I’ve had Mount Borsato on my ‘To Do’ list for many years though I’m not sure why – other than it fits with my passion for obscure mountains. At 2441 m it isn’t huge and it’s not exactly eye-popping when it comes to aesthetics. The one thing it does have though, is a hard-to-reach locale. Unless you are willing to make the long, slow drive down the Flathead Valley Road from Corbin, the only other way to reach it, is via North Kootenay Pass (NKP). Which is why, after summiting “South Flathead Peak” and discovering no clear path to our primary objective, Centre SE1, we turned our attention to Borsato, since we were already in the vicinity and weren’t sure if or when we’d be back.
The problem however, was that we had no information on whether it was possible to reach the summit from the east. The only trip report that I can find is Rick Collier’s “lovely walk in the park” up the west side of Borsato, but that’s it. Indeed, the summit register showed that we were only the fourth party to visit the peak since Collier placed the register in 2010, with Lethbridge scramblers James Yearous and Tyler Johns being the second party in 2016 followed by two members from the COLTS program at Crowsnest Lake Bible Camp in 2019. As we had gotten a good look at it a few weeks before from Hollebeke Mountain, we knew there were at least two potential routes through the maze of cliffs, but if those didn’t work out, we’d be forced to traverse all the way over to the southwest ridge, making for an exceedingly long day. Moreover, we could see that once we had committed to the east face from the ridge, there was no way to return except back the way we came, or down the southwest slope of the mountain, as the base of the east face is guarded by massive cliffs.
Thankfully, the second route we tried worked like a charm and we were soon standing on the summit enjoying great views of the Flatheads – though we were exhausted and unaware of the excitement to come. However, since I’ve already recounted our miserable return trip in detail, I will conclude by saying that I’m glad to have knocked Borsato off my ‘To Do’ list, and I look forward to returning for an attempt of Centre Mountain, though from the road and not from NKP!
Be sure to read Andrew’s trip report!
Note: My GPS died at the base of NKP on return, hence the gap on the map. To get to North Kootenay Pass, drive south from the hamlet of Beaver Mines along Highway 774 for ~15.5 km until you come to the Lynx Creek (Ohagen Road) turnoff on your right (just past the Beaver Mines Lake turnoff). Turn and follow the Ohagen Road for ~1.8 km until you come to a fork and a sign that says to turn left to reach Lynx Creek. Like a good Canadian, obey the sign and turn left as going straight is now restricted access. Keep going for ~7.7 km until you come to a T-intersection. Turn left and follow the Carbondale River Road for ~2.6 km until the road forks to the right (Lost Creek Road). There is an information sign and a large area to camp just beyond this junction. If you have a high clearance vehicle, drive the remaining ~4 km over an increasingly rough road to the trailhead. We ended up parking ~700 m away from the trailhead but regardless of where you start, I recommend bringing bikes.
Note: My GPS died at the base of NKP on return, hence the gap on the map. From the trailhead, it is ~3.0 km to reach the fork to MacDonald Pass. You will cross four recently constructed bridges in the process. Unless you want to ascend MacDonald Pass, keep going straight along the NKP trail. At the ~3.4 km mark from the trailhead, we came to the first of two, unbridged creek crossings, so be prepared for these. Around the ~5 km mark from the trailhead, we came to the second unbridged stream crossing (Carbondale River) followed by a ~4.2 km hike n’ bike to reach NKP. In total, it was just under 10 km from the trailhead to NKP with an overall elevation gain of ~605 m.
Ascending “South Flathead Peak” from NKP involved following its southeast ridge up from the Pass for ~1.8 km (~320 m elevation gain) to reach the summit block. Due to cliffs, we then had to lose a bit of elevation as we traversed onto the mountain’s southern slopes to reach the base of the ramp. Once on the ramp, we followed it up and onto the east face where we regained the southeast ridge and then the summit. In total from NKP, it was ~2.7 km with an elevation gain of ~383 m to reach the summit of “South Flathead Peak”. We determined that we could also descend the same way if we wanted.
The trip from “South Flathead Peak” to Mount Borsato involved following the interesting west ridge long as we could, until we were forced into a side-slope by the cliffs of a small peak immediately to the east of Borsato. Though Borsato sits only ~2.2 km ‘as the crow flies’ away, the trip along the ridge took us ~3.1 km to reach its col with the unnamed east peak. From here we scoped out two possible routes up the east face, with the second one being the easiest. However, this involved adding on another ~2 km to reach the summit. In total from “South Flathead Peak”, the trip to Mount Borsato was ~5.2 km with the largest elevation loss being ~290 m.
I should note that due to the large cliffs which guard the base of the east face of Borsato, we were committed to returning the way we came, or descending via the southwest or south ridge. We chose the southwest ridge and it proved tedious with multiple small cliff bands. It was an ~874 m descent over ~4.3 km from the summit to reach Pincher Creek (Flathead version). We then had to hike ~4.8 km while regaining ~530 m in elevation to reach the summit of NKP. From there we returned the way we came.
As my GPS died at the base of NKP on return, I will have to guesstimate more than usual. 😉 Our total distance travelled was ~38 km with total elevation gains of ~2109 m. Our total roundtrip time was 14 hours even.
The first section of the connecting ridge was an easy stroll. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
Looking back at the anvil-shaped summit of “South Flathead Peak” (2468 m).
Centre SE1 (left) and “South Flathead Peak”.
The ridge provided great views of Centre Mountain – which I will definitely be back to tackle!
A telephoto over to Barnes Peak.
Drawing closer to some interesting high points. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
Another view back along the ridge.
The small peak to my left is where we stopped for lunch and made the decision to continue on to Borsato. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
Looking from our lunch site towards the intervening peak that would force us off the ridge.
Mount Corrigan is another peak on my ‘To Do’ list. It is named after Francis Corrigan, a Canadian soldier who was killed in the Second World War. Interestingly, the true summit (left) is shorter than its neighbouring peak (right). Collier however, referred to the second peak as Mount Francis.
A telephoto of Darrah S2 (centre) and Mount Darrah (right).
Approaching the intervening peak. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
Glancing back to the small peak where we enjoyed lunch.
We couldn’t find a route that would allow us to remain on the ridge…
So, it was time to side-slope.
Our first good look at the east face of Borsato. Our eventual route would emerge at the skyline notch in the centre.
Hooray for goat trails! 👏
Andrew negotiates a section of slabs prior to reaching the col with Borsato.
From the col, we would keep following the ridge towards the summit (left). (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
A better look at the terrain beneath the summit.
The view back to Andrew as he follows me along the ridge. At this point, it looked like it would be easy to reach Borsato’s upper slopes.
A closer look at the peak that forced us off the ridge. If we had time (and energy), it would’ve been a neat diversion.
The gentleness of the ridge soon vanished!
Andrew skillfully navigates the knife ridge.
Finally on the eastern slopes of Borsato and seeing two possible options: 1) a route on the upper right directly beneath the summit; and 2) a series of ramps in the centre that crisscross through the cliffs. This would ultimately be the route we used.
Heading up to check out the suitability of the first route. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
The terrain steepened considerably as we gained elevation. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
Though a few possibilities existed, we did not feel comfortable down-climbing any. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
The terrain for the first option was just too steep. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
Andrew leads the way as we traverse over to our second option.
The view back at our day so far. NKP is now a long way off to the right of centre.
The second option looked way more promising!
Getting onto the ramps was a less sketchy endeavour than anything presented by the first option. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
Glancing back as Andrew follows me up the initial ramp. It looks like you can easily descend into the valley below, but don’t be fooled. There is a massive cliff band that prevents this.
Moving onto the next series of ramps.
Another view back.
Standing at the base of the ramp that leads onto the summit ridge. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
Glancing back to Andrew as he ascends the ramp.
Finally on the summit ridge! (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
Once on the ridge, it was an uncomplicated hike to reach the summit.
The summit of Mount Borsato (2441 m). As noted by Rock Collier in the summit register, the mountain is named after Private Leno Borsato, a resident of nearby Michel, BC who was killed in action on 9 December 1944.
Gazing west at Mount Corrigan (left) and Mount Francis (right).
A telephoto to the northwest of Barnes Peak. The Barnes/Limestone Ridge loop is lots of fun!
A telephoto to the north of Mount Ptolemy.
A wide angle gaze to the northeast at Centre Mountain (left), Centre SE1 (centre) and “South Flathead Peak” (right).
The summit offers a great view of Centre Mountain.
A closer look at Centre SE1 and “South Flathead Peak” (right). The summit of Centre E3 can also been seen poking over the col.
The view east towards NKP (centre) and our way back from Borsato. After not being able to locate the proper NKP trail, we would follow the road on the lower right to reach the base of NKP.
The view to the south with Mount Haig on the left, Tombstone Mountain in the centre, and Packhorse Peak to the right of centre.
The summit register that was placed by Rick Collier in 2010. He ascended from the west via the Flathead Valley Road.
The next entry was from James Yearous and Tyler Johns in 2016. James told me that they ascended the northwest ridge which they also accessed from the Flathead Valley Road.
Finally, the only other entry in the registry. It’s always great to see the outdoor leadership program at Crowsnest Lake Bible Camp making its mark! I’m not sure what route these young leaders took.
A summit pano. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
We were exhausted but buoyed by the thought of a quick descent… 😳
Leaving the summit.
Contemplating the day’s journey thus far…
To save distance, we decided to stick to the southwest ridge. Perhaps not the best idea… (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
A better view of NKP and our route back. You can see the trail coming off the summit of NKP, but it seemingly disappears into a drainage before supposedly following Pincher Creek (lower right). I’m guessing that it has been washed out over time. It would make way more sense for a new trail to be made that connects with the road on the right. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
Here is where we probably should’ve deviated to the right and taken the south ridge as opposed to sticking to the southwest ridge (left). (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
The southwest ridge is beset by numerous cliff bands which made our descent painfully slow.
Andrew checks his GPS as we head into a section of trees – which was also full of cliffs…
A pano that shows the valley floor seemingly so close, but yet so far away… (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
Finally on the lower slopes where we could follow skid tracks and logging roads.
Arriving at Pincher Creek with NKP off in the distance to the right of centre. We still had a ~4.8 km hike and an elevation gain of ~530 m to reach the summit; however, we were still thinking to ourselves, “Well, at least it will be on a trail.” 😳
Searching for the elusive NKP trail. Andrew’s GPS said we were on it, but there were no cutlines or semblance of anything that we could follow. We spent a long time searching to no avail.
Frustrated, we continued further to the southeast and joined up with a good road/trail. We even speculated that the maps were wrong and that this was the actual NKP trail.
Making the long march up the road. You can see how far to the southeast we were from Mount Borsato. You can also see why we couldn’t descend off its eastern slopes – those cliffs are nasty!
As the road drew closer to NKP, it began to deteriorate, but at least it was still a trail.
We were not looking forward to gaining the elevation back to the summit of NKP (left).
The trail began to deteriorate when it reached the south end of NKP…
And then it was gone… NKP is to the left of Andrew.
Dang it! 😠 We had little choice but to bushwhack our way up. This is also the point where my GPS died.
Arriving on the section of the NKP trail that we could see from Borsato. It’s a very steep track!
Glad to almost be at the top. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
A good view of the day’s earlier route up “South Flathead Peak”.
Casting a weary glance back to Mount Borsato as we arrive on the summit of NKP.
Centre E3 “North Kootenay Mountain” looks good under the setting sun. At this point, I couldn’t wait to hop on my bike and coast the remaining ~10 km back to our vehicles.
Enjoying the sweet pull of gravity!
About 1 km after starting back, a rock slashed my rear tire and tube. My day of hiking was not yet over… 😩
Andrew graciously kept offering to take turns pushing my bike.
Finally back at the trailhead…
And then ~700 m later, our vehicles. At 14 hours, this almost turned into an epic, but thankfully it did not – though it was a LONG day. Now that I’ve had the chance to down a couple of Gatorades and rehydrate, I can look back and be thankful to have completed both “South Flathead Peak” and Mount Borsato in one trip. However, I highly doubt that our route up Borsato will rank as a ‘must do’ by anyone! 😂😂 I am looking forward to returning again to head up Centre E3 “North Kootenay Mountain” and possibly trying to get onto the ridge to the north of Centre SE1. I will also return to try for Centre Mountain and Mount Corrigan, but I HIGHLY suspect those will be accomplished from the Flathead Valley Road.