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Gothic-arch backcountry huts to be celebrated



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 its efforts on outdoor education, environmental protection, trail building, 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 its 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 and right away there was 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 1,000 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 10 people.

In the end, four additional arches were made by Fraserwood Industries, which enabled the BCMC to build a two-metre 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 '60s, 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.

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!

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