Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The Bothy and The Hill

It can happen. The bothy you have just walked in to in the dark and rain is a roofless ruin. There is nothing to be done except walk back out again to the road, a full rucksack and a night's worth of peat chafing at your shoulders, the rain dripping down the back of your neck.

The ruin:

Fortunately there was another bothy nearby. A draughty one, but one with a fireplace and, we were glad to discover on arrival, a roof.

The substitute:

The heart of any bothy is the fireplace. By daylight, a bothy is a cold and dirty hovel. But darkness hides the dirt, and the fire brings life and warmth, drawing in people around it. A bothy at night is a convivial gathering of story telling, contemplation, of getting away from it all, staring at the magical flames.

The fire:

Next day dawned grey and wet. We prevaricated before setting off. I desperately wanted a winter hill as I hadn't used my iceaxe for the whole of last season, but the conditions were uninspiring. We trudged up the hill, a Munro, through rain and bogs. About 400m up we entered the cloud, and the rain turned to wet, slushy snow. Goodbye views. I got my axe out, even though it wasn't really necessary. The sound of axe metal chinking on rock.


We argued about where we were. About 800m up, I thought. No, said a companion, only about 600m, and they were right. This was taking ages. Maybe we would even turn back. At this rate, I would certainly be soaked before the summit was reached. The hill steepened in white blankness before us, and everybody unfurled their axes. And then something amazing happened. The snow stopped falling, and, slowly, the clouds started to clear.

Emerging views:

We were still fairly far from the top, but re-energised. This was turning into a beautiful day!

In summer, a hill is climbed by following a path. Even if that path is nothing more than a faint muddy line, we still follow in footsteps of others. But with every fresh snowfall, the same hill becomes virgin territory.

Distant summit:

What a day this had turned out to be! We reached the summit at 3pm, the Cullin of Skye and Ben Nevis grey but visible, shafts of sun through high clouds on a few hills, lower clouds wrapping others. A pair of ravens circled us as we descended, snow briefly glowing orange as the short winter day came to an end. My walk of the year so far.

Snow trail:


blueskyscotland said...

Looks a cracking second half to the day.I used to do bothies a lot and had that experience a couple of times.
We walked into one in the Borders that Alex claimed was a real gem no one knew about.He was right as it didnt exist.Only time he's been wrong though.

Robert Craig said...

I have twice in the past been to a bothy that did not exist - each time on the recommendation of the same person now I think about it!

Anonymous said...

Is this person n'est pas un rôti de boeuf - Peut-être?

Are they rebuilding it?

Think it was either Alasdair or Rhys that walked into Nest of Fannich in the winter only to find it gone

Robert Craig said...

How did you guess Billy??

I guess the bothy will eventually be rebuilt, wouldn't go back any time this side of next autumn though.

If it was Alastair at Nest of Fannich, he would have been alright - carrying a spare change of clothes and an inflatable bothy.

Anonymous said...

Gleann Dubh Lighe bothy will rebuilt 8-19 April 2013.