Wow. Where to even begin?! This is going to be a long-ass post.
Our hut trip adventure began at the end of October – I polled my friends to see who was interested in a winter camping trip in the coming months and Brandon, a friend from our CMC Winter Camping class, responded that he had 2 spots open for his Thanksgiving Hut Trip and did Alex and I want in?
Hell yes we did!
Hut trip reservations are extremely hard to come by and especially on a weekend so we were not about to pass up this opportunity! I switched my plane ticket to Cincinnati from Thanksgiving to Christmas, we paid our reservation fee to Brandon and began planning. Of the group of 14, Alex and I knew 3 people from our Winter Camping or Wilderness Trekking classes. The rest we met at our pre-trip planning meeting a couple weeks prior to our trip. So essentially, we were planning to spend the weekend with a bunch of strangers who love being outside as much as we do. SCORE!
Our weekend plan was to meet at 5 a.m. near Morrison (just outside Denver) to carpool to the Ashcroft trailhead outside Aspen. We’d then hike 5 miles in to the Green-Wilson and Tagert huts where we’d spend Thursday and Friday nights, hike out on Saturday up to Lindley Hut and spend Saturday night then hike back out and return home on Sunday.
We met the rest of our group at the Ashcroft trailhead at 10ish.We unloaded our gear, suited up and split into groups for a very basic avalanche beacon training session.
Brandon, our trip leader, made beacons required for this trip because this area is known avalanche terrain. About half the group was trained in avalanche beacon procedures, the rest of us were brand new or not very experienced. We spent about half an hour reviewing how to use our beacons, where to wear it, what happens if there is a slide and how to safely cross avalanche terrain.
Hide and seek of a buried avalanche beacon.
After we all felt confident with the basics of what to do, the 5 mile snowshoe in to the huts began!
(Side note: Brandon and our 2 other friends are very experienced in avalanche danger and are well trained; Alex and I trust their judgement wholly. If you are venturing out for this hut trip, be sure to bring a well-qualified, avy-trained person with you. In 2010 and 2002, people died in an avalanche at Lindley Hut. It’s serious business and you need to know what you’re getting into before getting into it.)
Our hike took us just under 6 hours to travel the 5 miles and 1800 feet in elevation gain. It was a long snowshoe in and we arrived at the huts as the sun was setting behind the mountains. After summiting the final hill and spotting the huts below, the entire group erupted in cheers of success. We were home!
We quickly started fires in the huts (each slept 7-8) and began reheating our Thanksgiving dinner. We had quite the spread – turkey, ham, gravy, salad, sweet potatoes, stuffing, rolls and pie for dessert. Each person was assigned a different part of dinner to bring to make a huge meal for 14 people more manageable to carry in.
Thanksgiving feast at 11,200!
After 6 hours of carrying 70 pounds on my back, Thanksgiving dinner has never, ever tasted so delicious.
After dinner, we played Catch Phrase while warming up with wine and margaritas until we all deemed it late enough to hit the sack. Our early wake up call (4 a.m.!) that morning + snowshoeing + dinner made for a tired bunch!
Friday morning brought a cloudless, sunny sky. It was our only totally free day so we took our time getting up, making coffee and lounging. We explored our huts in the daylight and made some homey touches – like shoveling off the back decks.
Team shoveljack (shoveling lumberjacks).
Inside Green-Wilson. I’m claiming part-ownership since we share a first name.
Tagert Hut features a spacious 2-level floor plan.
While we’d been cleaning and eating, a few others had been constructing an epic sled run. I put on my brand new Columbia Omni-heat shell pants (complete with sexy suspenders) and bounded up the hill to join the fun.
We Petres love suspenders.
Once I wrote about how Alex and I wear basically the same things…Case in point. Black shell suspender pants, our matching Columbia winter boots and blue shirts (his is Columbia again! Omni-heat for the win.).
Sledding. Was. Awesome.
We went sledding last year in Breckenridge but it was on a designated ‘sledding hill’ but it’s far more exciting to create your own runs and obstacles on fresh powder. While we sledded, 2 others made an igloo with an igloo maker Igloo Ed had let them borrow. We broke for lunch (build your own breakfast burritos, supplied by yours truly!) and spent the afternoon doing whatever made us happy. Some continued to perfect the sled runs, some kept igloo building, some stayed inside and chatted and read. I opted to warm up a bit and read the library book I’d brought with me. We had another friend hiking in to meet us on Friday evening so I helped man the radio in case he needed directions or encouragement.
Word traveled fast, though, that the sled run and igloo had merged and we could now sled UNDER the igloo. I threw my clothes back on and jumped in line to try.
That’s me! …before crashing into the side of the sled run.
Steven was far more successful than most of us.
And then….this happened: Alex plowed right through the side of igloo with his face. So hilarious!
It was getting dark and cold so we headed in for dinner but after dinner, more sledding (and igloo destruction) occurred.
Saturday morning greeted us with a sad surprise: 2 girls in the other hut were violently ill and needed to hike out instead of continuing on to the next hut with us. We think they probably drank water that hadn’t been boiled long enough – so fellow hut trippers, boil your water before drinking!
The only photo of our entire group.
The trek back out was significantly faster than hiking in.
We snowshoed 3 miles back out from the huts to a fork in the trail where we parted ways with our sick friends. They turned toward the parking lot while we turned and climbed 750 feet over 2 miles to Lindley Hut.Lindley Hut was luxurious! It was large enough to accommodate our entire group, had TWO stoves and double beds. We munched on leftovers, baked cookies (no, seriously), and feasted on incredible soup and grilled cheese for dinner. More wine, whiskey slushies and games ensued. I called it a night about 10 p.m. while some others kept the party going. As a social introvert, I need some solo downtime to recharge my batteries so I snuggled into my sleeping bag and read my book for about an hour before falling asleep.
Our only requirement on Sunday was to be out of the hut by 1 p.m. and because we knew it would only take us a couple of hours at most to hike out, we didn’t rush to get out of the hut. We made four pounds of bacon (side note: add burbon and brown sugar to your bacon…it’s amazing) and french toast for breakfast and wrote in the log book before cleaning up.
While writing in the log book, we read previous entries and Alex found the note from the group who lost a person in the avalanche in 2010 – it was a very sobering reminder that the mountains don’t care and you always need to be on your A Game.
The time finally came to strap on our much lighter packs (carrying only garbage instead of 8 pounds of breakfast burrito!) and head back out. It was a 4 mile downhill hike back to the trailhead parking lot.
You may notice I have no snowpants or coat on..it was so warm on Sunday!
The hike out was quick and uneventful. We loaded back into the cars and began the 4 hour drive back to Denver.
In total, we snowshoed 14 miles over the 4 day hut trip and total elevation gain was more than 3000 feet!
It was such a fun weekend with our little hut trip family. For 14 people who didn’t know each other before the trip, we got along famously and I couldn’t have asked for a better group to have shared the experience with.