Museum Musings: Building the Harrison Hut

This week we’ll be continuing the story started a few weeks back on the Gothic arch huts built by the University of British Columbia’s Varsity Outdoor Club (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.

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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.

This 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 rock 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 10 tons while the larger rock exceeded 20 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.

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.

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