A rubbish bothy weekend

Haven’t  moaned about rubbish in bothies for a wee while, so indulge me…

Went in to Corrour this weekend to change over the toilet bag, walking in on Saturday morning from Bob Scott’s and arriving just before lunchtime, somewhat moist from the rain, and knackered from the 8kg of coal in my sack.

There was plenty to do at the toilet. Various ongoing problems there meant the normal changover, moving a 20kg bag of human waste through a narrow passage from one side of the building to the other, was more difficult than normal. The public area of the toilet was overdue a clean-out too, so that took another hour or so.

That was all planned for though.

What wasn’t planned was the large bag of rubbish hanging up in the storm porch.

Rubbish left at Corrour Bothy, Cairngorms

Halfway down the bag of rubbish

You can see from the photos, it was a rancid mess inside, and absolutely crawling with small blackflies which were finding plenty sustenance and a great breeding environment in all the food waste in the packets and tins which had been crammed and forced into the bag.

Rubbish and flies in Corrour Bothy, Cairngorms

Most of the flies flew, but you can see them crawling over the sauce bottle

Food waste and rubbish in Corrour Bothy, Cairngorms

A sticky, rancid mess in the bag

Now you can’t just burn a bag of rubbish like that – all it needs is a gas cannister in there and you’ve lost both the bothy and yourself – so I had to pick through the horrible, sticky, crawling mess and feed everything onto the fire bit by bit. It was literally four hours – four hours – before I needed to put any other fuel on the fire, apart from some mouse-chewed packets of food left on the shelves. And the abandoned sleeping bag wouldn’t burn very well, so that was carried out on Sunday along with all the tin cans, some of which I had to put through the fire anyway to get rid of the stinking food and flies. Crushed, the tins filled the 10k sack the coal had been in.

So far so distressingly normal. Neil Findlay and I had been out at Corrour five weeks earlier, so all that rubbish had been left in that time.

But it hadn’t just been left there. Someone had taken it all and very deliberately – determinedly even – crammed it in, just like they were tidying up.

…And then they left it.

My take is that they hung it all up on a hook on the wall thinking that would keep it out of the way of mice. And that they probably walked out thinking they had done something, if not exactly good, then at least next best to good, because, after all, they wouldn’t have room for all that rubbish in their rucksack. (And no-one in their right mind would put that shit in their rucksack.)

Utter crap!

That’s the most charitable take on it and it’s bullshit.

The reason all that rubbish was left was slovenly laziness. There was nothing there that couldn’t have been burned or carried out at the time before. So no excuse at all for the people whose rubbish it was.

Even if it was someone else who ‘cleared up’ and put it in the bag, what the hell was he thinking about? Even out of reach of mice (progress of a sort I suppose) it was a breeding ground for flies – and there were, literally, hundreds, if not even thousands of them.

So let’s get this straight:

DO NOT leave rubbish in a bothy.

DO NOT leave unused food in a bothy.

DO NOT leave that nearly-empty gas cannister (I took six out from Corrour this morning)

DO NOT leave bottles of meths etc. (Even more dangerous, because some idiot is going to try to get the fire lit with it and burn the place down)

DO NOT leave unwanted gear or clothes. In the last eight years I alone have removed at least five tents, half a dozen sleeping bags and enough items of clothing to dress a bloody scout troop.

Sounds negative? Well tough.

Everyone who looks after bothies has the same problem again and again: rubbish. Rubbish left by people who call themselves hikers, hill-walkers, climbers, bothy folk. Rubbish left by people who are very often the same people that decry folk leaving rubbish in bothies.

Bothies are hugely vulnerable. It doesn’t take much at all to change a bothy from a nice, clean, welcoming shelter to a rancid hole that you don’t like to put your sleeping bag down in. So treat it like that. Treat it like you actually care rather than like some bloody parasite, using what others have provided and shitting on their effort. Because if you are one of those people who close your eyes to the rubbish you’ve left  when you walk away from a bothy, or who gathers rubbish together and then still leaves it, you get no respect from me.

Ach, I’m sick of moaning. So to end on a positive note, Saturday night in Corrour was a good bothy night in spite of everything that had gone before. Andy and Calum from Dalkeith arrived in the afternoon, relative newcomers to hillwalking and staying in their first bothy, thrilled to bits with it and great company right through the evening. Then at 10.30 pm, long after dark, three Londoners arrived, knackered. They’d taken the overnight bus to Aviemore, walked from there up onto Cairngorm, headed out to McDui, getting overtaken by darkness halfway there but carrying on to the top before dropping down off the side into the Lairig Ghru, down the steep boulderfield that must have been purgatory in the dark and wet, to arrive at the bothy hoping it wouldn’t be too full to get a bed. On Sunday morning these guys headed back out to Aviemore, to catch the bus back down south; they would arrive in London at 7am on Monday and two of them would go straight from the bus station to work. Now that is keen.

And I’m delighted to say that all five – Andy and Calum, and the three Londoners – enjoyed their first night in a bothy, were determined to come back for more… and took all their rubbish home with them!

Corrour Bothy in the Lairig Ghru, Cairngorms

Corrour Bothy – a great place. Please help keep it that way


After writing this I was asked to write a similar post for the UKHillwalking website. Same idea, but developed the idea of who’s responsible. You can read it here

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39 Responses to A rubbish bothy weekend

  1. alanfmackay says:

    A crying shame the Bothy keeps getting abused mate but your determnation to keep putting it right is inspirational.

    • Cheers Alan. To be honest I have no great expectation of the problem going away. I remember even as a bairn folk carrying big bags of rubbish from bothies – although I don’t think there were so many perishables left in those days.

  2. Not sure how to cheer you up on the total disregard for the Bothy Code by a few Neil, (who when you take into account how many use Corrour is in fact a lot), thankfully you met some new respectful mountaineers who undoubtedly lifted your spirits. No need for me to drone on about a lack of respect from the few, those who read your posts and others of interest are fully appreciative of the Bothy Code to say the least. of some but possibly little consolation, I was warned of the poor state of the Shelter Stone when my 19 year old son and I planned to visit. Thankfully, the reports of rubbish and excrement within the shelter were unfounded, as ‘real’ mountaineers had cleaned the refuge in the spring. Chin up Neil.

    PS Our trips to the Cairngorms have been rather limited, to both my disheartenment and Coron’s, he’s chomping at the bit to get on the hills.

    • Cheers Davie. Like you said, the attitude of the guys I shared the night with there was a tonic. Does your heart good to see folk being so thrilled by the whole bothy system, and makes all the work worthwhile.

  3. Tom Cunningham says:

    Well done Neil, goodness knows what bothies, the mountains and the countryside in general would be like with out you and others who clean up after the irresponsible. Now, if I can only write like that for my Newsletter – wouldn’t be allowed sadly!

  4. David Johnstone says:

    Neil, excellent as always, hits the mark. NOW where do you go with your celebrity status? All the on line and thus free guides like Walkhighlands? How about writing to the clubs network and THEY can put it in their news letters?


    • Yeah, maybe worth a try, Dave, though, from experience, I suspect the worst offenders are not always affiliated to clubs. But as with my answer to Robin, if EVERYONE tried to be part of the solution, there would be a lot less problem.

  5. Robin says:

    Bothies are a fantastic amenity in the hills. Thank you so much to the volunteers who maintain them. It is very distressing to see the increasing amounts of litter left in the hills, not just bothies. I don’t understand the mentality on the people who can’t take their litter with them.

    • Hi Robin, I think the increasing amount of litter in bothies and on the hills is down to the increasing number of people, not just down to the world going to hell in a handcart. I’ll tell you part of the answer though – and this is aimed at everyone, not you personally – if everyone takes a carrier bag and picks up any litter they find, whether in a bothy or on the open hill or along a track, then individually iot will make very little difference, but collectively the difference will be huge. We all hate litter, so it’s up to us ALL to do something about it.

  6. I believe a large part of people’s attitude and behaviour towards the bothy system is influenced by their first few experiences and who their company is during these visits. So without sounding condescending (since you’re no doubt aware of this), you can take comfort in knowing that the lads in Corrour on Saturday night will most likely have, and continue to develop the necessary respect. I’ll need to get up to Scottie’s soon, not seen you lads in ages!

  7. Ooh, it winds me up! I carried bags of c**p out of Dibidil and Guardil this year, my pet hate being wine bottles – NO, we do not need any more candle holders, than you!
    Will be sharing your rant on FB and my website to try to help get the message home.

    Keep up the good work


  8. walt black says:

    great rant Neil, keep up the good work

  9. piper says:

    It is an never ending problem Neil , the crap left by others. It just take one kind person to leave a empty rubbish bag, and that gives other so-called outdoor lovers an excuse to leave rubbish. Corrour, seems to get its fair share of crap left. In fact, every time I visit Corrour I expect to see rubbish lying around. Last time I went to change the toilet I spent more time cleaning out a rubbish bag and burning what I could, but give yersel a pat on the back Neil, don’t let them grind you down.

  10. I’ve put a ‘like’ as in I like that you’ve written a post about it – I definitely don’t like that someone did that disgusting thing! I think Corrour probably suffers more than many bothies as it’s in the ever-popular Lairig Ghru which attracts the type who don’t normally hill-walk and suchlike – it’s just like the WHW and The Ben – something everyone thinks they have to do.

    One thing worries me about these outdoor toilets, such as the one at Corrour and also the one at Gelder Shiel is that they have a bolt on the outside of the door! 😮 I know people who’ve been locked in bothies while people robbed them and that would truly worry me as I’m always on my own!

    • Hi Carol, never heard of anything like that happening. The bolts on the outside are to keep the door shut when no-one is there – normal latches often give way in high winds and a door banging back and fore can suffer a lot of damage. I once spent half an hour one cold January day trying to get the door of the Corrour toilet open after it has been blown open and then jammed shut by a burst panel. And then I had to dig and chip out the snow and ice that filled the room. So I’m a great fan of anything that keeps doors safely shut! 🙂

      • Yeah, my friend got locked in Coire Fionnaraidh when he went upstairs. They basically snatched all his valuable stuff, phone etc. which he’d left on the table, locked him in the bothy and b*ggered off! Not sure how he managed to get out.

      • I’m sure that’s an exception – haven’t heard of anything like that in almost 50 years of Cairngorm bothies.

  11. piper says:

    i fitted a spring on the Hutchie door . I had concerns about the door not being shut properly .It may be worth placing a spring on the toilet door ,as the doo is very exposed to the south winds blowing up the glen .

  12. piper says:

    Fit the strongest spring you can get , i say.Good chance you will knock one of the litter louts doon the stairs .

  13. Calum Stevenson says:

    Hi Neil just short note to say Andy & myself really enjoyed our stay at the Bothy, your doing a great job maintaining the bothy us for us walkers and deserve a pat on back “&dram” for your efforts, till we speak agin many thanks👍

  14. stephen.milne50@gmail.com says:

    I filled a black bin liner with similar type rubbish at Bob Scott’s on 12th Sept this year. There’s only a small bucket there and it had overflowed onto the floor and the contents of a half eaten food sachet had spilled onto the floor. I cleaned it up I as best I could with boiling water, and the help of some DofE kids whose instructor was good enough to cycle back with the full rubbish bag to L of Dee. Strange thing was we had spent the night of the 11th at Bob Scotts and disposed of our rubbish by burning it. We set off early on the 12th to climb Devils Point & Cairn Toul, returned that same night to find the rubbish bucket overflowing. I’m certain it wasn’t the DofE kids as they were a responsible well organised bunch. However we were visited by a warden that night who said that there had been reports of someone using the Bothy as a private drinking den & messing the place up a bit. He suspected it might have been him/her. Anyway well done for tidying up Corrour, the vast majority of Bothy users really appreciate your efforts. Rgds Steve

    • Hi Steve, I also help look after Bob Scott’s, so I know a bit about that. There was a guy overstaying his welcome there at that time who has his problems and had been making a nuisance of himself.
      I think we’ll have to remove that bucket, which was never meant for rubbish but seems to act as a magnet.
      Nice to hear the DofE guys were so helpful though. We’ve had the odd problem with parts of that organisation in the past and have done a lot of work and bridge-building with them over the last year, so it’s always good to hear they’re on-side. And thanks, too, for your own efforts – for all that we get up there a lot, it’s a busy bothy and can only keep going if everyone helps to care for it.

  15. Mark says:

    You’re not wrong about long it takes to burn the crap folk leave behind. I’ve spent hours and hours doing it, usually trying to keep the fire small and got get out of hand. Often there’s some remains in the ash which won’t burn. When it’s cooled I bag it up carry it out. Not trying to blow my own trumpet but isn’t this normal.

    Another thoughtful piece, cheers.

  16. Harry says:

    Hi Neil, it was great to meet you at Corrour. We managed to get back to Aviemore for an early dinner before the bus back to London. You do a great job at Corrour and next time I am there I will have some spare room in my pack for rubbish. It is all of our responsibility. BTW – Monday was hell at work!

    • Great to hear from you Harry, and good to meet you all at Corrour. Calum and Andy had to turn back from their planned return along the tops because of the wind and rain, and took 13 hours to get out, so you definitely made the right choice. Hope you get better weather to reward you the next time you make the journey. 🙂

  17. peterraikmanpeterraikman says:

    I have left a comment a few days ago on this chap’s website. That has disappeared, but a click on his website has, at the top, a revolving set of three photos, one of which shows bottles=rubbish as art, This may be art to Mr White, but an encouragement to others to leave more, contravening the bothy code, and rubbish to those who are left to carry it out.

    • Ach, I’m not going to get too upset, Peter. It’s not as if he took the bottles in with him and, god knows, folk are always leaving more – even when there are sconces all round the walls! – so you can hardly blame him for the problem. Quite enjoyed his post about Corrour and the Hutchie too: lots of inexperience, but he did at least seem to appreciate the place.

  18. peterraikmanpeterraikman says:

    Not my photo, but a friend has sent me this, of some rubbish in a well-known west cost bothy, some of it apparently very tidy rubbish, as though that makes any difference. I remember putting that table in and thinking is it too big ?
    Within the active workers of the MBA, we like to think that the estates appreciate the work that we do in bringing otherwise derelict buildings into use for the benefit of the wider hill walking and trekking community. On our side we are privileged to do the work that we do. And on both sides, that having bothies as foci of human activity encourages a general appreciation of our wonderful country, while concentrating sleeping, cooking, etc into small areas
    I have now moved on to a bothy accessible by transport. Amongst what I bring in is always a roll of rubble sacks to deal with whatever I may find. [ Neil has a fire, I don’t, but I don’t have to lug it out on my back ] But at a range of 130 miles that may only be 3 or 4 times a year. Which leave long periods for rubbish to accumulate. [ and for the grass to grow ]
    If I do want to be remembered for anything when I am gone, it is not for having a tidy bothy. It would be 1. For having a good relationship with the owner 2. Keeping the building weather tight and safe and 3. Putting in little improvements. and 4 no-one noticing any of these.

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