Back Country Hut Trip Extravaganza

Spring is in full swing in Colorado, which means we’ve traded our skis for hiking shoes, mountain bikes and sunscreen (although sunscreen is 100% needed all year round in this mile-high climate!)

We ended the ski season in a big way this year: a back-country hut trip! The 10th Mountain Division is a series of backcountry huts within the mountains of Colorado, named to honor the men in WWII who trained in central Colorado. They are truly something special and with the amazing season with the crew coming to an end, what better way to end it in style.

Our last weekend at our Silverthorn ski condo coincided with our back-country adventure, so we all headed up on Friday to sleep one more sleep in our ghetto condo. Oh, the games of eucher that were played there. Saturday morning, we arose, vacuumed the horribly stained condo rug (Stacia, it’s good enough!) and headed to Leadville, where the Turquoise Lake trailhead would lead us to the Skinner hut…up, up, up 11,620 feet to the glorious hut.

The gang pulled up to the trail, we unloaded the booty, and packed the sled full to the brim. Mike and Dusty were our two trusted guides, the fellas who had researched, printed maps, studied routes, yes we were all putting our faith and trust in them. Plus, they had the two snowmobiles and could pull us all in the 8+ miles before the steep parts of the skinner hut route.

Stacia and I agreed to be pulled first, so we grabbed the water skiing like rig they had fashioned to the backs of their mobiles and held on for dear life. It was incredibly warm and there were several sections we had to scrape over due to the lack of snow. Needless to say, it was a hell of a lot easier than skinning in would have been….and the group that followed us would tell us their horror stories when they finally made it to the cabin!

Stacia and I got pulled in safely and as the boys drove up hagerman pass, attempting to drive up and around to the top of the skinner hut. The loaded up snow mobile sled had all the goods, so we were going to have a kush weekend in the remote cabin. Or so we thought. We’d find out several hours later that the road was impassible, the gang had to go all the way back to the car, load up as much as they could carry on their backs, and skin the whole way with heavy, heavy packs. The steep terrain I took on over the next 4 miles really didn’t compare to what the rest of the crew had to deal with!

Stacia and I made it to the hut after 4 hours, stopping for a leisurely lunch, enjoying the beautiful, serene quiet of this beautiful back country terrain. Upon arrival, we noticed the sled booty wasn’t at the hut, so we began to worry. A group of 4 guys were there and had had the same experience with their snow mobiles, having to leave the sleds and pack all of their belongings to bring up to the cabin. They had a radio, so Stacia and I went outside for better range and tried to radio the group, hearing that they were all ok, although they couldn’t hear us, we could just hear them.

Mike burst through the door a few hours later, followed by the rest of the crew, who were all exhausted after hours of delirium from heavy packs and trekking. I rooted through the food that actually made it, we all poured drinks, and cheers’ed to arriving safely after a grueling day. A true Coloradical experience at one of the hardest 10th Mountain Division Huts out there.

The Hut had multiple places to hang – the big kitchen, with multiple gas burners, a huge wood burning stove, an ice box cut into the side of the cabin to keep the perishables, then three large picnic benches for community style meals. Down two small stairs was the large family room area, with benches lined against the windows, another large wood burning stove to keep the room nice and cozy. Hooks were everywhere, so our gear could dry out, and racks hung from the ceiling for our skins. Sun streamed through the windows and although the back porch was covered with sun (we couldn’t even see the benches!) it was sunny and bright. In the back, past the kitchen and front door, there was a large sleeping area, with sleeping spots for 18, including two rooms. The back was rather chilly, so Mike and I opted for the middle row of sleeping spots and the crew filling in around us.

Once a few cocktails had been consumed, we started making dinner – Ramen for all! Most of the ingredients made it up (sans the sriracha & chili sauce) so I chopped, diced and unpacked all the goodness and we all settled in. Our tribe had arrived safe, we had whiskey and wine, and our bellies were full of veggie ramen. It was a good day and we all went to bed exhausted and happy.

The next day, we woke, put the coffee on the stove and pulled out our maps to pick out routes for back country touring. There’s truly nothing better than coffee in the mountains, with your tribe, on a beautiful sunny winter morning.

Some of the gang were leaving that day, with a number of us staying Sunday night and enjoying a full weekend of back country adventure. Those leaving packed up and scooted out, while the rest of us (Dusty, Molly, Mike, me, Ryan & his friend Kristin) suited up for a tour.

We spent the day skining up and over to the North East, skiing down towards Turquoise lake. I was pretty sloppy on my back country skis, not having had a ton of practice on them over the winter (my own fault for not skiing on them more, as Mike likes to point out).

But, it was still fun, so after the one run & having to skin up the steep stuff, Molly & I chose to head back to the cabin and hang for the rest of the afternoon. Wine was poured, gear was shed and the mountain afternoon was thoroughly enjoyed.

When the boys got back, the party continued, with a full on dance party, game of shuffle boards were played, and snowball fights were had. It was the perfect Sunday funday.

That evening, we watched the sun set on in the back of the Skinner Hut, atop the big snow pile, with the beautiful sky ablaze. We went in as the sun set, had a fabulous spaghetti dinner, and all turned in early. A perfect ending to a glorious day!

The next day, we skinned out (I skinned out the way we came up while the other peeps took the back country way out and skied down). Meeting up down by turquoise lake to ski the rest of the way out. The day was extremely warm, so when we got down to the trail head and started getting pulled out by snow mobiles, there were patches of pretty slushy slow, making our arms and thighs ache. As we got lower and lower in elevation, the snow started thinning until finally we had to bail and take off our skis while the guys went and got the truck. We were pumped to put another amazing Coloradical weekend in the books!

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