After our recent Caribbean scuba vacation, it was time to get back to winter! We make an effort to have an annual winter hut trip to Colorado’s backcountry. This year we stayed at Margy’s Hut near Aspen for two days, which fortunately for us just received ~ 40 inches of snow in 48 hours.
To be closer to the trailhead we spent the night in Carbondale, which also led to Katie discovering one of her favorite IPAs of all time (the OMFG! at Carbondale Beer Works).
The next morning was bitterly cold and overcast. We started from the Lenado trailhead, hiking 6.3 miles to the hut with ~2500 feet of elevation gain. Even with a partially broken in trail, we quickly realized how out of shape our legs had become. I was certainly the weak link on this trip, and would have done anything to have a dogsled team come rescue me!
After 6.5 hours of snowshoeing in negative temperatures, we arrived to the cabin. The hut-master had just left and graciously left hot water still on the stove! We spent the remaining afternoon with the cabin to ourselves – napping, drinking tea, and warming up by the fire. Shortly before sunset, the overcast conditions started to clear, providing dramatic light to this winter wonderland. After darkness set-in, another skier arrived – dashing our hopes at having the cabin to ourselves.
Waking up the next morning, the outside thermometer showed -25. Despite my best judgment, I trounced back outside. Although my eyelids kept trying to freeze shut, it didn’t prevent me from capturing the beautiful, yet, frigid sunrise. Back in the cabin, I crawled back into bed, later warming up with hot coffee and hearty oatmeal.
Shortly after breakfast, we set off the snowshoe up the nearby Mount Yeckel. We shortly left broken trail and trounced through ~ 40 inches of wind swept snow along a saddle to Mt. Yeckel. There, the panoramic views were stunning – offering views of the back of Mt. Holy Cross and towards the Elk Mountains. Rather than eat frozen sandwiches again, we opted to get back to the hut for lunch and another lazy afternoon.
That evening at 2a, another skier showed up in the middle of the night! Solo night travel in punishing temperatures and unfamiliar terrain is about the dumbest thing you can do. The second dumbest thing is waking up everyone at the cabin to complain that it’s too cold. After reassuring ourselves we wouldn’t get murdered by the strange new-arrival, we drifted back off to sleep.
The next day, we packed up and hit the trail by early morning. We made excellent time back to the parking area and then I got my Jeep stuck pulling off on what looked like a flat road. Turns out, it was not a road, but a recently plowed and now flat pile of super soft snow. Tilting at nearly 25 degrees, I thought my car was going to roll. With the help of a few good Samaritans (one who actually helped build Margy’s!), we were able to find a phone to call a tow truck. While waiting for the tow truck and spending a few hours with our wonderful hosts, we were treated to a warm fire, drinks, and even freshly baked cookies! Once we got the Jeep unstuck and back on firm ground, we headed back home towards Evergreen to watch our Super Bowl Champion Broncos!
Pros: having a remote cabin mostly to ourselves, beautiful winter scenery
Cons: Freezing cold! Can’t they mark the edge of the road (apparently it is a routine occurrence to nearly flip your car there!)??
Tips: The huts are best traveled mid-week, if your schedule can permit. Check out Carbondale Brewery!
Photography Tips: To those wondering how to not have your camera freeze in subzero temps there are a few important things (the most important is managing moisture).
- Keep it inside a camera bag when coming in/outside. This will help it warm up/cool down slowly so to prevent condensation
- NEVER change lenses outside. The proximity of the warmer camera sensor to a now very cold lens will invite moisture
- Use a cable release and live view. This will help the moisture in your breath stay away from the camera. If it is brighter light and you are hand-holding, try to hold your breath when composing and taking your shots (or alternatively, use live view again)
- Bring plenty of batteries. Keep a few batteries in your pockets close to your body to help keep them warm
Accommodations: Margy’s Hut 10th mountain division