Tag Archives: bcmc

The Watersprite Lake Hut

In the past we’ve covered the building of various backcountry huts situated around Whistler, beginning in the 1960s.  Gothic arch huts have a place in much more recent history as well, as the Watersprite Lake Hut proves.

After the completion of the North Creek Hut in the fall of 1986, the British Columbia Mountaineering Club (BCMC) took a hiatus from building backcountry huts.  Over the next two decades, the BCMC focused their efforts on outdoor education, environmental protection, trail building and trail maintenance and mountaineering training.

In the mid-2000s, attention was brought back to backcountry huts when David Scanlon took on the task of acquiring legal tenure from the Provincial Government and First Nations for the BCMC huts built at both Mountain Lake and North Creek.  The BCMC gained full legal tenure of these hut sites in 2009.

Following this achievement, the BCMC surveyed their membership about backcountry access and building more backcountry huts.  Scanlon formed a committee that investigated sites for a new hut and after careful study they chose to build a backcountry hut near Watersprite Lake.  Watersprite Lake is located just outside the southwestern edge of Garibaldi Provincial Park and is close to Mamquam Mountain and Icefield.

The Watersprite Lake Hut covered in snow this past winter. Photo by David Scanlon.

Prior to the construction of the hut at Watersprite Lake, the BCMC built trail access to the site that opened in the spring of 2016.  BCMC members noticed heavy foot traffic to the lake on the newly built trail.  The BCMC used space at Fraserwood Industries, thanks in part to a club member, to pre-fabricate the glu-lam arches required for the hut.  Scanlon calculated that committee members spent over 1000 man-hours in pursuit of constructing the new hut.

In the fall of 2016, construction of the Watersprite Lake Hut began.  The hut design includes a wood stove for use to heat the hut in the winter, a dedicated cooking area and enough room to accommodate ten people.  In the end, four additional arches were made by Fraswerwood Industries, which enabled the BCMC to built a seven-foot overhang to provide an emergency shelter and prevent snow build up around the front entrance.  Unlike other huts built by the BCMC in the late 1960s, early 70s and mid-80s, the Watersprite Lake Hut is locked to the general public and only accessible to registered users of the hut.  After seven years of planning and construction, the Watersprite Lake Hut opened in the winter of 2017.

The cozy interior of the hut. Photo by David Scanlon.

You may have noticed that, over the past couple of years or so, the museum has had backcountry huts (specifically those of the gothic arch variety) in mind.  You may even have seen a dancing hut as part of this year’s Canada Day Parade float.  This summer the Whistler Museum and Archives Society launched Coast Mountain Gothic: A History of the Coast Mountain Gothic Arch Huts, a virtual exhibit with the support of the Virtual Museum of Canada, which can be seen here.

The museum will be opening a physical exhibit to complement our new online exhibit in November 2018.  Keep an eye on our social media or subscribe to our newsletter for upcoming news about opening night!

Advertisements

Settling on Wedge

With the successful completion of the Himmelsbach Hut in 1968, the British Columbia Mountaineering Club (BCMC) began looking for another location to build a Gothic arch hut near Whistler.  They already had a couple of ideas for their next location; one was near Mt. Trorrey along the Spearhead Traverse, the other was an alpine meadow on Mount Brew.  The BCMC decided to ask the mountaineering community for suggestions and advertised through a mountaineering paper and a few leaflets.

Werner Himmelsbach recalled, “So this logger, he contacted me and said, ‘I hiked up the peak beside Wedge Mountain and I saw a nice lake don below,’ so I thought that would be a place.”

The Himmelsbach Hut, named for Werner Himmelsbach, as it appears nowadays. Photo: Jeff Slack

Werner, along with three other BCMC members, decided to hike up Wedge in hopes of finding the lake the logger mentioned.  “It took us five and a half hours to get up there because we got lost in there because it was bush.”

This exploration of Wedge also involved finding a way across the river as there was no bridge access.  “Wedgemount Lake… was beautiful and when you come over the rise… there is this lake, turquoise colour and the glacier right into the lake,” Werner reminisced.

The idyllic Wedgemount Hut, with Wedge Mountain looming above left.  The glacier has noticeably receded as Werner remembers the glacier coming right into the lake.   Photo: Jeff Slack

The BCMC held a meeting to decide the new location and the vote was decidedly in favour of building the hut near Wedgemount Lake.  At Mount Brew, as mentioned in a previous article in The Whistler Question, the UBC Varsity Outdoor Club would later struggle with their own Gothic arch huts in the 1980s and the Spearhead Traverse would be revisited in the future by the BCMC.

The BCMC was granted building permission by BC Parks on October 9, 1970 and quickly organized a work party to construct the hut over the Thanksgiving weekend.  Werner was away on a trip to the Kootenays, so “master-builder” Manfred was in charge of putting the hut together.  The majority of the hut was built on the Saturday and the finishing touches and aluminum siding were added on Sunday.  The outhouse was built on the Monday but no trench was dug because the snow had already started to fall.

The Wedgemount Lake Hut. Photo: Federation of Mountain Clubs of British Columbia.

Brian Wood, a BCMC member and former President of the Federation of Mountain Clubs of British Columbia, recalled the BCMC assembled a work crew to go back to Wedgemount Lake to complete the construction of the hut in 1971.  When the crew arrived wind and snow creep had pushed the hut off of its foundations.  The crew used fallen logs to help maneuver the hut back into place and attached a couple of guy wires to help keep the hut on its foundations.  The crew dug the pit for the outhouse and the hut was ready to officially open that summer.

The Wedgemount Lake Hut remains a popular destination for hikers, rock-climbers and ski mountaineers to this day.  Because the hut only accommodates eight people. BC Parks has build camping spots and a bear cache nearby.  Reservations are required to camp or use the hut year-round.  If you’re interested in heading out, visit the BC Parks website for more details.

Announcing “Coast Mountain Gothic”

Last fall we published a post about a volunteer work day at the Wendy Thompson Hut, and another about Building the Himmelsbach Hut, and at the end of the latter story included the vague sentence “we will also be producing more content about the rest of the gothic arch huts in the coming months both on this blog and elsewhere…”

Building the Himmelsbach Hut, October 1967.

Building the Himmelsbach Hut, October 1967. WMAS, Dick Chambers Photo.

At the time we were working on an application to the Virtual Museum of Canada‘s (VMC) Community Memories program for funding to help produce a virtual exhibit about gothic arch mountain huts in the Coast Mountains, and we are extremely excited to now formally announce that our application was accepted! Preliminary work on the project has already begun.

During these preliminary stages we have frequently been asked “What’s a virtual exhibit?” No, it does not involve virtual reality, teleportation, or time travel (it’s way cooler than that). Essentially, a virtual exhibit is a website that uses text, photos, audio recordings, video clips, and other digital media to tell a historical story. You know, like a museum exhibit, but online.

hut.jpg

The Himmelsbach Hut, last summer. Jeff Slack Photo.

Our exhibit, tentatively titled “Coast Mountain Gothic: A History of the Gothic Arch Mountain Hut” will tell the story of how this specific style of alpine shelter was designed by members of the British Columbia Mountaineering Club in the mid-1960s and then proliferated throughout the Coast Range and beyond over the next half-century.

We will explore the aesthetic, practical, and environmental characteristics of this deceptively simple design, describe some of the challenges encountered and overcome while hut-building in harsh and remote mountain settings, and recount some of the myriad mountain adventures that these huts have supported over the years.

morehuts.jpg

The idyllic Wedgemount Hut, with Wedge Mountain looming beyond. Jeff Slack Photo.

It’s a big project, and the research and writing are only a small portion of what goes into the whole production. The virtual exhibit’s anticipated launch is autumn 2017.

Needless to say, we are looking forward to collecting the stories, images, and other artifacts that are going to go into the exhibit. We are also very pleased about the expanded reach and new audience that this exhibit will hopefully attain.

Inevitably, we will compile more content than can make the final cut, so look forward to sneak peeks and other related posts on this blog in the coming months.

In addition to the Virtual Museum of Canada, we would like to acknowledge and thank several other organizations who will be partnering with us and contributing to this exciting project: The British Columbia Mountaineering Club, The Alpine Club of Canada (Whistler Section), The UBC Varsity Outdoors Club, The Federation of BC Mountain Clubs, The North Vancouver Museum & Archives Society, and Denali National Park & Preserve.

About the Virtual Museum of Canada:

The Virtual Museum of Canada, managed by the Canadian Museum of History, with the financial support of the Government of Canada, is the largest digital source of stories and experiences shared by Canada’s museums and heritage organizations. The VMC’s Community Memories investment program helps smaller Canadian museums and heritage organizations work with their communities to develop virtual exhibits that engage online audiences in the stories, past and present, of Canada’s communities.

mvc_logo_alone_enmvc_logo_alone_fr