Huts and the Environment

The Club’s backcountry huts range from small remote shelters at the base of distant mountains, to log cabins with more casual approaches in the Rocky and Selkirk Mountains of Alberta and British Columbia.  Hut capacities range from six people to 40. Typically, the huts provide propane stoves for cooking, propane lamps for lighting, cooking utensils and dishes, and foam mats in the sleeping areas.  Many huts are also equipped with wood or propane burning stoves for heat.  Privy toilets are provided and these most often utilize a fly-out barrel system, where human waste is periodically removed by helicopter for treatment.

ACC huts provide basic, rustic shelter for backcountry travellers.  They offer protection from the elements, and communal cooking and sleeping areas. ACC huts are not commercial lodges, and no staff-based services are provided.  Hut users do their own cooking, fetch water from nearby streams or by melting snow, and sleep in their own sleeping bags in common areas.  Hut users are also expected to keep the hut clean and pack out all trash and food wastes.  Hut users are expected to plan their own trip, check weather forecasts, avalanche conditions, road conditions and bring in the appropriate equipment to stay in the backcountry.

The Club’s first hut was built in Kootenay National Park in 1927. Today, the ACC hut system includes facilities operated by the national level of the Club in Alberta and British Columbia, as well as additional huts operated by ACC sections across Canada.

ACC huts play an increasingly important role in reducing the environmental impact of backcountry travel in wilderness areas.  The ACC is an acknowledged leader in the environmentally responsible operation of backcountry facilities. Through ongoing research efforts, the Club seeks ways to further reduce the “environmental footprint” of backcountry visitors through the use of appropriate technology.

The Environmental Benefits of ACC Huts

A growing number of people want to experience the majesty of Canada’s mountain backcountry. Hikers, climbers and others planning on overnight stays in the mountains require shelter, cooking facilities, access to water and toilets.

Backcountry camping, whether in developed or undeveloped sites, is both land intensive and can lead to degradation of flora and fauna over time. Unless privies are provided, human waste can also pose a significant environmental and health issue.  Where privies are provided, removal of human wastes can be difficult. As well, backcountry camping involves ongoing potential for human/wildlife conflicts.

By centralizing and managing these impacts, ACC huts significantly reduce the environmental impact of backcountry travel in a number of ways.

  • Considerably less land is required for huts than for equivalent capacity camping, reducing impacts on flora and fauna.
  • Huts reduce the potential for human/wildlife conflicts by separating people, food and wastes from wildlife.  This is safer for both.
  • Huts allow environmental damage to be minimized by concentrating and controlling human use.
  • Huts reduce the use of fossil fuels by providing more efficient, centralized cooking, water purification and lighting systems and eliminating the need for users to haul in fuel containers.
  • Huts provide for more environmentally sound management of black and gray water. The ACC’s fly-out privy barrel system removes human wastes from the backcountry, where the land has very limited capacity to absorb wastes without pollution of the local watershed.
  • Huts provide safe emergency shelter for backcountry travelers stranded by poor weather conditions or injuries.
  • When a hut is constructed in a backcountry area where camping has been permitted, this provides land managers with the opportunity to reduce or eliminate campground use and rehabilitate the land.

 

Outhouse Barrel Procedure

Barrels comic

Outhouse Barrel Replacement. Click to enlarge

 

Building a Greener Future

The ACC’s huts also allow for the introduction of new, more environmentally-responsible energy and waste management systems, as appropriate technology becomes available. Ongoing research being conducted by the ACC and government land managers is examining other options including remote wind-power and micro-hydro systems, as well as methods for reducing the mass of black water residues that need to be removed by helicopter.

The ACC’s hut system provides backcountry travelers with environmentally responsible access to the wilderness. The ACC is committed to ongoing efforts to reduce the environmental impact of its hut system through the development and use of appropriate backcountry technology and management practices.