The Angry Corrie 9: Sep-Oct 1992
10 Commandments of Bothying
OK so you've got your Pasolini, your Cecil B. DeMille, your Krzysztof Kieslowski, all those religious kind of decalogue guys. Then along comes
In Scotland we are lucky to have a network of unlocked shelters which provide weather and midgeproof accommodation for climbers, hillwalkers and the like. Some are maintained by the Mountain Bothies Association, others are looked after by the landowner, helped by a few hardy individuals. These bothies have only basics: maybe a table and some chairs, with plenty of space to doss on the floor. First-time bothygoers, however, may find these helpful hints useful:
1. Thou shalt always know exactly where your bothy is, and in what condition you are likely to find it. This saves you floundering about in the dark, miles from the bothy, thinking it is just around the bend. If you are lucky to find the place, it will save you having to spend the night in a ruin, under some rusty sheets of corrugated iron, either sheltering from the rain or being eaten alive by midgies.
2. Thou shalt always seek permission before going to a bothy. Landowners restrict access at certain times: the stag stalking season, the hind stalking season, the lambing season, the grouse shooting season, the summer holidays, etc etc. This leaves you with the Whit Bank Holiday, when you are likely to encounter bothyites from South of the Border - who tend to bore you to tears with questions about the Scottish hills and tales of their derring-do in the Lakes and Snowdonia. (Surely 'the Ponds and Lesser Albion ? -Ed.) Then there is the Christmas and New Year period, when winter weather and short hours of daylight make it difficult to get to your favourite bothy. At New Year an added hazard is the number of steaming drunks that can be encountered.
3. Thou shalt avoid bothies on the Munro circuit like the plague. These tend to be frequented by a strange subspecies: munrous borethearseoffus. If you do become stranded in a bothy near a Munro, a set of earplugs can be handy, as most of the conversation is in numbers - either numbers of Munros done, or grid reference numbers.
4. Thou shalt steer clear of bothies with easy access. These tend to be inhabited by motorcycle gangs or New Age hippies - both types sharing a liking for Tennents Super Lager, funny fags and any other type of drink they can lay their hands on. They also have a tendency to fight with their shadow - and, in the later stages, be sick over both you and your kit. Not the place to take your new partner if you want to escape with his or her honour intact.
5. Thou shalt take plenty of supplies. As your nearest Spar shop tends to be far from the nearest bothy, take a good supply of food and drink, plus the usual matches, candles, midge repellent, etc etc. This usually means humphing a large and heavy rucksack. It is also quite a good idea to carry some tins of Super Lager and other items, like bottles of whisky, as these can be traded with bikers etc in return for their not beating you up or making unwelcome advances to your partner.
6. Thou shalt get to your bothy under your own steam: no skiing or mountainbiking, or using your Range Rover to ease your passage. Other bothygoers do not take kindly to such things. Skis have been burnt on the fire, mountainbikes dismantled and their parts thrown to the four winds, Range Rovers have had their tyres slashed, tanks syphoned and windscreens smashed. It is safer to use Shanks' Pony and avoid any hassle.
7. Thou shalt beware of Dogs, as other bothygoers take their Alsatians, Pitbulls and other Fierce Breeds with them. This ensures they get more space to themselves. If you encounter this situation in your bothy, try speaking to the Beast in a soft, calming voice. If this fails, try feeding it your soya mince, or vegie-burgers, or even your own pet West Highland Terrier. If all else fails, throw your rucksack at the brute and run like hell. (Why no East Highland Terriers? - Ed)
8. Thou shalt take all your rubbish home with you. If you bring in bottles and tins full, you can pack them out again empty. Leave no trash in poly bags, or in the fireplace: this attracts vermin. Leave no shit around the bothy, as folk do not take kindly to tramping on turds. Go well away from the bothy, and the water supply, to dig a hole and burn your crap.
9. Thou shalt not rip up the bothy for fuel, it is better to freeze than risk the wrath of some of the heavies who maintain the bothies. Do not cut green wood either, as it will not burn. If you must have a fire, burn some of the useless equipment you brought in with you - e.g. your Tam Weir bunnet, your slippers, your Munro's Tables. (Or your dog - Ed)
10. Thou shalt not be a big Feartie. Stories of ghosts, poltergeists, severed hands etc, are told about most bothies, but if you are feart in the dark, or in any way nervous, do not show it - or more seasoned bothygoers will try their damnedest to frighten the wits out of you. Other hazards for the Feartie are mice, rats, snakes, spiders and various other creepie-crawlies.