At the start of September the Eastern Highlands MBA crew descended mob handed on a spartan Callater Bothy and brought light and an element of cosiness.
Lightwells built from the roof through the ceiling brought light into the formerly gloomy longhouse, and a dividing wall created separate bedroom and living areas, making it easier – in theory at least – to raise the temperature in the living/kitchen area.
But the rough edges were still on display, and two bunk beds were without platforms. Time simply caught up on us.
Last weekend, though, some of us went back to get the job finished.
These work parties aren’t without their dangers though. We gathered on Friday evening and very quickly fell prey to an implausible amount of alcohol which had somehow found its way into the supplies. Bill from Callater Lodge was invited over and there followed a night of song and story that’ll live long in memory – even if memory often seemed a bit cloudy on the Saturday morning! One indelible memory, though, was the unforgivable treatment of John Gifford, who had gone to the trouble of memorising a new song for the occasion, lauding the joys of working in the mountains. Unfortunately, John, with his English background, failed to realise – or to appreciate once it was explained to him – that Scots are congenitally unable to hear the line in the chorus which mentioned “the wind in the tussocks” without breaking into giggles, titters and, ultimately, uncontrollable falling-on-the-floor laughter. So, sorry John, we couldn’t help ourselves.
Come morning, though, the laughter was over. Some of us visibly struggling through the hangovers (and one, who shall remain nameless, having to retire early) we set to with a will.
Some of the major sags in the ceiling were remedied, and copious measuring and cutting saw the trim prepared and affixed around the light wells, and skirting board fitted on the new dividing wall. The doorframe was finished, and suitably trimmed, and the bunks were finished, with platforms built in with tongue and groove boarding, and the finished articles fitted with ladders and fixed to the walls for extra stability. All looking very neat.
Work eventually ground to a halt as darkness was approaching and it was a weary crew who set off down the road to their various homes… apart from me. I had planned to stay up for another night and grab a walk on what looked like being a good day on the Sunday.
I enjoyed a quiet night in with a good book (and no alcohol), with the only disturbance an occasional rattle at the door – not a ghost, just a Highland garron who seemed to have a notion I might let him into the bothy!
Sunday did dawn fair, and I set off up the Carn an t’Sagairt Mor path, following that top with Carn an t’Sagairt Beag and Carn a’ Choire Bhoidheach, taking a side trip out to the headland of Creag a’ Ghlas Uillt, before a late lunch on top of Lochnagar, enjoying views down towards Aberdeen and back into the central Cairngorms, as well as across the dramatic cliffs of Lochnagar itself.
The cloud remained high and sparse all day and I returned via the old stalking path which avoids the tops and winds around them instead, enjoying the feeling of space on the plateau and the unseasonal warmth of the sun now that I was off the tops.
I was wearied enough by the time I got back to Callater, but if the day had taken its toll on a slightly unfit body, it had been real medicine for a troubled mind, and after packing up, I cycled down the road to my car and home with a far lighter heart than I had left Fife some days before. Sometimes it’s not just the bothies that get renovated on these trips.