Nice to see that the Garbh Choire Refuge has a new door.
For a long time now the refuge – the most basic of shelters at the best of times – has been past its best, but last year it seemed the end might be looming when the door fell off.
However I heard a couple of months back that someone – just after finishing a grade V route in the Garbh Choire – had stopped long enough to build a new door and, lo and behold, when I was up there at the weekend, in the huge mega-choire between Braeriach and Cairn Toul, there was the new door: no work of art, to be sure, but a good, solid, functional door – and the ‘wall’ above it slightly improved too.
It’s heartening to know that people still care enough about places like this to put in the effort to try and maintain them. But, with no disrespect to the doormaker, what’s needed here is a major renovation.
The Garbh Choire Refuge was built in the 1960s and did much to make possible the winter exploration of the Garbh Choire cliffs.
The appellation ‘Refuge’ was well chosen: It’s just large enough to sleep four (although I did sleep there one night in the company of five others, one was a child and took up little space, while another seemed to have been a contortionist). But in a remote coire, with only an intermittent path by way of access, it must have been a welcome haven for many a winter climber. I’ve been glad enough to see it myself on occasion.
But its current condition is sad. When it rains it leaks – copiously – and when you sit inside it you can see daylight through numerous holes in the walls. It’s cold and damp and makes even the Hutchison Hut seem like a good option!
I have heard it argued that its day is past, and that it should be removed rather than repaired. But the Garbh Choire Refuge is a part of Scotland’s climbing heritage, just like Bob Scott’s in Glen Lui or Jacksonville through at the foot of the Buachaille. The CIC Hut on Ben Nevis isn’t really necessary nowadays, in the way it was when first built, but imagine the outcry (especially from the SMC) if it was decided to remove it.
The fact that the land is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland should stand in its favour: it is as much a part of our heritage as any stately manor – if not more so – and it’s part of a living heritage.
Nor should the Cairngorms’ National Park status be an obstacle. It is an existing building being restored rather than a new development and, in any case, has a considerably smaller footprint than the ski developments on the north of Cairngorm.
So let’s hear it for the humble Garbh Choire Refuge. The expertise and the will are there to restore it to a weathertight condition. Perhaps it’s time to look after our heritage and let climbers’ and walkers’ self-sufficiency prevail.