I’ve railed before in this blog about folk who leave litter and unwanted gear in bothies, and all the ‘proper’ hill folk have nodded in agreement. Isn’t it terrible.
It is. But there’s worse.
And it’s been done by ‘proper’ hill folk.
Two MBA volunteers went in to the Hutchison Hut last week, to fix a faulty door handle and latch and stop the door from swinging open in the wind, letting snow into the bothy and damaging the door and hinges.
It was the sort of job that had to be done sooner rather than later, and volunteers have to fit in their trips to bothies with work and other commitments, so the choice of when to go was limited, and it turned out they found themselves heading up Glen Derry in a major thaw.
Deep snow, which had never properly consolidated, softened as the temperature rose and they found themselves sinking deep, falling into holes and streams as the crust gave way under their feet. It took five hours to get from Bob Scott’s up to the Hutchison.
When they got there, they replaced the broken handle. It wasn’t a big job – maybe half an hour or so to complete – but doing it involved going up to Bob Scott’s one afternoon, walking into the Hutchie the next day and doing the job, and walking out again the following day.
And they – or other volunteers – will have to do it all over again. Because when they were out there they found the glass in the door of the stove was broken. So that means another journey once a new pane of special glass has been bought. Sure, it was probably an accident – or carelessness – but if whoever did it had let the MBA know, then both jobs could have been done on one visit. It’s easy to make a bothy report. Just go to this page http://www.mountainbothies.org.uk/makebothyreport.asp and fill in the form online. It means that damage can be fixed sooner, and with less time commitment from volunteers.
So if you see damage in a bothy, or if you cause damage yourself – accidents do happen – please take five minutes to let the MBA know about it.
That’s an important point. But it’s not why I started writing this post. That was because of a worse sin.
One of the other discoveries made when the two volunteers went out to the Hutchison Hut was that a small storage compartment at the hut, screwed shut, had been broken into and the contents stolen: some food, drink and fuel, both for stove and for cooking.
Sometime over the last few weeks someone who stayed at the hut has thought themselves pretty damned clever: sussing out that something was hidden there and managing to get it. Wizard wheeze? Good laugh? Celebration of the anarchism of rough, tough mountaineering ethos?
It was none of those. It was theft, pure and simple; vandalism and theft.
It wasn’t enough for that person to make use of a building created and maintained with the money and labour of others: he (or she, I suppose) had to steal from the very people who have ensured his comfort. Those fire logs, that coal, the tins, were all bought with someone’s hard-earned money, and carried in on their backs to make life a wee bit easier for volunteers heading out there for maintenance. It was even worse: most of the stuff that was stolen was bought and carried in by the bothy’s maintenance organiser not even for his own use but for the use of any of the volunteers carrying out work there.
But now it’s been stolen. By someone who may call himself a walker or climber or mountaineer, but who is, in fact, a thief.
Some may argue that bothies are common property and anything left there is fair game. Sorry, but that’s both legally and morally wrong. A bothy is owned by the estate on which it stands and leased to the organisation which looks after it. It is not common property and not an ‘anything goes’ zone. At the Hutchison Hut the MBA has accepted responsibility for maintaining the building and expects that other people – for whose benefit it is maintained – treat it with respect and don’t damage it – or steal from it.
Quite apart from MBA or volunteers’ property, equipment is routinely left in bothies while walkers and climbers are out on the hill.
Theft from a bothy is no joke: it strikes at the very heart of the bothy system, which relies entirely upon honesty. Bothies are traditionally bastions of liberality, with all sorts of behaviours tolerated and even celebrated, but there are surely limits. And a thief in a bothy is a contemptible creature with no honour who deserves to be hounded out. There is no excuse.