Explore the ACC’s new 5040 hut on Vancouver Island, with incredible ski touring and a beautiful new hut.
Above tree-line on the sharp west ridge of 5040 peak, just inland from the raging surf of Ucluelet and Tofino, in the rugged, not often explored Vancouver Island mountains, stands one of the finest alpine huts in western Canada. The 5040 Hut, built by the Alpine Club of Canada’s Vancouver Island Section over the last two years, took 8000 volunteer hours and dozens of helicopter lifts to complete this incredible structure, complete with all modern amenities. In talking with the two Chris’s (Jensen and Ruttan) who spearheaded the construction, fundraising and organizational efforts, it is clear that this hut is first and foremost a ski hut. The terrain immediately surrounding the hut, well, it’s a steep skiers dream. The incredibly comfortable, beautifully appointed hut stands in stark contrast to the rugged ski terrain and even more rugged approach.
The access to the hut is probably par for the course in terms of Island access, but those coming from big national parks or even places where skiing from the highway is commonplace, getting in might be a bit of a sufferfest.
If coming from the east, drive west to Port Alberni and along Highway 4 towards Tofino. After passing Sutton Pass, reset your odometer and drive approximately 3.5mi until you see a logging road on the left, Marion Creek Main. The trail head is 5.8mi up the logging road, which in dry conditions will require an AWD or 4×4 vehicle with at least a little clearance to navigate. Marion Main is not plowed in the winter, so depending on snow levels, you might be stuck at any point along the logging road, and have to ski the rest. Watching the Sutton Pass webcam to see if there is snow is a good way to check the conditions of the logging road. A snowed in road adds a considerable amount of time to the approach!
ACC 5040 Hut Trail Map
As you near the end of the logging road, be it by car or by foot, watch for a trail on your left with a large ‘5040’ sign. In all but the deepest winter conditions, you will have to remove your skis and hike up the beginning section of trail. The next 984ft vertical of hiking with all that weight on your back is typically quite soul crushing. The relentlessly steep trail is also usually slick with a couple of inches of snow. There are a handful of switchbacks but for the most part the trail goes straight up, clambering over steep roots, rocks and fallen trees. Finally after breaking out of the old growth at around 2953ft, you will crest a small ridge and be able to don your skis and skins. From here, the trail follows this plateau up to Cobolt Lake at 3773ft. From here, looking up to your left you will be able to see the outhouse of the hut, high on the ridge looking down at you.
From the lake take a hard left and work your way up through the glades to gain the west ridge of 5040 at 4265ft. Finally you will arrive at the hut, which if you are lucky will already be warmed up for you by another party!
The Alpine Club of Canada’s 5040 Hut is a deluxe hut. On the roof there is a large solar array powering interior lights, the automatic wood pellet stove (climate controlled), and outlets for charging your electronics. There are also propane tanks and 4 burners for cooking. For melting water, there is a huge pot that sits on top of the wood pellet stove for constant hydration. The kitchen facilities have a full set of pots, pans, cutlery, cups, mugs, spatulas, cutting boards, pizza cutters, apple peelers, and almost anything else you could imagine.
There are two separate bunk rooms with 6 beds each, with comfortable mattresses in place. In the common area beside the kitchen there are two separate dining tables, and a small bar by the kitchen. There is also a pee closet located beside the entrance that is still being finished. Take note of the sign near the door instructing which side of the hut to get snow for melting and which to dispose of grey water.
Almost all of the terrain around the hut is very committing, this is not a place to bring novice ski tourers! The most moderate line around the hut involves skiing up the west ridge another 164ft–328ft, making your way through a number of benches with short steep sections in between. From the plateau just below the summit, ski down the way you came, and follow the approach trail through the glades down to the lake. This 656ft line also skis well in storm conditions due to the number of trees.
A variation for those heading down to the lake involves skiing south-east from the hut along the cliffy bench 328ft above Cobolt Lake. Traverse this bench to the far south side and ski one of the gullies down to the lake.
There are several routes to ski to the summit. The standard summer route goes sharp to the East (looker’s right) from the top of the previously described ski route. It makes a slightly exposed traverse above some cliffs and then cuts to the north to climb up the south ridge to the summit. Alternatively, you can boot-pack directly up any of the gullies directly below the summit. These gullies all make great ski lines, in addition to the numerous lines on the north and east aspects of the peak. Also, in fair weather the views of the surrounding peaks (including the stunning Triple Peak across the valley) and the Pacific Ocean are stellar.
Overall, the 5040 Hut is a great addition for Vancouver Island. It opens up lots of great ski terrain, and will also be spectacular for summer hiking. To book a holiday here, check out the ACC 5040 Hut page for booking info.