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9 – Gothic Arch Huts from Alaska to Vancouver Island

Classmates built the Will Wheaton Hut, situated in Marble Meadows in Strathcona Park on Vancouver Island, from the Shawnigan Lake Draft Class in 1970. Will Wheaton perished in a climbing accident in Austria following his graduation. This is the only Gothic arch alpine hut located on Vancouver Island.

View of the front entrance to a Gothic arch Hut with the front door ajar. A light dusting of snow sits on the arched roof with evergreen trees in the background.

The Will Wheaton Hut surrounded by a light dusting of snow on Vancouver Island.


The Alaskan Alpine Club built the Gothic arch-style Upper Canwell Glacier Hut in 1971, on a U.S. Air Force base. The club had built two huts with different styles at lower elevations, but felt they had finally discovered a hut style suitable for higher elevations. It is unclear if the club had spent time climbing in the Coast Mountains or had connections with members of the BCMC. The U.S. Air Force provided the use of a helicopter to lift the hut into its location.

In 1980, former president of the Alaskan Alpine Club, Peter MacKeith, died in a climbing accident on Old Snowy Mountain and the hut was renamed in his honour.

Aluminum siding wrapped Gothic arch hut supported by wood blocks because the earth below has been swept away. Wooden staircase can be seen in the foreground no longer attached to the hut.

The Peter MacKeith Hut undergoing maintenance because the glacial melt removed earth located under the front right side.

Since the site for the hut was chosen in haste, the club has had to return on several trips to level the hut because the rocks underneath shifted during the summer melt. The club has had to level the hut on four separate occasions over the last 20 years.

The Starr Creek Cabin was built completely by a private investor, Win Hobson, who built the structure in the Bulkley Valley to improve backcountry skiing and snowshoeing. The hut was constructed in 1991 and replaced an old mining cabin at the head of Starr Creek.

For its first fifteen years, the Starr Creek Cabin was a popular destination for non-motorized users. Each winter there were at least two week-long trips by parties of local and visiting skiers, plus many shorter trips.[12]

In 2012, the Starr Creek Cabin was closed permanently because it was located within a high-risk avalanche zone and was deemed unsafe for motorized and non-motorized users to access.

The Hut is under clear blue skies and several work-crew members are busy working out front in the snow.

The sky is clearing above the Wendy Thompson Hut but the sun is still obscured by a large cloud.

In 1997, the Whistler Alpine Club officially became the Alpine Club of Canada, Whistler Section. To celebrate their inclusion in the club, the Whistler Section chose to build an alpine hut in the Marriott Basin. Construction was funded by the family of Wendy Thompson, a long-time Whistler resident who was tragically killed in a plane crash off the coast of Haida Gwaii.

Aerial view of the Hut from a helicopter window and snow covers the ground, evergreen trees and high peaks behind the Hut.

View of the Wendy Thompson Hut from a helicopter window.

After three years of negotiations with the province of British Columbia, the club was granted permission to build the hut at their chosen site in the Marriott Basin. In the summer of 2000, construction of the Wendy Thompson Hut began.

The Gothic Arch hut design and building of these huts played an important role in the development of mountaineering, ski-touring, and rock climbing pursuits within the Coast Mountains.

[12] Bulkley Valley Outdoor Recreation Society. Changing use patterns at Starr Creek Cabin. Telkwa : BVORS, cc2007. Pg. 1.