VOC Handbook

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The handbook is also available in the fancy version

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Welcome to the Varsity Outdoor Club (VOC)

The Varsity Outdoor Club is open to anyone at UBC - students, faculty, staff, spouses and members of the greater community. Our club is dedicated to those who want to explore the outdoors here and anywhere else in the world. Some of the many pursuits our members actively pursue include: hiking, rock-climbing, mountaineering, kayaking, ski touring, ice climbing and "socializing". The club is about meeting people, making friends, learning and teaching. If you have a skill to share, please do so. If you wish to learn, please ask!

So, What Does Your Membership Give You?

The biggest benefit is networking - you will have access to hundreds of like-minded individuals, keen to get into the outdoors. This happens through access to the message board, members list, social events like the weekly Slideshows, and of course trips.

Being a VOC member does not mean that you have to be a skilled outdoors person (but we need those too) - in fact it's a great place to learn these skills. More experienced members and the executive offer introductory trips to help get you up to speed and take you places you might otherwise think were impossible. It is not even necessary to have all of your own technical equipment - as a member, you may borrow (with cash deposit) any of the gear from the club's gear room. If you need a guidebook to help you figure out where you want to go, you can borrow it from the library in the clubroom.

Every week you will receive (via email) the VOCene newsletter, which lets members know what trips are going out, what other members are up to and all sorts of other useful information - it condenses the high amount of traffic on the message board and wiki, so you still know what's going on even if you're not addicted to the webpage yet.

Your VOC membership also gives you a discounted membership rate at the Aviary climbing wall on the second floor of the AMS Nest.

At the end of term you'll receive a free copy of the VOC Journal - an annual ~300 page book chronicling the adventures of the club throughout the year. We welcome your contribution, whether an epic first ascent or a poem about learning to ski.

The club also gets group deals on professionally instructed avalanche courses, first-aid courses, and discounts at certain local businesses.

You do not have to pay fees to stay at any of our huts.

Again the main thing is all the wild and interesting people you'll meet. We love the outdoors, and we want to share this passion with you. Come join us - you might just have the time of your life.

Where does my membership fee go?

The VOC, and all VOC events, are run under a shared-cost principle - no club members make any money off VOC events, which is why after initially purchasing your membership things are generally either cheap or free.

A rough breakdown would be:

  • 1/3rd goes to maintaining and purchasing gear for the gear room (which you borrow at no cost). This is the biggest expense.
  • 1/4th goes to producing the VOC Journal
  • 1/5th goes to the Federation of Mountain Clubs, to help improve/maintain access to the backcountry and bargain collectively with the government
  • 1/5th goes to maintaining our huts and trails
  • 1/20th for "social" costs - holding the AGM and banquet, for example
  • Other small costs give another 1/10th or so

This, of course, adds up to more than 100%. Other than membership fees we also collect money through donations from Alumni, donations from people staying at our huts, and advertisements published in the VOC Journal. If you're not a member of the AMS (ie. a regular student at UBC), then the AMS demands that we charge you 50% more. But the AMS provides us with the clubroom and free insurance, among other things, and they get all their money from the hundreds of dollars worth of student fees that all UBC students pay... so it's not really all that unfair.

How to Become a Member

If you're already browsing this via the internet checkout the membership page. If you're not, then go find yourself some internet and find us online at www.ubc-voc.com. This particular article is located at www.ubc-voc.com/wiki/VOC_handbook.

VOC Trips

Main article: Trip agenda

The VOC is extremely active during the school year with trips going out most weekends. These typically cover the whole spectrum, from novice day hikes to month long mountaineering expeditions. Some of these weekends include instructional sessions on mountaineering, rock climbing, ski touring or telemarking. Trips are generally announced on the trip agenda, and occasionally the message board. Depending on the level or organization, trips will typically be announced between 3 weeks and 3 hours ahead of time.

It should be noted that on almost all VOC trips, enthusiasm and determination can make up for lack of technique. Beginners should not be deterred - most members of the club learned their outdoors finesse on real trips, not magically in the city. New members and beginners are encouraged to coordinate their own novice trips as soon as possible. You will learn a lot from making your own decisions, and you will add to the range of available trips for less confident new members. If you need ideas, there are many guidebooks in the clubroom library, and the executive is always eager to suggest ideas. Talk to the trips coordinator exec. You can also check out a list of trip suggestions: Trip Ideas

The bread and butter of the club is largely rock climbing, backcountry skiing and mountaineering (or scrambling) - but a number of other activities are also pursued, including hiking, cycling, canoeing, kayaking and ice climbing. The club is also active in the summer, when many extended trips take place, as well as weekend hikes and climbs.

Skiing is the main club activity during the winter, as basically all mountainous areas are under substantial amounts of snow (although some VOCers will insist on rock climbing or hiking in the rain). For the purposes of deciding whether or not you need skis/snowshoes "winter" runs from roughly mid-November until late May. "Backcountry skiing" usually doesn't mean skiing off the wrong side of a chairlift - we call that the "slackcountry" - we just enjoy being out in the mountains, and that's the best way to get around. Most trips go out on skis, although snowshoe and split board equipped snowboarders are starting to make their presence felt. Of course, skiing all that untracked powder can be a damn lot of fun too. The various huts the VOC maintains provide exceptional base camps, and are free for members to use.

In the summer rock climbing and scrambling are the main activities, although some people will continue to ski year 'round (September is the hardest month). With long days and nice weather it's a great time to head over to nearby Squamish, rock climbing capital of Canada, to climb on the fine granite. There will also be some hiking trips, once the snow leaves the mountains some time in July, and people can climb the remote peaks of the Coast range at whatever level they choose - anything from easy hikes to difficult mountaineering objectives.

Traditional Trips

Main article: Annual club events

There are quite a few traditional trips and schools that have become established over the years. The exact dates are rarely carved in stone - keep an eye on the VOCene, the trips board and the wiki.

  • Glacier School (September) - Learn the basics of glacier travel with our crack team of snow fanatics. A good chance to practice crevasse rescue and snow climbing techniques.
  • Needle Peak Scramble (October) - Scrambling Needle Peak on the Coquihalla is a semi-traditional trip.
  • Indian Arm Kayaking (October) - A two day sea kayaking trip up Indian Arm, starting from Deep Cove and camping at Granite Falls. Most people rent gear and we get a group discount.
  • Rock Party (formerly known as Longhike) (October) - Rock climbing instruction or hiking on Saturday, huge party Saturday night followed by more climbing or hiking on Sunday. This is traditionally a huge event with 100+ participants - a celebration of our new members and that we survived the summer.
  • Leavenworth (Fall) - This faux Bavarian town is surrounded by some of the best (and driest) rock climbing in the state of Washington. It's been conclusively proven that a healthy dose of dry rock improves midterm performance!
  • Skaha-ha-ha (Hallowe'en Weekend) - Visit the sunny (spooky) Okanagan for BC sport climbing at it's best. Costumes are definitely encouraged. Often it snows, but that won't stop us.
  • Smith Rock (Remembrance Day) - Head down to Oregon to climb in the sun. This trip has been going on for ages, and we've yet to get rained on!
  • Early season Brew debacle (November) - Never skiied? No problem. Get the ski season off to a flying start by struggling your way up to the Brew Hut. The days are short, which is good because you just might need the whole 14 hours of darkness to recover for the ski back out.
  • Christmas Trips - Lots of extended ski tours happen during the holidays and over New Years. Usually there's a big party up at the Brian Waddington Hut (bring 'yer skis, and do some naked laps around the hut). There's also the funny habit some people have of driving 1400 miles to the desert (Red Rocks, Joshua Tree, Zion) to find dry rock.
  • Winter Longhike (January) - This is where you learn to camp in winter with no tent. Ever wanted to sleep in a snow bank? We'll show you this, and more, all in a healthy, non-judgmental atmosphere. Also a bit of a party, but not as rowdy or expensive as Rock Party.
  • Tele School (January) - Learn how to genufluct with the best of them. We also offer refresher courses in snowball fights and snow angels. A good chance to refine the telemark technique you've been trying to figure out since November.
  • Intro to Backcountry Skiing (February) - Put it all together. You've probably done lots of hut-based backcountry skiing, and maybe just learned to winter camp at Winter Longhike. Time to carry a tent into the hills, crank some turns, and get that go-anywhere feeling of independence.
  • Intro to Ski-Mountaineering (February) - Similar to intro to Backcountry Skiing, but more complicated. Add some ropes and ice-axes, to try and climb a more difficult objective. All those scramble routes from Summer can seem a lot harder in Winter.
  • Son of Rock (April) - At sea level it's going to start feeling like summer, this is a good chance to get together and practice more advanced rock skills.
  • Spring Ski Traverses(March-June) - Days are long and the snow is hard, it's time to travel long distances in the mountains
  • Summer Traverses - The past few years have seen some pretty large VOC parties travel long distances to cross interesting terrain. Hard, but not too hard, and don't require any special skills.
  • Mountaineering Camp (Labour Day) - We all get together in the same area, and bag as many peaks as possible as small independent groups. A great way to enjoy the mountains before classes start again.

VOC Equipment

Main article: Gear rental

The selection of equipment available through the club allows all members, novice and experienced alike, to safely try the various gear-intensive sports we do without the financial commitment of purchasing their own technical gear. The equipment is available to members throughout the year on a first come, first served basis (with some priority during large club-run trips). There is no fee for this service - just a refundable cash deposit. We ask that you give something back by completing a workhike / volunteering before borrowing gear, but there's some leeway when you first join.

We have lots of:

  • Ropes
  • Harnesses
  • Helmets
  • Rock Shoes
  • Mountaineering boots
  • Crampons
  • Ice axes
  • Snowshoes
  • Ski poles
  • Telemark boots
  • Telemark skis
  • Climbing skins (they let your skis stick to the snow and go uphill!)
  • Avalanche transceivers
  • Avalanche probes
  • Snow shovels
  • day and overnight packs
  • sleeping pads

We also have a limited supply of random stuff, stop by sometime and see if we've got what you need, or ask the QMs about it. If you are looking for something that we do not rent, consider asking on the message board, as another member may have the gear you are looking for and be willing to lend it out.

What is a Workhike?

Main article: workhikes

A workhike is where you help keep the club running smoothly by contributing a little of your time and energy. They usually don't involve a lot of time, or any hiking - anywhere from an hour or so to multi-day excursions, depending on the task you land. At the same time they are a good way to get to know other club members and can even be kind of fun.

See the Tool Inventory for a complete set of tools that you can use freely to help with your workhike.

Some possible workhikes include

  • Lead a trip - This is an excellent way to complete your work hike and travel someplace interesting at the same time! Note that you don't have to be an expert paddler/climber/ wilderness guru to lead a trip. All you need are some organizational skills (come on, this is university) and some background research.
  • Hut Maintenance/Construction - The VOC maintains several backcountry huts for the use of the outdoor community. There are always projects that need to be done, or supplies that need to be carried up. Ask the special projects exec about it.
  • Equipment Maintenance - Wax our skiis! Sharpen our crampons!
  • Trail Maintenance - We have a couple of trails up to our huts, and do workhikes to maintain them. If you help maintain another local mountaineering club's trails that counts too.
  • Writing, Typing, Photocopying, etc. - Help with the production of the VOC Journal by writing an article, or index an old one. Ask the journal editor or the archivist execs.
  • Teach at our Schools - Sufficiently proficient members are always needed to help instruct at our various schools. If you can climb, ski, sleep in the snow or read a map, let an exec know. Student demand invariably overwhelms teacher supply at these events.
  • Clean up after a party - We've got lots of gatherings going on throughout the year. We'll even let you attend the party first! Longhike and the annual VOC Banquet are the biggest social events of the year and they don't just happen on their own.

Don't wait for a work hike opportunity to be posted - talk to an exec member about things that need doing. The sooner you complete your work hike, the sooner you can use club gear.

VOC Huts

Main article: Huts

The club currently has in its charge four huts scattered around the local Coast Mountains. These are: The Sphinx (Burton) Hut, located on the SE end of Garibaldi Lake; The Brew Hut, located near Brew Mountain, across the valley from Whistler; the Harrison Hut, located near Meager Hot Springs, some 50 km NW of Pemberton; and the Brian Waddington Memorial Hut, located at the headwaters of Phelix creek, in the mountains surrounding Birkenhead Lake.

All these huts were built and are currently maintained by the VOC. All are open to the public free of charge, although we do request donations to the club to aid in the maintenance of the buildings for non-members. There are many trips throughout the year to the various huts, both for maintenance and fun. As a VOC member you're also encouraged to go whenever you like - they're your huts, after all!

Social Scene

Over the years many traditional social events have been started and are still as popular today as when they began. Many of the annual trips are also largely social events, especially the Longhikes.

In addition we've got:

  • Slideshows - most Wednesday evenings in the school year
  • Winter Social (December) - We're about to head off for the holidays, and will miss each other. A good excuse to get together.
  • VOC Banquet (March) - The VOC Banquet is a semi-formal affair to wind up the year. It is usually well attended by both current and old members and is a good opportunity to meet many of the people you've heard of or read about in old journals. There's a guest speaker, slideshow, photo contest and the presentation of awards, both humorous and serious.
  • Summer meetings and monthly barbecues - First Wednesday of every month at Spanish Banks, at the foot of Tolmie St.

If you'd like to see any other social events arranged, please talk to the Vice-President, or go ahead and post your own trip sheet. Stay tuned for more details on all events via the VOCene and clubroom notices.

The VOC Journal

Main article: VOC Journal

The VOC Journal is our yearly record of the clubs' activities and our legacy to the record of outdoor adventures here and abroad. First printed in 1958, it records many first ascents and is an important historical record of various mountain explorations, particularly Garibaldi Park during the 1960's and 70's.

The old journals are a good source of information for planning trips and are very entertaining to read. They can be signed out from the VOC library or found in the UBC Main Library (GV 561 B7) and at several of our backcountry huts. The archivist has a limited number of recent journal back issues available for sale.

The VOC Journal goes to press in March and is distributed free to members at the VOC Banquet. To ensure receiving a copy, members should pick theirs up at the clubroom before the end of term. If you have any questions or would like to help out, contact the Journal Editor.

The Library

Main article: Clubroom library

Besides old VOC Journals, the VOC library contains Canadian Alpine Journals, books on hiking areas, climbing techniques, avalanche safety, geology, wildflowers, skiing and even a book on bicycle repairs. The library is available any time there is an exec member in the clubroom. The Archivist also sells VOC T-shirts, old Journals decals, songbooks and the like.

A Brief History of the Club

Main article: VOC history

The VOC had its start back in 1917, when the "Mountaineering Club" was formalized at UBC's original location (near present day VGH). In these days, potential club members were required to ascend a peak equal in height to Grouse Mountain to become members. It was rumored that women were often exempt from this qualification, being "weaker vessels"...

In 1920, the first club cabin was built on Grouse. In those early days, chaperones were present on mixed trips to "protect the honour of the fair sex". Alcohol was forbidden at all club activities well into the 70's.

By the 1930's, the club's expeditions had spread farther afield, including such exotic destinations as Golden Ears and the Lions (the latter accessed by boat). By the 1940's, there was exploration in the Garibaldi area. A VOC party made the first winter ascent of Mt Garibaldi in 1944, and the first ski traverse of the Neve in '46.

The 50's arrived with an explosion of interest in skiing with the construction of a road up Seymour. As the number of capable skiers grew, a new tradition was born to the VOC. After spring exams, an annual pilgrimage would be made to the newly constructed Sphinx Hut, located on the terminal moraines of the Sphinx Glacier.

A desire to record the club's activities spawned the VOC Journal. First published in 1958, it was just in time for the numerous first ascents made by club members during the late 50's and 60's. And there were lots - the Coast Range was largely unexplored until quite recently, and the has VOC played a major role. There are even a few mountains and glaciers named after the club - Veeocee Mountain, The Lecture Cutters, The Bookworms, and the Ubyssey Glacier and many others named by members of the club. Aside from the Coast Range several major far-off expeditions were also undertaken, including Mt Logan ('59) and the Himalaya ('64).

By the mid sixties, the VOC constructed a large cabin in Whistler. It was intended to accommodate both downhill and cross country skiers. In time, the cabin grew too expensive to maintain, and the rights were turned over to the AMS. The money received (not without a fight!) from the handover was reinvested into new mountain huts, the first of which was constructed on Mt Brew across the valley from Whistler in 1982 and the Harrison Hut in 1983.

In 1998 the VOC has helped build a hut in the mountains surrounding Birkenhead Lake. The Brian Waddington Memorial Hut is located at the headwaters of Phelix Creek in the midst of the "Tolkien Group" - mountains named (by VOCers) after Tolkien characters (they were very popular books in the 70s).

In the last decade the clubs work includes the complete (re)construction of the Brew Hut in 2005, major work on the Burton Hut in 2006 and renovations on the Brian Waddington Hut in 2009.

Recently, significant maintenance projects at various huts, as well as adapting the club to a larger membership has occupied the exec.

There are always more projects on the horizon, but these will have to take place before we can include them in the history section.