New overnight hut for hikers and skiers opens near Whistler
Garibaldi Provincial Park hut is the first of a hut-to-hut system between Whistler and Blackcomb
The first part of a volunteer-led project 12 years in the making has finally come to fruition in Garibaldi Provincial Park north of Vancouver.
On Saturday, volunteers and officials will celebrate the opening of the Kees & Claire Hut, which will eventually become part of a three-hut system called the Spearhead Huts Project that will connect Whistler and Blackcomb mountains.
Andre Charland, vice president and board director of the project, says it's hard to capture the excitement of seeing the hut finally open.
"It's extremely spectacular," Charland said. "This is a pretty big milestone."
The hut sleeps 38 people and provides beds, mats and cooking equipment for anyone who books a spot through the first-come-first-serve online booking system. Each bed costs $45 per night.
"All you need to bring is your own sleeping bag and food," Charland said.
Hikers and backcountry skiers can either start from the base of Whistler Mountain via the Singing Pass trail or take the gondola and the Peak chairlift to the top.
From there, the 10-kilometre hike follows the beginning of the High Note Trail, then follows the Musical Bumps to get to Russet Lake, where the hut is located.
The next two huts will follow the horseshoe shape of the Spearhead traverse that connects Whistler and Blackcomb.
Once the entire project is completed, Charland says, people would most likely start at Blackcomb and make their way to Whistler Mountain over three nights and four days.
The project was born 12 years ago after the death of Cornelius 'Kees' Brenninkmeyer and Claire Dixon — two ski tourers killed when their snow cave collapsed while on a trip through the Rockies.
Charland, who was close with the pair, says friends soon began to visualize the hut-to-hut project and fundraise for it. The project has the backing of volunteers from across the Sea to Sky corridor, including the Alpine Club of Canada and the British Columbia Mountaineering Club.
"I think the non-profit nature of the society and the relatively low cost to access such amazing facility in the back country is really unparalleled in the country," he said.
The Kees & Claire Hut took three years to build, and it's still waiting on a water and solar system.
Charland says it will likely take about the same amount of time to build the next two huts. The next hut will be made possible with the help of a large donation from Brian and Andrea Hill, founders of the clothing store Aritzia.
Charland expects the hut-to-hut system will be popular.
Reservations for the Kees & Claire Hut opened in July, and Charland said 1,200 nights have already been reserved — about 10 per cent of all available nights at the hut for the upcoming year.