There are snapshots of memory, moments frozen in time.

My mother filling a water bottle from a near vertical stream and the moon-like hue of the boulders and scree stretching upwards, each false summit followed by another.

I was just over five when my parents decided to take us up 'The Ben' for a family day out, on a warm Summer's day during the school holidays. 

My brother, Ewen, was first to reach the top of Ben Nevis with me a close second, running behind. 

It is said the summit is only one out of every ten days. I  can't remember if we had much of a view that day but a photo records the happy moments after our long ascent ended. 

The Herald: Reporter Caroline Wilson with her family on Ben Nevis in Summer 1980Reporter Caroline Wilson with her family on Ben Nevis in Summer 1980 (Image: Wilson family)

It was my father's idea to leave something behind. We wouldn't dream of doing such a thing now but it was exciting as a child to know that a tiny personal possession was at the top of the UK's highest mountain.

My sister, Lorraine and I pushed an earring and a tiny Coke can necklace charm into the ruined walls of the 19th-century observatory and the memory always resurfaces when I read of the strange items left behind on the summit - the latest, inexplicably, an ironing board.

The Herald: An ironing board dumped at the summit of Ben NevisAn ironing board dumped at the summit of Ben Nevis (Image: social media)

The photo was posted on a Facebook group where members share their mutual disgust about irresponsible tourism in Scotland's loveliest spots.

The alleged 'culprits' are said to have lugged it up the hill as part of a charity challenge.

It is not uncommon for household items to be carried to the top of Ben Nevis as part of fundraising efforts for charities but most take them back down the knee-trembling descent.

In April, a former soldier made it to the top of the 1,345m (4,413 ft) peak with a fridge on his back. Two months later a mountain rescuer carried a 100kg (220lb) barbell to raise money for motor neurone disease research.

Other strange items reportedly left include a church organ, a toilet seat and a 3ft garden gnome.

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In this case, it is believed those responsible may have been doing "extreme ironing" for charity - a craze where people take ironing boards to remote locations and record the moment.

'Hope they're traced and fined. No respect for our beautiful country,' wrote one member of NC500: The Dirty Truth. 'This is exactly the sort of people who should not be up there" said another.

The John Muir Trust, which runs volunteer litter picks on Ben Nevis, said it did not want to discourage fundraising but said the summit "would start to look like a Home Bargains store" if all charity walkers left their items behind.

"Those unfamiliar with outdoors culture don't always understand the first unwritten rule of the hills, which is leave nothing behind but your boot prints."

What to do, though? It is difficult enough to police littering on busy city streets far less on Scotland's hills and remote glens.

The latest tack by Glasgow City Council is a litter lottery, where people win cash prizes for depositing their waste in a bin. 

The Herald: Glasgow City Council has joined the 'Litter lotto'Glasgow City Council has joined the 'Litter lotto' (Image: Glasgow City Council)

The local authority spends around £20 million a year on street cleaning and says anything to stop litter being dropped is worth trying.

Anyone aged over 18 can download an app to their mobile device, upload a photo of themselves putting rubbish in a council bin then enter a prize draw with a monthly prize of £100 up for grabs.

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It is depressing that incentives like this are necessary for adults but the psychology of littering is complex and more than just a moment of selfishness, experts say.

Dr Caoimhe Ryan, a lecturer in psychology at Glasgow Caledonian University, says the existing condition of someone's surroundings can play a role in their decision to litter, 

How much you believe an area is both scenic, and how much you care about the area, also impact how likely people are to drop waste.

She said: "Some of it is going to be about the condition we find the place in to begin with. Places that are perceived as already littered and trashed in some way - people are going to be more likely to contribute to that.

"They might see their actions as justified or appropriate because everyone else is doing it so, so why shouldn't I.

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"Or they can minimise their own contribution by thinking, what's one more piece.

"Whereas if we find somewhere that is immaculate and pristine, people might be less inclined to disrupt or destroy that. 

"Slightly separate from that is how we see the space, how important it is to us and how much we value it and our enjoyment of it and other peoples' enjoyment of it.

There is a theory that areas nearer cities, like Loch Lomond, are more likely to be littered because the visitors who take the trouble to travel further, to the Highlands for example, for a hike or holiday are more likely to respect their surroundings.

The group behind the North Coast 500 route said waste has been less of an issue this year, which is encouraging, but dirty camping has not gone away.

What would Nan Shepherd, best known for her seminal memoir The Living Mountain, make of the blatant disregard for nature by some.

The Herald: Nan Shepherd, author of The Living Mountain Nan Shepherd, author of The Living Mountain (Image: Estate of Nan Shepherd)

To aim for the highest point is not the only way to climb a mountain, she wrote. Checking off Munros and Tick Tock charity challenges would probably been anathema to her.

Her powerful meditation on the solace and strength to be found in the wilderness was based on her experiences of hill walking in the Cairngorms, an area not untroubled by littering amid an explosion of visitors after gaining National Park status.

We certainly shouldn't tar all charity challengers with the same brush. A clean-up operation on Ben Nevis last year resulted in nearly 375lb (170Kg) of rubbish being collected by volunteers who were taking part in the Real3Peaks Challenge, which also involves a litter pick on Snowdon in Wales and Scafell Pike in the Lake District.

Founder of the challenge Rich Pyne said: "If every person that went up Ben Nevis took down one piece of litter, the hill would be spotless in about 18 months.

"Just a thought."