Construction of Brew Hut I, II and III

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Brew Hut I

Vista-file-manager.png VOC Journal Article
The following text is transcribed from VOC Journal 25. In the spirit of preserving the original author's work, please do not edit it except to correct copy mistakes.

The Brew chapter opens with $25,545 in the cabin reserve and a loosely worded mandate of where to spend it. The 1980-81 cabin committee chose the Brew site. A license of occupation was applied for it in April 1981, and after many delays was approved during the summer of 1982. Meanwhile the 1981-82 cabin committee had chosen the design and contracted a Richmond Construction Company to prefab two cabins, to be delivered in the fall of 1982.

Construction of Brew Hut I

The Scene - September 10th, the Cabin is unloaded on an abandonned logging spur of the Callaghan Lake Road. Mid-afternoon an Okanagan Helicopter begins sliging loads of lumber and people up to the site between breaks in the clouds. Eventually the clouds win and the pilot calls it quits. Up on the mountain a lean-to-shelter is nailed together as it begins to rain and storm. The cabin site is picked out by flashlight that night amid the piles of lumber. The night turns evil, it begins to snow and the wind howls. Jay's tent blows into the lake unnoticed and luckily floats across before sinking. About 11:00p.m. a desperate search is conducted for the missing tent as a trail of bits and pieces is followed to the lake's edge, the tent is eventually found in 2 feet of water.

The next day dawns upon a set for a refugee film; 3 inches of snow, visibility of 50 feet, small groups of people huddled around stoves under makeshift shelters and a chaos of lumber and building supplies scattered around in piles. Eventually the sun breaks through and the day warms up a bit, but not enough to deter the line-up of people waiting to help dig the foundations so they could warm up. Finally about 3 p.m. the base beams are positioned on the cribs of cemented rocks and construction begins. Everything seems determined to prevent a successful day; the tongues on the floor boards all have to be sawed off, the arches try to scissor people's hand off and the bolts don't fit the holes. And still no sign of the helicopter (no sound either - the radio had fallen out of Jay's tent into the lake), visions of Squatter Jack smiling as he drives away with a nice new home in his truck go through our minds.

This helicopter arrives Sunday morning and slings the last 5-6 loads up to the site. The sun comes out and everyone really pitches in; the end walls go up and the sides reach the second story before we have to leave for Vancouver.

Brew Hut I mostly completed

The following week is one of anticipation, and early Saturday morning another group of 26 VOC'ers hikes up to Brew. The rest of the walls go up quickly, the painting and caulking begins (to be continued for months). Phillips continues construction of the outhouse and threatens the unspeakable to anyone who would dare use it before it's completed. The metal roofing proves to be a bitch; sharp edges, suffocating heat and reflection up on the roof, a castrating ridge as an only alternative to hanging on jumars all day and throbbing purple thumbs. But finally, it's all up and the group having earned their pizza and beer, retreat to Squamish to collect.

So VOC Cabin No. 7 - The Brew Mtn. Hut is finished after 2 weekends of construction and 65 years of preparation. And its sister cabin is waiting in storage, to be put next year on one of two sites applied for: near Mt. Overseer, and near Mt. Callaghan. These sites are significant in that they are remote and rarely visited. By placing future cabins in these remote locations, we are trying to direct the future of the VOC in the next decade: to pioneer and explore new routes in some of the more remote areas of the Coast Range.

- By Jay Page, Mt. Brew Hut, VOCJ25, 1982-1983, pp. 203 - 206

The unthinkable happens...

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The following text is transcribed from VOC Journal 26. In the spirit of preserving the original author's work, please do not edit it except to correct copy mistakes.
Digging deep to get to the door

After the trumpets and fanfare had died down last year; the VOC continued on its way, planning more huts and writing Ski Guides, confident that the Brew Hut would remain as a testament to the club's activity in the early 80's. However, this was not to be.

The first hint of the problems yet to come was on a November ski trip. There was already 2 meters of snow, and the group almost froze because they were unable to make the slightest impression on the temperature in the hut. Another trip, this one in January, had to dig out an upstairs window to get into the hut. A February trip found the snow still deeper yet, and the hut creaking and groaning like a old boat. This mounting evidence confirmed the cabin committee's fears that the hut was located in a heavy snow accumulation area. By March, snow loading had reached a critical point. Floor joists began to snap, beams developed cracks, and the door was impossible to shut.

Uncovering Brew Hut I from the snow

The club was faced with the immense task of keeping Brew Hut drug out. So, this meant that every two weeks that spring, there was a trip to Cypress Peak or thereabouts, that curiously never got past shovelling out the Brew Hut. Each group found the snow deeper, the damage more severe, and responded but digging out even more snow than the previous group.

It's often difficult to fill up ski trips just before final exams, let alone get anyone on a shovelling trip. Yet each time the hut needed digging out, a small group of VOC'ers would ski up for the weekend. It was there that the VOC showed its real character, refusing to turn a blind eye and ignore its responsability.

The Cabin Committee was busy evaluating the problems and possible solutions. It was obvious that the Brew Hut was built in a lousy spot. Snow accumulation in the area reached over 7 meters, and the hut was completely buried for part of the winter. It was located at the base of a steep hill, so snow creep compounded the problems. The hut was too large and impossible to heat. Also, it wasn't designed for severe mountain conditions.

Moving the hut back to its original site after being moved by snow creep

Upon investigation, it was found that no one had ever even measured the snow depth at the site. In fact, the group that had staked the spot has misread their instructions and located the site beside the wrong lake. When viewed in this perspective, the VOC was very lucky to get off lightly.

The dismantled remains of Brew Hut I

Many solutions were considered, from strengthening tha cabin to building a strong snow retaining wall. In the end it was decided to simply move the hut to a better spot. Work began the following September when a new site was picked out on the ridge to the west. A series of work hikes prepared the hut for a helicopter move; one wall was cut off, the inside stripped, and the roofing taken off. We were planning to utilize a large helicopter. Several of the big helicopter companies thought they'd be able to route one past the Brew Hut on a ferry flight some time, but it didn't work out. The few times that a large helicopter was near the area, the weather was too poor to consider moving the hut. Then, 8 feet of snow in a November storm extinguised any hope of moving the hut, so the executive decided to dismantle it, store it, and rebuild it next year.

The lessons learned from the Brew Hut I have certaintly given the VOC the experience to critically evaluate ant future cabin sites. Similar lessons were probably leaned after the Neve Hilton (1970-1975), but were never recorded. To ensure that these lessons are passed on, and costly mistakes avoided in the future, a set of guidelines for choosing cabin sites is included in this journal (VOCJ26). It's our contribution to future VOC cabin projects and we're looking forward to the Brew Hut - Chapter III next year.

- By Jay Page, The Brew Hut, Chapter II, VOCJ26, 1983-1984, pp. 85 - 86

Brew Hut II

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The following text is transcribed from VOC Journal 27. In the spirit of preserving the original author's work, please do not edit it except to correct copy mistakes.

84/85 was supposedly to be the year that the Brew Hut saga would end and I havn't lost faith yet. (You notice I use the word faith, if this were Brian's project the matter would be cut and dry.) The Brew shell is standing, it's strong, clear of snow, and next summer/fall I'm going to finish it.

Fall '84 went smoothly... at first. A weekend to check out the new site and anchor the sleepers; a weekend weighing loads for the helicopter, a weekend slinging loads, a weekend fixing and placing arches; and then, on the weekend we could have finished it, all hell broke loose. It snowed like a bastard (wonderful snow; I wish I had my skis). As it was, we slogged through waist deep snow; two hours getting in turned into four. All the wood was buried in drifts. An easy day putting on the roof turned into a day digging it out. And where was Mary with all the people and food for the party; where was Betsy; where was Tony and the support crew for Sunday? Bloody hell! It sort of worked out in the end; I heard the party was great. A little wine does wonders for the spirit; weather and darkness bring people together.

Everyone who put energy into the Brew desserves a big thanks, especially guys like Tim, Neil, Brian and Dave who took charge of projects; Markus, the Sherpa, who carried a huge tump line load through mile of deep snow without a complaint. And those who banged nails, or shovelled or froze; Brad the Botanist, E for Being there; and especially Frederick, my step-father, for helping with the arches.

Next year we'll finish the hut. I'm not sure who will be the projects uncoordinator, maybe me, but the task should be relatively easy, to tack on the aluminium roof, and perform major cosmetic surgery.

In the last 3 years not many people have come to Brew to enjoy the area. Most trips have involved cubic yards of shovelling to clear the cabin of crushing snow, but the area does have potential. For the beginner there are rolling bowls with mellow slopes; for the extremist, steeps and maximum air; and for the tourer, access to Tricouni, Cypress and the Powder Cap. For an accessible, economical Christmas trip Brew would be the place to go.

- By Pierre Friele, Brew Hut Chapter III, VOCJ27, 1983-1984, pp. 75 - 76

Brew Hut III

Main article: Brew Hut Rebuild
Vista-file-manager.png VOC Journal Article
The following text is transcribed from VOC Journal 48. In the spirit of preserving the original author's work, please do not edit it except to correct copy mistakes.

Most of the VOC's future members will know Brew hut as a colorful and cozy cabin sitting on a ridge line that trails down from mount Brew with a breathtaking view of most of the major peaks in the area. However, only a few of them will ever hear about its epic history. This article has been written for both Brew afficionados and those interested in learning about the construction of a mountain hut. It relates as accurately as possible a sequence of events that occurred over the last two decades, leading to the demolition of the old Gothic arches structure and its replacement by the current building.

The original Brew hut was built in 1982 on the shore of a small lake situated more or less east of the present location. Sadly, less than a year after its inauguration, people realized that the huge two-story building was getting damaged by snow creeps that were occuring throughout the winter. Consequently, in 1984 the hut was dismantled, its size slightly reduced, and was relocated higher up on a ridge, where it was thought to be protected frm the perverse effects of snow.

Nevertheless, the new site became quickly famous for its phenomenal snow accumulations. At the end of the winter of 1998-1999, the snow depth exceeded by two meters the top of the roof creating unusual stress on the structure, cracking all the supporting arches. Even though the hut was still useable, it needed serious repairs. The possibility of fixing the damage was considered, but the club finally decided to relocate the hut elsewhere and replace the structure.

During the summer of 1999, a new location was identified. So as to avoid the errors of the past, the snow accumulation was monitored over several years, confirming that the new site was not subject to the same shortcoming. Strong winds were often observed, blowing the snow away and leaving the ground relatively bare. In fall 2002, pushing the investigation further, Micro Brew, a small rectangular-shaped building, was erected in order to evaluate the effects of a structure on wind transport. It finally resulted that its effect on the accumulation pattern was marginal.

With the conditions prevailing at the site in mind, an architecture student was commissioned to design the new hut. He proposed a couple of original and innovative drawings, amongst these a diamond-shaped one. This was retained as one of the few that suited the experience level of the work force. The plans were adopted and submitted shorthly thereafter for government approval.

In the fall 2004 when we joined the VOC, the project had been idle for more than a year. The permit had recently been received but nobody was eager to take the lead. Lacking valuable building experience we nonetheless decided to assume management responsabilities. Today still, we don't fully understand why we decided to get involved in this attractive but time consuming enterprise.

We held our first meeting at Calhoun's in October 2004. This inaugural assembly was the occasion to summarize the previous efforts and to approve a schedule to which we surprisingly stuck. Thereafter, everything kept moving. By Christmas, a new design for the hut was adopted. A simple garage like-structure, mainly drawn by Roland Burton, was preferred over the previous design due to the inherent complexity in its fabrication.

The preconstruction phase began in early March 2005 when several thousand dollars were spent in building supplies at Curtis Lumbers Yard. Everything was subsequently shipped to Roland's back yard, which hosted for three months the prefabrication process. During this period, crews of often inexperience builders came to help cut wood and paint boards using a spectrum of psychedelic mistint colors. This phase extended from March through early May when most of the off-site work was done, freeing enough people to get other aspects of the project moving forward.

On May 7, a reconnaissance trip was organized to prepare the ground to receive the helicopter loads and to layout the foundations. The mission was successful in getting the pier positions preliminarily defined, leaving the site ready to challenge muscles by digging holes, moving boulders and drilling 2 rebars sockets by hand (at least until battery powered tools would be discovered useful). However, due to a bad relationship with Mother Nature, three more trips were needed to complete the foundations which were finished at the end of June, two weeks before the on-site construction began.

Shortly after, the hut shipment was carefully organized. The plan was to first deliver the material from Vancouver to an unknown stagging area around Whistler, and then to helicopter everything to Brew. We picked the long Victoria day week-end, and on Friday May the 20th, despite the not-so-optimistic weather forecast, we began to move the material from Roland's back yard to his front yard and then into the trucks. On Saturday morning, we succeeded in locating a nice gravel pit particularly suited to serve as staging area. Then, we desperately waited for a hole in the weather allowing the helicopter to come and fly the material to the hut. It was a stressful morning for everyone since the not-so-nice weather was constantly threatening, potentially complicating the logistics and cutting holes in our budget. It was thus a glorious and relieving moment when aroumd noon the last load was confirmed shipped.

Taking advantage of the collective exhilaration, 8 VOCers were granted a helicopter ride to the hut in the anticipation of their accomplishment. Unfortunately, as soon as everyone landed, the wind picked up amd a huge storm reached the Brew region dumping around 40-50 cm of snow Saturday and Sunday, rendering vain the effort to complete much work. The weather improved on Monday when the snow and the wind died out resulting in a fairly productive day during which five holes were dug and most of the boulders were found and moved skillfully by the rock team.

Brew III was officially raised from the ground on the 9th of July 2005. After eight days of hard work, the hut was mostly done and somewhat weatherproof. Two weeks after, we were back to finish the installation of the metal sheets and perform some other important tasks. It was not before the end of October 2005, when the porch was assembled and the remaining interior details completed that the hut itself was at last declared finished.

Despite the completion of the hut, the effort is likely to continue during summer 2006 with the construction of useful structures providing amongst other things, decent sanitary installation (read an outhouse) to the cabin. The demolition of Micro-Brew is also planned, symbolizing the end of the project, concluding several years of hard work.

Finally, we would like to acknowledge the efforts of many VOCers who carried on their back, all the way to the hut, tons of materials including several gallons of paint, cement, drill batteries, drills, hilty, pick axes, nails, hammers, water level, etc. Nonetheless, the palm goes to Gregg Rekken who in 2002 carried an impressive roll of chicken wire which still remains unused standing as an artifact of great accomplishment. We would also like to thank every person who spent without counting, time and effort for the construction of the most colourful mountain cabin to the West Coast and possibly in the whole country. Finally, very special thanks to Roland Burton, Rueben Schulz, Scott Nelson and Sandra Nicol who, by their exceptional contribution, have rendered the completion of this fabulous project possible.

- By Jean-Phillipe Mercier & Karine Doucet, How we Brewed a Hut or an Epic Construction Story, VOCJ48, 2005 - 2006, pp. 193 - 195