Cairngorms flood report

flood plain in Glen Dee west of Braemar, Cairngorms

Looking up Glen Dee across the flood plain towards Mar Lodge (not visible).

2015 ended badly in Deeside, with major flooding affecting Braemar and Ballater and causing damage to roads and bridges.

However the mountain areas appear to have escaped relatively lightly.

An outline update of Storm Frank flood damage from Cairngorms.co.uk, updated on 21.1.16, can be viewed here.

Luibeg/Derry

On New Year’s Day, after Hogmanay at the Gelder Shiel, Walt Black and I walked in to Bob Scott’s Bothy, finding everything in good order, with the only effect of the flood being that the bothy had just experienced its quietest Hogmanay in history, with only Gus Fair and one other in attendance.

The Lui had risen with the flooding, but not nearly so high as in the damaging August 2014 flood, and didn’t come near the bothy. The temporary bridge at Derry Lodge also escaped unscathed, with the only visible damage being a few more inches of bank lost just downstream.

Footbridge over Derry Burn at Derry Lodge, Cairngorms

The temporary bridge near Derry Lodge, still secure

I spoke to a number of people on Friday and Saturday, and learned that the Hutchison Hut is okay, as is the small footbridge just below it. I didn’t hear anything specific about the metal bridge at Derry Dam but, given the relatively modest flooding in the area, I have no reason to suspect it will be damaged.

A group who came down from Carn a Mhaim reported that the bridge over the Luibeg is also undamaged.

Just had confirmation from German visitor Florian Finke that the Derry Dam bridge is indeed in one piece. Florian has also sent these photos of the Derry Lodge footbridge and of Bob Scott’s Bothy, both taken on 30th December when the flood was at its height. Looks like it was a close call for both.

Footbridge at Derry Lodge in Cairngorms during December 2015 flood

The Derry Lodge footbridge at the height of the flood. It’s probably the flat ground on the east bank that saved it from being overwhelmed. Photo by Florian Finke.

Bob Scott's Bothy during December 2015 flood in Cairngorms

Bob Scott’s Bothy, again on December 30th 2015, surrounded by water. This wasn’t so bad as the August 2014 flood though. Photo by Florian Finke

Glen Quoich

One bridge which is affected though is the road bridge over the bottom of the Quoich. Only saw this from across the other side of the glen, but it appears that the river has cut a new channel to the east of the bridge, rendering it uncrossable.

Bridge over Quoich, Cairngorms, showing flood damage

A distant view in poor light, but you can just about make out where the river has cut a new channel to the right of the damaged bridge

You can see a close-up of the Quoich bridge here, showing how the river seems to have almost completely bypassed it.

There’s an overview of the situation on Mar Lodge Estate in the NTS blog, with pictures, including a very much overfilled Linn o’ Dee.

Lochnagar

There was more damage up by the Gelder Shiel, on Lochnagar. The rain must have been torrential, for even at the height of the bothy the burn rose enough to completely overrun the bridge just above the bothy and Queen’s cottage. The bridge still stands on its stone gabions, but the bank at either end has been gouged out, necessitating a clamber to get onto the bridge. The water was flowing on both sides of the Queen’s cottage (though neither it nor the bothy appear to have been inundated) and caused extensive and substantial damage to the landy track, gouging out ruts and holes over two feet deep.

Flood-damaged bridge at Gelder Shiel bothy, Lochnagar, Cairngorms

The disconnected bridge beside the Gelder Shiel

I’ll update this if any more news comes in, but remember, while tracks through the hills may still be passable, check before you leave home to make sure you can get access to the hills at all. At time of writing the A93 from Aberdeen to Braemar is blocked near Crathie where a long stretch of road has been completely swept away, and at Invercauld Bridge, just east of Braemar, where the bridge is shut because of damage. Check roads here .

Loch Muick

From the Balmoral Castle & Estate Facebook page:
“Please be aware. The footbridges at the west end of Loch Muick have been washed away and the footbridge across the River South Esk just above Moulzie has also gone”

Glen Doll

A diversion is now in place for people walking up from the Glen Doll car park to Bachnagairn/Loch Esk or Broad Cairn. This keeps people on the west side of the River South Esk (see map below). This diversion is necessary because the footbridge above Moulzie Cottage was destroyed during Storm Frank.Further route advice can be found at the Ranger Centre Glendoll, Tel: 01575 550233.

Moulzie diversion

Glen Feshie

It appears Ruighe Aiteachain Bothy was at some points an island, surrounded by floodwater, although as far as I’ve been told there was no water inside the bothy.

There has been substantial movement in the course of the river in places though, so care should be taken if you’re visiting there.

Anne Butler, of the Munro Society, reports that the bridge over the Allt Fhearnasdail at NN827983, 500m south of  Corranstilbeg in Glen Feshieis destroyed, with the bank washed away along with one end of the bridge.

Bridge in Glen Feshie destroyed by flood

The washed out bridge in Glen Feshie. Photo by Anne Butler.

Anne says this bridge is mainly used by mountain bikers and by locals for dog walking.

She said: “We walked up the west side of the River Feshie from Feshie Bridge on Sunday and the river has completely changed course and built/blocked channels in places. We are waiting for the river levels to go down before we attempt to walk to the bothy on the east side……….l’ll keep you posted.”

Anne further reported on 9th January –

Took a walk along the east side of the Feshie to Ruigh Aiteachain bothy today to assess the storm damage after Storm Frank (as promised Neil Reid)!
We left Achlean in -8c and the first obstacle was the Allt Fhearnagan which was double its usual width and now has two channels so was much easier to cross.
The east bank of the Feshie had been considerably eroded along the moraines with more path collapse looking inevitable.
The path was intact until we reach the Allt Garbhlach 😳. The steps to the river ended in a rather abrupt 5m drop to the floor below. The small bridge had gone and the river bed had quadrupled in size with a massive amount of rocks transported out of the corrie above. We walked about 100m upstream to the first group of granny pines where it was possible to cross the river. Opposite the south bank had been heavily eroded … We rejoined the path along the Feshie and all was good until the path disappeared again with 100m having fallen into the river. The detour through the woods involved a bog trot and climbing over a tree.
Considerable erosion from water run off on the track opposite Glenfeshie Lodge.
The Allt Coire Chacial was easier to cross being shallower and much wider.
I wouldn’t recommend trying to walk the route with a heavy pack in the dark 😱.

I’ve included one of Anne’s photos below, but it’s worth checking the full set.

Feshie flood 1

This path was only built a few years ago, seemingly safely distant from the river.

Glen Doll

The Bachnagairn foot bridge up the Moulzie track past the Moulzie Cottage has been completely washed away, so until further notice please be advised there is NO access to Bachnagairn. The Rangers are checking other foot bridges in the Glendoll area, so please seek advice from the Glendoll Ranger Centre on the current conditions of paths and bridges before heading out. Tel: 01575 550233
email: GlenDollRanger@angus.gov.uk

Glen Clunie

Had a query from regular reader Mountaincoward (I’m sure she’s not) asking about the bridge over the Baddoch Burn, which runs into the Clunie Water south of Braemar. Word from Braemar Mountain Rescue Team is that the Baddoch Bridge about half a mile up from the house – that would be 129 823 – has been washed away.

 

To finish on a lighter note, after some convoluted journeys we still managed to have a good New Year in the Gelder – including Ian Shand who had just spent a very productive day managing to save his home in Ballater from being flooded.

Two people playing one set of bagpipes at Gelder Shiel Bothy in Cairngorms

Teamwork! You blaw and squeeze and I’ll do the fingering.

Posted in Bothies, News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Farewell to the Sea Kings – a Lochnagar memory

Sea King helicopter in action

A Sea King in action (not on the rescue described below)

Just been reading a blogpost by Heavy Whalley, a retired legend from the RAF Mountain Rescue, writing a fond farewell to the Sea King helicopters which join him in retirement on December 31.

Well worth reading Heavy’s story, but it also reminded me of my one dalliance with mountain rescue many moons ago on Lochnagar, when a group of us were so glad and grateful to see a great piece of flying.

It was winter, must have been the early to mid-eighties. I was staying in the Gelder Shiel with my then regular climbing partner, Kevin, and a newcomer to winter climbing, Dave. The weekend hadn’t got off to a great start. We hadn’t been to the Gelder before and, after a long trudge through heavy snow we arrived at a bothy that didn’t seem any warmer inside than out. Things didn’t get any better when Dave forgot he had wrapped the whisky in his sleeping bag ‘for safety’, and shook the bag out, sending our sole source of alcoholic comfort crashing to the cobbled floor. It was a long and bitterly cold night.

The morning, perversely, wasn’t so cold. As we trudged slowly up the hill towards Lochnagar’s famed North-East Corrie we were aware of a rise in temperature, with the snow getting softer. Struggling under a heavy load of climbing gear, and not feeling at all fit, I was making heavy weather of it and wasn’t too disappointed when we decided to call off our climb.

We’d reached the foot of Central Buttress, a Grade II climb we thought we might manage, but were unsure whether the snow was stable enough. There was no avalanche forecast in those days, but there was an increasing awareness of the problem and we knew from the guidebook that there was some ground higher up the buttress that could be prone to avalanche in poor conditions. We hummed and heyed for a bit, but when a small snowslide came down the shallow gully above us we decided on the instant.

We might have gotten away, too, if we hadn’t looked back at the cliffs as we neared the loch. Kevin and I both saw the two guys fannying about at the foot of the cliffs, both wondered what they were doing, and both realised at the same time that maybe they weren’t just fannying about.

One was lowering the other down the snow slope above the First Aid Box – and it didn’t look like it was just for the practice.

We headed back up and by the time we reached the First Aid Box the two guys were both there, and several others were arriving from where they’d been abandoning neighbouring climbs. (It wasn’t just us who thought the snow condition wasn’t very good.)

It transpired one of the pair we’d seen had been leading up the first pitch of Shadow Buttress A. He said the snow hadn’t been very good, but he’d just got to a point where he had two good axe placements, and had his feet in pretty well… “And then I fell”. Hmm. So how good were those placements?

He’d fallen and slid down whatever height he’d climbed, catching his crampon points on the snow and ripping the ligaments in his ankles, leaving him in a good bit of pain and unable to walk.

There were about a dozen folk now, besides our casualty. While we lifted him into the casualty bag from the box (a thick sleeping bag with a full-length front zip and handles along the side and head) we discussed what to do next.

It was decided (though not unanimously) that the wind was too strong and unpredictably gusty to get a helicopter in to the cliffs, so while we sent the two fittest to hotfoot it to the nearest phone (no mobiles in those days) the rest of us started to carry the casualty down to the loch and around it, aiming to get him out of the bowl of the corrie onto the open hillside, where hopefully the wind would be more predictable and manageable.

For anyone who has never carried a man in a casualty bag before, the first surprise is how easy it is. With three handles either side, and one at the head and one at the foot, it seems hardly any effort at all.

The second surprise is how quickly you realise you were mistaken.

Within just a few paces of tripping over boulders, falling into holes, catching the feet of the guy in front or behind and getting a kink in your back from carrying a load one-sided. On a level road it might be bearable, but descending a steep slope of rocks and heather, with humps and holes hidden by soft, wet snow, it quickly became torture, not at all eased by the constant buffeting of the wind. Even our casualty could see how hard it was and expressed some embarrassment at causing everyone so much work – although he didn’t take up my suggestion that he jump out of the bag and take a turn with the rest of us!

A measure of our pace can be had by the fact we were still well within the bowl of the NE Corrie when the helicopter arrived. Sure enough, whenever it tried to come in over the shoulders of the corrie we could see it being tossed to the side, forcing a retreat.

After a few tries it managed to drop the winchman and a stretcher on the eastern shoulder of the corrie just a few hundred yards away. Energised by the prospect of an imminent end to our ‘ordeal’, myself and two others raced up to fetch the stretcher, clambering over a snow-clad boulder field at an unwisely brisk rate, and returning even faster: I recall at one point two of us clinging on to either side of the stretcher sliding about six feet down a boulder to land at an almost-run on the smaller rocks below.

Once we got the guy onto the stretcher he was a lot happier – he had a more stable ‘bed’ and a bottle of Entenox gas to suck on for long overdue pain relief – but we were not: the stretcher was added weight and the steel tubing was harder to keep a grip on than the webbing handles of the bag.

So we were even more grateful when we saw what I still remember as the most amazing sight: a Sea King helicopter rising out of the ground in front of us.

In fact it had been following the slope of the hill up below the lip of the corrie and came in over the edge where the angle lay back into the bowl, but from our perspective, nearing that lip from within the bowl, it really did look as though it was rising from the ground in front of us – huge, massive, noisy and oh so welcome.

I vaguely recollected having read something about having the area cleared before carrying out lifts, and had certainly seen training flights where smoke flares were dropped and different approaches were tried, but there was no messing here. The winchman signalled to us all to drop down flat and started signalling to the helicopter, which flew right over the top of us – and you have no idea how massive a Sea King is until you’ve lain underneath one – and lowered the winch wire.

If we needed a reminder of how difficult flying conditions were, while this was happening the whole helicopter just dropped about 10 feet; dropped and stopped, leaving scarcely a clean set of underwear between the whole company, but just continued as though nothing had happened. The wire reached the winchman, who clipped the stretcher and himself into it, and then they were away, seemingly whipped away by the wind and then fast dwindling in size and noise as it sped off to Aberdeen and a set of crisp, clean hospital sheets for the casualty, leaving us sweaty, soaked and exhausted on a gale-battered hillside which seemed suddenly so quiet and lonely.

And so ended my only close encounter with a Sea King. After a tired walk out from the Gelder in knee-deep slush, and a long drive to get home after midnight, we read on the Monday how the rescue had been carried out by the Sea King – assisted by Braemar Mountain Rescue Team. That must have been the easiest rescue they never did but, quite frankly, they’re welcome to it: that was a straightforward, relatively unserious incident and it was cold, wet, exhausting work. It certainly taught me to appreciate the work the rescue teams do – and impressed me hugely with the skills and dedication of the Forces’ Sea King crews. I’m sure Bristows will do a great job in future, but we should never forget the huge debt we owe the pilots and crews of the faithful Sea Kings, and of the Wessexes before them.

Posted in Misadventures, Winter climbing | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

The legendary Aitken’s Morning Roll bothy ballad

rowie, buttery, morning roll

The cause of it all: 70 per cent fat, 30 per cent salt, 100 per cent pure gastronomic bliss. The rowie, buttery or morning roll. Aitkens do them best.

The more alert of you will have noticed that a YouTube link to the documentary Bothy Life appeared on this blog a few days ago – and quickly disappeared again.

Frustrating, I know, especially for foreign readers who can’t get access to iPlayer, but I was asked to remove the link for copyright reasons and because it caused problems for Jack Archer, who made the film.

UK viewers can still, until 23 January at least, see it on iPlayer at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06s1762 .

However Jack has been in touch with a wee consolation prize – the full version of the Aitken’s Morning Roll Song as he filmed it at Allt Sheicheachan during the making of Bothy Life. In the event, for reasons of length, abusive language and musical taste, it hit the cutting room floor (if there is such a place in these digital days), but Jack has resurrected it and YouTubed it for posterity.

For the uninitiated, and as explained at the start of this clip, the Aitken’s Morning Roll Song started out as a harmless wee song about… well, you can guess. To that our resident piper, Ian Shand, added an extra verse about Neil Findlay, who looks after Bob Scott’s Bothy.

Then it just exploded, more than doubling in size as Kenny Freeman wrote yet more verses, about a number of the regular characters in the Eastern Highlands branch of the MBA.

Jack filmed the first full performance, which is presented here, but the damned thing has just kept growing and the last performance I heard, at the Bob Scott’s Bothy Mark III 10th anniversary ceilidh, was over 10 minutes long! That’s long enough to put some prog rock epics to shame!

But enough preamble. On with the show…

 

Posted in Bothies, People | Tagged , , , , , | 19 Comments

Bothy Life – countdown

Just a very brief post from a far flung outpost of the Cairngorms where the internet is frustratingly slow.

For anyone who hasn’t already heard via Facebook, BBC Scotland will shortly be showing an hour-long documentary about bothies in Scotland.

Filmed over the best part of a year by Jack Archer, working with MBA volunteers and bothy afficionados from a’ the airts, it promises to be a great insight into bothy culture and the lives of the people who look after the bothies.

Yours truly can be seen suited up for the Corrour Bothy bog change, but there are plenty normal(ish) people in there too, with some great bothies across Scotland. Haven’t seen it all myself yet, but the brief clips available on the BBC website promise an hour well spent when it’s shown on BBC Scotland on December 9th.

It’ll be on iPlayer soon after and you’ll be able to see it at this link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06s1762  You can also see four brief teasers here in advance of the big event.

Posted in Bothies, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 24 Comments

Plans approved for Feshie Bothy renovation

Ruigh aiteachain bothy, Glen Feshie, Cairngorms

Ruighe-aiteachain bothy from the south. Due for renovation

Long anticipated plans to improve and extend Ruighe Aiteachain Bothy in Glen Feshie have been approved by the Cairngorm National Park Authority.

The popular Feshie Bothy, as it is commonly known, will have a stone-built porch added on the north side (where the existing entrance is), housing a flight of stairs to sleeping accommodation upstairs, along with a small wood store.

The existing two ground floor rooms will be retained, but with a new wood floor, new windows and doors, built-in bunks in both rooms, and new wood-burning stoves installed in both rooms, using the existing chimney.

The plans, submitted by Glenfeshie Estate Ltd, were approved by the CNPA on Friday, 13th November.

The MBA learned several years ago that the estate owner, Danish clothing millionaire Anders Holch Povlsen, intended to carry out a professional renovation of the bothy, but information had been scant since then. Assurances had been given to the maintenance organiser that the bothy would remain open to all as at present, but there’s no denying there were suspicions it would end up a paying bunkhouse or similar.

Similar suspicions occurred to Kincraig and Vicinity Community Council, which was anxious that the bothy remain free to the public as a mountain refuge. But the report to the CNPA planning committee contained the reassurance from Glenfeshie Estate:  “Your sentiments are also ours! The bothy will continue as an open to all overnight refuge but on this occasion safe to use. The wood store is to allow for a small supply of dry wood to prevent our visitors cutting down any more ancient Caledonian pines.”

The report from CNPA officials further notes: “It is important to note that the applicant does not seek permission for a change of use of the building. The building shall remain in use as a bothy and any permission granted for this proposal would not permit a change of use to occur.”

Backing those statements is Mr Povlsen’s record since purchasing the estate in 2006, meeting with a favourable response for conservation efforts which have seen a radical reduction in deer numbers and resultant transformation of Glen Feshie with a heartening level of regeneration. He has also in the last couple of years created a much appreciated, non-boggy version of the path into the bothy from Achlean, up the east side of the Feshie, and still has plans to rebuilt the Carnachuin Bridge to link to the road on the west side of the glen.

Timescales for the bothy renovation aren’t known yet, but the planner’s report and supporting papers for the application, along with drawings of the proposals, can be seen at http://cairngorms.co.uk/resource/docs/boardpapers/05112015/20150192GlenfeshieBothyV1.0.pdf

 

Posted in Bothies | Tagged , , , | 16 Comments

A rubbish bothy weekend

Haven’t  moaned about rubbish in bothies for a wee while, so indulge me…

Went in to Corrour this weekend to change over the toilet bag, walking in on Saturday morning from Bob Scott’s and arriving just before lunchtime, somewhat moist from the rain, and knackered from the 8kg of coal in my sack.

There was plenty to do at the toilet. Various ongoing problems there meant the normal changover, moving a 20kg bag of human waste through a narrow passage from one side of the building to the other, was more difficult than normal. The public area of the toilet was overdue a clean-out too, so that took another hour or so.

That was all planned for though.

What wasn’t planned was the large bag of rubbish hanging up in the storm porch.

Rubbish left at Corrour Bothy, Cairngorms

Halfway down the bag of rubbish

You can see from the photos, it was a rancid mess inside, and absolutely crawling with small blackflies which were finding plenty sustenance and a great breeding environment in all the food waste in the packets and tins which had been crammed and forced into the bag.

Rubbish and flies in Corrour Bothy, Cairngorms

Most of the flies flew, but you can see them crawling over the sauce bottle

Food waste and rubbish in Corrour Bothy, Cairngorms

A sticky, rancid mess in the bag

Now you can’t just burn a bag of rubbish like that – all it needs is a gas cannister in there and you’ve lost both the bothy and yourself – so I had to pick through the horrible, sticky, crawling mess and feed everything onto the fire bit by bit. It was literally four hours – four hours – before I needed to put any other fuel on the fire, apart from some mouse-chewed packets of food left on the shelves. And the abandoned sleeping bag wouldn’t burn very well, so that was carried out on Sunday along with all the tin cans, some of which I had to put through the fire anyway to get rid of the stinking food and flies. Crushed, the tins filled the 10k sack the coal had been in.

So far so distressingly normal. Neil Findlay and I had been out at Corrour five weeks earlier, so all that rubbish had been left in that time.

But it hadn’t just been left there. Someone had taken it all and very deliberately – determinedly even – crammed it in, just like they were tidying up.

…And then they left it.

My take is that they hung it all up on a hook on the wall thinking that would keep it out of the way of mice. And that they probably walked out thinking they had done something, if not exactly good, then at least next best to good, because, after all, they wouldn’t have room for all that rubbish in their rucksack. (And no-one in their right mind would put that shit in their rucksack.)

Utter crap!

That’s the most charitable take on it and it’s bullshit.

The reason all that rubbish was left was slovenly laziness. There was nothing there that couldn’t have been burned or carried out at the time before. So no excuse at all for the people whose rubbish it was.

Even if it was someone else who ‘cleared up’ and put it in the bag, what the hell was he thinking about? Even out of reach of mice (progress of a sort I suppose) it was a breeding ground for flies – and there were, literally, hundreds, if not even thousands of them.

So let’s get this straight:

DO NOT leave rubbish in a bothy.

DO NOT leave unused food in a bothy.

DO NOT leave that nearly-empty gas cannister (I took six out from Corrour this morning)

DO NOT leave bottles of meths etc. (Even more dangerous, because some idiot is going to try to get the fire lit with it and burn the place down)

DO NOT leave unwanted gear or clothes. In the last eight years I alone have removed at least five tents, half a dozen sleeping bags and enough items of clothing to dress a bloody scout troop.

Sounds negative? Well tough.

Everyone who looks after bothies has the same problem again and again: rubbish. Rubbish left by people who call themselves hikers, hill-walkers, climbers, bothy folk. Rubbish left by people who are very often the same people that decry folk leaving rubbish in bothies.

Bothies are hugely vulnerable. It doesn’t take much at all to change a bothy from a nice, clean, welcoming shelter to a rancid hole that you don’t like to put your sleeping bag down in. So treat it like that. Treat it like you actually care rather than like some bloody parasite, using what others have provided and shitting on their effort. Because if you are one of those people who close your eyes to the rubbish you’ve left  when you walk away from a bothy, or who gathers rubbish together and then still leaves it, you get no respect from me.

Ach, I’m sick of moaning. So to end on a positive note, Saturday night in Corrour was a good bothy night in spite of everything that had gone before. Andy and Calum from Dalkeith arrived in the afternoon, relative newcomers to hillwalking and staying in their first bothy, thrilled to bits with it and great company right through the evening. Then at 10.30 pm, long after dark, three Londoners arrived, knackered. They’d taken the overnight bus to Aviemore, walked from there up onto Cairngorm, headed out to McDui, getting overtaken by darkness halfway there but carrying on to the top before dropping down off the side into the Lairig Ghru, down the steep boulderfield that must have been purgatory in the dark and wet, to arrive at the bothy hoping it wouldn’t be too full to get a bed. On Sunday morning these guys headed back out to Aviemore, to catch the bus back down south; they would arrive in London at 7am on Monday and two of them would go straight from the bus station to work. Now that is keen.

And I’m delighted to say that all five – Andy and Calum, and the three Londoners – enjoyed their first night in a bothy, were determined to come back for more… and took all their rubbish home with them!

Corrour Bothy in the Lairig Ghru, Cairngorms

Corrour Bothy – a great place. Please help keep it that way

PS…

After writing this I was asked to write a similar post for the UKHillwalking website. Same idea, but developed the idea of who’s responsible. You can read it here

Posted in Bothies | Tagged , | 36 Comments

Royal opening at Gelder Shiel – Ernie’s Bothy

HRH Prince Charles, the Duke of Rothesay, outside Gelder Shiel Bothy on Lochnagar, Cairngorms

Prince Charles outside Ernie’s Bothy

This blog has never had any real need for a Royal Correspondent, but I had to appoint myself to the job today for the official opening of the refurbished Gelder Shiel Bothy on the slopes of Lochnagar.

Back in May, the Ballater Charitable Chiels drove up en masse from Balmoral to carry out a major renovation of what up until then had been a cold, unwelcoming doss. The MBA, including your truly, were there, having drawn up the plans and been involved in negotiations with Balmoral Estate, but the real work was done by the experienced and tooled-up tradesmen of the Chiels, who had wanted to adopt the project as a tribute and memorial to their former president Ernie Rattray (who had also been a member of Braemar Mountain Rescue Team for many years).

Today (8th October) the transformed bothy – now called Ernie’s Bothy – was officially opened by HRH The Duke of Rothesay, better known to most as Prince Charles.

The Chiels were once again there en masse, along with members of Ernie’s family, and four of us from the MBA – Bert Barnett (who drew the plams), Kenny Freeman (project manager for a gazillion bothy work parties and renovations, Ian ‘Piper’ Shand (joint MO for the bothy) and myself (MBA Eastern Area Rep).

L to R Bert Barnett, Ian Shand, Neil Reid, HRH Prince Charles, at Gelder Shiel Bothy, Cairngorms

Prince Charles chats to the MBA crew: Bert Barnett, Ian Shand and Neil Reid. Photo by Kenny Freeman

Bert Barnett, Kenny Freeman and Ian Shand at Gelder Shiel Bothy, Lochnagar

Bert, Kenny Freeman and Ian outside the bothy

A jolly nice day out it was too. After a couple of pretty moist and mochy days, the sky cleared and the sun shone – and the four of us piled into Piper’s Land Rover to get a lift up there.

Prince Charles arrived, drams of Lochnagar 12-year-old Malt Whisky were handed round in commemorative glasses (all courtesy of the Lochnagar Distillery I understand?), speeches were said (some great stories about Ernie!) and a plaque was unveiled by the Prince and Ernie’s widow, Dot.

12-year-old Lochnagar Malt at Gelder Shiel opening

Refreshments at the opening

Then Ian Shand played a tune on the pipes, ‘Ernie’s Awa Tae The Hills’, which he had composed in memory of Ernie.

Charles stayed around to meet and greet the assembled cast (we chatted, no-one will be surprised to learn, about the amount of litter left in bothies) and then signed the bothy book before going back down the road.

Prince Charles' signature in the Gelder Shiel (Ernie's Bothy) visitors' book

Prince Charles signed the bothy book. (And there’s always one… so did Kenny Freeman!)

Before he had left, though, the bothy got its first official visitors since the opening, a quartet of Joyce K Low, Alan Ferrier, and two others whose names I missed, who had arrived intending to stay the night before tackling Lochnagar. They looked slightly puzzled as they arrived and had to wind their way through lots of identically-jacketed Chiels, but then came to an abrupt stop when they saw the guy in between them and the door was the next King of Britain. Cue much back pedalling as they decided they weren’t in such a hurry after all! At least they were able to enjoy an unexpected dram while they waited though – and a very nice drop it was too.

I’m not much of a royalist, but I’m with Charles on this one, hoping that people will treat this bothy (as any bothy) with the respect it deserves.

Commemorative plaque in Gelder Shiel (Ernie's Bothy), Lochnagar, Balmoral Estate, Cairngorms

The plaque in honour of Ernie Rattray, unveiled by HRH Prince Charles and Dot Rattray

Posted in Bothies, News | Tagged , , , , | 16 Comments