‘Extreme’ bothy maintenance

Tools ready for stove repair at Hutchison Hut, Cairngorms

Ready for action. A simple job made ‘extreme’ by remoteness and weather

Just back from a wee trip to the Hutchison Memorial Hut with Neil Findlay for some ‘extreme bothy maintenance’.

Neil and Walt had gone out a couple of weekend back to fix the door handle, only to find once they got there that the glass on the stove door had been broken. There was nothing they could do there and then – the walk in through soft snow had taken almost five hours, so there was no way they could just ‘nip back to the shop’ for a replacement glass.

Broken stove door glass in Hutchison Hut, Coire Etchachan, Cairngorms

The broken stove glass meant smoke billowed into the room when it was windy.

But once home, Neil got a new piece of glass ordered and this weekend we arranged to meet at Bob Scott’s Bothy on Friday and head in to the Hutchie on Saturday to put the glass into place. A good decision was to stay there on the Saturday night.

We had Scottie’s to ourselves on Friday night, and it was empty on Saturday night too, which was a big change from the previous weekend when some friends found themselves amid a horde of 31 people! Very unusual to get so many, but wasn’t helped by a group of 13 cyclists who came up, clearly regarding themselves as exempt from the exhortation not to go to bothies in groups of more than six!

Anyway, after a quiet Friday night Neil and I set off up Glen Derry on an unseasonably warm morning. The Lui was high beside the bothy and flooding the path in places, bearing out the forecast of a massive thaw.

We got wet feet just reaching the tree bridge just above Derry Lodge and found much of the path up the west side of the river to be doubling as a stream.

Neil Findlay in Glen Derry, Cairngorms

Is it a path or a burn? Neil Findlay and Alfie on the way up lower Glen Derry

Knowing that the Glas Allt Mor was almost certain to be impassable, when we reached the Derry Dam we stuck to the west bank. There’s no path there (although a few fragments of deer track) and it can be pretty rough underfoot – boggy too with the massive quantities of melt-water saturating the ground – but it meant that we were sure of reaching the bothy. The only hiccup was when we nearly lost wee Alfie (Neil’s border terrier) when he went through a snow bridge into a fast flowing stream and had to be hauled out as he tried to hang onto the edge of snow with his claws.

Neil Findlay heading up Glen Derry, Cairngorms

Heading up the trackless side of Glen Derry

Crossing snow bridge in Glen Derry, Cairngorms

Treading gingerly across thawing snow. There was a stream somewhere under here and we weren’t sure how thick the snow was.

However we got to the bothy in reasonable weather, with the forecast winds gaining in strength but not becoming troublesome until afternoon once we were in the Hutchie, about three hours after leaving Bob Scott’s.

Tools for fixing stove door glass at Hutchison Hut, Coire Etchachan, Cairngorms

The new stove glass and some of the tools. Note the two sets of Allen keys – we’d both, unknown to each other, bought a new set to be sure we had the right size. In the event the bolts wouldn’t turn and we had to work a way around it.

Apart from the inevitable fiddling and faffing, the repair to the stove didn’t take long, but we were glad to spend the rest of the afternoon sitting inside in front of the now usable stove, for we had plenty coal with us and the weather outside was appalling, with gale-force winds and sleety snow. Even going out to the burn for water was an ordeal.

It’s a cosy place with the stove on, though.

Repaired stove at Hutchison Hut, Coire Etchachan, Cairngorms

The new glass fitted – and still so clean you can hardly see it’s there. A great stove when it’s working though.

Sunday dawned fair, with a bit of fresh snow on the ground and even a bit of sunshine showing earlier on. A bit cooler, too, so we took the chance and decided to go with the path and gamble on being able to cross the Glas Allt Mor.

Hutchison Memorial Hut in Coire Etchachan, Cairngorms. Hutchison bothy

Farewell to the Hutchie Hut on Sunday morning. Never get tired of this setting.

Before we got out of the coire, though, there was a wee bit of excitement. There was a rumbling and banging noise and we looked up to see a massive rockfall from the nose where Derry Cairngorm turns the corner into Coire Etchachan. A piece of rock that must have been about the size of a Mini came crashing and tumbling all the way down to the wee pointed knoll where you can get a phone signal, accompanied by a river of smaller rocks and leaving a trail of rock dust hanging in the air. Most impressive – just a pity there wasn’t time to get the camera out.

The Glas Allt Mor did indeed prove fordable – just – although Neil got wet when a large boulder rolled under him and he ended up wading rather than boulder hopping.

That was the last of the excitement though, and we even managed to stay dry crossing the floodwater at either end of the tree bridge when we got back to Derry. Although the sleety rain did return in a heavy shower just ten minutes from the cars. Typical!

A successful trip and an enjoyable bothy weekend. But please do take care with the stove door. The logistics of bothy maintenance are such that the last two repairs there – the broken door handle and the broken glass in the stove – took a weekend each, despite the actual work for each taking about half an hour or less.

So ca’ canny up there.

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19 Responses to ‘Extreme’ bothy maintenance

  1. Hell that was close for the poor dog – I’m glad you got him? out! Bet that stove glass took some carrying.

    I’m hoping to stay in Bob Scott’s for a night or so, maybe next year – it’s one of the bothies I most want to visit. Hope I don’t meet a huge group of cyclists though as I don’t carry a tent (I’m pretty much a weakling at the carrying)…
    Carol.

    • Stove glass wasn’t heavy, Carol. Neil F carried that along with the tools: I carried the coal.
      You should definitely visit Scottie’s – a great bothy – but as I said in the post, groups that size really are a rarity and there’s usually always ‘room for a wee wan’

  2. David Johnstone says:

    Sounding a bit more up beat Neil. Well done all three!

  3. heavywhalley says:

    Reblogged this on heavywhalley and commented:
    Please read this great work again by the MBA!

  4. Thanks to you and your fellow volunteers (both man and canine). I passed by the Hutch last April and was v impressed by how it had developed in recent years. It’s very welcoming now.

  5. Sinbad says:

    Great effort Neil, especially the fact your “ain bothy” is “ower the hill” and the Hutchie is looked after by someone else, Just goes to show the co-operation that goes on in the Eastern Highlands. Best area in the MBA

    • That’s true Sinbad. The weekend before Ian Shand, who is MO for the Hutchie, was out at Corrour to change the bag, along with another couple of regular volunteers, Norrie and Bob. It’s called teamwork, and I think we do pretty well by each other in the Cairngorms. How it should be.

  6. Pingback: ‘Extreme’ bothy maintenance | heavywhalley

  7. Dave Luke says:

    A few years ago a management training company used to send groups to the Cwm Dyli in snowdonia I had a run in with them a couple of times, once the said they had it booked ? and another they threw all our kit outside whilst we were out night nav’ing. that one ended with a smack in the teeth for their leader. and a while later they ripped up the floor boards for firewood.

    • Luckily that hasn’t been an issue here that I know of, although there is the occasional commercial group turning up. There was some friction with DofE expeditions, but we’ve been talking to one-another and come up with what we’re both hopeful will be a solution. I’ll be writing a blog post about this shortly, because it’s a great example of settling conflicts by working together rather than in opposition.

  8. Andy Mayhew says:

    I think this would be worth sticking in the next newsletter – a good example not only of what is sometimes involved with fairly simple, routine, maintenance, but also of the importance of letting us know – there is a link on the MBA website – of any damage, repairs needed. If we had known the stove window was broken before Neil & Walt when up, a whole weekend could have been saved.

    • Hi Andy, feel free to use it. Might be an idea to write a wee intro or tailpiece with the MBA link and spelling out the value of bothy reports. Another useful point would be if people see sleeping bags or tents to report that too, because often we see things like that and don’t know if they’re abandoned or if the owner is coming back, resulting in abandoned stuff being left for weeks or even months before it’s removed, all the time attracting more rubbish.

  9. piper says:

    On behalf of lithgae jim @ myself ( the hutchie janitors ) a great effort lads .

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