Callater completed

Callater Lodge and Callater Bothy, Cairngorms

A welcome and homely sight on return from the hills – Callater Bothy, with the Lodge behind

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.

Interior of Callater Bothy, Glen Callater, Cairngorms

A painfully obvious lack of trim and a saggy ceiling betrayed a job unfinished

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.

At work on renovations at Callater Bothy, Cairngorms

Alex at work on the saw table, better known as the sleeping platform

Working on renovations inside Callater Bothy, Cairngorms

Bill pictured fixing trim around the light well

New bunks in Callater Bothy, Cairngorms

The completed bunks. Kenny measured, Alex and Bill cut, and I fitted the platforms – real teamwork.

Callater Bothy Maintenance Organiset John Gifford at a work party at the bothy, in the Cairngorms

It wasn’t as dark as this photo makes it look like, but the light was definitely going as MO John Gifford completed the paperwork at the end of the job.

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!

Two highland garrons, or ponies, at Callater Bothy, Cairngorms

The two garrons who were occasionally interested observers to the work party. I’m pretty sure it was the nearer one which was the nocturnal snorter and door rattler.

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.

Loch Callater, Cairngorms

The path up Carn an t’Sagairt Mor slants easily upward along the side of Loch Callater

Lochnagar and The Stuic Buttress, Cairngorms

Lochnagar in the distance behind The Stuic, an excellent buttress I’ve climbed in winter but never yet in summer

Glen Clova from the White Mounth, Cairngorms

A hazy view through to the upper reaches of Glen Clova

View from the Black Spout of Lochnagar, Cairngorms

Looking across the coire of Lochnagar from the top of the Black Spout

Lochnagar cliffs, Cairngorms

The mighty cliffs of Lochnagar

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.

Sun reflected on Loch Callater, Cairngorms

Afternoon sun reflects on the waters of Loch Callater

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.

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15 Responses to Callater completed

  1. Martin Rye says:

    Bothy repairs, whisky and song with Bill, and on top a fine round of hills. Thats a fab time had.

  2. Never a truer sentiment within your last sentence Neil. Great photos of the bothy and your day on the hill

  3. alanfmackay says:

    Thanks for another well crafted piece and a reminder of the restorative power of our hills.

  4. john vaughan aka headingley bugle says:

    Fair play to you’s and many thanks for your efforts.The hills ye were on I know well and set the Mickey Mouse Mountaineering club record on them in 1990, 14 Munros in a day. This stood for 19 years when a Japanese officer lookalike called Tenko did 15. A couple of my grandsons with the help of another ‘mouse’s’ son may have a crack at that score this coming Spring and also go for the 7 Corbetts in a day. The beauty of this, by the way, is that it helps them learn the value of travelling light and bivvying high up – the complete opposite of D of E and more like the Earl of Hawkright award!

  5. John D says:

    Thank you for a job well done. Those bunks look very nice. I hope to enjoy them when visiting the Cairngorms next summer – if we have one!

  6. ardverikie67 says:

    Another cracking report, and another bothy saved. Well done lads, I hope that your liver has recovered?

  7. piper says:

    Another good trip Neil , well done . On another note, your plans for next Thursday ? If You want, you can bunk up at my place on Wednesday ?

  8. Was that the Sunday just gone? Me and Richard were up on Lochnagar as I was wanting to do the top of Carn na Saobhaide so we did a northern circuit via Gelder Shiel. We were amazed that, once again, we were the only ones who seemed interested in the scenery from the corrie lip all the way around – everyone else always insists on just doing the boring, viewless path up the back and straight to the summit. Weird!

    The bothy is looking great – I was sorry not to get up Callater glen during our week but I had a lot of Munro Tops to do! Maybe next time. Is there a fire in the bothy?

    • No, no fire at Callater yet – we’ve not managed to convince the landowner yet, but haven’t given up hope. It’s a lot homelier than it was before at least.
      Yes, it was the Sunday just past I was there, so we must have just about met, but as I was coming over from Callater I only joined the corrie rim near the top of the LH branch of the Black Spout. Great wide open feeling coming across that way though.

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