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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.