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VOC raising money for backcountry hut renovation northeast of Pemberton

The Brian Waddington Memorial Hut will remain unusable while volunteers build a new roof

The UBC Varsity Outdoor Club (VOC) is looking to the South Coast’s backcountry community for help funding an expensive renovation at a hut northeast of Pemberton this summer.

The student-run club first learned part of the roof at the Brian Waddington Memorial Hut had collapsed and detached from the structure in mid-March, after receiving an InReach report.

“We got a crew together and they went in the following weekend and put [the roof] back on,” explained Adam Steele, a member of the VOC’s executive. Following that emergency repair, an assessment confirmed the structure requires extensive refurbishment this summer. The temporary fix is "doing really well, but it won't be able to take the snow next winter,” Steele added.

Located on the shores of Long Lake, at the head of Phelix Creek close to Birkenhead Lake Provincial Park, the Waddington Hut is one of four publicly-accessible backcountry cabins the VOC owns and maintains across the Sea to Sky corridor.

The Waddington Hut has been a popular destination for both summer and winter non-motorized users since it was built in 1998, due in part to the easy access it offers to nearby peaks like Mount Gandalf, Mount Shadowfax, Mount Aragorn, and Peregrine Peak. The spacious cabin fits a maximum of 40 people, but features a uniquely insulated loft that comfortably sleeps 24, in addition to a solar lighting system, wood-burning stove, and a guitar.

The hut is about a 10-kilometre, 1,000-metre elevation gain hike in from the trailhead, and is open to VOC members and non-members alike. The club only requests a $10-per-night donation from backpackers through its registration system.

Numbers from that system show roughly 500 registered users visit the Waddington Hut each season, not counting unregistered visitors. “More than 4,000 people use the [four] huts every year, and more than 60 per cent of them aren't club members,” Steele added. “We're definitely not a VOC-only endeavour—it's not like club houses, it’s for everybody.”

Repairing the hut's collapsed roof entails stripping the existing materials and reframing it, said Steele.

VOC members anticipate the renovation will require several weekends of work, including “at least one” week-long stay after construction gets underway in late July. Even with free labour donated by about half a dozen VOC volunteers, a new roof doesn’t come cheap: cost estimates for scaffolding, lumber, insulation, sheet metal, and hardware—plus the helicopter needed to transport all materials and construction debris to and from the site—amount to about $30,000.

The club will contribute two-thirds of that sum from its own budget, drawing from membership fees and nightly donations it collects throughout the year. The VOC plans to cover another $5,000 through grants, but hopes to raise the final $5,000 through community contributions.

“We've got a Special Projects fund for these sorts of surprises, but we've got three other huts in the Sea to Sky, which all do get snow load and regular use … we want to be prudent for the future, and be sure that whatever we do now won't put us back when [or] if any of our other huts run into trouble,” said Steele.

Club executives will direct any leftover funds to the VOC’s Special Projects budget.

The VOC also invites anyone in the community with local knowledge or specialized construction skills who wants to join in the repair efforts to reach out via email to [email protected]. “We welcome them with open arms,” said Steele.

The club expects to complete the Waddington Hut’s new roof by Aug. 15, the time of year when the VOC usually asks people to stay out of the area to avoid disturbing grizzly bear foraging.

While work is underway, the hut will be unusable, Steele added. “People [should] be prepared that this isn't the best place to be going if you want to be staying in the backcountry … People do go and camp near the hut, but it might have construction debris, equipment—we're going to try and keep it as small as possible, but still, it's going to be a busy place.”

Interested in contributing to this project? Visit the Federation of Mountain Clubs of British Columbia's donation page and select “Brian Waddington Hut project” from the drop-down list. All donors automatically receive a tax receipt.