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BONNINGTONS TRAVERSE

We want to hear about your adventures in the Bonningtons so don’t forget to post a trip report in the backcountryskiingcanada.com forums. If you have a new route in the area you want to share, mouse-on over here. N-Joy.

All of the huts along the Bonnington traverse are great ski touring destinations on their own. They offer interesting and varied terrain that is unique to each location. Whether you are doing the Bonnington traverse and are interested in spending an extra night at one of the huts to explore side trip options, or you are interested in exploring a specific location, this section describes many possible tours from each of the huts. Because it is unrealistic to describe every possible tour from each hut, we’ve included some of the better tours and left others for you to discover.

The tours described here are in avalanche terrain. Proper training and experience is required for good route planning and safe travel in avalanche terrain. Of note, there are only a few official ATES (Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale) ratings available for the Bonnington range at this time. The terrain around the Copper Mountain Hut has been rated Challenging while the Barrett creek area has been rated Complex. While the terrain in the Grassy mountain area is a little simpler, most of the terrain in the Bonnington would likely fall in the Challenging ATES rating category.

For a look at some of the terrain and a few of the cabins have a watch of this video of the Bonnington Traverse taken in April of 2011.

If you are looking for specific information on the huts themselves, click on over to the site’s hut section for the Interior Mountains, HERE. There you’ll find detailed information on access, sleeping capacity and other points of interest.

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ROUTES:

1.Bonnington Range Traverse
2. Grassy Hut Area
3. Steed Hut Area
4. Copper Hut Area
5. Huckleberry Hut Area

For a full listing of backcountry huts, cabins and lodges check out the Interior Mountain Lodging page over here.


Backcountry skiing is an inherently dangerous activity that requires experience and knowledge to travel safely. Any of the routes on this site may be dangerous depending on conditions. You are responsible for your own safety in the backcounty—the team behind backcountryskiingcanada.com disclaim any responsibility for any injury resulting from people travelling on routes described on this site.  The above map is for reference only and is not intended as a navigational aid. To read our Terms of Use and get all the details, read HERE

All routes listed here provided by Summit Mountain Guides.  If we have missed anything please let us know?


 

BONNINGTON RANGE TRAVERSE

Due to its close proximity, relatively easy access and interesting terrain, this regional hut-to-hut ski traverse is a Nelson classic. This 45km tour is commonly done in 3 to 4 days; it is a good introduction to backcountry ski traverses from the comfort of small cozy wilderness huts. The complete Bonnington traverse is horseshoe shaped and is traditionally done from Bombi summit near Castlegar to the Porto Rico road near Ymir BC. Done this way most people will spend their 1st night at the Grassy Hut, their 2nd at the Steed Hut and their 3rd at the Copper Mountain Hut. Some will choose to extend their trip and spend a worthwhile 4th night at the Huckleberry Hut before exiting through Barrett creek. The Huckleberry Hut also makes for a logical 1st night if doing the traverse in reverse. The Kootenay Mountaineering Club has done a fantastic job at managing and maintaining these huts. It is now possible to book the huts online through the KMC website. All of the areas encountered on this tour are great ski touring destinations on their own.

The mountains of the Bonnington range are mainly treed, they are more subdued than the ones further north and the summits are just above treeline. The main terrain characteristics in this area include: great tree skiing, many open bowls, sharp ridgelines along with a reliable snowpack. Most of the ski peaks are in the 2300m-elevation range and provide plenty of great powder skiing opportunities and good views. The tour described here is in avalanche terrain. Proper training and experience is required for good route planning and safe travel in avalanche terrain. Of note, there are only a few official ATES (Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale) ratings available for this traverse. The terrain around the Copper Mountain Hut has been rated Challenging while the Barrett creek area has been rated Complex.

Due to its close proximity and ease of access, The Bonnington Range is well used by various groups throughout the winter months. Both Ski tourers and Snowmobilers have been using this area recreationally for decades. In recent years Snowwater Heli-skiing has acquired the rights to use the Bonnington range for commercial heli-skiing. They operate out of their own lodge near the headwaters of Snowwater creek (grid 685-698, NAD83). The lodge is actually on private land and ski tourers travelling through the area are asked to respect any sings posted by the owners. You will most likely cross path with these user group along your tour.

ROUTE: Bonnington Range Traverse 
ACCESS: Bombi summit, 17km East of Castlegar along Highway 3
MAP: 82 F/4, 82 F/5, 82 F/6
TIME: 3-4 days
DIStance: 45km
elevation gain: 2500m/8202'
elevation LOSS: 2800m/9186'
ates rating: Complex (3)

 

Day 1: Bombi Summit to Grassy Mountain Hut

The common start for this traverse is at the 1214m Bombi summit, 17km East of Castlegar along Highway 3. Start where the power line crosses the road and follow it in a northerly direction for about 6km, this is perhaps the least enjoyable part of the trip. There are many service roads paralleling the power lines that will facilitate your progress however, if you are not familiar with the area it is simpler to follow the gently rising power lines. After about 3km along the power lines, you will arrive at a power line junction. Continue along the main power line, which turns in a Northeasterly direction. After almost 3km along this segment (around 1570m) the power line turns back in a northerly direction. From this point (near tower #154), leave the power lines and ascend a forested west-facing slope for 365m in an easterly direction to a broad pass (1935m) 1.3km southwest of Grassy Mountain. From the pass, ski down in a Northeasterly direction for a distance of about 400m to the Grassy Mountain hut at 1900m (642-598, NAD83). The route to the broad pass is on private land, please respect any signs posted by the landowner.

ROUTE: To Grassy Hut
ACCESS: Bombi summit, 17km East of Castlegar along Highway 3
MAP: 82 F/6
TIME: 4-6 hours
DIStance: 9km
elevation gain: 720m/2362''
elevation LOSS: 40m/132'
ates rating: TBD

 

Day 2: Grassy Mountain Hut to Steed Hut

From the Grassy Mountain hut, ascend open trees and meadows in a northeasterly direction to Grassy Mountain 2100m. From the summit, the common traverse route backtracks west about 400m and follows a treed ridge extending in a northerly direction between the headwaters of Granite creek and McPhee creek. After about 1.5km of mainly downhill travel along this north ridge you will arrive at a 1900m pass with a logging road crossing. From here, continue in a northerly direction ascending along the same ridge through tight trees at first and eventually more open trees and meadows to the northeast summit of “Twin Peak” at 2120m (grid 650-642, NAD83, not named on map). From this summit, ski down along the northwest ridge to about 2000m. Look for the easiest way down to the right into an east-facing basin back into Granite creek and ski down to a logging road at 1840m. Ascend this road to a 1900m pass between Granite creek and Glade Creek (grid 656-653, NAD 83). From the pass, contour around the headwaters of Glade creek and ascend a west-facing slope to a 2180m col (grid 671-659, NAD 83), 750m Northwest of Marble Lake. Descend a short but steep slope to the Steed hut (grid 674-660, NAD83), located at 2080m on a bench-like feature near a small lake 500m northwest of Marble Lake.

ROUTE: Grassy Hut to Steed Hut
ACCESS: From Grassy Hut
MAP: 82 F/6
TIME: 4-6 hours
DIStance: 9km
elevation gain: 760m/2493''
elevation LOSS: 580m/1902'
ates rating: TBD

 

Day 3: Steed Hut to Copper Mountain Hut

From the Steed Hut ski in a northerly direction across the headwaters of Rush creek on the eastern flank of Siwash Mountain. Several options exist depending on avalanche conditions. Gain a 2020m col (grid 684-677, NAD 83) 1.4 km Northeast of Siwash Mountain. From here the traditional traverse route descends through convoluted forest and cut blocks in a North-north-easterly direction to a 1650m pass between the headwaters of Snowwater Creek and Erie Creek, located 1km south of Mount Conner. The safest and slightly longer route to the Hut from here is done by ascending north east into a basin between Mount Conner and Copper Mountain to a point where it is possible to safely reach the southwest ridge of Copper Mountain near 1980m. From this point on the ridge, a 700m long gentle downhill glide across sparse trees in a Southeasterly direction will bring you to the Hut at 1920m (grid 720-705, NAD83). The Hut is located in a clump of older trees in the middle of a large southwest-facing bowl, 1km southwest of Copper Mountain.

Depending on conditions, there are a few alternate route options to reach the Copper Hut. One of them is described here: From the 2020m col (grid 684-677, NAD 83) 1.4 km Northeast of Siwash Mountain, travel east along the ridge separating Snowwater Creek and Rush Creek for nearly 1km. Descend along this ridge in an easterly direction for a distance of 250m and then ski down a forested, u-shaped, valley in a northerly direction for 1.5km. From here, follow the west fork of Erie Creek down in an easterly direction to a 1460m-creek junction near the headwaters of Erie Creek (grid 706-694, NAD83). From this point, ascend forested slopes and eventually meadows in a northeasterly direction towards the southwest facing basin of Copper Mountain and eventually the Hut. This option can be faster and is interesting however; it is more exposed to avalanche terrain than the regular route and requires a slightly bigger vertical gain.

ROUTE: Steed Hut to Copper Hut
ACCESS: From Steed Hut
MAP: 82 F/6
TIME: 4-6 hours
DIStance: 11km
elevation gain: 500m/1640'
elevation LOSS: 630m/2066'
ates rating: TBD

 

Day 4: Copper Mountain Hut to Porto Rico Road

From the Copper Hut, ascend 110m in an east-south-easterly direction to a low point along the south ridge extending from Copper Mountain. From here, follow the height of land between Hall Creek and Erie Creek in a southerly direction for almost 5km along an exposed ridge system connecting Territory Peak, Colony Peak and Empire Peak. This section is beautifully exposed, offers some of the best views of the whole tour and is certainly the highlight of the traverse. There is a sharp and exposed ridge section that is best boot packed between Colony Peak and Empire Peak. Although not ideal, it is possible to bypass this section. To do so, ski down the southwest side of the ridge from the Territory-Colony Col for a few hundred meters and then traverse across a steep west-facing basin towards Empire Peak. The best way back up to Empire Peak is then to ascend steeply up its west face aiming for a 2130m point along its southwest ridge (grid 738-663, NAD 83). From Empire peak, ski down beautifully spaced trees on a steep southeast-facing slope to Barrett Lake. From here, locate the old access road on the northeast side of the lake and ski down it for 9km to the Porto Rico parking area located about 5km north of Ymir. The Barrett lake area is very popular with snowmobilers and the access road is quite often packed down making for fast travel on the way out. This access road travels from west to east on the north side of Barrett creek. The first 3km are quite exposed by the avalanche terrain from the south face of Commonwealth Peak. Travel here is not recommended when the avalanche hazard is high or when it’s late in the day on a warm and sunny spring day.

If you have more time, it is possible to extend this trip and spend a worthwhile 4th night at the Huckleberry Hut. This is a great side trip option or an interesting venue on its own. This hut is located at 1600m up the south fork of Barrett creek on the downhill side of the access road (grid 768-636, NAD83). The easiest way to get there from Barrett Lake is to ski down valley along the main Barrett creek access road for 3km. At about 1400m you will arrive at a road junction. From here, cross Barrett creek and ascend the right hand rising road on the south side of the creek in a southeasterly direction. Follow this road for nearly 2km, passing through a few avalanche slopes, and you will arrive at the hut. Depending on the avalanche hazard, it is also possible to get to the Huckleberry hut via a more committing route. From Barrett Lake ascend a steep north facing broad gully to a 2050m saddle along the ridge between Dominion Peak and Cabin Peak (grid 750-650, NAD83). Then follow the undulating ridge in a southeasterly direction for 1.2km to Cabin Peak. Ski down the south ridge of Cabin peak and eventually down the east-facing basin through open bowl and nicely spaced trees to the Huckleberry Hut.

ROUTE: Copper Hut to Portorico Rd.
ACCESS: From Copper hut
MAP: 82 F/6
TIME: 4-6 hours
DIStance: 16km
elevation gain: 510m/1673'
elevation LOSS: 1560m/5118'
ates rating: TBD

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Grassy Hut Area

The area around the Grassy Hut is less frequented by heli skiers and snowmobilers than the other huts; it is the quietest venue in the Bonnington range. Also, there is a two hectare area around the hut designated for non-motorized use. The area offers a mixture of gentle and moderately steep ski touring terrain with plenty of options for when the avalanche danger is higher. That being said, there are also some more aggressive terrain options for when the avalanche danger is lower. The terrain characteristics here include: good tree skiing, sub-alpine meadows and bowls, along with many steeper avalanche paths. Note that the terrain around the Grassy Hut has not been rated on the avalanche terrain exposure scale (ATES).

The ski-tours around Grassy hut are located at the headwaters of Grassy Creek, Granite Creek and McPhee Creek. The south-east facing basin surrounding the Hut is the primary ski touring area. It is bound by the 2100m Grassy Mountain to the north and the rounded 1980m summit known as “False Grassy” (grid 642-592, NAD 83) to the south. The skier’s right-hand side of this basin, from the top of False Grassy, provides some gentler open tree skiing. The snow quality on this side will persist longer and is less likely to get sun baked because it faces more to the north-east. The open meadows and avalanche paths on the south face of Grassy Mountain boast some fantastic skiing when the avalanche danger and ski quality are right. There have been many epic moonlight skiing runs on these slopes. On the north side of the east-west ridge extending from Grassy Mountain, there are many steeper north-facing options to ski. There you will find a mixture of steep open trees and avalanche paths down towards Grady Lake or Granite Creek and gentler tree skiing towards McPhee Creek. Depending on the time of year and conditions, other skiing options in this area include the gentler but denser treed slopes on the west side of “False Grassy” and the steep south facing open meadows and avalanche paths on the south side of “False Grassy”. Also, a day trip over to “Twin Peak” (grid 650-642, NAD 83 unnamed on the map) 3.6 km north of Grassy Mountain is an interesting side trip that can provide some good skiing.

There are a total of 13 routes to ski around Grassy Hut with vertical descents ranging from 600' to 1300'. Have a look over the route info, get details from the map or salivate over the photos. For all the details on the backcountry skiing routes around Grassy Hut have a look over here and to see what Grassy Hut looks like watch the video here.

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Steed Hut Area

The Steed Hut is the newest of the Bonnington Huts; it is a very sweet hut with many fun but steeper ski touring options. It is probably one of the best venues in the Bonnington range and is the ideal place to spend an extra night while doing the Bonnington traverse. There are more aggressive terrain options than gentle ones and the area is more enjoyable when the avalanche danger is lower. Some of the terrain characteristics include: very good tree skiing, sub-alpine meadows, open bowls, a few cool ski peaks along with many steep avalanche paths. The only unfortunate thing about this area is that there is a significant amount of snowmobile and heli ski traffic. Note also that the terrain around the Steed Hut has not yet been rated on the avalanche terrain exposure scale (ATES).

The ski-tours around the Steed Hut are located at the headwaters of Granite Creek, Rush Creek and Glade Creek. The east-facing basin surrounding the hut, known as “Marble Basin”, is the primary ski touring area. It is bound by the 2240m south summit of Siwash Mountain to the north and by “Marble Mountain” (grid 673-652, NAD 83, unnamed on map) to the south. The steep and appealing runs from “Marble Mountain” down to Marble Lake can be fantastic when the conditions are right and you judge the avalanche danger as low. Some fine gentler options in times of higher avalanche danger can be found closer to the hut and along the south side of the ridge separating the Marble Lake basin and the headwaters of Rush Creek. An ascent of Siwash Mountain, along the east ridge to the south summit and then along the south ridge to the main summit is a great option. Most of the ridges extending from Siwash Mountain are sharp and heavily corniced. Caution is advised when travelling along such ridges; it is important to stay well away from the potential breaking point of cornices. Other interesting tours include the steep but varied headwaters of Rush Creek. Here you will find everything from wide open bowls, steeps to mellow tree skiing. This area has plenty of avalanche terrain and, though you should use caution when travelling through here, there are many options to minimize your exposure on both ascent and descent routes. The north-east summit of Siwash (grid 676-672, NAD83) offers some really good descent options. On the south-east side, into Rush Creek, you will find some gentler but fine tree skiing. On the north-west side, towards Siwash Lake, a good mixture of steeper open bowls and tree skiing offers great descent and ascent options. The west side of Siwash Mountain also offers a few worthy ski tours. The best way to access that side is to gain a 2180m col (grid 671-659, NAD 83), 400m west-southwest of the Steed Hut via a short but steep slope. Good run options await keen ski tourers on the west side of this col and further north on the west face of Siwash Mountain.

There are a total of 13 routes to ski around Grassy Hut with vertical descents ranging from 600' to 1300'. Have a look over the route info, get details from the map or salivate over the photos. For all the details on the backcountry skiing routes around Steed Hut have a look over here

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Copper Mountain Hut Area

The cozy Copper Mountain hut is located in a gentle south-west facing basing below beautiful Copper Mountain. This area offers a good mixture of gentle and steeper ski touring terrain. If you assess the avalanche danger as low, you will be able to fully explore this area. If the avalanche danger appears higher, there are still some great options around the hut. Some of the terrain characteristics here include: a good mixture of gentle and steep tree skiing, sub-alpine meadows, open bowls along with many cool ski peaks and several steeper avalanche paths. Like the Grassy Hut, the Copper Mountain Hut is surrounded by a two hectare zone designated for non-motorized use. Also, the surrounding area does not see as much snowmobiling traffic; however, the heli-skiers use the nearby areas and the headwaters of Hall Creek extensively. The terrain around the Copper Mountain Hut has been rated “Challenging” on the avalanche terrain exposure scale (ATES).

All of the ski-tours described below are located at the headwaters of Erie Creek, Hall Creek, Rover Creek and Porter Creek. Some worthy ski peaks in the area include: Copper Mountain, Mount Conner, Red Mountain, Verde Peak and Territory Peak. The gentle south-west facing basin surrounding the hut is the primary ski touring area. It is bound by the west ridge of Copper Mountain to the north and by the west ridge of an unnamed peak (grid 725-698, NAD 83) to the south. A ski tour up to Copper Mountain is a classic and offers great views; a descent down its south-west face is also fun. Just south of this basin, there is another west-facing basin with moderately steep tree skiing options. This basin is best accessed by following the ridge extending south from the previously mentioned unnamed peak. Other gentler tree skiing options can be found in the headwaters of Rover creek, north west of Copper Mountain. In times of lower avalanche danger, the skiing in the headwaters of Hall Creek can be terrific. The west fork of Hall Creek features some of the best steep tree skiing and avalanche path skiing in the Bonnington range. The main concern with this area is coming back out of it--it is very tricky because there are only a few safe options for up-tracks. It is not recommended unless you have a lot of experience making decision in avalanche terrain, good route finding skills and, of course, you judge the avalanche danger to be low. The safest way back up from the west fork of Hall Creek is via the south col of Verde Peak. From the col, continue up in a southerly direction along a sharp north ridge to an unnamed peak (grid 735-686, NAD 83). From this peak, follow a ridge system in a north-westerly direction towards Copper Mountain and eventually back to the hut. The north-east facing basin below Territory Peak is very similar in character to the west fork of Hall Creek—it also features some of the best ski runs in the Bonnington range. The safest way out of there is also via the south col of Verde Peak but coming from the east side. All of the steeper faces off of Copper Mountain (and most peaks in the Bonnington Range ) have been skied. Also worth exploring in times of lower avalanche danger is the headwater of Porter Creek. Here you will find some excellent tree skiing, some open meadows, some steep avalanche slopes and some pleasant clear-cut skiing. The safest way to access this area is to tour around the north-west side of Copper Mountain.

There are a total of 13 routes to ski around Grassy Hut with vertical descents ranging from 600' to 1300'. Have a look over the route info, get details from the map or salivate over the photos. For all the details on the backcountry skiing routes around Copper Mountain Hut have a look over here

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Huckleberry Hut Area

Located near the headwaters of the south fork of Barrett Creek, the Huckleberry Hut is the oldest of the Bonnington Cabins. It is a small cozy hut that can accommodate four people. It is more often used as a base for ski touring than a stop-over while on the Bonnington Traverse. This area offers a good mix of gentle and moderately steep ski touring terrain with some good options in times when avalanche danger appears high. There are also some good but more aggressive terrain options when the avalanche danger is lower. The terrain characteristics in this area include: good tree skiing, sub-alpine meadows and bowls along with many steeper avalanche paths. The area is often frequented by both heli-skiers and snowmobilers; however, there is slightly less traffic here than at the Copper Hut or the Steed Hut. That being said, the Barrett Lake area is one of the most popular snowmobile areas in the Bonnington Range. Note that the terrain around Barrett Lake has been rated “Complex” on the avalanche terrain exposure scale (ATES). This area is not recommended unless you assess the avalanche danger as low, you are experienced, and have proper avalanche training.

The ski-tours around Huckleberry Hut are located at the headwaters of Barrett Creek and Craigtown Creek. The snow quality in this area is often good long after a storm as the majority of the ski touring terrain is north and east facing. The interesting ski peaks in this area include: Midday, Cabin, Dominion, Empire and Commonwealth Peaks. The north-east facing basin surrounding the hut is the primary ski touring area. It is bound by the 2050m Cabin Peak to the north-west and the rounded 1935m summit of Midday Peak to the south. This basin offers plenty of gentle tree skiing options in times of high avalanche danger along with a few steeper open bowls and avalanche paths when the avalanche danger is lower. To access this terrain, the safest ascent route is to continue along the old mining road from the hut in a south-westerly direction to a pass between Cabin Peak and Midday Peak. From the pass, tour along the ridge extending to Cabin Peak or Midday Peak and pick your ski lines back towards Barrett Creek based on your choice and the avalanche danger. Other gentler and moderately steep skiing options can be found in the headwaters of Craigtown Creek on the southern flanks of Dominion, Cabin and Midday Peaks. Some of the steeper skiing options in this area include: the east flank of Cabin Peak, the terrain surrounding Barrett Lake and the south-facing terrain below Commonwealth Peak. The safest way to access the Barrett Lake and Commonwealth terrain is to ski back down the Huckleberry Hut access road for about 2km and then to ascend the main Barrett Creek valley in a westerly direction along an old mining road for 3km to Barrett Lake. Remember, the terrain here is complex and good route finding skills, along with little avalanche danger, is a required for proper route selection. The safest ascent routes for both Empire and Commonwealth Peaks start from the north-east corner of Barrett Lake. For Empire Peak, ascend the steep open trees on a south-east facing slope to gentler terrain above and, eventually, Empire Peak. For Commonwealth, ascend steep open trees on the same south-east facing slope toward a 2050m col between Empire and Commonwealth Peaks. From here, follow near the west of Commonwealth Peak to the summit. Travel with care due to large overhanging cornices off the northwest face of Commonwealth Peak.

Also of interest is an ascent of the beautiful south shoulder of Dominion Peak, a classic Bonnington tour. The best way to get to this tour is to cross the headwater of Craigtown Creek in a westerly direction from the previously mentioned Cabin/Midday Pass. Several options exist to gain access to the south shoulder; some of them are more threatened by avalanche terrain than others. Pick your line carefully and once you have gained the south ridge of Dominion Peak, be extremely careful of large, overhanging cornices off the north-east face.

There are a total of 13 routes to ski around Grassy Hut with vertical descents ranging from 600' to 1300'. Have a look over the route info, get details from the map or salivate over the photos. For all the details on the backcountry skiing routes around Huckleberry Hut have a look over here

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All routes listed above provided by Summit Mountain Guides.  If we have missed anything please let us know?