Following extensive work over the first two weekends in September, the toilet at Corrour Bothy – closed since the end of June – has now been reopened.
Other than that the number of seats has been doubled to four, and that two locked doors have been added front and rear, bothy users won’t notice any difference: it’s still a dry toilet with the waste collected in bags under stainless steel tubes.
And you don’t have to make communal visits. For starters only two of the four seats will be open for use at any one time. The reason for the four seats is so that two can be left open while the bags under the other two are left to drain prior to being moved round to the storage area before final removal once a year to a waste treatment facility in Aberdeen.
The purpose of the redesign and rebuild was to lessen the burden on the small group of volunteers who for the last 10 or 11 years have been making often monthly visits to maintain the toilet, its remote location meaning each visit used up a whole day and sometimes two. With two seats always open maintenance visits should be cut to once every two months.
The two new doors are for maintenance only and are kept locked for public health reasons, but for those who really have to know, the front one gives access to the shite store, where bags of human waste will hang until being removed; the back door gives access to the rear of the toilets, where sacks of fresh human waste are hanging. Neither is particularly pleasant.
The conversion was a major enterprise, months in planning and execution.
First stage was working out the layout and plans for the new toilet, ordering new steelwork for the toilet tubes and drip tray below, and working out the types and quantity of wood, piping, fixings and other materials that would be required.
It all started to become real towards the end of June, when materials were due to be helicoptered in for the Garbh Coire Refuge renovation. Since the MBA was already paying for the hire of a helicopter it made sense to add on a few extra flights to take in the materials for the rebuild – and remove the existing interior structure. So while the new materials were crated up for transport (project manager Kenny Freeman cunningly making the crating from some of the wood destined to be used in the construction) myself and two other volunteers walked out to Corrour and totally demolished the interior of the toilet annexe. While we then went on to help at the Garbh Coire, others (including my fellow Corrour maintenance organiser Neil Findlay) packaged it for helicopter evacuation and sent it out as the new materials were dropped off.
However that was as far as the job could be progressed at that time. The skilled woodworkers and project manager were all up at the Garbh Coire and various personal commitments meant it was September before the right personnel could gather again to complete the job. In the meantime the shell of the toilet block had to remain closed right through July and August.
Come September, the first two weekends of the month were a hive of activity as the long anticipated project finally came to fruition. Both Friday nights everyone met at Bob Scott’s Bothy and walked in early on the Saturday mornings for a frenzy of joinery, toilet fitting and sundry repairs, including a couple of roof repairs, a new chimney cowl, and the building of a sleeping bench inside the main bothy building – and a fresh coat of woodstain on the outside.
I was only present for the second weekend, but afterwards Kenny Freeman commented on how smoothly it had all gone considering the amount of work done – the right mixture of people with particular skills and of willing labourers fetching, holding and carrying.
Comments from passing walkers were encouraging, and hearteningly, one of the Aberdeenshire guides, Garry Cormack, had left a bottle bag in the bothy between the two weekends, containing whisky and rowies, with a note saying it was for the volunteers!
We also had help from a Belgian/Italian couple who had intended staying in the bothy but put up a tent instead and pitched in to lend a hand, the husband sawing away well above and beyond mere politeness.
And a Duke of Edinburgh leader who stopped to chat on the first weekend came back on the second with five pupils from Banff Academy working towards their silver award. All had volunteered to walk in (on what turned out to be a dreich and rainy morning) to help us carry out all the tools and waste at the end of the work party.
The walk-out is the forgotten part of many work parties. We had used a great number of power tools and hand tools during the two weekends and all of them, plus the non-burnable rubbish produced by about 25-30 people, had to be carried out. Much came in by helicopter, but all had to go out on people’s backs, including an incredibly unwieldy chop saw (thanks Ian Shand) and a weighty and bulky generator (thanks Paul Atkinson and Andy McNicoll).
So that’s it. We did run out of woodstain, and a couple of odds and ends were forgotten (including a bolt for the inside of the toilet door, so those with any notions of privacy will have to whistle while in residence for the next couple of weeks) but all in all a successful project and a great satisfaction.