Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Margy's Hut Trip (possibly the hardest thing I have ever done)

A few months ago a coworker (the brilliant CS) asked me, "Hey - you wanna join me and some friends for a hut trip in Colorado?"

We obviously have a lot of spare time during our Radical Sabbatical. So this is what I tell people nowadays when they invite us places, "Make sure you really want us to come because we will show up." And we did.

Margie's Hut is a 10th Division Mountain Hut located near Aspen, Colorado. It is one of about 30 backcountry shelters within the Rocky Mountains that is managed by the 10th Mountain Division system. The huts are fairly primitive with pit toilets (let me tell you how cold an outhouse seat can be when it is 10 degrees outside), sleeping cots, and very basic cooking facilities. The huts are heated by wood fires. There are sleeping cots and pillows but that is about it. Everything you need and nothing you don't.

It is a 7.3-mile hike to the hut from the trailhead parking lot. Oh and you gain approximately 3,000 feet along the way to the hut, which is situated at an altitude of 11,300 feet (gasp for air now). Also - the day we skinned in, it snowed. A LOT. We essentially had to break trail for a good chunk of the journey. If you have ever skinned up a hill, you know how hard breaking trail can be. Like really hard, and we are in pretty good shape and are used to the altitude since we have been in the mountains for a few weeks.

Combine this with the fact that we were woefully unprepared for the day, and crap - did I mention it was really difficult? We skinned from 11:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. with only two small bottles of water, which where were empty about one hour into the trip.

Hey a-hole newbies, you cannot melt snow for water when it is 20 degrees out!!!!! Lesson learned the hard way.

There *may* have been some freaking-out on my part. OK, I did freak out. First when we ran out of water, and then when we took a break and my body temperature plummeted and I lost feeling in my hands (which happens when it is like 65 degrees outside so maybe that part isn't so scary). Our saving grace was that we are stubborn, had a good map, and never got lost.

This was a beautiful sight let me tell you

We were welcomed at the hut by CS's family and friends. There were eight of them already there, the fire was lit and it was warm and cozy in the hut. They shared their food, beers, knowledge of hut etiquette (where and when to get water, what do to with your trash, when to feed the fire, etc.), and ski tips. I imagine you rarely get douchebags at these huts, the journey humbles you, but this was a cool group - not to mention great cooks!

Skinning up on day 2

On day two, we headed out to ski a bowl near the hut. In the backcountry, this consists of skiing down fields of deep powder - then skinning back up the hill to do it again. It is exhausting but exhilarating! Once again thanks to CS and family for being our expert guides. The avalanche risk was deemed "Considerable" for Aspen during the time we were at the hut. I am not sure Dave and I would have gone out to ski that day had we been on our own.

Looking happier on Day 2

Sick views

Trying to catch up, mother that is hard

CS and an epic bail in the deep pow

So crowded out here

More skinning

What a gross blistered mess
So what else happens in a hut when you aren't skiing or doing "chores" like getting water or firewood? There is relaxing, chatting, puzzles, reading, cards, whatever you want.

There is also DIY emergency surgery - yes, you read that right.

As often happens during hut trips, my feet got mangled by my ski boots - in particular my left big toe was throbbing just under the nail. This is a normal occurrence I was told by my hut mates. So here is what you do: heat up a pin, stick it through the nail (it melts right through), the fluid and blood under the nailbed explodes out (here is a video for all you sickos), and you have instant relief. Dave was the lucky surgeon. I am pretty sure he'll ever do that again, but the surgery was a great success.

Post-surgery glee

On day 3, the ski out was fast and fun! It took us about one hour and thirty minutes to ski 7.3 miles out (as opposed to our five hours and thirty minutes to skin up). Again thanks to CS and the gang for showing us how to wax our skis so that we could avoid the pain in the ass of putting our skins on over flat stretches on the way down. There is so much to learn about this sport. Dave and I have a ways to go till we are really competent backcountry skiers. Intimidating to say the least.......

Snowing again for our departure

Safely out and back at the trailhead to say goodbye

Well what did I learn from this trip? I need a lot more backcountry day trips to build my confidence. This sport is NOT for wussies, especially if you happen to be a cold-prone wussie (like me). Also, for the next trip (assuming that I ever do another trip) I need to remember to:
  • Bring a lot more water, way more than I think I will need 
  • Get a Camelback thing for water
  • Bring more layers and have them in an easily accessible place
  • Get a better pack with a good spot for my helmet, shovel, and probe so they aren't jangling around and about to fall off
  • Travel in a larger group (more than two people)
  • Bring more sugary treats, salty snacks were unappetizing when working that hard at altitude 
  • Did I mention more layers?

Refueling with fondue, nothing better


FinnyKnits said...

WHOA. That sounds extreme! And if you guys thought you were pushing your fitness levels, I'm terrified at how I'd do. Skinning up has always been hard, but that sounds, like, WHOA hard.

Good on you both for going, surviving, exploding your toe (awesome) and actually having fun. Try not to kill Bubba when he's out there with you.

Erin Marsh said...