I’VE always tended to follow a Marxist philosophy when it comes to signing up for club memberships.
Groucho Marx that is, not Karl. When invited to join one club he famously declined with the reply: “I refuse to join any club that will accept people like me as a member.”
Well, maybe it’s just a sign of mellowing in my old age, but this Rufus T. Firefly has had a major change of heart over the past few months and signed up to two worthwhile causes - the Munro Society and the Mountain Bothies Association. These organisations do a power of good and I would encourage anyone who loves our mountains and wild places to consider signing up.
The Society was founded in 2002 and membership is open to anyone who has climbed all the Munros. Its main aims are to bring together a wealth of mountain experience, to provide a forum in which to share interests and concerns about our wild mountain land and to maintain an archive of Scottish mountaineering. There are currently 275 members and the number is growing, but with more than 5,000 registered Munroists the scope is there to really make a difference.
Last Saturday I made the short journey to Birnam to attend my first Munro Society agm. The day was spent amongst kindred spirits, people with a true passion for the hills. It was great to come face to face with so many of the mountain friends I have made through social media and many other well-known names.
Once the serious business was dealt with it was down to the entertainment. I was one of three speakers at the event, all different, all fiercely passionate about the hills. That man of heights and measurements, Alan Dawson, provided a hilarious yet thought-provoking session which looked at the anomalies of our mapping regimes. Then we had Frank Johnstone’s tales and stunning photos from his adventures deep in the remote mountains of New Zealand’s South Island, vengeful parrots and all.
This is not an organisation which demands a huge amount of your time - one annual meeting, one dinner and two optional mountain meets is the schedule - but your contribution could be vital for future generations of climbers and walkers.
Likewise with the MBA. Anyone who has ever made use of any of the bothies scattered the length and breadth of the country should be a member. These open shelters can be the difference between life and death, and the dedication of members in their upkeep is astonishing. They work with the estates, smoothing the way to make sure the bothies are kept open for all.
Some of the shelters are old farm or estate cottages, some converted stables or barns and some just rudimentary shelters of stone and corrugated iron, but every one needs some tlc every so often. The loss of any of them would substantially change the way we tackle some of the big mountain days. The recent closure of Culra Bothy in the heart of the Alder mountains is a great example of that.
We are lucky to have so many people who care so passionately about our country. It’s only a small annual fee for membership and, if they do have to send the heavies round, you will find them the most charming leg-breakers you are ever likely to meet.
So fellow Marxists, rip off those bushy moustaches, put out the cigars and help us put something back into the hills.