Extreme construction: Mountain edition

The partners of Axis Mountain Technical share similar values, working styles and perseverance through the extremes.

by Jillian Clark
The team of Axis Mountain Technical specializes in working in challenging locations, such as this mountaintop.

Most of the jobs that Axis takes on are considered challenging because of their rough locations, such as mountaintops. — Photo courtesy Axis Mountain Technical

Shane Spencer grew up in northern British Columbia. His background includes logging and construction but also mountain safety and guiding. “I spent a lot of time working around industrial projects as a mountain safety avalanche technician,” he said. “I switched gears after witnessing an industrial accident. I moved away from the construction crew and into mountain safety work.” Although he has been drawn back to construction, he has put his mountain safety skills to practice with the foundation of Axis Mountain Technical.

Ryan Foster’s work experience followed a similar path of logging and construction. Foster and Spencer met in university in 2000 and continued to work together for years afterwards. “He was the guy in my class that I connected with,” said Spencer. “We always knew that we would do something together, we just never knew what."

“We came from similar backgrounds: small communities and hard-working families,” Spencer said. “You can recognize those people as problem solvers, innovators.” Axis Mountain Technical recognizes values like these. 

Axis Mountain Technical workers construct a suspension bridge over a river.

The owners of Axis look for individuals with certain personal values, such as innovative problem solvers and hard workers willing to join their close-knit team. — Photo courtesy Axis Mountain Technical

Creating the company

Four years ago, Spencer and Foster used their experience to create the perfect job for them: Axis Mountain Technical Inc. “We moved from working for contractors in industrial operations challenged by mountain environments to doing the jobs ourselves,” Spencer said. Their personal values and work experience fit together. “We became an all-encompassing construction company,” said Spencer.

Matt McGee recently joined as a partner in Axis after connecting with Spencer on their kids’ soccer field. “Our wives introduced us,” Spencer said. “We connected over industrial project talk and found out that we had similar backgrounds and values.” McGee grew up in Revelstoke and followed a similar path in logging and construction as an engineer with experience on mountain landscapes.

Most of their project sites are only accessible via a morning helicopter commute. Here, the helicopter is on a snowy mountaintop.

Most of their project sites are only accessible via a morning helicopter commute. — Photo courtesy Axis Mountain Technical

Their strong work ethics and small-town attitudes prepare these three for anything the elements of British Columbia throw their way. “We are handed projects that are problems,” said Spencer, “ones that other construction companies aren’t interested in. They're either in a rough place, require helicopter access or are just hard work.” The weather, however, is typically the biggest challenge of any job.

About 80 percent of their jobs in the past year included a morning helicopter commute to the job site. While flying to work in the mornings, they’ve developed relationships with the pilots. “We have a high level of trust in those guys, and they have a high level of trust in us,” Spencer said.

Shane Spencer, co-owner, has a background in mountain safety as well as construction, so he passes on his knowledge to his team. Here, the team is on a tall tower surrounded by snowy mountains.

Shane Spencer, co-owner, has a background in mountain safety as well as construction, so he passes on his knowledge to his team. — Photo courtesy Axis Mountain Technical

This type of extreme construction work requires that the Axis team be prepared for anything. They hope to say "yes" to any job they can. Especially when battling the winter elements of northern British Columbia, they have to be organized with their team, materials and equipment. “Snow is a constant battle up there,” Spencer said. “Not only do you have a long winter season, but the mine site is in a windy location with frequent whiteout conditions.”

Building a tough team

Spencer, Foster and McGee have also prepared for the extreme nature of their work by building a solid team to complement their own skills. “It attracts a special breed to go to work in any condition and be totally self-sufficient,” Spencer said. “You can bring all the tools and make all the preparations, but it’s really on-site innovation that gets you through sometimes.” Everyone who works for Axis knows how to work with the harsh mountain elements and is prepared to stay until the job is done. “If it’s a longer job or questionable weather, we will bring out a rescue shack to spend the night in if we have to,” Spencer said. “Camping—that’s all it is. Nothing special!”

For longer jobs, the team will bring out a shelter to camp overnight, such as on this mountaintop.

For longer jobs, the team will bring out a shelter to camp overnight. — Photo courtesy Axis Mountain Technical

They’ve brought together a variety of working backgrounds to form their team, which they attribute much of their success to. Hard work is an understatement of what is necessary to work with Axis Mountain Technical. “Our team knows that we have them high on the list of what gets taken care of first,” said Spencer. “People view us as having a high degree of integrity.” McGee added, “We care.” The team comraderie and similar work ethics help as well.

Axis Mountain Technical owners.

Co-owners of Axis Mountain Technical, from L to R: Ryan Foster, Shane Spencer and Matt McGee. — Photo courtesy Axis Mountain Technical

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