Fold mountains

A century-old cabin in the Rocky Mountains has been dismantled due to erosion

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LAKE LOUISE, Alta. — When a daring construction crew entered a century-old cabin in the Rocky Mountains on the first day of its dismantling, they lit the chimney one last time and chatted for an hour about the gravity of what they were about to do. TO DO.

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“The whole team knew the greatness and the sadness of what we were doing,” said Sean Alexander, the leader of the construction team that dismantled the Abbot Pass Refuge Cabin last month. It straddled the Continental Divide and the Alberta-British Columbia border about three kilometers above sea level and was the second tallest structure in Canada.

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“It wasn’t just a regular barn teardown,” Alexander told a news conference on Wednesday.

“That was the story.”

Parks Canada said all that remains is a piece of wall, a few stone steps and a plaque on the cabin at the site which sits close to the sky in often harsh weather.

Francois Masse of Parks Canada said the cabin was built by skilled Swiss craftsmen in 1922 and could have stood for decades had it not been for climate change.

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“Parks (Canada) really, really did their best to keep the cabin in place,” he said.

“We have invested significant sums. Unfortunately, the ground kept getting warmer and caused cracks in the structure.

Keith Haberl of the Alpine Club of Canada said there were a lot of tears when the dismantling began.

“Nobody wanted to see it disappear,” he said.

“People were going up there as mountaineers to stay at the hut, make fires. People who knew him were inspired by it, wanted to go there one day and never could and never will be able to again. Everyone feels the weight of this place (being) gone now.

Haberl says the Canadian Pacific Railway hired Swiss guides in the 1920s to work in Canada to take tourists to peaks and mountains.

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“Swiss guides built the hut based on construction patterns, ideas and standards used in Switzerland at the time,” Haberl said.

It is named after Philip Stanley Abbot, who was an American lawyer and the first recorded person to die while mountaineering in North America. The Alpine Club of Canada’s website said 24 people could sleep in the cabin, which was designated a national historic site in 1992.

It was equipped with propane stove tops, an outdoor bathroom, propane lighting and a wood stove for heating. Hikers used melting snow as a source of water.

Alexander said that as the crew members dismantled the cabin over the span of about 15 days, everything felt “borderline and extreme”.

“Helicopters have trouble lifting things. The crew did not feel in good shape,” he said.

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“I quickly reminded them how difficult it was to build the hut. We flew in a helicopter and (the original builders) didn’t.

Alexander said their tool motors regularly freeze due to the high altitude and lack of air pressure. The crew members took more breaks than usual.

“We had a very good helicopter company. The crew pulled themselves together and were able to slowly and steadily dismantle the cabin piece by piece.

Alexander said crew members discovered many items in the cabin, including a well-preserved walking stick under the floor and unique coins that could not have been found unless the wood had been dismantled. .

“(It was) an exciting time for us because you’ll hear a shout upstairs, ‘I found something.’ Then we would all run over there and (say) ‘Oh, wow. That’s one of the originals and there was 1922 next to it. That really meant a lot.

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Masse said that while some mountain rocks used to build the hut were scattered where they came from, some parts of the hut were retained.

“Parks Canada will work with stakeholders, Indigenous groups and the public to help identify options for interpreting the heritage values ​​of the cabin, its contribution to rustic design architecture and its significance to Canadian national parks,” said he declared.

Masse also said the dismantling of the cabin is one of many examples of the impact of climate change on Canadian parks.

“It’s something as an agency that we need to be extremely aware of. We have a lot of science staff who closely monitor the influence on the environments we manage and try to understand where it’s going and how we can influence it. mitigate.

Haberl said the loss of the hut is difficult for members of the Alpine Club.

“It’s been a big part of what the Alpine Club of Canada has been — backcountry shelters, mountaineering, safety in the alpine environment, job training. Everyone is sad about it.

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