ACC’s Fay Hut reborn in Kootenay National Park 

Volunteers come from across the country to help out after original 1927 building burned down two summers ago

Long before the breakfast dishes are washed, the Fay Hut construction camp springs to life with the sounds of work. The generator hums, hammers pound wood and the whine of a chainsaw echoes off the cliffs towering above the site.

In the background, chirping birds and the rush of a creek remind the group of volunteer carpenters and labourers of their spectacular surroundings 500 metres above the floor of Prospectors Valley in Kootenay National Park, where the forest floor is a profusion of bright new green and brilliant wildflowers amidst towering black tree poles.

In the kitchen – a floor-less canvas tent equipped with a fridge and a full sized propane stove, erected next to a dining tent furnished with four picnic tables, some wood shelves and a pot bellied-wood burning stove – Val Weed mixes up muffin batter for the morning coffee break. Soon the aroma of fresh baking fills the tents while outside, the smells of freshly cut wood mix with gasoline and a small, carefully tended brush fire lit to rid the area of debris left by the original forest fire that consumed the valley – and the original Fay Hut – in August, 2003.

A semi-retired social worker from Prince George, B.C., Weed is one of dozens of Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) members who have volunteered a week or two of their summer vacation to build a new log cabin to replace the club's first hut, constructed in 1927, plus its furnishings, sleeping room, outhouse, walking trails and grey water pit.

While the work crew includes two professional log builders from Calgary, many of the carpenters and labourers at the site are volunteers – some of whom have helped build other ACC huts enjoyed by thousands of hikers, climbers and backcountry skiers annually.

Work on Fay Hut began with a two-day blitz in mid-June, with about 10 volunteers and two helicopters working 10-hour days to sling 85 loads of building supplies to the site from the Paint Pots parking lot, which at the start resembled a giant construction yard. A third day was spent building the foundation, while work to assemble the 58 logs into a two-storey cabin began July 8 and will continue through the month.

Building a log cabin in such a remote location – a 13-km hike from Highway 93 south – presents some unique challenges, said log builder James Heck.

"This is the first time I've ever had to put up a house away from my crane," Heck said. "I've got a couple of old crappy cranes at home that I wouldn't usually bother looking at, but I'd love to have one of them up here. But instead we're using some creative manpower."

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