By: Blonde Two

One of the great, and until you get used to it, slightly disconcerting, things about sleeping in bothies is that you can never be quite sure who is going to turn up to share your accommodation with you. Mountain bothies are not bookable and are there to shelter as many people as can be squashed inside them away from the weather. The Mountain Bothies Association discourage larger groups or 6 or more because of the general lack of facilities so don’t plan to arrive with a big group of friends. Taking enough equipment (bivvy bag etc) to enable a safe, unplanned overnight stay outside is recommended practice anyway for remote walks but a doubly good idea if you are planning to sleep in a bothy that might be full.

I have spent four winter nights in the Mid Wales bothies now and all three of my previous nights were of the ‘just slightly on edge’ type. You know the sort of thing,

  • Lone women (myself and my good friend ‘Running Girl’)
  • Dark corners
  • Strange upstairs noises
  • Curtainless windows
  • Too scared to go outside to the loo

So, with good reason, the above experience was what I expected and promised Blonde One and Ju Lewis when I invited them on a bothy weekend. I knew that there was a possibility of a few roaming mountain bikers because Mr B2 and his bike packing mates were out and about but I also knew that Lluest Cwm Bach was a tad off their most likely routes.

We had a relatively short but slightly boggy walk into the bothy (chosen because our rucksacks, with all the coal and wood, weighed between 16 and 23 kg, mine was the lightest) and were just on our final approach when we spotted two gentlemen, equally laden down and approaching from the other side of the (tiny) valley. I have to confess at this point that I did experience a little bit of disappointment at not having the bothy to ourselves but a friendly chat soon revealed that Mark and Richard were good sports and interested in the same sort of evening as us. We were soon all laughing together at the concept of ‘women in bothies’ and a spoof ‘women in my bothy’ complaint letter to the MBA was composed. Richard and Mark were more seasoned bothy-goers than us and had some good stories to tell.

Plenty of room so far, sleeping platforms for six and for a further three or four on a lower tier. Plus there are heat bonuses to having extra people in a cold space, especially if they have all brought combustible materials with them (at this point and for most of the afternoon the bothy was colder than the outside). We put our beds out, the chaps went off for some more walking and we ladies explored and messed around with cameras. Time does strange things when you are living by the daylight so I have no idea what time it was when the next party arrived. More walkers, two younger ladies and a chap, who had walked further than us and also brought fuel. They established their camp on the lower platform.

Whilst Richard and Mark started their tea cooking (actual lamb stew) I lit the fire and we did a bit of 50th birthday decorating. The bothy started to warm up, especially after Richard and I had fashioned a doorway draught (nearly) excluder out of two damp cushions, a rubble sack and some pink gaffer tape. We were munching our olive and cheese starter when the mountain bikers started to arrive. They came in ones and twos and must have thought me very strange when I asked them if they knew Mr B2. As it happens I knew quite a lot about a couple of them because they have cycled with Mr B2 (one on Dartmoor).

The party that ensued was very jolly, albeit unexpected. We shared all manner of things including;

  • Fire fuel
  • Chatter
  • Laughter
  • Sporks
  • Olives
  • Wine
  • Lamb stew
  • Light
  • A bucket flushing toilet
  • A sense of humour
  • A space by the fire

I tucked myself up in my sleeping bag at a monstrously late 8:30 pm and absorbed the banter and melee around me as I dozed. B1 and Ju woke me for a final ‘safety wee’ at some point. The final mountain biker arrived at 2 o’clock in the morning (about three of them ended up bivvying outside), there was relatively little snoring (more about that in another post) and we all woke up laughing in the morning.

I certainly wasn’t expecting such a crush of humanity for my 50th birthday celebration but I wouldn’t go back and change it… it was just brilliant and that, I guess, is one of the joys of shared experience with like-minded people.

PS If you have never woken up to find a strange (but friendly) man sleeping on your rucksack…