The latest challenge follows their successful installation of a stairlift at Malham Cove in the Yorkshire Dales last summer. Taking cues from a nationwide initiative to open up the countryside to people of all abilities, Platinum installed one of their Horizon Outdoor models overnight, surprising both visitors and The National Trust the following day. Platinum’s Technical Manager, Rick Smith, said, “There is a lot of talk about making pathways easier to use for wheelchairs and allowing people of all abilities to experience the scenic wonders of the British Isles. When we first conceived the idea, we were warned that the steps at Malham Cove were too un-stable to hold a stairlift, so we decided to bypass them entirely and just go straight up the face.”
The success of the project caught the attention of The Scottish Ramblers Association, who approached Platinum with an even bigger challenge – Ben Nevis. Standing at the Western end of the Grampian Mountains, Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the UK and is notoriously difficult to conquer, even for the most able-bodied of adventurers. In an attempt to level the playing field, Platinum are planning to install a prototype of their new outdoor model, The Platinum Sherpa.
Platinum’s Marketing Manager, Mark Gash, said, “Scotland is really cold and Ben Nevis is a bit bigger than our average outdoor installations. We knew from the start that if we were going to do this, we would need to re-design our stairlift from the ground up. The Sherpa is fitted with anti-freeze rails, a heated seat, cup-holders and a pop-up tent. The battery has been upgraded to a flux capacitor and the motor is the same as they use in a Challenger 2 tank. You can even choose the colour of your upholstery.”
The Sherpa will follow the mountain or tourist track, which is approximately 8,500 metres to the summit of Ben Nevis. As stairlifts in the UK are regulated to a speed of around 0.12 metres per second, it will take the Sherpa about 19 hours to reach the top – plenty of time to take in the scenery. Some campaigners have opposed the project, saying that a stairlift will ruin the natural beauty of the mountain and that the installation process will create unnecessary mess. Platinum have assured locals and visitors that all of their stairlifts are aesthetically pleasing and that their team of installers are trained to carry out works considerately and always clean up after themselves. To offset any environmental impact, the rail sections will be flown up the mountain using drones, making the whole project carbon neutral.
The Platinum Sherpa project will begin on April 1st 2017 and the team hope to finish by 12 noon the same day.
For more information on Accessible Countryside for Everyone (ACE), visit www.accessiblecountryside.org.uk