There was good news and not so good news this week for those who support the renovation of the Garbh Choire Refuge.
The good news is that the Scottish Mountaineering Club is in favour of saving the refuge. Andy Nisbet, SMC President and one of Scotland’s foremost mountaineers, said in an email: “The matter of the repair of the Garbh Choire Bothy was discussed at the SMC Committee meeting on 21st April and the SMC is keen to support maintaining and repairing the bothy (as against its removal or continued deterioration).
The SMC’s view is in line with what seems to be the general opinion as expressed in responses to my case for the retention of Garbh Choire in this blog, a guest blog I wrote for Summit and Valley, and to posts in ukbothies, scottishbothies, ukclimbing and other mountaineering and hillwalking forums, not to mention a news story in the on-line Scottish newspaper the Caledonian Mercury.
Not everyone is in favour – there are some well argued responses against retention – but the majority seem to want the Garbh Choire Refuge to be repaired and maintained for the future.
Rather disappointing, however, is the response from the Mountain and Hill walking Advisory Group of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, which decided at a committee meeting this month to sit firmly on the fence. It decided that, with no safety issues involved, it would support neither case. Its minutes recorded: “Status Quo IS NOT acceptable. The refuge should either be removed or replaced. The MHAG does not feel that there is a case for the renovation of the refuge on the grounds of mountain safety. Mountain safety is the only aspect of this debate that the MHAG feels it is appropriate to make comment on.”
(However, since writing this I have learned that the future of the refuge is still to be discussed by the MCofS Board, at least some of whom I believe to be sympathetic. One possibility is that they may decide to put the matter out to the membership for consultation. As soon as I hear, I’ll post on here. 26.4.12)
The North East Mountain Trust is another organisation that has decided to consider the matter. Members (which I understand to include clubs as well as individuals) have been sent an email containing the arguments for and against the refuge, adding that the landowner (the NTS) is clear that it wants the refuge removed. (This is despite the fact that several of its own policies would tend to favour retention and renovation).
The NEMT email adds the information that the NTS is planning to hold a consultation day on the issue at Mar Lodge later this summer and urges people to go along and give their views. At the moment I have written to the NTS asking for details of this consultation and will pass them on as soon as I hear.
My understanding is that it is one person within Mar Lodge Estate rather than the NTS itself, which has made clear opposition to the refuge, and the fact of a consultation meeting is evidence that there is still a chance to persuade the NTS that this is a part of Scotland’s heritage that is worth saving, should be saved and – crucially – can be saved, with the MBA (with a proven track record) willing to step in and do the work and carry out future maintenance.
The message is clear: if you care at all about the future of the Garbh Choire Refuge (and, I’d argue, about bothies and bothy culture in general) you need to make your voice heard.
(The full case for the retention of the Garbh Choire Refuge can be read here.)