VOC History

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A Brief History of the Club


Outdoor activities have been popular since the University was formed from a college of McGill University at Fairview Slopes (near VGH) in 1915. This was formalized when a Mountaineering Club was constituted on January 29, 1917, with Mr. W.G. Grey as president and Miss Shirley Clement as vice-president. According to the 1917 Totem (UBC's annual), the constitution was "unique from the face that all persons wishing to qualify for membership must have ascend to the peak of a mountain equal in height to Grouse. There is a rumour that this standard may be raised for the men. The women, being weaker vessels, will be admitted on the old footing."

Early Years

A photograph in the Fairview Grove purports to show a VOC party on Grouse in 1920. Activities during the 20's were restricted to the North Shore mountains and the necessity for a base there soon became apparent. It has been suggested (1959 VOC handbook) that the club was formed in 1922 by a group of engineers who also built the first club cabin on Hollyburn. However, according to the 1920/21 Totem, a cabin was built on Grouse in 1920 (to which over 80 members made the trip) and when it burned down in 1922, they found one to use on Hollyburn. Regardless, the name VOC can be seen in the 1924/25 Totem. In those early days, chaperones were present on mixed trips, to protect the honor of "the fair sex" and alcohol was forbiddden at all club activities into the mid 70's, on the threat of expulsion.

By 1924 there was a VOC-built cabin on Grouse, complete with a "four hole cookstove and a handworked phonograph". Popular trips then included Mt. Strahan(sic), Echo peak and the zinc mines as well as "Seymour Peak with its famed slide". As communications improved through the 30's, the Club spread further afield, and there were expeditions to such places as Golden Ears and the Lions, the latter by boat. These trends continued into the 40's with expedition to the area around Garibaldi Lake; a VOC party made the first winter ascent of Mt. Garibaldi in 1944.

Golden Years

The 50's arrived with an explosion of interest in skiing, and a road up Seymour. Since the advantages of not having to climb up in order to ski down were so patently obvious, VOC moved to Seymour and a much larger cabin to house the fanatics and their apres-ski. Now that more people could ski better, the advantage of recovering from exams at Garibaldi Lake became apparent, and so a rite of spring was established, known as Sphinx Camp; first at the QCA cabin by Battleship Islands and then, when it burned down, at the VOC-build Burton Hut on the terminal moraine of the Sphnix Glacier. A desire to record the club's activities gave rise to the VOC Journal in 1958, just in time for the numerous first ascents made in the lat 50's and early 60's. Several large expeditions were done, including Mt. Logan (VOCJ2 1959) and the Himalayas (VOCJ7 1964).

The Whistler incident

As time passed, the limitations of Seymour to good skiers began to make themselves felt, and so the Club cast about alternatives. The requirements were access to a large downhill area coupled with access to a variety of cross-country terrain; Whistler appeared to meet these requirements admirably, and so the club build a large cabin there in the mid-sixties. The results however, were unfortunate, because the interest of downhill and cross-country began to diverge; moreover, as Whistler developed further, the cabin became more and more expensive to maintain. In 1975, the downhill skiers formed their own club, the UBC Ski Club, and VOC agreed to sell them the cabin; the sale was however blocked by the AMS. Years of ligitation followed, until VOC won partial recompense through a student referendum in 1980; the money recovered was promptly invested in a series of mountain huts, the first of which was placed on Mt. Brew in 1982 and the second, Harrison Hut in the Overseer area in 1983.

The Huts

Main article: History of VOC huts

Carried away with our recent referendum victory, the club didn't perform an in-depth analysis of the location of Brew Hut and within two years, Brew was crushed by snow creep. Over the fall of '84, the remain intact parts of Brew were move to a new location and rebuild. In 1995, the Workers Compensation Board came to the VOC with a proposal to construction a hut for the club for free, only if we paid for transportation.

The Future ?

Despite these problems, VOC continued to explore the Coast Range, both by mountaineering and skiing. The results are incorporated in various guide books, two of which have been published by the VOC: a rockclimbing guide to the Stawamus Chief in 1967, and a ski touring guide to the Coast Range in 1983.

Members of the club continue to do new routes occasionally and some go on to international expeditions.

- VOC Members Handbook (1990)