Bothy Renovation - A Volunteer's Eye View

Ever wondered how much effort is involved behind the scenes keeping bothies up to scratch? The refurbishment of the Hutchison Memorial Hut in the Cairngorms (reported back in August on UKH) was completed last weekend. As a result the bothy, for decades renowned as a cold, damp and unwelcoming doss - albeit in a stunning remote location - has been totally transformed. Neil Reid of the Mountain Bothies Association (MBA) and author of the Cairngormwanderer blog takes us through the work that MBA volunteers have done there in words and pictures.

The Hutchie as was - a miserable ice box (even in summer), 107 kb
The Hutchie as was - a miserable ice box (even in summer)
© Neil Reid

The Hutchison - or the 'Hutchie' - has always been one of Scotland's best-located bothies in terms of scenery and access to both rock and ice climbing and to a number of Munros. But it's never been nice. Now at last the quality of the bothy matches the grandeur of the setting.

Offloading materials, 108 kb
Offloading materials
© Neil Reid
Mixing cement for the subfloor, 130 kb
Mixing cement for the subfloor
© Neil Reid
Materials stacked ready for work starting, 130 kb
Materials stacked ready for work starting
© Neil Reid

During the course of four weeks in September (after a substantial amount of planning and paperwork) a varying cast of MBA volunteers led by joint maintenance organiser Ian Shand and project manager Kenny Freeman defied wind, storm and horrendous midges to carry out a substantial amount of work on the bothy.

First the existing floor was stripped out and the ground underneath levelled before a damp-proof membrane and concrete subfloor were laid, with insulation on top and a new wooden floor. Walls and roof were insulated and wood-lined too, and a new sleeping bench constructed with room for two on top and two on the floor underneath (if need be). A new, double-glazed, opening window was also installed, replacing the almost opaque Perspex-fixed window which was there before.

Stripping out the old floor, 152 kb
Stripping out the old floor
© Neil Reid
Taking a break, 202 kb
Taking a break
© Neil Reid

And, crucially, a new stove has been installed. Nights in the Hutchison Hut need no longer be miserably freezing cold. At the moment there is a large pile of scrap wood underneath the window, but once this is gone anyone planning on making use of the stove would be advised to carry in a small amount of coal as there is no wood in the area.

Outside, new roofing panels have been attached over the existing (and still sound) roof and, in what is the main change to the exterior, the old open porch area has been enclosed. This brings a number of benefits, not least of which is a storage space for rucksacks, freeing up valuable sleeping space inside. It also helps with drafts and insulation and provides somewhere to hang up sodden waterproofs to avoid flooding the floor.

Clouds of midges, 158 kb
Clouds of midges
© Neil Reid
The Hutchie finally has a stove , 102 kb
The Hutchie finally has a stove
© Neil Reid

All in all, the transformation in the Hutchison Hut is dramatic. The combination of insulation, damp-proofing and stove means it's now easy to heat up and to keep warm, and, although the stove takes up some room, changes to the structure of the sleeping platform and the provision of the enclosed (and insulated) porch means you will still be able to sleep seven to nine people in relative comfort. Snoring permitting.

NOTE: The work on the Hutchison Hut was carried out by MBA volunteers with the agreement and cooperation of Mar Lodge Estate and with all relevant planning permissions.

Founded in 1965, the Mountain Bothies Association exists to maintain remote buildings for which the owner has little or no use, yet which remain important to walkers and climbers. They don't own any bothies but maintain them with the agreement and encouragement of the owners.

The roof progresses, 129 kb
The roof progresses
© Neil Reid
Sorting out the porch, 126 kb
Sorting out the porch
© Neil Reid
Work party on the final weekend, 170 kb
Work party on the final weekend
© Neil Reid
The finished article, 179 kb
The finished article
© Neil Reid

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