We are ecstatic to announce this week’s big news for the Spearhead Huts Project – a $700,000 USD (approx $900,000 CDN) donation from the Kees Brenninkmeyer Foundation. With it we have now secured a very large portion (over 70%) of the funding needed for the first hut, and can continue on a course to build the first hut by winter 2018.
The donation was made in honour of Cornelius (Kees) Brenninkmeyer, 25, and girlfriend Claire Dixon, 27 who perished in a backcountry skiing accident when their snow shelter collapsed in 2007. The donation was facilitated through the assistance of the American Friends of Whistler (AFOW) who have previously donated in excess of $1.4 million to various causes in the Whistler area.
“Facilitating the donation to the Spearhead Huts is a perfect fit with our mission statement and this project will add a tremendous benefit to the Whistler resort and for the many visitors. We are proud to be able to support this organization,” says Gary Raymond, President of AFOW.
The purpose of the Spearhead Huts project – to create three huts in Garibaldi Provincial Park, Whistler, B.C – hits home for the Kees Brenninkmeyer Foundation as it strives to support individuals who choose careers in mountaineering and guiding in Brenninkmeyer’s memory. At the time of his passing, Brenninkmeyer was actively pursuing a career as an alpine mountaineering guide, and he and Dixon were working as hut custodians on the Wapta Traverse in Alberta for the Alpine Club of Canada. The construction of these and all backcountry huts provides a safe alternative for travelers who wish to complete a similar traverse in the winter or summer. Kees and Claire’s friends formed the Kees and Claire Memorial Hut Society shortly after the couple passed away in 2007, and have been a central part of the Spearhead Huts Project since its inception.
The hut near Russet Lake will be named the Kees and Claire Hut in memorial of the two remarkable young people whose lives ended too soon.
The plan remains for it to be the first of a three hut system approved by BC Parks after an extensive six year review process. We also consulted with the Lil’wat First Nations who have endorsed the first hut and the remaining two huts to be constructed at Mt. Pattison and Mt. Macbeth.
The Spearhead Huts project has continually received support from two local elder/celebrities: Karl Ricker, who was part of the first team to complete the Spearhead Traverse in 1965; and Werner Himmelsbach, who designed the original hut at Russet Lake.
“When we first did the traverse over fifty years ago, we knew this incredible area would become more popular with skiers and hikers. I for one couldn’t be happier to hear this announcement,” says Karl Ricker.
“We dreamed of a hut system being built in these ranges over fifty years ago and it is very exciting to see this project finally take flight after so long,” says Werner Himmelsbach.
The Kees and Claire Hut is currently being designed with plans for prefabrication to occur in late fall 2016 and on-site construction to commence in late May 2017. Opening date is expected to be January 2018.
The primary consultant for the hut’s design is Don Stuart Architect, and Equilibrium Consulting for structural engineering. The environmentally sustainable hut will sleep thirty-five to forty people and will provide year-round accommodation in one of B.C.’s most popular wilderness parks. All three huts will provide summer and winter travellers with exceptional opportunities to explore and visit some of the most picturesque and dramatic terrain in the mountains adjacent to the renowned resort of Whistler. The system will be a world class experience for families and mountain enthusiasts alike and will add a significant diversification to the outdoor experience of Whistler. With an anticipated 7,000 beds filled a year, the hut system is expected to generate a minimum of $1.4 million per year in additional GDP for Whistler resort.
The total design, development, and construction cost for the Kees and Claire Hut will be $1.5 million. The generous donation from the Kees Brenninkmeyer Foundation, in combination with $150,000 from the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) through the Resort Marketing Initiative (RMI) Program and other private donors brings the SHC close to the estimated $1.5 million needed for the first hut. Fundraising is ongoing for both the huts on Mt. Pattison and Mt. Macbeth – each with a similar budget. Once the Kees and Claire Hut is complete, building will commence on the next hut.