need to form a policy on this as the trend is getting completely out of control. Some footpaths in England are now lined with memorial benches which are obtrusive and hardly ever used. My view is that hills are public spaces and it is not appropriate that people should use them for their private acts of grief.
Paul, London, UK

Memorials should be allowed to be placed on the hills and mountains of Scotland however, the type of memorial should be restricted like they are in cemeteries.
Dave Brown, Scotland

Huw Williams reports on the debate

Your views: Mountain memorials
14 Sep 05 |  In Pictures

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