Remembering the Fay Hut
Director, External Relations 2001-present
August 6th, 2003
On Friday, August 1st 2003, a forest fire (started by lightening) destroyed the Fay Hut. This historic hut was the first hut to be built and managed by the Alpine Club of Canada in 1927. Forty-five years later in 1972, the hut, in a sad state of repair, was handed over to Kootenay National Park and by 1991 was slated for removal leaving only a historic marker in its place.
As the chairman of the Huts committee during this period, l must admit that l was not averse to seeing the removal of this run-down facility (We had built the Bow hut in 1989 and l was into modern facilities). However, greater forces prevailed in the form of Hans Fuhrer, Peter Fuhrmann, Eric Lomas, Malcolm Talbot and the Rocky Mountain Section. During the summer of 1991 through their Herculean efforts the hut was restored to its former glory. In October of that year, after a visit to the hut l penned the following thoughts in the form of a letter (that l meant to send but never did) to the Rocky Mountain Section.
Now the hut is gone and with it a part of the ACC. Hopefully it is not too late to pass this letter to all people who ever had the privilege of enjoying this hut.
Falling in love again at the Fay hut.
The first time l visited the Fay hut was in 1977 when l was on my way to the old Graham Cooper hut. The warden assured us that no one else had booked into Fay so off we went. We were a pretty high tech outfit: Silvretta bearspaw binding, double leather climbing boots, Head downhill skis, external frame packs and Pieps 1, backed up with 50ft avalanche cords! We got to the hut in time for what was apparently the evening BBQ and found some fifteen unregistered people squatting in and around the hut (it was spring break). We slept outside and over the subsequent years, l learnt to bypass the hut.
Yet this October, Heather (my wife) and l went up to visit the refurbished Fay Hut. I had been against the club taking over the Hut and was determined to prove that l was right. The Hut was off the beaten track for maintenance and both my business sense and computer spreadsheet said that l was right. But, how wrong l was!
Fay is now my favourite hut. (Mind you I’m a bit fickle when it comes to huts, I spend one night with them and l instantly fall in love) We had snow, sleet and rain; thus lots of time to examine both the hut and the surrounding area.
First the surrounding area. Hey, hats off to the big guy. Only the gods could have created such an environment and the view from the outhouse was Olympian.
But it is the hut that makes the experience. It's pre-computer spreadsheets, to my mind it epitomises what a Club Hut should be at its most aesthetic level. The Fay Hut is the antithesis of the Bow Hut: it is not insulated, there is no separation between the kitchen and the people trying to sleep and it’s an old log cabin. But the Fay Hut is what the romantic notions of the Canadian Rockies and the ACC are all about. Genteel antiquity.
We spent the day splitting wood and drinking tea. By the light of the lantern, l read the new register. Peter Fuhrmann had written that certain people would have been happy with a memorial plaque to replace the old hut. I guess he was referring to me. I felt somewhat guilty as l dampened down the fire before snuggling into my sleeping bag.
For making all of this happen l have to thank the Rocky Mountain Section and, in particular, Hans Fuhrer, Peter Fuhrmann and his tenacity in pursuing this goal for many years. Special thanks to the stalwarts like Eric Lomas, Dan Verrall and Malcolm Talbot and to all those who were able to make the oldest Alpine Club hut our newest treasure!
Hans and Peter, you were right!
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