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What is the VOC?

The VOC is a collection of students at UBC who love the outdoors, covering a wide range of skill and experience levels. We do trips of all sorts in the mountains, usually within weekend range of Vancouver. We focus on self-propelled wilderness adventure, although we often drive to the trailhead (if we can find a ride). Hiking, scrambling, mountaineering, rock climbing and backcountry skiing are the bread-and-butter of the club but we also do kayaking, ice climbing, canoing, cycling and all sorts of other similar stuff.

We think that through a mix of trips with more experienced members taking you out and organizing your own trips with other members at a similar skill level you can learn the skills you need and have the time of your life while doing it.

While most of the "big club trips" are aimed at introducing new members to the outdoors there are lots of trips and networking opportunities for more experienced people too. VOCers have undertaken some pretty serious stuff over the years - first ascents and traverses of many of the mountains and ranges on the Coast.

How do I join?

The easiest way is to stop by the clubroom during gear hours, but there's often people there during lunch time (more-or-less) at other times. You can also email us. Probably all the info you need to figure this out is located here.

Is it true your trips are free?

Yes, sort of. We don't make any money, and the costs are generally pretty low. If the trip is accessible by bike or transit then it's probably free - we have lots of these. Of course, you'll need to bring your own food and gear, but we can usually even help with the gear. Probably you would have needed to eat even if you stayed in the city anyway.

Often we need cars to get to the trailhead, in which case the trip itself is still probably free but it will cost you money to get there. Gas money for your driver will usually suffice.

In rare cases the trip has some overhead costs (like park fees) in which case it might cost a little bit more, but is still probably way cheap. We're cheap people, in the VOC.

Are you guys professional guides?

No. We're all just volunteers, doing this because we love it. Sometimes it's disorganized, and sometimes we make mistakes. It's almost always fun, at least in retrospect. We think that this gives everybody on the trip, even the leaders, a chance to learn. If you want to hire professional guides you should look elsewhere, like Canada West Mountain School. But even they make mistakes, sometimes.

We do hire guides from Canada West to run our avalanche courses, since the dangers posed by avalanches are not necessarily obvious and it's easy to develop complacency.

Isn't this stuff dangerous?

Yes. Didn't you read the banner at the top of the message board, and the long waiver you signed to join the club?

Seriously - lots of things in life are dangerous. Driving along the highway the only thing separating you from oncoming traffic is a line of paint(!). Many of the activities the club participates in have inherent dangers, sometimes with fatal consequences if you screw up. To a large extent these dangers can be minimized by doing the "correct" thing, but sometimes bad things can still happen for reasons beyond your control (driving on the correct side of that line of paint works most of the time).

Some dangers, like falling off a cliff, are obvious - but there are many dangers which are not immediately obvious based on personal experience from city life (imagine operating a vehicle without knowing the rules of the road!). This includes (but certainly isn't limited to) things like avalanches, rockfall, bears, and hazards covered by snow (crevasses, but even gaps between rocks). Often, especially as undertakings get more serious, there is no "correct" course of actions but a wide variety of choices which balance different risks and benefits.

So when out on a trip be sure and discuss with everybody what the hazards are, what choices you're making to mitigate them, and whether or not this constitutes an acceptable risk to everybody. You should do this, even if you've hired a professional guide - who knows what choices they're making on your behalf!

How do VOC trips work?

Trips happen when a regular member (maybe even you) or exec posts it on the message board or wiki. Depending on who posts it, and how long before the departure date you can expect varying levels of organization.

Whatever the trip, you will likely need to be pro-active to get on it. A single email to the trip organizer will likely not assure that a vehicle picks you up Saturday morning. Follow whatever instructions the trip leader posts - use the signup on the wiki page (if there is one). Show up to the pre-trip meeting (if there is one) - quite often people sign up on the wiki or email and then disappear off the face of the planet - maybe you can get their spot.

In general you will only ever be asked to pay for the direct costs of a trip - we don't make any money. You will have to supply your own food, etc. and will pay gas money directly to your driver. For trips involving some outside costs (ie. venue rental for Longhike, lift tickets for Tele School, etc.) you will be paying for those direct costs only - we're still not making any money.

Is it true you rent gear for free? How do I get some?

Yes. Check out the gear_rental page for details.

What's Longhike?

Longhike is our annual big party, to celebrate our new members and returning to Vancouver after the summer. Despite the name, we don't actually hike a long distance. We do go rock climbing and then have a big party. The name evolved from the early days of the club, when they did actually hike a long distance with new members as part of some friendly initiation. We've been around for a long time - since 1917 - so the activity has had a while to develop.

In case you should get the wrong idea, most of our trips are not like Longhike.

We have another "Winter Longhike" in winter after the holidays, which is a lot closer to what most trips are like, but still mostly a party.

Your workhikes are never at a convenient time! How am I supposed to do one?

We're trying our best here, remember - we're all volunteers. If you can't make one of the organized workhikes you can always organize your own. We just want to make sure people are giving back to the club, or the general outdoors community.

Maybe you could simply organize a trip - that counts. Or maybe you have some special skill to make the club better in a way we never anticipated - perhaps you are a graphic designer and want to design a rad poster, or would like to hold a membership event in your building.

Can my friend/sister/mom come on a VOC trip?

The VOC only recently (2009, in case this page is never updated again) worked out insurance issues so that we can even take non-members on trips. We have yet to form a formal policy, but it will probably go something like this:

If the trip is an Official Club Trip and we are short of resources, maybe cars, maybe accommodation, maybe Hut space, maybe spots at Glacier School, then we allow only Members on our trips. We look out for members first. If we aren't short of these things, then non-members may come on our trips, but must sign the liability waiver which is on our membership Form. We will consider that you're "trying out the Club" to see if they want to join.

If the trip is organized by one of our members but is not an official big club trip, then it's up to the trip organizer. This means that if you want to organize your own trip, and advertise on the VOC board to help fill your car and give members an opportunity to come out, you are welcome to do so.

Can I run a trip?

Yes, please do! You should check out the member list to figure out who the current trips coordinator is, it's their job to help your trip be as successful as possible.

Akk, there's no rides for the trip I want to do!

We wish we could create cars out of thin air, we really do, but sometimes it's just not in the cards. We try to encourage people with cars to bring them out on trips with a suggested policy that passengers pay for gas. This means if you own a car you pay nothing! Well, except the exorbitantly higher costs of ownership and insurance.

If there are no cars, hopefully somebody will step up and offer to rent a vehicle. This is often more expensive for the unlucky people in that vehicle, but such is life. It's still probably cheaper and more fun than staying home for the weekend and a night of drinking.

What's the difference between a big club trip and a member trip?

Sometimes the line gets a little blurry, but usually you can tell if an exec is running it, it has a wiki page, and it's advertised well in advance. You can always ask the organizer.

How do I use the wiki?

There's a whole page dedicated to this topic!

How do I figure out how to do that cool formatting on the message board?

There's a whole page dedicated to this topic too! Note that there's a preview button you can push before you post to test if it worked.

How do I ski uphill?

With climbing skins. People have been skiing without ski lifts for a long time - it was once the norm! Try one of our introductory backcountry skiing trips and we'll show you.

I can't ever make the gear hours / the trip I wanted was full / you guys suck

We're trying our best, but we're all volunteers. Professional guides might offer better services, and MEC's rental program can afford to pay their employees so they have better hours. They also charge money for this server. But hopefully you'd rather see the next question...

I want to help make the club better

Awesome! We're always in need of more keen members who want to give back. If you've got an idea, especially if you've got the time and willingness to see it through, just let the exec know.

Is it true there's a VOC mountain and a UBC glacier?

Yes. They're spelt phonetically, so that they're not mispronounced and were named after the club. . They're both in Garibaldi Park, but a bit out-of-the-way. Roland (if you don't know Roland yet, you will) was in the first ascent party! Check out the bivouac page about it here.