With the old year done and dusted and a new year ahead of us I thought this was a good time to figure out what the new year will bring us in terms of the outdoors. The honest answer here is that the outdoors will remain largely the same it always was. Although the government has recently made outdoor pursuits a focal point of their legislation and support, nature itself will be largely indifferent to this political support. For those who venture onto Ben Nevis this year though, the path improvements being undertaken will mean some disruption and potential issues. However, recent weather and increasing pressures on the services we rely on may impact us more than we find comfortable.
Unless you have lived under a rock for the past month you will have noticed an unusual amount of wet stuff descending from the heavens. This has caused major flooding and disruption in large parts of the country, not least in the Lake District and Wales. These areas, along with many other flood affected areas, rely on tourism as a source of income as well as a justification for continued investment by the local, regional and national government. While I will certainly be found in these areas again I would urge you to heed their pleas and calls and should they tell you to come visit - do so. Disregard what you might think is sensible in terms of avoiding areas that have been affected by flooding and leaving them be to clean up and reorganise. If these areas say they want you to visit they genuinely mean it. Yes, some attractions, paths, roads, hillsides, bridges etc might not be as good as they could be - they might even no longer exist. But these areas need our help in order to keep them as accessible as they were in the past.
For a second year running, winter has struggled to find a footing in the alps with temperatures well above the seasonal average and a distinct lack of snow visible even on the higher grounds. Alpine communities rely on the ski season for a large proportion of their income. Without it the developments we all expect in terms of infrastructure and accessibility will not be financially viable. It frustrates me that we seem to treat nature as a piece of equipment rather than a living ecosystem these days. Holidays are cancelled because there is no snow - so what. Nature is still there and as such is still waiting to be explored. As disappointing as it is to not whiz up the mountain side in a chair lift and then race back down again on frozen water, surely we can find other things to do and not punish the alpine communities for something that arguably is more likely our fault than theirs - though this is a totally different rant waiting to happen.
On the bright side 2016 could be the year to set yourself a new outdoor challenge. For me I have set my sights on some wild adventures which may need more than just one year to achieve, but will enable me to develop further as an outdoor enthusiast and professional outdoor instructor. In doing so I will be exploring areas I have lived alongside for almost two decades without giving them the attention they deserve and discover some of my cultural roots and influences. Similarly as a species we tend to enjoy the greener grass on the other side of the fence and many - though not all - of us will not realise what is in front of their doorstep until they move away and leave it behind.
So go and make 2016 a year of discovery, a year of adventure and a year of support for increasingly struggling outdoor communities. Heed the BMC advice - reduce your impact, buy local, spend local and respect your environment. If you're a climber give a few pounds to the bolt funds in areas you regularly climb in - bolts are expensive after all. If you are a walker then put a few quid in the collection boxes for the path funds. Paths need repairing all the time, especially in the popular regions of our great outdoors. If both don't really apply, then how about donating a few pounds to the men and women of the Mountain Rescue Teams.
Mountain Rescue in the UK is a free service staffed entirely by volunteers and funded entirely by donations from the public. Volunteers not only attend mountain incidents but increasingly are called to urban searches and other assistance jobs by the police forces. Recently Mountain Rescue Team members from all over the country left their loved ones over the Christmas period to help out as Flood Water Rescue personnel in the flooded areas of the North. These men and women provide a vital service to us as outdoor enthusiasts and while I hand on heart hope I will never have to be the reason they drop whatever they are doing - I sure am glad and incredibly grateful that I know they are part of the safety net in our countryside. A service by outdoor enthusiasts, for enthusiasts. So the least we can do is give a few quid whenever we don't need them to ensure they can afford to come when we do.
As we say in Germany - I hope you had a good slide into the new year and didn't slip on the way!