For rock climbers, the Ardverikie Wall is one of Scotland’s treasures with its large slabs of sheer, cold rock to conquer and, once complete, a bird’s eye view of Loch Earba and its pristine, golden beaches below.

Deep in ‘Monarch of the Glen’ country, the daunting rock climb on Binnein Shuas is just one attraction of an untamed, dramatic landscape that blends towering snow-capped munros, picturesque, secluded lochs and wild terrain.

Now, however, it’s emerged that climbers and walkers may have to navigate a different and possibly more frustrating route before they can even place their boots on the rocky crags.

Plans have emerged to turn a pocket of Ardverikie Estate – star of television’s Monarch of the Glen series – into the UK’s largest pumped storage hydropower scheme; a move which would see as many as 400 workers descend on the peaceful spot, turning it and the narrow roads around it into a major construction site for as long as four years.

Gilkes Energy plans two dams to control water levels at Loch Leamhain - used as an upper reservoir - and Loch Earba as the lower reservoir, connecting both with a deep, 3km long underground waterway system.

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The move, it says, would raise Loch Earba’s water level by up to 20m, and Loch Leamhain by a staggering 65m.

Elsewhere, an underground aqueduct is planned to divert water from two watercourses into the upper loch – raising concerns for the potential impact on a host of water-based species.

The whole operation will be overseen by a powerhouse on the shore of Loch Earba, known for its delightful, sandy beaches.

The massive project, unveiled to local people in the area last week, also involves the construction of a buried cable to transport energy from the site to the Beauly Denny line near Kinloch Laggan.

Cumbria-based Gilkes Energy say once complete, its 900 MW Earba Storage Project would have capacity to store up to 33,000 MWh of energy - more than double the current electricity storage in the UK from all technologies.

However, the prospect of major disruption in a landscape officially designed as Wild Land and Special Landscape areas, with precious peatland uprooted, unsightly storage compounds for machinery, and a camp to house hundreds of the mainly men expected to be employed in its construction.

While for walkers keen to explore the munros of Geal Charn, Creag Pitridh and Beinn a Chlachair – and others reached via historic mountain routes from Moy Bridge - there will be new obstacles to navigate.

Under the plans, a section of track from Moy Bridge would be cut off, leaving them with a newly constructed route and, according to the plans, “permanent loss of publicly used land”.

The project was announced just weeks after a controversial loosening of planning regulations surrounding renewables projects in Scotland’s designated Wild Land Areas, and is the latest to spark concerns over the impact on the landscape, waterways, scenery and outdoor recreation.

Last summer work on seven controversial hydroelectricity schemes in Glen Etive – which featured in James Bond film Skyfall - was said to have turned the wilderness into an industrial site.

Opponents said the ‘run of river’ schemes, which harness once free flowing water, would produce less energy than a single North Sea wind turbine yet at a massive environmental cost.

While other Highland hydro projects are also said to be creating traffic disruption for locals, and concerns over rapidly dropping water levels in once stable lochs.

They include preparatory work at Coire Glas, a 1500MW hydro pumped storage scheme. It has ignited concerns among locals over traffic on single track roads and how rock and spoil from the site will be disposed of.

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While at Loch Rannoch, part of the Tummel Hydro Scheme, locals have raised concerns over the low water level, the impact on caddisfly, mayfly, dragonfly and stonefly larvae, and on fish and birds which rely on them as food sources.

Mountaineering Scotland said the Earba project “raises some significant concerns for climbers and hillwalkers”.

It plans to call for a detailed access management plan that maintains and manages access to Ardverikie Wall and recreational access for hillwalkers seeking the three Munro summits beyond.

The organisation is also urging a Wild Land Assessment to look at how construction access tracks will be built, and has pointed out the issues surrounding “highly visible and intrusive bare draw-down zones around the lochs”, as water levels can vary when the dam is in operation.

Its Access and Conservation Officer, Davie Black, added: “The developer for this hydro scheme is going to have to go the extra couple mile to avoid permanently damaging the wild feel of this landscape.

“It is a highly popular area for climbers and walkers, so any engineering work will need to be designed and carried out to the highest standards.

“It’s still at an early stage and we are keen to see how the applicant will address our concerns for outdoor access and the visual impact on the wild qualities of the landscape.”

Meanwhile, Nick Kempe, of outdoors website Parkswatch Scotland said the recent shift in the national planning framework which appears to support renewables projects in wild land areas may spark a spate of similar projects.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this one has come up now,” he added.

“Scotland needs a national energy body - such as it used to have with Hydro Electric – that can take decisions about where things should go. Instead, what has happened is a planning framework that enables a free market.”

The project has also ignited concerns over the potential impact on wildlife from the level of drawdown created by the dams and interference with waterways.

Dave Morris, former director of Ramblers Scotland, said: “Lochan na h-Earba is one of the few remaining lochs and rivers which have not been impacted by artificial structures.

“One issue of increasing importance is the relationship between river systems and the migration of fish along that river and to more distant places.

“This proposed development will raise questions about value for money,” he added.

“The size and scale of offshore wind turbine development is such that investment in offshore wind farms is likely to deliver much higher value for money electricity generation than more onshore hydro development with its impacts on our ever diminishing wild land resources.”

However, Chris Pasteur of Gilkes Energy Ltd said pumped storage hydro projects, like Earba, are crucial in helping to balance intermittent forms of renewable generation the UK’s electricity system due to their ability to provide “energy when demand is high and the wind isn’t blowing or it isn’t sunny”.

“We believe that this is a well-conceived project that would bring significant additional employment to the area both during its construction and operation, and that it will make an important contribution to the Scottish Government’s ambitious climate change target.”

At Ardverikie Estates, manager Phil Lloyd said all steps are being taken to ensure the project has minimal impact.

“The estate has been here for 150 years and we have an exceptional track record as guardians of the landscape which we want to continue.

“It’s in no-one’s interest to seek to cause damage or disruption, and it’s important to the estate and developers to ensure that concerns are addressed as far as possible.

“These large projects are heavily scrutinised and we are comfortable that this stands up to that.

“We hope people will view it positively, and people bear in mind that if we don’t address this fundamental problem of carbon and climate change, the whole of our landscapes will be affected, not just Ardverikie.”