The Bonnington Traverse
I will start off by warning you that is a brief recap of the Bonnington traverse and is seriously lacking in photography to be a proper trip report. The Bonnington Traverse begins at Bombi Summit on Hwy 3 between Castlegar and Salmo, terminating in Porto Rico between Ymir and Nelson. The traverse is in the shape of a U and has several options based on stability and time constraints.
" The Crux"
We started directly off the highway at Bombi summit however I have read that the road is plowed at times, saving several kilometers on the approach to the Grassy hut. The Traverse follows a snowmobile packed powerline for several kilometers before branching off east towards Grassy. Following more snowmobile packed logging roads we worked our way to the height of land on the west flank of Grassy bowl and descended to Grassy hut for our first night Finally away from old snowmobile tracks and powerlines we finally felt like we were on a traverse. Not being familiar with the area and a 3 m snowpack made the hut nearly impossible to located without a GPS. As a result a GPS is recommended on this traverse for the purpose of locating the huts, the traverse it's self is quite obvious. Grassy Hut is small with two sets of bunk beds , a dinning table and a small but nicely equipped kitchen. All the huts have a wood burning stove for melt water and heating. A personal supply of white gas is required to operate the Coleman lantern and cooking stoves provided at each hut.
Day two was another sunny day with a decent re-freeze overnight creating a supportive crust for easy travel. We topped out Grassy Mountain for a great view point of the entire traverse then proceeded to Grassy N4 keeping height of land and down below Siwash Mountain. We worked our way up the SW bowl to a col and dropped into our second destination the Steed Hut. Again this hut is difficult to located and even with the GPS we overshot it. The Steep hut was the biggest of the three. The Main room had a large dinning table, spacious living area and a small kitchen. The Steed has a loft sleeping area which made for a cozy night with a window that let the moonlight spill into the loft. This hut could have an outhouse but we didn't find it.
Day three. We worked our way up and down several ridges across the east side of Siwash eventually reaching a col landing us in Snow Water Heli's cat skiing operating tenure . We skied the cat operations north facing trees to a cut block and back onto a logging road for a little over 1 km. We were surprised to see a warming hut at the end of the last cut block which belonged to the local snowmobile association. We skied behind the hut and headed east towards Copper Mountain by crossing a small drainage that signaled that we were now on the return path of the traverse. Working our way through perfect Kootenay trees we made it to our last hut of the trip. The Copper Hut. This hut might have been my favorite. It's a small hut with a hobbit sized door and similar floor plan as the Grassy. A set of bunk beds and a dinning table in between them was all it had for furniture. It does has a beautiful porch for hanging out on during nicer weather. We ate as much as we could to lighter packs for the last push. Which meant drinking the three litters of wine we brought… That might be why it was my favorite of the huts.
Day four came with a fresh 15cm and strong winds and the surprise of a broken snowboard binding. We rebuilt the highback with some of the firewood enough to continue the remainder of the route. Working our way to the ridge of Copper bowl we were afforded spectacular views of the area. The winds had worked the new snow into a mix of new cornice and both soft and stiff windslabs depending on aspect. Keeping height of land we skinned ridge after ridge , each with its own unique features this was by far the highlight of the traverse. Once arrived on “ the crux” of the traverse on territory peak we had a hard discussion about committing ourselves to the fresh slab and cornice combo. We opted for a detour to the quickie traverse route which added a lot of bushwacking and vertical to our day but more powder skiing. This meant a detour down Territory bowl and over to Dominion bowl. With fresh snow, loss of elevation the snow had turned to proper mashed potatoes and clung to our skins for the rest of the traverse. I would be lying if I told you that this was a pleasant experience but it was the safe option and we had committed to it. We worked our way up Dominion bowl to the col just as the last of the daylight was disappearing about 30 minutes after sunset. At about 20:00 we had transitioned and were making our way down the east side of Dominion by headlight and out the 10km or so of logging roads to Porto Rico. Thankfully this was all down hill and no skinning was involved. We could have stayed at the huckleberry hut for a fourth night but having to be at work for 6:30am the following morning it just wasn't in the cards for our party.