Tag: Alpine Club of Canada

Carter and the MundaysCarter and the Mundays


In 1923, prior to his September expedition with Charles Townsend, Neal Carter spent the summer in the midst of a waterpower survey covering the area from Brandywine Falls to Green Lake. Though this work used up most of his time, Carter took every chance he could to take in his surroundings and note what peaks he was interested in climbing.

As a result, Carter wrote to his friends Don and Phyllis Munday, two experienced mountaineers living on the North Shore. In his letter, he described all the mountaineering possibilities of the local mountains, convincing them to make the trek up. While here, the couple made the first recorded ascent of Blackcomb Mountain, as well as Overlord Mountain. Though Carter could not join them for these climbs due to his work, they shared their findings, which contributed to Carter’s research of the area and, subsequently, his 1924 map of Garibaldi Park.

A photograph taken by Neal Carter of Charles Townsend, returning from the summit of Overlord Mountain on September 18, 1923. Carter Collection

The Mundays were well known and heavily involved in the mountaineering community by this time. Both were members of the BC Mountaineering Club (BCMC) and the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC).

The couple found their passion for climbing mountains prior to meeting each other in 1918. Don moved to Vancouver in 1909 and started his mountaineering career soon after, joining the BCMC in 1910. However, mountaineering was put on pause when the First World War broke out and he enlisted in the Canadian Forces. After serving for almost two years, Don suffered an injury and eventually made his way back to Vancouver. Soon after, he met Phyllis and resumed his climbing ventures.

During this time, Phyllis joined the Girl Guides and climbed the local Vancouver with her troop or on her own. She joined the BCMC in 1915 and continued to be involved with Girl Guides for more than 60 years.

Neal Carter beside a cairn on the summit of Wedge Mountain, September 10, 1923. Carter Collection

Together, the Mundays surveyed and climbed more than 150 mountains in British Columbia and Alberta, even taking their daughter Edith with them when she was just eleven weeks old.

Like Carter, the Mundays had an impact on the early development of Garibaldi Park, and the Coast Mountains more generally. Most notably, they spent nearly a decade exploring Mount Waddington (the highest peak in the Coast Mountains) and the surrounding region. Though unsuccessful in ascending what they dubbed “Mystery Mountain,” they climbed many surrounding peaks, and their meticulous surveying opened it up more for others to make their own attempts.

Carter was one of those mountaineers. In 1934, he, along with representatives from both the BCMC and ACC, started a journey that was unfortunately cut short due to tragedy. The mountain was eventually ascended two years later by Fritz Wiessney and Bill House, two American mountaineers.

According to Phyllis, “We didn’t go into the Waddington country just to climb one mountain and run out… we went into the Waddington country to find out all we possibly could about glaciers and mountains and animals and nature and everything about that particular area.”

Charles Townsend on the summit of Mt. James Turner, September 12, 1923, demonstrating the possible risks of mountaineering. Carter Collection

As mentioned in an earlier article, these mountaineers had a strong purpose to map the regions they explored and share their knowledge. Though there is a risk to this activity, the passion for outdoors exhibited by Carter, the Mundays, and many more was unwavering.

Mapping the Mountains, our temporary exhibit showcasing photographs and stories from the 1923 Carter/Townsend expedition, is on at the Whistler Museum until November 14.

“Huts Don’t Build Themselves” – Wendy Thompson Hut Work Day“Huts Don’t Build Themselves” – Wendy Thompson Hut Work Day


Every backcountry skier would agree that huts and cabins are a godsend. They offer shelter and improve access to otherwise inhospitable environments, and can become glorious havens of comfort and sociability deep in the mountain wilderness. But, to quote Mitch Sulkers, Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) Whistler section chair, “huts don’t build themselves.”

Nor do they maintain themselves, and beyond wear and tear from users, the harsh mountain environment takes its toll on human structures as well. This summer and fall the ACC members and other volunteers have been working on major renovations and upgrades to the Wendy Thompson Hut, which was built by the ACC-Whistler in 2000. We tagged along on one of their work parties this week to check it out and see exactly what that entails.

After the group all met at the Pemberton heliport, the first group of 5 were flown directly to the hut to prepare the site, especially clearing pathways and digging out work sites in the metre deep snowpack. The rest of us drove to the staging point just off the Duffey Lake Highway and began preparing loads of firewood and building materials that would be shuttled to the hut by the helicopter.

The staging area. Firewood was collected into large mesh nets for transport. Slings were used for stacks of lumber. Jeff Slack Photo.

Liftoff for the first stack of lumber. Goggles and hoods were mandatory attire during all loading and unloading due to violently blowing snow. Jeff Slack Photo.

Off to the Hut. Jeff Slack Photo.

In total, 7 loads were transported up to the hut. This all happened remarkably fast, thanks in large part to the heli-pilot’s considerable skill and expertise. While this was going on, a 3rd group of volunteers began the 3-hour snowshoe trek from the staging area to the hut. Once the last load of materials arrived at the hut (and 2 loads of garbage, construction waste, and unneeded equipment was flow down), the last group of volunteers (myself included) were given a quick, scenic ride to the hut in the chopper.

As the helicopter set down, the area surrounding the hut was already a hive of activity. Jeff Slack Photo.

Once we unloaded ourselves and our gear and the heli had set off, work continued in a bustling but orderly manner as there was an ambitious work plan for the afternoon. Some members had already begun work framing a new mudroom inside the hut, there was no shortage of firewood that needed to be moved and stacked, and I joined a group that began work on a new woodshed to keep the firewood dry and protected from the very deep winter snowpack.

Sorting through the supplies in front of the hut. Jeff Slack Photo.

Early stages of the new woodshed. Jeff Slack Photo.

ACC-Whistler section chair and occasional roofer, Mitch Sulkers, not only oversaw much of the operations, he also put his considerable carpentry skills to good use while delegating the rest of the group. Jess Slack Photo.

After a few frenzied hours light began to fade, flurries started to fall, and small groups began to snowshoe back down the trail to the awaiting vehicles. But not before an impressive amount of work was accomplished, especially considering the deep snow and sub-zero temperatures.

The work party prepares for the trek back down. Jeff Slack Photo.

It was a wonderful experience to tag along with such an enthusiastic and dedicated group of backcountry folk. Watching the crew at work underscored how much time and effort goes into maintaining our recreational infrastructure, be it huts or trails. If you find recreating in the backcountry rewarding, perhaps you should consider joining a local club and contributing your time as well (one not be a member to join many of these work days).

The second-storey sleeping platform highlights the Gothic arch design that one frequently encounters in the Coast Mountain backcountry. Jeff Slack Photo.

The new and improved Wendy Thompson Hut will be fully ready to go for the upcoming winter season. It is available only through reservation, which must be pre-arranged through the ACC-Whistler website.  While it is certainly an idyllic bit of mountain paradise, it must be noted that this hut is in a remote and wild setting, and all visitors should be self-sufficient, prepared for self-rescue, and equipped with all the necessary gear and knowledge to contend with hazards inherent to mountain and wilderness environments such as avalanches, extreme weather, and more. 

As mentioned before, the Wendy Thompson was built according to the classic gothic arch design first developed by members of the British Columbia Mountaineering Club in the 1960s and which has been since replicated throughout the Coast Range. The Whistler Museum has a soft spot for these simple, tough, and charming structures, and is currently researching and compiling a comprehensive history of these huts. Look for more related content in the coming months.