Abbot Pass Hut to be replaced

The historic Abbot Pass Hut could rise again, thanks to a new partnership that is looking to erect a replacement.

The Lake Louise Ski Area and proprietor Charlie Locke have agreed to fund and co-ordinate the project looking to sit on a location near the former site. Both the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) and the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG) are on board for support as well.

Carine Salvy, the ACC’s executive director, said that public interest for this effort was strong ever since the hut had to be removed last year. Many people have enquired about ways to help, even offering their personal trade skills.

“I've been very humbled and astonished at the number of messages that I've received. That just shows how much that hut meant to people,” she said.

“I think it goes a long ways to show that it's a very meaningful place for many people.”

The 100-year-old building was a National Historic Site between Mount Lefroy and Mount Victoria, constructed on a ridge overlooking Lake Louise and Lake O’Hara as an overnighter for climbers. Over the years, erosion caused by climate change created an instability in the ridge, first forcing the doors to stay closed in 2018. Parks Canada tried to save it, but those efforts were thwarted by the forces of nature working against it.

The loss made national news and broke many hearts in the guiding community.

Parks Canada, too, was enthusiastic about replacing the hut under certain conditions, Salvy said. It would have to be a replacement hut with efficiency in mind to make as little of an environmental footprint as possible.

It also has to be in the right spot, which will take a lot of consultations and assessments.

Beyond that, it has to serve its purpose.

“It has to take into account [that] the reasons for putting it up there was first and foremost safety, because there are a lot of climbers who are still accessing the nearby peaks and they have nowhere to find shelter,” she said.

While it’s still early days, Salvy said, the plan is definitely in motion. Patience will be key to the project’s success but she hopes for progress toward construction by the winter of 2023/24.

You just can’t rush these kinds of projects, she said.

“The location will determine a lot of what kind of structure we can put up there. Obviously, we want to have a building that is sound, dry, warm... that'll keep people safe, and that'll be sturdy enough.”

Parks Canada will also be launching a public engagement process in the spring as a way of determining the best way to commemorate the building on what remains a national heritage site. Before it was lost, the structure was digitized to ensure its history was preserved so that its story could still be told.

Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh