Category Archives: Architecture/design

Update on Spearhead Huts Construction

Spearhead Huts Construction Begins!

by Sam Demas based on information from Spearhead Huts website

The Alpine Club of Canada and the British Columbia Mountaineering Club have broken groundAlpine Club of Canada - Claire and Kees  on the Kees and Claire hut, the first of three huts in three huts planned for the Spearhead Traverse.  Named after a young couple who perished in a collapsed snow cave they built for shelter while on the Wapti Traverse in 2006.                                                                 

The Spearhead Huts August 25, 2017 blog update provides some great photos of the intense volunteer effort undertake  to put in the foundation for the hut.  For an broad overview of the plan for the Spearhead Traverse, see the FAQ and other portions of their web page.

When completed this three hut traverse will offer safer access to the remarkable ski terrain that claimed the young lives of Kees and Claire.

Spearhead Huts Construction

Foundation of Claire Kees Hut emerges August 2017.  Photo Courtesy Spearhead Traverse Huts

Spearhead Huts Construction

Working fast on concrete pour between helicopter deliveries of concrete. Photo courtesy Spearhead Huts.

American Alpine Club Grand Tetons Climbing Ranch

American Alpine Club Grand Teton Climbing Ranch

Overview:  Located in Grand Teton National Park in Moose, WY, the Grand Tetons Climbing Ranch (GTCR) is one of five AAC mountain huts, i.e. base camp accommodations centers for climbers operated by the American Alpine Club.  The cluster of 11 buildings comprises 9 cabins, a lodge, and a bath house.  It is located on the valley at the foot of the fabulous Grand Teton mountain range.  GTCR sleeps 64 and provides an array of amenities designed to support climbers as they prepare to go climb in the remarkable Grand Tetons.  About 85% of the users of GTCR climbers, and about 50% are members of the American Alpine Club (AAC).  The GTCR has a venerable history and a special place in the history of the AAC.

GTCR is more than an accommodations center.  It is an agent in education, conservation and community-building in the mountaineering community.  Its mission is:

….to provide inexpensive, extended-stay accommodations for mountaineers visiting Grand Teton National Park.  As a facility of the American Alpine Club the Climber’s Ranch also represents the interests and concerns of the American Climbing Community in the Park, cooperates with the NPS in conservation of the environment and preservation of the historic structures of the ranch, and provides a venue for the cultivation of mountain craft, the exchange of information about the Teton Range, and the promotion of good fellowship among climbers.

History:  The establishment of the GTCR in 1970 was a signal event in the modern history of the AAC, and an important step in its gradual shift from an Eastern elitist organization to an inclusive climbing club reflecting the democratization of climbing in America.  Two visionaries — AAC President Nick Clinch and former superintendent of Grand Teton National Park Horace Albright — combined forces to address a growing challenge: the rapid increase in the numbers of climbers in the USA.

The Tetons are a cross-roads and focal point of American climbing.  In the 1960’s increasing numbers of climbers began gathering at the Jenny Lake campground adjacent to prime climbing spots.   It became hard to reserve camp sites and there were conflicts between the culture of the young “dirtbag” climbers and families staying at the campground.  The NPS had to impose limitations on camping and campground activities.  Clinch and Albright, neighbors in Palo Alto, got together to find a solution to these symptoms of the growing pains of a new phase of mountaineering in America.  In 1969 there were three former dude ranches for sale in the Grand Teton National Park; one of these, the Double Diamond Dude Ranch (operated 1924-1964), was determined by Clinch, Albright, Leigh Ortenburger, and others (reportedly including Yvon Chouinard, who did the plumbing in the early days) to be the most appropriate of the three for purchase by AAC.

In an article in the January/February 1969 issue of Summit: a mountaineering magazine (of which Royal Robbins was contributing editor), AAC President Nick Clinch published an article “The New Climbers Ranch: Your Base Camp in the Tetons”.  He outlined plans to open the ranch in 1970 for the purpose of “providing accommodations for climbers at a very modest rate”.  Clinch outlined plans to raise $200,000 to make improvements to the property and to establish an operational endowment.

GTCR opened in 1970 and Dave Dornan (of the Dornan family in Moose) was the first manager.  Rick Liu was the second manager, and Ruth Balsin, who served for 12 years, was the third manager.   There have been others since.  Bob Baribeau, the current manager, showed up in 1973 as a guest and climber and began helping out.

The former dining room of the original dude ranch building currently serves as the headquarters/registration building and the library.  It is listed on the National Historic Register.  A 1985 forest fire destroyed about half of the structures.  Other period structures were moved to the site by NPS and AAC to replace the burned buildings.  The first of these was named after Leigh Ortenburger, author of A Climber’s Guide to the Teton Range.

Accommodation and amenities:  Each of the cabins has between 2-6 two-tier bunk beds, each wide enough for two people but usually used for one person.   Guests provide their own bedding (sleeping bags and pads).  The bunk rooms are spare but thoughtfully supplied with plenty of electrical outlets, string for drying clothes, showers (bath tubs in at least one cabin!), and pegs for hanging gear and clothing.  Some rooms have a closet for gear storage and some have a desk or table.

Reservations are necessary and the charge for overnight accommodation is $25 per night per person for non-members, and $16 per person per night for AAC members.

The bath house includes a sink room, wash room, climbing wall, and recycling center.  The very well stocked sink room is supplied with detergent and scrubbers.  It also houses an array of loaner pots and pans, BBQ grills, toasters, electric water kettles, hose, etc.  In addition to bathrooms (in most of the cabins) there are central men’s and women’s bathrooms with showers.  There is a well-equipped laundry room with washer and drier ($5 per load), and a great clothesline located nearby.    GTCR also loans coolers, bicycles, and locks and helmets.  And there is a left-over food box with items free for the taking.

There is no food service; guests bring and cook their own meals.  The magnificent outdoor dining pavilion has great views and is perfect for preparing meals.  Bear-proof lockers are provided for food and gear.  It is also the social hub of the GTCR, where people eat, drink and talk together.  Most of the conversation revolves around climbing.

GTCR operates a serious recycling program including nearly every kind of waste (including fuel canisters), includes a can crusher, and even goes through the trash to separate out material that should have been placed in recycling.

The library is a magnificent amenity.  Located in a separate, sacred space (paintings, no shoes allowed) that used to be the kitchen of the dude ranch.  The collection is fairly extensive (the online catalog has 685 entries) and is primarily focused on climbing in the West, but includes an international focus.  The library is curated by Prof. Alan Nagel of U of Iowa.  The library is used for presentations and discussions.

There is a “partners board” where folks can meet up to climb together, as well as get information about local guides.

Operations:  The GTCR operates June 1 – September 15 within the Grand Tetons National Park (NPS) on a concessionaire permit, renewable every ten years.  The staff consists of a manager, Bob Baribeau, and four young staffers.  All are climbers, and are unfailingly knowledgeable, competent and courteous.

The GTCR structures are owned by the NPS and operated and maintained by AAC.  No new construction is allowed and the buildings are all old, many moved onto the property from the area.  The buildings are well-maintained with obvious care and attention to detail.

A plentiful supply of excellent water flows underground from the mountains, through a vast underground cobble field, and is tapped at a wellhead/pump house at the GTCR.  Sewage and graywater drain into a septic system which is pumped out as needed at AAC expense.

NPS conducts and annual walk through with the manager and compiles a list of maintenance tasks to be completed during the year.  NPS is responsible for road maintenance and large infrastructure projects.

GTCR conducts an annual “work week” in which volunteers assist with maintenance tasks.

Business model: GTCR operates on a non-profit basis under the AAC.  AAC’s attitude towards the economics of its five accommodations centers is that they are not looked to as revenue centers.  Its considered good if they don’t lose money, but some do in some years.  GTCR consistently earns sufficient revenue to cover its operating costs and return some surplus to the AAC.  There is a small operating endowment.

by Sam Demas, August 2017

Shelter system materials and techniques for design with minimal footprint

By Matt Reilly

[Editors note: the opinions are those of the author and he has taken responsibility for obtaining rights to the photographs used here.]

With the stress of daily routines, spending time in nature becomes an ultimate escape from the urban lifestyle. Being surrounded by peacefulness and stillness connects us to the environment and memorable experience of living according to it. The more time we spend in nature, the more we realize the significance of environmentally responsible behavior. Some people feel hostility about spending more than one afternoon without a comfortable couch and a TV. But does connecting with nature has to mean alienation from comfort? The answer is no: modern technology has the potential to bring comfortable camping to another level. However, how do we spend time in nature without harming it? We can decrease our impact on nature by using environmentally sensitive portable and non-portable shelters. This article represents helpful design ideas and shelter system materials for consideration by designers of overnight accommodations for  front-country environments.

Following are examples of accommodations which include convenience while leaving a minimal footprint. Suggested designs are not environmentally friendly solely for the material but for their functionality as well. They  can incorporate sustainable ways of water and power consumption through rain harvesting system,  portable shower systems, solar-powered technologies like portable solar panels and chargers, composting appliances (for instance outdoor composting bin), and promote modern waste reduction through practices like recycling, reusing waste material and utilizing biodegradable soaps and detergents.  This recommended set of ideas also takes into account positioning of accommodation which should be sited in such manner to capture enough sunlight in the winter and to lessen heat gain during summer.

The container shelter

The container shelter’s key features are that they are easy to transport and fix. This portable shelter solution is designed using burly shipping containers which can end up being commodious and useable living space simple to fabricate and transport anywhere. Standard shipping containers dimensions are W8m x L6m(20′) or 12m(40′) x H5.5m. This type of accommodation provides electricity, drinkable water, and sanitation. Those designing this shelter can also easily upgrade it with various green reinforcements such as with rainwater harvesting system, ceramic filtration system, and composting toilets.

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mikecogh/16002272638

The ekinoid shelter

The Ekinoid shelter is an innovative project that represents a self-sufficient and sustainable housing.  Spherical construction sits on stilts, and the elevation allows avoiding flood damage. Built strong enough to withstand intense storms and prefabricated, this ekinoid shelter also has incorporated the wind and solar power and rainwater harvesting model.

Source: http://inhabitat.com/spherical-ekinoid-house-is-an-off-grid-prefab-solution-for-global-housing/

The buBbLe House

The buBble House project developed a portable housing that is a blend of simplicity, amenity, and environmental care. It is easily transportable wherever you go, and it provides inhabitants with all essentials for comfort. Aluminum frame is slab-sided with extremely lightweight bubble skin material, and it opens with a metal locker. It includes a small kitchen and lightning as well as eco-friendly laundry facilities. It is powered with an insulating chamber.

Source:

Straw bale homes

For those looking for a non-portable shelter that performs highly eco-friendly and is functional, straw bale house might be the best solution.  Hay bales serve to build house’s walls inside of the frame that should also be of a natural material such as wood. Straw bales can efficiently replace conventional building materials like plaster and concrete. They contribute to the functionality of your eco-friendly home by providing high insulation levels in a sustainable manner.

Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Straw_Bale_House06.jpg

Bamboo Shelter

Bamboo is versatile. Its tensile strength and light weight make it the ultimate material for building both non-portable and transportable shelters.  The renewable character makes it even more desirable in an eco-friendly building.  Bamboo replaces bulky and costly materials and it perfect for constructing shelters for places hit by natural disaster since the building is fairly simple.

Source: https://pixabay.com/fr/tunnel-de-bambou-passerelle-arc-282547/

 

Tents made using natural and organic fabrics

Simplicity is never overrated. When terrain demands extremely easily transportable shelters so designers should take tents into account. The most environmentally sensitive tents are those made particularly from natural materials such as wool, hemp or cotton. Using these types of tents will leave minimal footprint behind in comparison to synthetic ones, however, they also require a significant financial investment.  Keep in mind that natural materials have to be additionally waterproofed in order to work well in wet weather conditions.

Source: https://www.touchofmodern.com/sales/nordisk/alfheim-19-6-organic-cotton-tent

 

Tents made of  recycled and recyclable materials

Synthetically made tents continue to attract more buyers than those made of natural fabrics and materials. There are two crucial reasons why that is the case. Firstly, synthetic tents promise quality protection in wet conditions which natural shelters can’t guarantee and secondly, even though natural tents are lightweight, synthetic ones are even lighter and easier to transport. However, certain manufacturers and designers in the eco-friendly sector are adjusted to the market and launched tents made from recycled and recyclable materials. Creating alternative tents from recycled polyester and adding a waterproof solvent-free coating could motivate campers to purchase the green option.  Eliminating harmful and toxic dyes could also strengthen the green factor of these tents and tent designers could come up with a way to paint them in an eco-friendly manner.

Source: https://www.backpacker.com/gear/gear-guide-2009-nemo-nano-oz-tent-review

Shelters using techniques  and materials like these, built in environmentally responsible manner, are more than just shelters. They contribute to raising awareness of green building as well as prove people that connecting to nature doesn’t have to be an unsafe or unpleasant experience.

 

Shelter from the Storm: The Story of New Zealand’s Backcountry Huts: book review part 1

Book Review by Sam Demas:

Shelter From The Storm: The Story of New Zealand’s Backcountry Huts

(Part one of a two part book review)

2012, Craig Potton Publishing, Nelson, NZ.

Text and most photographs by Shaun Barnett, Rob Brown, and Geoff Spearpoint.

With its highly-organized system of 1,000 backcountry huts New Zealand (NZ) — about the same size (area and population) as Oregon — is the hut capital of the world.  By comparison, the USA has about 110 huts operating within 17 different hut-to-hut systems; Switzerland and Norway each have about 500 huts.  Every nation’s approach to outdoor recreation — including how its citizens organize overnight stays in the wild — is based on local causes and conditions such as geography, size of the country, climate, terrain, history, economics, politics, and cultural values.  Shelter from the Storm is a richly illustrated, well-researched history of the causes and conditions that created NZ’s unique hut culture, and a beautiful tribute to the huts themselves.

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Shelter from the Storm – Introduction to a Book About History of New Zealand Huts

Below is a reprint of the “Introduction” to the book: 

Shelter From The Storm: The Story of New Zealand’s Backcountry Huts

2012, Craig Potton Publishing, Nelson, NZ.

Text and most photographs by Shaun Barnett, Rob Brown, and Geoff Spearpoint.

Embedded below is the 14 page, beautifully illustrated “Introduction”, by Shaun Barnett, to the remarkable book Shelter from the Storm. In it he provides an overview of the benefits, history, and architecture of New Zealand huts. His “Introduction” gives the reader a feel for the book as a whole. For more on this book, see my two part book review of Shelter from the Storm click here for: part 1 and part 2. Continue reading

Shelter from the Storm: book review part two

Book review continued:

Shelter From The Storm: The Story of New Zealand’s Backcountry Huts

(Part two of a two part book review)

2012, Craig Potton Publishing, Nelson, NZ.

Text and most photographs by Shaun Barnett, Rob Brown, and Geoff Spearpoint.

For part one of this review click here.  Following are some fascinating themes and stories that are skillfully elaborated in Shelter from the Storm, about New Zealand Backcountry Huts.

This book tells the story of how a geographically remote island nation came to create a robust international outdoor culture, and how a disparate collection of huts built for other purposes – I like the phrase infrastructure lying in wait — came to form the backbone of the world’s largest hut system. Continue reading

Shelters for Hunters by Daniel Chabert

Shelters for Hunters Who Are Out For Days

by Daniel Chabert; Photos Courtesy of Author

Safe house or shelter is the top need for any hunter who will be out in the wild for days or in most survival crises. Extreme climate conditions can kill within a few hours if you don’t have some sort of safe house to guard you from the elements.

A survivor is somebody who prepares to live as healthy and safe as could be expected under the circumstances when life a long way from home doesn’t go precisely as planned. Preparing to survive starts with trying to understand what you have to prepare for. You can live days without water and weeks with no food. Continue reading

Backcountry Hut Company: Architectural Design & Business Model

Backcountry Hut Company: Architectural Design & Business Model

by Sam Demas, October 12, 2016; All photos courtesy Backcountry Hut Company

The Canadian company Backcountry Hut Company (BHC) has completed its design and has constructed a prototype for a pre-fabricated, modular hut system. The design is optimized for alpine and other outdoor clubs, lodge operators, and also private outdoor recreation enthusiasts.  Based on a conversation with BHC’s Wilson Edgar, this post is a brief description of the design concept, business model, and rollout plans.

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Grand Huts Association: $100,000 expansion grant

Congratulations!  According to an article in the SkyHiDaily News,  a major grant from private donors will help fund the second hut in The Grand Huts Association.

Their first hut (the Broome Hut pictured here), which took 15 years to get permitted and built, was completed in 2012 at a cost of $400,000.  Located in a remote location with excellent back country skiing, materials were delivered to the site by helicopter.  The hut is very popular and operates close to full capacity in winter and at about half-capacity in summer.  Located on US Forest Service Land near Winter Park Colorado, the Grand Huts association hopes to eventually grow to 5-7 huts, creating a hut-to-hut system from Berthoud Pass to Grand Lake in Grand County.

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Outdoor Society argues for more huts in USA

Mathias Eichler, outdoors advocate and editor of the Outdoor Society blog, grew up in the foothills of the Alps.  He can’t understand why there are not more huts in USA, his beloved adopted land.  He is a great fan of our National Parks and advocate for recreational use of public land. {Featured image courtesy Mathias Eichler}

In two posts (click on titles in excerpts below) he discusses his ideas.  In an editorial “Whats next for America’s Public Lands?” he presents a case for more huts on public lands.  A separate piece “Eight Huts we need in the Mountains of the American West” presents brief profiles, accompanied by great pictures, of some huts he admires.

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