Of all the ‘lost’ bothies of the Cairngorms, Jean’s Hut seems one of the one most brought up in folk’s recollections.
Not one I was ever at myself, although it didn’t finally disappear until the ’80s, but there are some good historical pictures from Reg Popham and Angus Robson which are worth sharing here.
Jean’s Hut started out in Coire Cas on Cairngorm, only later being moved to the location most people remember in Coire an Lochain.
It was gifted by Dr Alasdair Smith in memory of his daughter Jean who died in a skiing accident in 1948, having fallen when the edges of her skis failed to bite while traversing a steep, icy slope.
It was built in 1951, roughly where the White Lady Shieling stands now.
Angus Robson, who contacted me in response to another post about bygone Cairngorm bothies, wrote to say his father had been involved in the building of the hut.
He said: The tarmac road ended at Coylumbridge in those days and the forestry road ended at the old Glenmore Lodge (now the SYHA). All the materials were carried up Cairngorm from the Lodge on a footpath.
Apparently, people on courses at Glenmore Lodge were roped into carrying materials up the mountain. My dad was there on a rock climbing course in 1950 and remembers he helped with carrying stuff. He says the heaviest load he carried was a bag of sand. He would have been 34 at the time.
Angus sent in this photo of the Hut, taken in 1953, when his parents were on a hill walking course at Glenmore Lodge, and there are several more photos from Reg Popham showing the carrying in of materials and the construction of the hut.
It stood in Coire Cas for more than a decade before being edged out by ski development, and in 1964 or ’65 was moved to its final position at 981034, a little below the lochan of Coire an Lochain.
It was popular as a base for winter climbers, one climber remembering it as being furnished with rough wooden bunks, a table and benches, and a store cupboard full of food left by other climbers. But its popularity and the lack of any one person or organisation formally looking after it, meant it deteriorated through the years and by the ’80s – some say even earlier – it was in a pretty disreputable state.
There was some debate about its future, apparently prompted by a the death of three students who failed to find the hut in a fierce blizzard. (It was a hard period for mountain rescue teams, spoken of by Heavy Whalley in his blog)
It was finally demolished and removed by the Cairngorm Ranger Service removed in 1986. According to a Glasgow Herald article at the time there had been a last minute appeal by Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team, who wanted the army to replace the dilapidated hut to be kept as a shelter and advance base for rescues.
Perhaps had the hut been maintained it would have lasted, but even had there not been the loss of the three students, its days were likely numbered, with one climbing pal recalling it leaning over and being fit to collapse. And perhaps there’s no longer the same demand for a bothy in a corrie that most people walk in and out of in a short day – or maybe the Northern Corries are just so busy these days that no size of bothy could cope with the numbers!
(Thanks to Angus and Reg for the use of their photos in this post – and their long patience in waiting for it to materialise!)