A good clean-out. Corrour Bothy toilet

Tracked vehicle and trailer outside Corrour Bothy, Cairngorms

A box on tracks. Not very elegant, but a real mover on rough ground

I want one of these! It really is a delight getting out to Corrour Bothy – most of the time – but one of these would be just so much fun.

It was past time for the annual clear-out at the Corrour toilet, and along with my fellow MO Neil Findlay, and our pal Walt Black, we left Bob Scott’s on a miserable-looking Saturday morning to head out to Corrour.

Cloud so low you were afraid to stand up too quick, and intermittent rain meant there wasn’t a great deal of enthusiasm about. My enthusiasm was also tempered by the fact I was carrying about 7 or 8 kg of coal in my already full weekend rucksack. Neil and Walt were carrying coal too, but both had none too discretely emptied some out before we left Scottie’s.

Walking through snow towards Corrour Bothy, Cairngorms

A wet, murky trudge in to Corrour.

The Luibeg was crossed with no great trauma, but once we got started over the shoulder of Carn a Mhaim the snow made itself increasingly awkward. We had hoped for a freeze to make it solid, but instead it was thawing and soft, meaning whoever was out in front periodically fell through into streams, bogs and WANKS (cross-path drains, so named by one John Frae Kent, standing for Walkers’ Ankle ‘n’ Knee Snappers). By the time we finally reached Corrour all three of us were knackered and Neil had just gone thigh-deep in a slush-filled stream. As I trailed behind Walt & Neil on the final path up to the bothy door I was distracted by a rattling clattering noise as a large fall of ice came down from the face of the Devil’s Point.

I took advantage of a lazy afternoon by having a nap and we enjoyed a traditional bothy night by the fire – rather more sober than intended on Neil’s part, as his Sigg bottle of port had emptied into his rucksack during the walk-in.

Neil Findlay, Alfie the dog and Walt Black in Corrour Bothy, Cairngorms

Oh what fun we have on a bothy Saturday night. Neil’s dog Alfie tests the ppe, with one of the disposable facemasks

Sunday was the big day. An early rise and then we got suited up for the main event. Disposable boiler suits and rubber gloves, then into the innards of the toilet. Neil passed the bags up to me, I passed them down to Walt, and Walt laid them on the grass outside: fifteen bags of human waste ready to go. All we needed was the transport.

While we waited I scrubbed out the now empty toilet and Neil fixed some wear-and-tear damage to the windowsill and then we brewed up some more tea – which was a sure fire signal for the vehicle to appear. Even then we thought we had time – the last time a tracked vehicle came out it traveled at a stately 2 miles an hour – but this one was tramping on and the tea had to be abandoned to get the bags loaded onto helibags in the trailer.

Relaxing in spring warmth outside Corrour Bothy, Cairngorms

Enjoying a brief respite before the arrival of the estate vehicle

Tracked vehicle and trailer outside Corrour Bothy, Cairngorms

Ready to load. Truck, trailer and bags – now it’s time to lift them on board.

Tracked vehicle transporting toilet bags from Corrour Bothy, Cairngorms. Carn a Mhaim in the background.

Off goes the waste bags. Unfortunately the workers weren’t offered a lift out with them.

Quarter an hour of hefting bags of shit and a brief chat with Mar Lodge Estate Head Ranger Paul Bolton, and it was all over. It just remained for Neil and I to fix two new bags onto the toilet tubes and close everything up for use, then the long walk out. The weather, at least, was considerably better, but with a major thaw in progress, the snow underfoot wasn’t any easier.

The bags, taken out by Mar Lodge Estate, were to be picked up the next day by a licensed disposal contractor. And that’s it for another year, other than the monthly visits to change over the waste bags and the routine maintenance jobs that any bothy needs, along with the rubbish clear-ups that a particularly busy bothy like Corrour so unfortunately needs.

Those of us who look after Corrour – and there is a core of great volunteers besides MOs Neil F and myself – sometimes get asked by bothy users how much we’re paid for this. We’re not, of course, we do it because we’re daft, but, given the appalling weather we sometimes have to go out in and the pretty distasteful nature of the jobs we sometimes have to do, I very much doubt if you could afford to pay someone to do this shit. (Next time I head up the hills I want to climb one, not spend the time cleaning up after folk.)


MRT Land Rovers near Derry Lodge, Cairngorms, during search for Jim Robertson

MRT Land Rovers and a police van near Derry Lodge on Sunday. Most of these sported a St John Scotland logo, testifying to the massive support that charity gives to mountain rescue.

A sad reminder that there were other volunteers out and about this weekend. On the way back down we passed a police team doing a line search through the woods at Luibeg Ford, and when we passed Derry Lodge this line-up of Land Rovers from various teams spoke to the ongoing search for missing walker Jim Robertson, last seen on 2nd March, whose belongings were found in Bob Scott’s. Wishing these guys good luck in their search.

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15 Responses to A good clean-out. Corrour Bothy toilet

  1. Alan Mackay says:

    You are a star of a man, and an inspiration, Neil.

    • Self-made ‘star’ cos I keep shouting about it, Alan. Corrour is very much a teamwork thing, from my fellow MO Neil Findlay to other MBA volunteers (and non-MBA members too!) – not to mention the help from Mar Lodge Estate. And even folk who have never even seen Corrour – this couldn’t happen without the resources (money, admin, diplomacy, skills-base etc) of the MBA.

  2. John D says:

    Three or four years ago, I had a little walk to the Shelter Stone and looked in at various bothies during the circuit. Each was a pleasant surprise because of the work being done by the MOs. I didn’t get to Corrour but Bob Scott’s was in great shape and I had not expected that given how many now visit the area. Well done to all of you MOs.

  3. alan.sloman says:

    I spent a very cold night in Corrour over forty years ago. I seem to remember that it had an earth floor at the time (I may be wrong there – memory’s going) but I do recall very clearly that the place was spotless. What has changed in the intervening years that we now need volunteers to take the garbage out?
    Thank you to all the MOs and volunteers who do such a great job.

    • Nothing wrong with your memory, Alan – the floor was packed earth right up to the ’70s. Lots of things have changed though. We use more disposable packaging, we can afford to walk away from kit instead of fixing it, and maybe attitudes are different. But don’t idolise the past. The greatest vandalism to Corrour Bothy was done during the 1920s, when the building was first left empty and the furniture and wood lining disappeared up the lum, and even looking back 40 years ago (I’ve been going up there for almost 50) I can remember people carrying big loads of rubbish out from both Corrour and the Hutchy, so rubbish in bothies isn’t really a new thing, it’s just that that volume seems to have grown with the number of hillwalkers.
      (By the way, just for clarity, it was bags of faeces we were removing from the toilet on this trip, not garbage – though there’s usually plenty of that too.)

  4. David Johnstone says:

    Neil, I am off 16-21 April – need to get a dental appointment changed – so fit for a b of inspection/ close over of lids etc if needed. Dave

  5. Stuart Anderson says:

    Entertaining and informative at the same time, I nearly said in the same breath, but I could smell the aroma of shit😎

  6. piper says:

    Very impressed with the truck , looks far better than the old one that was used .

  7. Hadn’t seen that about someone missing in your area!

    Keep some nice, firm snow for me for next week 🙂

    • There’ll likely be plenty snow on top, but the glens were taking a big hit in last weekend’s thaw.
      If you stick Jim Robertson and Cairngorms into Google News you’ll find out all there is to know – apart from where the poor guy has ended up. There have been huge searches for him over the last weeks.

  8. Mark says:

    Great job! And I thought I shifted some shit at work……..
    Sad to hear that despite the efforts of BMRT the family of Jim Robertson haven’t had any relief from their pain.

  9. piper says:

    Oor Neil looks guy pickled in the picture ….sure there wiznae a back up bottle of port at hand ?
    Joking aside ,a well deserved drink for you all.

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