BC Parks gave its final approval to begin the $3.5 million project to open up the Whistler backcountry, and last week the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) Whistler section, and the Spearheads Hut Society, officially broke ground.
Work began immediately on site preparation at the Kees and Claire site located at Russet Lake. The foundations and a grey water dispersion field should be finished by the end of this summer, and the construction of the hut structure will happen next year. It is anticipated the hut will be open to the public in Jan 2019. The project is taking a two-phase construction plan due to the rugged, remote terrain, the adverse weather conditions and to take account of the varying snowpack and availability of the helicopter.
In addition to this first hut, huts will also be built near Macbeth Glacier and Mount Pattison. The three huts will streamline the traverse, allowing skiers to travel lighter thanks to existing amenities. The huts will have bunks, storage areas for gear, dining areas with windows for the view and self-serve kitchens with propane cooktops. They will also have water systems and solar power. The 40 person huts will also be available to hikers throughout the summer. It is anticipated there will be 7,000 visitors annually. The ACC Whistler section describe the route on their website:
The traverse is truly a world-class ski route, comparable to Europe or anywhere else. It is 35 kilometers of stunning terrain that crosses 13 glaciers. The two ends are accessible from ski lifts on Whistler and Blackcomb. It is typically done in 2-3 days although many people go slower to take advantage of the numerous downhill ski opportunities and mountaineering along the way.
The Russet Lake hut would face the south side of the ridge in a meadow that fills with flowers during the summer months. Chad Manley, a Vancouver/Whistler architect gave more details:
A good site must have good holding on bedrock or glacial till, lots of sun and a good amount of wind to scour snow away. From there, we really tried to find unique places that people would want to spend time in, and we came up with the concept of inhabiting three distinct mountain conditions to put the huts: the peak, the valley, and the meadow.
Cornelius ‘Kees’ Brenninkmeyer and Claire Dixon died together in 2007 during a multi-week ski touring trip on the popular Wapta Traverse route. Volunteering as ACC hut custodians along the way, their connection to hut based ski touring and mountaineering is obvious and the hut is to be a lasting memory of their loves for the outdoors and their adventurous spirit.
The project to build huts along the traverse has met with overwhelming community support. Hundreds of people and organisations have donated time, energy and funds to help this dream come true.
Kees and Claire Hut still needs additional funding to build some important amenities to make the hut even more comfortable and enjoyable. You can donate to the project at spearheadhuts.org.
And if you wish to volunteer, you can also donate your time at spearheadhuts.org.