Join us Friday, November 2 to celebrate the opening of Coast Mountain Gothic: A History of the Coast Mountain Gothic Arch Huts with special guests Karl Ricker and Jayson Faulkner! Our latest temporary exhibit complements our online exhibit developed with the Virtual Museum of Canada.
Gothic Arch Huts are modest yet iconic structures that played a major role in the exploration of the Coast Mountains of British Columbia over the past 50 years. Discover the stories behind the design and construction of these shelters and meet the people and organizations that brought them to life. Along the way, you’ll learn how networks of hiking trails help protect the sensitive alpine environments and support outdoor educational activities.
Doors open at 6:30 pm. The exhibit will run through December 31.
For more information on our virtual exhibit, take a look here.
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.
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.
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!
Over the past year the Whistler Museum and Archives Society, with the support of Virtual Museum of Canada, has been working on the release of a new online exhibit entitled: Coast Mountain Gothic.
Gothic arch huts are modest yet iconic structures that played a major role in the exploration of the Coast Mountains of British Columbia over the past 50 years. Discover the stories behind the design and construction of these shelters and meet the people and organizations that brought them to life. Along the way, you’ll learn how networks of hiking trails help protect the sensitive alpine environments and support outdoor educational activities.
The online exhibit is now live and available in both official languages on the Virtual Museum of Canada’s website.
This online exhibit was developed with the support of the Community Stories Investment Program of 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 Community Stories 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.
Stay tuned to our social media or subscribe to our newsletter for updates on a physical exhibit to complement Coast Mountain Gothic coming late fall at the Whistler Museum.
Today we’ll be continuing the story started a few weeks back on the gothic arch huts built by the UBC-VOC. The tale began with the Brew Hut, built with the $30,000 the VOC got as compensation for the materials used to build the Whistler Club Cabin. After using one of two pre-fabricated huts for the Brew Hut, the VOC decided to build its second pre-fabricated gothic arch hut north of Pemberton, near both Overseer Mountain and the Meager Creek Hot Springs.
The VOC had originally planned to construct the hut in early September but when September came they were still waiting on approval from the BC Provincial Government. Conditional approval was granted in late September and the VOC constructed the hut over the Thanksgiving weekend in 1983. During a work hike a couple of weeks prior VOC members had prepared the site for the build and poured the hut foundations.
The hut was named in honour of Julian Harrison, a former VOC President who had perished in a climbing accident in California earlier that year. After construction was completed the Harrison Hut became a huge hit with VOC members. It was a popular destination in both summer and winter due to its location at the north end of the Pemberton Icefield and, of course, its proximity to the hot springs at Meager Creek.
In August 2010 the estimated largest landslide in Canadian history, surpassing even the Hope Slide in 1965, pushed nearly 48,500,000 cubic meters of rocks and debris down Mount Meager. The logging roads the VOC used to access the trail to the Harrison Hut were destroyed.
In 2011 VOC members Ben Singleton-Polster and Christian Veenstra began doing reconnaissance for the construction of a new trail on the geologically stable side of Meager Creek and the Lillooet River valley. This new route to access the hut had two large boulders blocking trail access. The smaller rock weighed approximately ten tons while the larger rock exceeded twenty tons. Jeff Mottershead and other VOC members worked at removing the two large rocks in order to build the trail to the Harrison Hut. For those interested, videos of the rock removal can be found on YouTube here.
Three years later, the VOC Harrison Hut trail opened in 2014. Renovations to the hut were needed and these started the same year. The VOC chose to wrap the entire hut with aluminum siding to protect the wood layer underneath from rot and alpine critters. They also installed solar panels on the hut to use to light its interior.
This concludes our short series on the gothic arch huts of the UBC-VOC. If you’d like to find out more about these and other iconic structures in the backcountry, the Whistler Museum will be releasing a virtual exhibit with the Virtual Museum of Canada in Winter 2018. Keep an eye out for more details.