Spearhead Huts project announces large donation

Committee unveils design, $900,000 in funding

Backcountry enthusiasts are one step closer to seeing the long-awaited huts planned for the Spearhead Traverse become a reality, following a major funding announcement this week.

The Spearhead Huts Committee announced on Monday (June 27) that it has received a $700,000 USD — or approximately $900,000 Canadian — donation from the Brenninkmeyer family of the Kees and Claire Memorial Fund. This large gift will help fund the construction of one of three backcountry huts planned for the popular traverse in Garibaldi Provincial Park.

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This funding announcement follows the project’s milestone achievement in February of this year, when the Spearhead Huts Committee finally acquired BC Parks’ approval for a parks use permit, which came after a seven-year proposal process and countless hours of volunteer work.

“It’s a huge addition to the resort, as an amenity and a diversification,” said Jayson Faulkner, Spearhead Huts Committee founding chair.  

It’s estimated that the retail cost of the three huts, to be located at Russet Lake, Mt. Pattinson, and Mt. Macbeth, will be over $5 million. Aside from a $150,000 grant from the Resort Municipality of Whistler, Faulkner said the huts will be completely funded by donations. Monday’s announcement also included a presentation of the huts design, which will be as functional, insulated and eco-friendly as possible. “We’re building according to the very best practices to absolutely minimize our footprint,” said Faulkner.

Each hut will sleep 35 people, and will include bunks, storage areas for gear, water systems, solar power, propane heat and composting toilets. Faulkner estimates that between 4,000 and 7,000 people will access the huts each year.

More exciting to project organizers than the proposed designs is the increased safety that the huts will provide to backcountry travellers. This is a fact that Faulkner said is not lost on the family behind the massive donation.

The Kees and Claire Memorial Fund was established following the deaths of Cornelius “Kees” Brenninkmeyer and Claire Dixon in Yoho National Park in January 2007. The experienced mountaineers were in the midst of completing a multi-week tour of the Wapta Traverse, where they were volunteering as Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) hut custodians.  After their planned arrival date came and went without their return, search parties found their bodies in a collapsed snow cave the couple had built to spend the night in.

“One of the reasons why (they died) is because there was no shelter anywhere near where they were caught,” said Faulkner.  “There’s a safety issue
here, too.”

According to the Spearhead Huts Committee’s website, the completed huts will serve as a safe haven for people waiting out bad weather and poor visibility in the alpine. “There’s a much higher margin of safety available,” said Faulkner, adding that backcountry travellers will no longer have to face spending the night out in the open.

The first hut at Russet Lake, to be named after Kees and Claire, is expected to be completed by January 2018.The project is now in need of volunteers to help fundraise, build and take care of the huts. For more information, go to spearheadhuts.org.

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