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History of Hollyburn Ridge - Ted Russell

The loggers were, of course, the first people with drive and determination enough to open up access to Hollyburn. In the late twenties the lower reaches of the mountain were laced with their abandoned skid-roads. These had been carefully built so that a team of horses could haul out as much as four cords of shingle bolts on one load. There was a shingle mill just a few feet west of the first West Vancouver High School building [later Inglewood Junior High] with a mill pond built into the creek there.

A flume ended in this pond that started at a larger pond higher up on the mountain just a few hundred yards west of the junction of Eyremont and Millstream roads. This flume crossed overhead at Mathers Avenue and water dripped from it both winter and summer. A shingle bolt dumped into the flume in the top pond arrived at the lower pond in from 17 to 30 minutes depending on the amount of water being allowed into the flume.

This system needed a lot of water so the logging company built a box flume right across the waistline of Hollyburn from the Eyremont Mill pond to Cypress Creek. This need for more water during dry spells caused a series of small lakes on the mountain to be improved. First Lake was damed, Third, Fourth and Fifth Lakes were enlarged and the waters contained in small dykes built of mud, sticks and stone.

Once all the best timber was removed the loggers went to new claims and left the skid-roads, flumes, buildings and old railway grades. One of these old logger's buildings became the first Ski Camp. It was situated at a place on the Ridge known to all Hollyburners as the Old Mill area. The trail to this Ski Camp started at the top of 22nd Street and proceeded north on a skidroad to the box flume then went west along the flume for a mile or more, then turned north again on another skidroad that led to the Old Mill site. Here, after a stiff hike, you could get a good hot cup of Swedish coffee for 10 cents. Skis could be rented and were strapped onto any shoes the renter happened to be wearing. Overnight accommodation consisting of a wooden bunk with a layer of green boughs for a mattress (supply your own blankets) could be had for fifty cents a night. It took a healthy, warm blooded person to get any sleep there if the night was cold. This camp proved to be too low on the mountain for a good ski area, so it was moved about a mile further up the mountain to the present site of the Hollyburn Ski Lodge by three Swedish men, Oscar Pearson, Ole Anderson and Andrew Irving. To these quiet, hard-working, skilled woodsmen must go a lot of the credit for starting the friendly, helpful spirit that became a wav of life on the mountain. Except for a few packhorse loads in later years, they carried everything up the long trail on their backs. The average time they took from the Gartborne Store at 22nd Street and Marine to the Hollyburn Ski Camp was two and one half hours. The average weight of their pack was eighty-five pounds. Many tall stories of heavy packs were told on the mountain, but the heaviest that was weighed by Jirnmy Sansbrook at the Forks Store, was carried up the mountain to his cabin beside Marr Creek by George Fanning. It weighed 198 pounds.

Most of the first private cabins built on Hollyburn were made from lumber salvaged from the old box flume but when the general movement was to higher levels for deeper and longer lasting snow, they went to solid log construction. The roofs were made from shakes split out of the fifty-two inch long shingle bolts that had been left by the loggers. Some of these old log cabins were built by West Vancouver boys; Charlie McGowan, Tob Gibson, Ian Elgar, Charlie McMillan to name a few. Soon after this the cabin construction was improved by the arrival of a group of Norwegian woodsmen, some of them were experienced log house builders. During this cabin building era, a weekend on the mountain was filled with action, the sound of chopping, sawing, shouting and laughter could be heard on all sides. A good-natured rivalry developed between the groups to see whose cabin would be finished and be the best. It was a strange phenomenon but when the cabins were at last finished, every group deemed their cabin to be the best on the mountain.

The first West Lake Lodge was built by Ron Brewis on property owned by Mr. Edward Mahon, a distinguished North Shore pioneer. Ron was helped by such Hollyburn notables as Bus Young, Jack Surnmerf1eld, Mickey Pogue and Irish Beaumont and others. A few years later the West Lake area was used by West Vancouver as a watershed. So the old Lodge and cabins were taken over by Fred and Harry Jones and moved, log by log, to its present site. Fred and Harry built the present West Lake Lodge and although it is not ornate in any way, it is one of the neatest examples of log work to be found anywhere.

Two Ski Clubs were formed to serve the needs of organized skiing. They were the Vancouver Ski Club and the Hollyburn [Pacific] Ski Club. The members sported an easily distinguished pullover sweater and toque, and did not need a ski meet for them to compete. They tried to beat each other in all things, even to getting the most people out to a work party and doing the most work. At least once it happened that more Vancouver members turned out to a Hollyburn work party than there were Hollyburn members. These work parties were something else again, as most of the members were office men, they were not too skilled with tools so that many cuts, bashes, and blisters resulted from tying to make up by effort what was lacking in skill.

The cuts, blisters and broken bones kept Scotty Finlayson, the first Hollyburn Ridge Inspector, busy patching up the injured and helping some get down the mountain to a doctor. He also did the job of organizing the cabin area into proper boundaries, and getting rid of the cabins that were unfinished or unsafe or outside the proper area. There have always been groups of boys who get together and decide to build a cabin, so they just go into a quiet part of the mountain and start. Some of these groups would build anything anywhere. A cabin held to the side of a cliff from two small alder trees. A privy that empties its wastes into a creek to be washed away by its waters. Scotty and all the following Rangers had to contend with this type of thing.

Scotty, after a few years on Hollyburn, became a West Vancouver Policeman. Later he went to organize the Provincial Bridge Police and at present is outdoors again in the Okanagan.

A steep, hairpin-turn, logging road was bulldozed into the lower edge of a large timber lease known as the Heaps Timber Lease and a hundred acres or so was logged off and the logs were hauled out this way. The belief of the time was that this timber should be saved from the loggers so eventually the government of the day traded the Heaps interest for some very good timber elsewhere. Ironically enough there is now a healthy young growth of timber on that land, and the saved areas, so called, are filled with dead balsam trees and over-mature red cedar, cypress and hemlock. This logging road was used for many years as access to the mountain and many cabin owners and others remember the ride up in those fully loaded trucks singing, joking and laughing, all the worries of the week left behind.

The Chairlift was built by the Hollyburn Aerial Trams Company and it had many advantages but some great disadvantages. Its useful life ended in a fire that destroyed the beautiful Hi-View Lodge at its upper terminal.

The cabin owners and hikers had to go back to using the old road and trails and many of them rediscovered the joy of a stiff hike up a quiet trail. The dedicated cabin owner cannot be kept from his or her cabin for long, so even though they had to crawl to it on hands and knees (many of them have experienced this after a very heavy snowfall), they went. The Hollyburn Lodge was purchased by Fred and Harry Burfield in the mid-forties from Oscar, Ole and Andrew, who were at last growing weary of the constant uphill battle. Fred is still carrying on, assisted by his wife, daughter and a little old John Deere crawler tractor. Had records been kept, a book could be written about that little machine. Cars, trucks and jeeps by the dozens it has rescued from ditches and snow drifts, thousands of miles of snow trail packed by its blade and tracks, hundreds of tons of supplies hauled up the mountain. Truly it is another "one-horse-shay".

Nothing in this world is constant but change", it is said, and many things have changed in the fifty years that cabins have been nestled into the forests of Hollyburn Ridge. But one thing has not changed and is each day becoming more necessary and that is the value of the physical effort, the planning, the responsibility gladly assumed by youth, the sense of accomplishment in a cabin well-cared for, a woodpile split and neatly stacked. The opportunity to indulge in these basic activities should be increased, not curtailed. Weekend and holiday cabin using is a conservative recreation. It uses little or no fossil fuel energy unlike car driving, boating and air travel. It comes with our heritage and the cabin owners hope that it will continue as long as people inhabit this continent of North America.

"The History of Hollyburn Ridge" was written by Ted Russell for a District of West Vancouver Committee Report on Hollyburn Ridge in 1976.
Ted Russell died on September 19, 1992. He was a well-loved ranger on Hollyburn for many years and his knowledge and humour is missed by all who knew him.