The Bothy Project

Inspiring people to have more adventures in the mountains is the reason we make backpacks. So when the BMC and filmmakers Jen Randall and Claire Carter approached us last year with an idea to make a film about four female artists untangling their need for outdoor space we jumped at the chance to be involved.

The 'Bothy Project' features four female artists whose work is deeply connected to outdoor spaces; Claire Carter (poet), Tessa Lyons (artist), Natashe Brooks (multimedia artist) and Jen Randall (filmmaker). The film follows them on a mission to escape the pressures of their daily lives via a visit to the wild Shenavall Bothy in the highlands of Scotland.

The film is a beautiful and evocative call to nature that we hope will inspire you to pack a backpack and head north to find your own adventures.

About the Artists

Jen Randall - Filmmaker

The Bothy Project was my first real venture into the wilds after a long spell of illness. It was also my first stay in a bothy. I was nervous about the long walk in with a heavy pack, but other than that I was excited to explore a pocket of Scottish hills that were entirely new to me.

I was there with one focus - to film Claire, Tessa and Tasha's experiences as they explored and created. What appealed to me about the project as a whole was the idea of using a wild space as a place to wander and think and make stuff, rather than as a space to achieve something, like summiting a mountain or topping out a climb. It made building the structure of the film quite hard, but I liked it and it was a new sort of challenge in that way.

the project as a whole was the idea of using a wild space as a place to wander and think and make stuff

We spent most of our time as one group while we were there, but what I really enjoyed was filming each member of our group enjoy that time in their own ways - Natasha swimming for miles and making animations in the stream; Tessa quietly painting sat by a remote loch or under a tree, and Claire running into the distance with her dog and writing by the river. A moment that stands out to me was sans camera, when I took an early morning walk to the river for a skinny dip in the sun, in a secluded pool under drooping trees.

The trip showed me that a vital ingredient of any adventure like this are snacks, which I stuffed into every easy-to-reach pocket in my Cerro Torre pack. And a travel towel, because you never know who or where might tempt you into going for a dip, especially with this lot.

Claire Carter - Writer

I started freelance writing a few years ago; I had all the freedom I could need to disappear into the hills and wax lyrically into my notebook. But I didn’t, or couldn’t. I’d plunge into the odd roadside lake, but otherwise, hole up in a cafe, and stare at a map. I realised that as a climber and office worker I was used to having objectives, KPI’s, tick lists; plans of one sort or another. The idea of both a creative blank slate and ‘wandering' in the mountains really intimidated me.

Tessa and I share a studio and we started going on long walks together; occasionally pushing our boundaries with foggy navigation, but mainly using the space away from phone signal and our to-do-lists to come up with ideas, I guess reassuring ourselves the blank slate would get filled, and our choice of careers was purposeful. The rhythm of these walks; getting lost, picking a path, hanging out with someone just-because, became pretty important to both of us.

You don't need to plan too much to go to a bothy, only really a mindset;

The Bothy Project was an awesome opportunity to try this out with some other inspiring humans, and share that feeling of physical, creative and companionable flow in a film. Bothy’s are so full of connotation; old buildings hunkered into older, scant boundary walls, that are lost in the landscape. It’s grand finding the remains of people's pilgrimages; candle stubs, a broken boot, the firewood cut and stored by someone with too much energy to burn, waiting out a storm. They can be spooky places, we always approached Sheneval with slight nerves… what else might be taking shelter there. Nick, one of our cinematographers, wrote up a nightmare he had in the log book. Check it out if you stay... perhaps wait till the morning.

You don't need to plan too much to go to a bothy, only really a mindset; content to share the space, content to deal with mountain weather. We did not go lightweight, and alongside paintbrushes, cameras, poetry books, packed a heavy coffee stove pot, full ingredients to make Thai green curry and a reasonably large bottle of whisky. This made our time feel quite luxurious, and it's nice being able to go through processes in the Bothy; Boil in the bag isn’t quite in keeping with the slow adventure vibe. So a big, well fitting pack with good compartment design for easy snack/camera/pen access was ideal.

Tessa and I have since bothied with very minimal kit and got along fine, but we have stayed pretty conscious about the correct level of sleeping bag for the season, and spare dry clothes. Scotland gets wet, despite how glorious we managed to get it for the film.

The other kit we found really useful was walking sticks. Shenevall is only 8 miles off the road, so you don't have to be mega fit to enjoy getting there, but wearing big boots and carrying a big pack can do funny things to your joints if you aren't used to it, so it's worth trying out four legs. I also took a tiny, squashable running pack, like the Prism, that I could use to run in the evening. It was a relief not to have a big weight on my back but I still wanted to be able to carry some essentials for the inevitable bog face plant.

Tessa Lyons - Artist

As a landscape artist and avid rock climber, I spend a lot of my spare time outside. However, prior to making the film, I had never stayed in a bothy overnight. I found the experience to be very enriching and I would highly recommend it as a way of stepping back and taking a moment to come back to yourself.

the space seems to allow ideas to roll around and get bigger

I have always found being in the mountains very nurturing, the space seems to allow ideas to roll around and get bigger. Sometimes I find when I haven’t made it outside very much my ideas become small and I don’t feel like making things. So I think for me it’s really important to get out often just to feel balanced and bothying is a fantastic means to do this.

I immediately fell in love with Shenavall, a small sanctuary amongst the rugged Scottish wilderness. Looking back, although the time we actually spent in the bothy was relatively short, I have a handful of crystal clear memories that will stick with me for years to come; walking through fields of cotton buds glowing in the setting sunlight, smoldering damp clothes in front of the open fire, hunkering down in our sleeping bags drinking tea and perching under the tree with my drawing tools putting the hut down in ink.

Since making this film Claire and I have been on another bothy trip to Skye staying at Camusanary bothy and then heading on to the Courisk hut at the foot of the Cullins. Again it was an experience that will resonate with me for years to come. Being a starving artist I don’t often prioritise technical equipment as a must buy, but the packs made our time in the mountains a lot more comfortable. The back system on the Cerro Torre was so comfy I felt comfortable taking more art supplies than I'd originally planned for.

To see Tessa's work visit her website, Facebook, and Instagram

Natasha Brooks - Artist

When I think of the word 'Bothy' my heart warms somewhat. In a capitalist society of dog eat dog I love all that a bothy stands for. A communal shelter in the wilds of the UK, free to use, open to all, a space to eat sleep and be comfortable out of the wild weather that can often sweep though these mountainous regions. In the knowledge that volunteers have kept these shelters up to scratch one can't help but feel a proud and appreciative sense of responsibility to leave these places as good, if not better, as you found them.

I have stayed in bothys with my children before our trip to Shenavall, but for single nights only. To take the time to stay at the same Bothy for days really excited me and allowed me to fully soak into the landscape. To watch the days, weather, and other walkers float through our time spent there was a real treat. The more we ventured out to explore the surrounding wilderness in the days, the more the bothy could be pinpointed on my growing internal map, becoming more and more familiar and comforting each night. Shenavall is a cosy warm pod set within a vast landscape. I can see why it often tops peoples lists of favourite bothy's.

there is something so wholesome and resting about fully switching off without the possibility of interruption from elsewhere.

For me it was also a treat to have a lake and a river near by. I always feel that having a chance to get into water when out and about in the wilds allows you to explore the landscape in another dimension. I swim in the lakes of Snowdonia often and am accustomed to the visuals that surround them. On this trip however, I got to swim in an unknown location with unfamiliar views. I have a lasting and wonderful memory of swimming in Loch Na Sealga. Whilst swimming I love to look into the abyss below me, and here it was a beautiful dark deep red; Yet with each breath I took to my side my vision would be momentarily filled with the towering peaks of An Teallack and Beinn Dearg Mor. I felt minute and truly alive in such a vast space.

Another great bonus to the trip was to be totally out of signal and technological interruptions. Being a mother, this is a strange notion and it can be difficult not to worry that your children are OK. Yet there is something so wholesome and resting about fully switching off without the possibility of interruption from elsewhere. It allows you to focus, relax and be more attentive to your surroundings, bringing you more into the present. This mindset was a perfect basis to get creative and let the mind wander. It was great to come up with new ideas for art works and films, allowing them to develop whilst seeing the others go through similar creative processes along side you and in their own ways.

If you have great company, space to breath, the right equipment and an incredible landscape to play in then you can't go too far wrong, and we had it all. Even in days of non stop rain, I was happy in my waterproofs, generally grinning from ear to ear at being in such an incredible place with a bunch of fellow loons. What a lucky lady I am!

You can keep up to date with Natasha's latest artwork on her websitevimeoand Instagram.

Backpacks Used in the Film

Cerro Torre ND60:80
Colour(s):

Cerro Torre ND60:80

60 + 20lt | 76 x 36 x 29cm | 2.60kg

A Legendary women's specific trekking workhorse. The new Cerro Torre features front and lower entry, a tough TriShield coated fabric, and the Axiom 7 back system.

Manaslu ND55:65
Colour(s):

Manaslu ND55:65

55 + 10lt | 71 x 36 x 29cm | 2.23kg

A future classic. The Manaslu delivers serious function while looking great. Featuring Axiom 5 technology, front entry and stretch mesh front and side pockets.

Cholatse ND60:70
Colour(s):

Cholatse ND60:70

60 + 10lt | 70 x 37 x 38cm | 1.71kg

Planning your next mountain fix? Lightweight trekking has never been this good. The Cholatse range features an adjustable, ventilated back system, dual compartments and front and lower entry options.

Prism 22
Colour(s):

Prism 22

22lt | 53 x 29 x 26cm | 0.42kg

A lightweight, single compartment pack, perfect for taking away on holiday and short day hikes.

Drysac (multipack)
Colour(s):

Mixed

Drysac (multipack)

2.5, 4, & 7lt | N/A | 0.30kg

Durable, waterproof nylon stuffsacs with roll top closure. Multipack comprises of sizes XXS, XS and S.

Ultralite Stuffsac (Multipack)
Colour(s):

Mixed

Ultralite Stuffsac (Multipack)

Mixed | N/A | 0.00kg

Ultralight water resistant stuffsacs. Ideal for packing and protecting kit when every gram counts.

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