Harrison Hut Workhike!

Twas a week among midterms and all across Vancouver, VOC members heard the beckoning call of a backcountry siren otherwise known as Anya Boardman whispering tantalizing phrases such as “hut trip” and “trail work,” among other concepts powerful enough to magically close our textbooks for us as we flocked to Pemberton for a weekend of alder-lopping, misshapen metal scraps to dangling off of packs, and some stellar hut karaoke.

Our fabulous bunch of ragtag VOC-ers, veteran and novice alike, drove to Pemberton on Friday night, where we camped at the entrance to the logging road. The full moon cast spooky shadows over our snuggly Subarus (among other VOC-sanctioned vehicles) as we slept soundly in preparation for the weekend ahead. After a morning of oatmeal and organizing, we embarked on a bouncy 2-hour joyride up the logging road and to the base of where we would be working on the trail. As we parked, it began to snow, and we layered up in rain gear and gaiters (many of which were as old as the VOC itself) and got to work on the trail.

Splitting the tools amongst ourselves, we shoveled, pick-axed, lopped, sawed, and “landscaped” a more clear, durable path from the end of the road up towards Harrison Hut. The majority of our work was done on the first kilometer or so of trail, where the path initially was the least visible. We banded together to lop branches, shovel a level traveling surface, build switchbacks, and mark trees with orange diamond trail markers, all in efforts to establish a more clear and lasting trail for future backcountry skiers/adventurers/hikers. Now, what once was a vague path through the trees is an evidently visible trail that begins with some beautifully (dare I say quasi-professionally?) constructed switchbacks and leads up between the trees to the main trail fork, where it connects to the previously established trail.

When much of the trail work was done by Saturday afternoon, a small gang of trail work fiends led by the one and only Cassandra Elphinstone continued to chainsaw the larger logs that we had marked earlier in the day as the rest of us started the journey up the trail to the hut. It continued to snow, and, midway up the trail, the “hiking” became what would more accurately be described as graceful post-holing, as various brave souls took turns breaking trail and beating back against elements despite the snow’s merciless tendency to suck down our boots like quicksand. Eventually, the intellectuals of the group who brought snowshoes banded together at the front of the group to pack down a lovely track for the rest of us.

Rosy-cheeked and not a dry sock in sight, we burst from the trees at the top of the pass for a final creek crossing to reach our shining home sweet hut. After some masterful snowshoe-clad boulder hopping and only few slips for even wetter socks, we all reached the hut safely, surrounded on all sides by a magnificent view of the Pemberton mountains. We warmed up quickly, thanks to a wood-fire stove and a variety of communal snacks (special shoutout to Adam Steele’s magnificent oat cookies, which he gleefully shared with everyone within reach). With 22 people in one hut and the collective warmth of our team spirit, it was a cozy evening full of gourmet backpacking dinners ranging from tofu stir fry to chili mac to a mound of chocolate covered almonds, followed by hours of top-notch sing-a-longs to everything from sea shanties to “The Sound of Silence.” The song of the trip, however, has to be “Lola” by the Kinks, due to the sheer number of times we as a collective group chanted “LOLA….lo-lo-lo-lo-lola” throughout the weekend.

After a warm night in and around the hut, we woke up, refilled our packs, swept the hut clean of all scattered socks, and ventured back down the trail for some more work on our way down. A couple people stayed behind at the hut to removing the old wobbly door handle and install a new door handle – thanks to the FMCBC’s member club grant! A few kilometers from the hut, there was an old bridge that was falling apart, so Jeff initiated its full disassembly. As he attacked the metal beast with a blow torch, the rest of the group helped pull the remnants of the bridge ashore. While there were too many large metal chunks for us to carry down in one trip, we all took as many pieces of scrap metal that we could feasibly strap to our packs and brought it down with us to pack it out. We also completed more trail work along the same section of the trail that we worked on previously, making sure we cleared it as best as we could while we were there. After another great day of work amongst a soft flurry of Pemberton snow, we returned to the cars, reorganized gear, and hit the road before an incoming storm hit the area.

Singing “Lola” a few more times in the car on the way out, we admired our work as we were whisked back to town, away from scrap metal and grizzly bears and back to midterms and dry socks (overrated). The Harrison Hut workhike was a wonderful adventure that I am grateful to have been a part of, and I hope that groups to come will be able to enjoy the fruits of our labor soon on future excursions to the cherished hut.

Major thanks to Anya Boardman and Devon Lister, as well as Cassandra, Jeff, and the rest of the crew for all of their work organizing this trip!

-Adeline Thames, November 18 2021

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