Nevis Steall Gorge footpath closed after major rockfall
Popular path expected to remain closed from 14 September for up to five weeks
Following a serious rockfall from the slopes above the Nevis Gorge overnight on 13-14 September, the John Muir Trust has closed the Steall Gorge path in the interests of public safety, pending remedial work, which could take between two and five weeks.
Although the damage to path is less serious than initially feared, there is a significant amount of debris on the path, including large and unstable blocks of stone. More seriously, tens of tonnes of loose boulders remain scattered above the footpath, some entangled with fallen trees, others precariously perched on the Meall Cumhann cliff, 400m above the path where the rockfall started.
The Trust has already begun the process of having the landscape thoroughly surveyed with a view to clearing away any unstable debris.
This will be a complex operation, requiring a team with rope access qualifications to deal with the upper slope. It will also involve the removal of loose boulders from the woodland area around the footpath, where some loose boulders are caught in the branches of trees. Some fallen trees will also need to be removed or stabilised.
Alison Austin, the John Muir Trust’s Nevis Land Manager, said: “The damage to the footpath is not extensive, but we will need to bring specialised contractors to remove substantial quantities of debris from the path to remove any potential dangers to the public.
“The incident has forced us to close the path for the time the work will take, but we are working flat out to make sure that we make the areas safe as speedily as possible. It is unlikely to be reopened within the next fortnight and it could take until late October before we can give it the all-clear.
“Unfortunately, the closure will affect the Salomon Ring of Steall Skyrace which is taking place this weekend. We have been working closely with the organisers to minimise the ecological impact of the event, and to provide logistical and safety support, but the event will now have to be re-routed.
“In the meantime, we have provided advice on an alternative route for experienced hillwalkers, including grid references. We apologise for any inconvenience, but we all understand that the forces of nature can be powerful and beyond human control.
“The work to restore safety on the Steall Gorge path is expected to be expensive, and comes at a time when we are embarking on other major footpath restoration projects in the Skye Cuillin and on Suilven in Sutherland.”
Almost all pathwork maintenance undertaken by the Trust is supported by private doantions. Anyone interested in donating, go to the John Muir Trust’s Wild Ways footpath appeal or phone us on 01796 470080.
Photographs of the rockfall taken by Blair Fyffe