Jean’s Hut – a lost Cairngorm bothy

Jean's Hut, Coire an Lochain, Cairngorm

Jean’s Hut in Coire an Lochain, date unknown.

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.

Robsons at Jean's Hut, Cairngorms

Angus Robson’s photo of his Mum and Dad at Jean’s Hut in 1953, with a Glenmore Lodge instructor

Materials being carried in to build Jean's Hut in Coire Cas, Cairngorm

The big carry-in. Prefabricated sections of the hut being carried up the hill into Coire Cas. Love the period clothes and the sense of enthusiasm in this photo, courtesy of Reg Popham

Hut sections being carried in to Coire Cas, Cairngorm, to build Jean's Hut

Another photo of the young folk taking the hut in. Courtesy of Reg Popham

Jean's Hut, Coire Cas, Cairngorm - half built

During construction in 1951. (Courtesy of Reg Popham)

Jean's Hut, Cairngorms

And complete

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!

Builders outside Jean's Hut, Coire Cas, Cairngorms

Happy days! How can you not wish you were climbing in the Cairngorms in the 1950s? (Once more, picture courtesy of Reg Popham)

(Thanks to Angus and Reg for the use of their photos in this post – and their long patience in waiting for it to materialise!)

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19 Responses to Jean’s Hut – a lost Cairngorm bothy

  1. gasdoc2857 says:

    Reblogged this on gasdoc2857 and commented:
    Interesting article. Remember visiting here in late 1970’s

  2. Sinbad says:

    We used it quite often in the late 60,s early 70,s and from what I remember there was a three tiered bunk capable of sleeping four on each level. A bench along the wall which could also be used and another in the entrance porch. Once spent the night there with umpteen bodies scattered throughout and even folk sleeping on a few spare roofing sheets stored on the roof timbers!! I last used it in the mid 80,s. Another time on a dark, misty Friday night we had to do a line search up the corrie before we found the hut.No superdooper fancy headtorches then!!

  3. piper says:

    Nae so many replies to Auld jeenies hut .Canna be many of us left , who can remember the place .

  4. Great to see the period photos 🙂 Reminds me of the days when we used to get dragged walking by my Mum and Dad!

  5. Simon Ellis says:

    I stayed in jeans hut in the very early 80’s as a young teenager on a solo walking tour. I found it by accident as I had a tent but staying in a hut seemed easier! It was a shame it wasn’t maintained. Happy memories! Simon

  6. myouns says:

    Hi, love this report on Jeans Hut – heard the story from my Dad, who was skiing with Jean when she died – and who is in these pictures carrying the materials up the hill. Sadly, Dad passed away in July this year aged 89 – he would have loved to see the pictures and read your blog.

  7. David Callan says:

    My late parents met (David Callan & Ruby Stevenson) at Jeans Hut in the New Year of 1958 where both were skiing. They often spoke of the long walk carrying skis from coylumbridge to spend a day walking up and down the slopes. I have black and white photographs of the hut and the many people who used to frequent it. There was he said a great friendship between the people who used the hut. He used to meet fellow soldiers who had returned from the war in Korea and were living in the hut at weekends and using it as a base for walking and skiing. I only visited the hut once with my father one Easter in the mid 70s. Sad that it has gone.

  8. Aaron Ward says:

    Me and a mate spent two winter nights there in the early eighties. A blizzard blew up the first night, we were hut bound the following day. It was harsh. We shared one of the wide bunks and erected our tent over us to keep warm. We laboriously made water from snow but that froze solid overnight even though it was inside the tent with us.

    Been to a few bothies, don’t remember it being as unsavory as others but there was a lot of spindrift covering the floor and corners at the time. We had to dig ourselves out too.

    Getting back to the Ski centre was pretty touch-and-go but the sun was out and the gale mostly behind us. Think I have some photos somewhere. Must dig them out too.

    Happy Days.

  9. G Stein says:

    I never visited Jean’s Hut, however as a child in the 80s my family would regularly holiday at Glenmore campsite. I clearly remember the shop (which doubled up as a kind of last-chance stop for hillwalking/winter supplies) had a sign to inform people that Jeans Hut had been removed. The sign remained for several yearsas i recall.years

  10. Andrew Craig says:

    I believe there was a sign in the hut saying “She passed this way joyfully” and then in Gaelic “Never to return” ANDREW CRAIG

  11. Carl Reid says:

    I remember staying there in the early eighties and having a right good ol’ sing song of punk rock and Supertramp songs, sharing drinks with friends from Glasgow who welcomed us all from Lancashire warmly when we first walked in as it was almost full on arrival, next day we all went winter snow and ice climbing and helped with a rescue and I’m sure there was a stretcher there …does anyone else remember that? anyhow the poor chap rescued had broken his leg and was choppered out by the RAF.

  12. Steven says:

    Was camped by the Lochan in 1979 while on army adventure training. 150mph winds flattened all the Force 10 Tents and blew the kit all over the place, even right up the cliffs above the Lochan. Tye Lochan had 5 foot high waves hitting tye shore. Conditions were so bad we roped together to come down over the border scree to Jeans Hut. We had one tea bag between 30 and most of us were becoming hypothermic. Jeans Hut helped avoid at least a few more serious problems that night.

  13. John Tollick says:

    I was in a group of Venture Scouts up from Plymouth in 67 or 68 I think. We’d somehow befriended members of the mountain rescue team from Glenmore Lodge who took us up for a night in Jean’s Hut. Two of us annoyed the hell out of every one else by composing and shouting a song about the place. Funny the things that stick in the mind. I must have been 16/17 then.

  14. Alun Davies says:

    I have various memories of Jean’s Hut – one particular night it was late and dark and we were tired. We had planned to stay in the hut overnight – but like an earlier post above – we simply could not find it, but knew we were close. Tired of plodding around in the snow looking for it I decided to fire a miniflare and sure enough it was just a short distance away. We were very relieved to get in out of the wind and cold.

  15. Spent a very cold weekend in Jean’s Hut with friends from STAUMC in December 1974. We had difficulty finding the hut in driving snow, and only located it after walking past some way. I remember the bunks, and playing what we called ‘The Boring Game’. In the morning, and I will always remember, both my socks were frozen rigid and you could hold them like swords. I remember there was some kind of plaque, with words something along the lines of ‘Jean strode gaily by this way’. We spent quite a wild weekend, up Y Gully, and started another climb the next day, but jacked it in. Very fond memories of the place but it was a bit of a refrigerator.

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