I took a few days over New Years in hopes of getting some turns in near Mt Assiniboine in British Columbia. A group of six of us flew in from the Mt Shark heli pad into the Naiset Huts. I have mixed feelings about heli assisted trips but I hadn’t been into Assiniboine in the winter before and with the short time we had it seemed like the logical option into the Naiset cabins. There isn’t a lot of beta on using the huts in the winter so I thought I would share my experience.
The Naiset Huts are very basic although the Wonder Lodge cook hut is well equipped with 4 propane stove burners, propane lights and a heater. In total there were 31 people staying in the huts which did make meal preparation a bit challenging but in general we were never waiting too long. There are no cooking pots or utensils at the Wonder Lodge so you need to pack it all in. The water source is a creek over by the ranger cabin which tended to freeze over a lot but the ranger did have an ice auger. We chose not to boil or treat the water and we were fine….so far anyway.
British Columbia parks recommended compressed logs as a heating source for the Naiset Huts and although I was hesitant they did provide enough heat to keep the hut toasty when it was into the -20’s during the night. BC Parks does not provide wood and you are not allowed to burn deadfalls. It doesn’t take much to warm the small cabins up but unless you were treating a winter trip into the huts as a camping expedition, a heat source is recommended. Plus it’s nice to be able to dry out your clothes from the day. Each hut has a small stove that most 3 hour compressed logs would fit in. Another group staying in one of the other huts had a visit by a pack rat. Keep food out of your cabin.
There wasn’t much snow higher up so we spent our time touring around. It’s obvious that area hasn’t seen much ski touring as we broke trail pretty much every route we skied. Although the trails are well marked and obvious during the summer, route finding was required under snow cover. I’m sure as more people ski it, the tracks will be more obvious.
On the third day we skied out to the Bryant Shelter. Again, there was some route finding and what old tracks there were on the way to Assiniboine pass could easily get you off track. A map and compass are essential. Once you get to the pass, the route to Bryant Shelter is pretty obvious. Just below the pass the trail is narrow and steep. We had fun on Alpine Touring skis but those who had cross country skis definitely struggled more.
Bryant Shelter is a basic structure with wooden bunks, tables and a stove – that’s it. There was a good supply of wood to burn which we appreciated as it did get down to as low as -30. The water supply is the creek which again froze over a lot. We didn’t treat or boil water here either but others did. We filled everything that would hold water before we went to bed to avoid the early morning fetching. You need to bring a thermarest or some other sleep pad and although we brought a cooking stove, if you get the fire going well you can boil water and cook your meal right on top of the wood stove.
The ski back to the Mt Shark trailhead is relatively flat except the one big hill. That is where the cross country skiers exacted their revenge as they sped up it while those of us on touring gear either skinned up or fish boned. A lot of the way out is track set for cross country skis which big AT skis don’t come even close to fitting in. Again the cross country skiers cruised. I never put my skins on for the ski out to Mt Shark but I did use grip wax.
Mt Assiniboine is a beautiful area in the winter and I look forward to getting back for some turns.