Time to get RAD
The RAD is the Regional Access Database, run by the British Mountaineering Council (BMC). It is an online resource and app designed to let climbers know where there are issues with access to crags. It is crucial as climbers that we use the RAD before we go climbing outdoors, to make sure we don’t cause problems or make existing problems worse. Today we are sharing a bit more information about the RAD, so you are fully informed and ready to use it when you go out climbing.
What sorts of issues are there at crags?
Not all crags are open access – a good proportion of crags are on private land, which means there are landowners, who have different needs and feelings about people climbing and walking around on their land. The RAD will tell you the most up to date information, gathered by the local area access rep.
Sometimes, people who live near to crags become upset by the actions of climbers and try to restrict access to crags, or to make it more difficult for climbers to climb. Local sensitivities may be outlined on the RAD. If you come across an issue, you should report it, especially if it isn’t on RAD already.
This is a big issue, particularly where irresponsible parking causes issues of access for emergency services. Information about parking will often be noted on the RAD.
In nesting season, birds are protected within the law. The RAD will tell you if there are any areas where you should not climb due to nesting birds.
There may be other sensitive wildlife issues at a particular crag and the RAD will tell you this.
It isn’t unusual for there to be rockfall at crags, and in some instances the whole crag is closed off due to the safety and risk. This happened in 2019 at Tremadog, with a portion of the cliff sealed off due to a large, unstable rock. The rock was removed by professionals and the area reopened.
Some crags suffer badly from erosion, which means that only certain types of climbing are allowed (e.g. top-roping, at Harrison’s Rocks/ Southern Sandstone), in order to preserve the rock.
Why do we need RAD?
RAD is the central place to find the information to make informed choices about where to climb. Here are some of the key reasons why RAD is useful and the consequences of going against RAD guidance:
Losing Access: We can lose access to crags. In places, this has happened and it can happen again if climbers flout advice and guidance, either locally or nationally.
Damaging the crag: Climbing in a way that is advised against can cause permanent damage to rock, which impacts both current and future climbers. It could lead to crags being closed in the future.
Damaging the environment: Where there are specific legal requirements in place, failing to follow the law could lead to prosecution.
Disturbing wildlife: the RAD is the first point of information about wildlife at any crag. This is another example where flouting the law could result in prosecution.
Damaging relationships: We want to maintain positive relationships with everyone around, so that climbing is allowed in as many places as possible for ourselves, our friends and for future generations. Checking the RAD can help us to do that.
Who looks after the RAD?
Volunteers keep the RAD up to date, with overall management responsibility for the RAd sitting with the BMC. The volunteers are called Access Reps and they usually provide a report about access to the BMC area meetings 4-5 times a year.
What’s an Access Rep?
Access Reps are situated all round the UK and they help to ensure that access to crags, hills, moorland and other open spaces is protected. They negotiate with landowners and often spend tens of hours every month sorting out problems. For example, Les Ainsworth, Access Rep for Lancashire has been doing this role for 30+ years. He knows the landowners of crags large and small in the Lancashire area, and he is the person they will often contact when there is a problem. He also holds landowners to account, when they breach planning regulations or undertake illegal activities, for example where landowners restrict legal rights of way, or undertake fly tipping on open-access land.
How can I help?
1. Check the RAD every time you plan to climb
2. Tell your friends about the RAD and encourage them to use it too
3. Become a BMC volunteer
4. Become a BMC member (if you aren’t already)
5. Attend your local BMC area meeting (currently easy as it’s all online)