Burton Hut (Spring 2004)
|Fee||$5 / night|
|Built||1969 (renovated 2006)|
|Caretaker||Varsity Outdoor Club|
The Burton Hut, also known as Sphinx Hut, is the VOC's oldest current hut. It is located in Sphinx Bay, on the east side of Garibaldi Lake. The hut is on NTS map sheet 92 G/15 but most of the approach is on 92 G/14. Access is easiest in winter when the Lake is frozen. In late spring, it seems that the hut occasionally floods with water due to ice jamming the nearby creek where it flows into Garibaldi Lake.
VOC huts are open to all non-motorized users. A $5 per person per night fee applies to pay for hut maintenance. The fee can be sent in to the VOC by mail. In addition, BC Parks now (as of Summer 2011) requires that you pay them $10 per person per night if you spend nights at Sphinx, regardless of whether you are a VOC fee-paying member, or not.
VOC trips have priority during fall and winter holidays (New Years, Reading Week, Easter) so please contact the VOC before planning a trip during this time. Commercial groups are requested to contact the VOC before using any of the huts. There is a lost and found page for items in and around the VOC huts.
No reservations are taken, but please see the VOC Hut Registration page to help coordinate use.
The Burton Hut accommodates about 10 people comfortably and up to 15 with a bit of squeezing. There is a lot of sleeping space (attic (6), sleeping platform (5), sleeping bench (2), on the floor underneath the sleeping platoform (5) ) but space for cooking, socializing and gear storage / drying is more limited.
In summer 2006 it was renovated, and is now weatherproof and insulated, making the hut far warmer than it was before the renovation. There is an outhouse located to the NNW of the hut and a nearby stream to the South (and a huge lake to the West) for water.
Appliances present include a coleman lamp, catalytic heater and a 2 burner coleman stove - which all run on white gas. The old kerosene appliances have been removed.
Note: As of February 2008, the coleman stove is somewhat temperamental - it does work, but can be challenging to light and get running well. It also appears to leak white gas when fully off, requiring depressurising after use. It may be advisable to carry in your own stove and not to rely entirely on the hut stove working.
- One New VOC Songbook
- VOCJ 1962
- VOCJ 1967
- VOCJ 1968
- VOCJ 1970
- VOCJ 1971
- Gateway to the Empire
|The route and terrain described here is capable of producing avalanches. Safe travel requires the skills and equipment to assess and mitigate avalanche hazards. A professionally taught training course is highly recommended.|
The Burton Hut is an awesome base for fair weather skiing, with amazing long glacier descents all around. There are few trees however, so it is a poor destination in bad weather or in unstable conditions. The hut is often used as a stopover on the Garibaldi Neve Traverse.
The Garbage Pile
When the visibility is so bad that you cannot tell if you are about to be avalanched if heading for the Guard-Deception Col, then you can instead go up the pile of volcanic rubble on the N side of Sphinx Valley, well below Castle Towers, and get a few short runs down to the valley bottom. A few trees provide some hints of visibility.
Ski up to Guard Pass (the Guard - Deception col) and then continue on up to near the top of the north end of the Deception Pinnacles. An amazing ski descent of 2500ft back to the Burton Hut awaits. A safer ascent route, although less direct, is to climb the Sphinx glacier then cross under Deception near the top.
On a clear day you can't miss it; get onto the steep nose of the glacier and work your way up the corridor to the Bookworms. Avoid crevasses at the top of the corridor. You can either return the same way, or swing past the Bookworms towards Sphinx, descending to the valley parallel to, and east of, the Guard-Deception route.
The Sentinel Glacier in Sentinel Bay is just around the corner. Get there by traveling along the lake, or up over Sphinx Pass. Guard Pass is slightly lower, but the south side of the pass is steep and rocky. A long ski run descends from near the summit of Glacier Pikes to Garibaldi Lake.
There are good nearby climbs on Castle Towers, Sphinx, Deception Pinnacles and Guard Peak. Short, alpine rock routes can also be found on the Phyllis Engine and the Bookworms.
Access to the Burton Hut is complicated by the fact that there is no trail, and that Garibaldi Lake is so huge that it doesn't usually freeze until sometime in January.
The Rubble Creek turnoff for the Garibaldi Lake Trail is located about midway between Squamish and Whistler (Google Map), about 250km return. There is a prominent sign, Garibaldi - Black Tusk trailhead, indicating the turnoff. The road leads about 2km to the parking lot at approximately 600m elevation. Only the first 400m of this road is normally plowed in winter, up to a private driveway. Do not block access to this private driveway when parking along the road.
Mid winter access is generally straightforward. Ski / Snowshoe the portion of road which is not plowed in winter (2km), then up the well used trail to Garibaldi Lake (9km) and then continue across the frozen lake to the hut (4.7km) which is located just past the moraine wall in Sphinx Bay, on the North side of the river which drains the basin. Total distance and elevation gain are about 15.7km and 1100m Make sure to scout the ice from a hill first, as the far side of the lake around the Burton Hut is always the last part to freeze, and it is not easy to spot open water from so far away if you are standing at lake level. February, March and April are the most reliable months for solid ice on the lake. If the lake is not frozen, the hut can still be reached by the summer route over Panorama Ridge and Gentian Peak.
Summer access requires walking around the Lake, usually via Black Tusk Meadows, over the Helm Glacier to Gentian Pass, and then bushwacking down from Gentian Pass to the hut. To avoid traveling on the Helm glacier, hike over Panorama Ridge to Gentian Peak and then down to Gentian Pass.
Try asking Roland Burton. The hut was built back in 1969 making it the VOC's oldest standing hut. Roland received the Gold Pin in 1970 for his contribution to building the hut.
For many years, the hut was the site of an annual Sphinx Spring Ski Camp. This used to be a huge event with dozens of people trekking across the lake around easter to ski in the basin. There's even an old 8mm movie from the 1962 trip in the clubroom archives about it.
The Burton Hut has seen relatively low activity over it's lifetime, primarily because it is only easily accessible for only 3 or 4 months every year. This pattern of relatively low use kept the hut in reasonable shape for many years.
In August 2006 the Burton hut was renovated with a new door, windows, floor, end walls, insulation and a vapour barier to help keep things warmer in the winter. The hut furniture was completely rebuilt to provide a large cooking area and a 30 inch wide bench for sitting, sleeping or gear storage. The old kerosene heater (and all remaining kerosene) were removed and replaced with a white gas catalytic heater.
Hut and Trail Conditions
April 20-21, 2007
Two friends and I stayed at Burton hut as part of our Garibaldi Neve traverse. The traverse was great with good visibility and just the right amount of soft snow for the long decent to the lake. The snow pack is deep up high and seemed very stable. We spent a night in the cozy glaciology hut after coming off the traverse, enjoying the chance to go barefoot on the warm exposed rock in the afternoon sun. The next day we managed little more than a ski over to Burton, which required a full dig-out, and a nap. Russ and I rallied around 6pm for an evening tour, making it 3/4 of the way to Sphinx col for sunset and a ski down on firm, but reliable snow.
The hut is in great shape, very tidy and well put together. A note on the Coleman stove reports a leak. We didn't try it since we had a camp stove. Nor did we, or the other group of five guys, test the heater or lantern. There are a couple snow melting pots and a 5gal bucket for collecting creek water, but no cook pots or other utensils. The creek is open and the water sweet, but don't venture there in your booties.
The next morning we bid farewell and waxed for the lake crossing, very scenic and enjoyable with the big peaks all out. Still plenty frozen. The top part of the trail was fun, with some pow in the trees, then a little fast and firm, then icy, beat up and downright nasty. We walked a couple km of the worst of it before hitting dry trail, about 4.5km of walking total. We had arranged a ride with a nice young woman who works at the Discovery center in Squamish who we contacted by cell phone (OK signal at both trail heads). A little grueling but were on the road to Seattle by 4pm.
The skiing possibilities above Burton had my eyes pooping out of my head. Two full days with the hut as a base are warranted. It won't be long before we return to this beautiful area.
Feb 17-18, 2007
Garibaldi Lake is now frozen all the way across. The newly renovated hut proved to be very warm inside with 14 people. The stream near the hut was frozen solid so we had to melt snow for water.
Feb 19, 2006
Nick Cowan's party of 5 left Elfin early on the 19th, heading across the neve, so they likely spent the night at Sphinx.
Nick's story: I somehow convinced 3 others (Sam, Clemence, Rok) to drive up to Garibaldi Park and try skiing over the Garibaldi Neve. This classic traverse is on most Vancouverites' checklist. Sam, Rok and i headed up to Vancouver Friday night in Sam's burly truck. We met up with Clemence, did some groceries and crashed on her floor. Woke up nice and late to avoid the early-morning Whistler traffic on the Sea-to-Sky. Set off from the Diamond Head parking lot around noon. The route up to Elfin Lakes Hut was super crowded due to the spectacular weather and, not surprisingly, we had to settle for floor space in the huge hut. Rok and i, having skinned up to the hut in pretty good time, headed up Columnar Peak to try out new gear (his splitboard, my helmet). We reached the summit at sunset and enjoyed some surprisingly juicy snow on the NE aspect. Made it back to the hut (just) before dark.
We woke up at 5:00 on Sunday and did our best to not wake up the 50-something other people in the hut as we ate breakfast and packed up. Sunrise saw us traversing the avalanche slopes underneath The Gargoyles. Crossing Ring Creek turned out to be a bit spicier than expected but by noon we were on the Garibaldi Glacier, just North of Opal Cone. The slog up the glacier was hot and heavy and we wondered when we were going to experience the frigid alpine weathers that had been forecast for the weekend. We reached the highpoint (about 7000 ft) below Mt Garibaldi in the early afternoon, and as some clouds were showing up, winds picking up and the temperature dropping, we decided to leave the summit for another day and simply ski down the Warren Glacier towards Glacier Pikes. Once again, we were pleasantly surprised at the good snow. We easily avoided crevasses and never came close to roping up. From Glacier Pikes we skied down Sentinel Glacier to Garibaldi Lake. From there it was a short jaunt up the lake to the Burton Hut, maintained by the Varsity Outdoors Club. Unlike the night before we were the only people in the (much smaller) hut. We enjoyed the peace and quiet and another delicious dinner.
Awake at 6:00, Rok, Sam and i headed up Guard Mountain shortly after sunrise. We skinned and kick-stepped up to a sweet-looking East-facing bowl and absorbed sick views of the surrounding glacier-draped mountains before skiing back down to the hut. Once again, the snow was way better than the rock-hard crust everyone had been expecting. After lunch, packing and cleaning up, we set off across the lake. By eschewing skins we made excellent time. From the NW corner of Garibaldi Lake we skied and hiked down the trail, past Rubble Creek parking lot, right down to Hwy 99. At this point we were in a bit of a jam, since Sam's truck was back at the Diamond Head parking lot. We had laid beautiful plans involving friends picking us up and taking us back to our car, but none of these panned out so we found ourselves hitchhiking down the Sea-to-Sky in the dark with lots of gear. Incredibly, one brave soul named Charlie drove up in a big-ass van and offered to drive us all the way up to the truck! An our later we were at the truck, marveling at our good fortune and changing into luscious cotton. A huge dinner at the Howe Sound Brew Pub has us in carb coma for the rest of the drive back to Seattle. Got back in the wee hours of Tuesday morning.
The trip was everything it was hyped up to be. For those who go out for the sick mountain views, this is about as good as it gets.
Casualties: Clemence's Touque (lost somewhere below The Gargoyles) Nick's Nalgene (lost somewhere on Warren Glacier) Sam's Cables (snapped on Garibaldi Lake) Rok's Nalgene (lost somewhere on the side of Guard Mtn) Sam's Pole (bent while gawking at The Barrier)
Feb 18, 2006
JP's party of five were seen crossing the neve around noon on the 18th so they likely spent the night at Sphinx.
Feb 16-17, 2006
Lake is frozen very solid. Big winds and Hut was cold first night, but for second night we got the catalytic (naphtha!) heater going and partially buried the exposed parts of the hut to insulate it, and it wasn't half bad. Some urbanites had filled the Coleman lamp with kerosene, so this had to be dumped and washed with naphtha a couple of times before it would work. Did not investigate the Coleman stove or the kerosene heater, but likely the heater is rusted up and won't work. I am putting together a proposal to insulate the Hut, and take out the kero heater. Anybody interested in this one way or another, contact Roland.