Recently fellow Trail Ambassador David Hine joined me in the Cairngorm National Park for a few days hiking. The park itself represents 6% of the landmass of Scotland. Five of the UK’s highest summits are found within its boundaries and many more of the highest mountains in the UK dominate the skyline.
We only walked over one mountain – but it was in a remote location and very few locations in Scotland are more remote than in the Atholl Forest.
With many miles of walking over wild and often pathless terrain, we travelled light. Single skin pyramid shelters our home of choice, and packs of choice, the Gossamer Gear Gorilla and Mariposa models. They gave us comfort, and kept the load stable and close to our natural centre of gravity.
Pack weight matters and keeping that weight as close to your natural centre of gravity aids in your performance and balance when traversing hard uneven terrain.
Once we had finished our ascent of the mountain Carn an Fhidhleir (meaning cairn like peak of the fiddler) we opted to change our route and go to a remote Mountain Bothy.
Mountain Bothies are shelters in the hills. Many are run by the Mountain Bothy Association, and some by estates. They are mostly old estate workers cottages, now used for hill walkers. Some are divided like Ben Alder Cottage into estate and walkers areas.
They often have fire places, stoves and sleeping platforms and there is a code:
Respect Other Users
Please leave the bothy clean and tidy with dry kindling for the next visitors. Make other visitors welcome. If they are not MBA members set a good example.
Respect the Bothy
Tell us about any accidental damage. Don’t leave graffiti or vandalise the bothy. Please take out all rubbish which you can’t burn. Avoid burying rubbish; this pollutes the environment. Please don’t leave perishable food as this attracts vermin. Guard against fire risk and ensure the fire is out before you leave. Make sure the doors and windows are properly closed when you leave.
Respect the Surroundings
If there is no toilet at the bothy please bury human waste out of sight. Use the spade provided, keep well away from the water supply and never use the vicinity of the bothy as a toilet. Never cut live wood or damage estate property. Use fuel sparingly.
Respect Agreement with the Estate
Please observe any restrictions on use of the bothy, for example during stag stalking or at lambing time. Please remember bothies are available for short stays only. The owner’s permission must be obtained if you intend an extended stay.
Respect the Restriction On Numbers
Because of over crowding and lack of facilities, large groups (6 or more) should not use a bothy nor camp near a bothy without first seeking permission from the owner” (from Mountain Bothy Association website)
David and myself enjoyed a warm and sheltered night in the bothy while the rain fell, and wind gained strength overnight.
Falling asleep with your sleeping bag draped over you lying in front of the fire makes for the best nights sleep to be found in the mountains. Add in the social side of sitting around the fire chatting and sharing tales of past walks and you can see the appeal of bothies for me.
Next time you are in the UK planning a walk see if you can add a bothy into your route so you can discover the appeal of mountain bothies.