Betty Bear Hut Trip
After a mostly travel free few months after our European adventure, we took off on our annual hut trip into Colorado’s High Country in late-January.
Following a ridiculously dry fall and prolonged Indian summer, Colorado has had near record snowfall in January. Similar to last year’s visit to Margy’s Hut, this trip was on the heels of a 30+ inch snowdump with frigid zero degree temperatures. We met our group in Carbondale and overnighted there to be closer to the trailhead.
The next morning, we reached the trailhead after a beautiful ~40 mile wintery drive. The trail follows a snow-covered 4×4 road that is mostly level for the first 5 miles. After, the trail points basically straight upward climbing steeply through aspen groves then thick pine forests. Approaching ~11,000 feet, dense trees break into open glades. Betty Bear hut sits perched on a flat ridge with spectacular views of the Sawatch Range. After breaking trail for ~6 miles, we arrived exhausted to a freezing cold hut that had sat dormant for several days. With the wood burning stove burning full force, the hut finally warmed up and our feet began their painful thaw. That evening, we were treated to a delicious pork roast (thanks to our friend who carried 4 pounds of frozen pork!). After a raucous evening of whiskey drinking and card playing, we went to bed early.
With sore legs (thanks to the 16+ inches of fresh snow we plowed through on the way up!) I explored around the hut the following morning at sunrise. The nearby appropriately named Mt. Massive blocked most of the alpenglow and the skies were bluebird clear – beautiful, but disappointing for photography! That morning we ate a warm breakfast, and then went on a short hike to a nearby lake basin. On the way, we passed a group of winter campers – and with them reporting -20F overnight, we were happy to be staying in the nearby warm hut, even if we were said to be “cheating.” We ate lunch in the hut, then had a wonderful lazy afternoon filled with napping, reading, and cards. Although a high pressure system moved in (bluebird skies), there were some lone clouds that rolled in time for a beautiful sunset.
After another evening of whiskey and cards, we slept soundly in the now full hut. The next day, we set off on the now packed down trail and made good time back to the trailhead.
After a few months of settling back to reality after our Europe trip, it felt great to get traveling again. There is no better way to spend time in a winter wonderland then a high altitude hut trip with good friends.
Pros: scenery (although not as scenic as Margy’s hut), isolation, friends + whiskey!
Cons: as always, a shared hut is common and hut chores are not always evenly split..