Last week at this time we were starting out on our very first hut trip – to the McNamara Hut , part of the 10th Mountain Division hut system . A hut trip is basically a luxurious winter backpacking excursion – instead of freezing in a tent we got to “rough it” in one fancy pants hut that had every basic life necessity except running water. Maybe its just the small town Wisconsin farm girl in me, but I thought the hut was pretty awesome and it had far more than I expected!
We headed up with Heather and a bunch of her friends. When she asked if we were interested I said yes before I got any of the details. I’d read her posts about it last year and I was all over an opportunity to check out another aspect of mountain life! Besides, Heather took us on our first Colorado camping trip and got us started on hiking 14ers …it just seemed right that our first hut trip be with her as well!
To start out the trip we stayed in Glenwood Springs on Sunday night so we could get an early start on Monday morning. Turns out coordinating 16 people isn’t the easiest thing in the world and our early start didn’t actually happen until 11am but it was a truly gorgeous day so no one was complaining.
The main parking lot was about 1.7 miles from the actual trail head – which had a teeny tiny parking lot. That is 1.7 miles of hiking on a road and through a residential area full of houses larger than my entire apartment complex. Luckily we were able to skip that by shuttling everyone up to the actual trailhead and leaving on truck parked there. It may sound like cheating but this was a hut trip, not a 14er. Our only goal was to get to the hut without hating our lives.
Before I even get into the hike let me just say…our packs were heavy! We had the least amount of stuff packed and my pack was still 27lbs! The only thing I had that I didn’t use at the hut was a few extra granola bars…plus two decks of cards, but those were definitely used! I was amazed at how quickly the weight added up – but I didn’t have much room to complain, some people had much heavier packs!
With a few exceptions the entire hike was uphill. Chris wore the Garmin in hopes of tracking his heart rate so we had a rough estimate of our distance. As we hiked we were cover a mile in just under an hour. We took things slow, we stopped to take photos, we snacked along the way and we stopped just for the sake of catching our breath or rearranging our heavy packs.
Once we hit mile 2, about two hours into the hike, we came upon a big open slope. Steve , who was splitboarding, ventured out for a run but Chris, who was packing in his board, opted out. It was a long hike up for a short turn down with miles left in the hike.
This is also about the point where I got ahead of Chris and stayed there. We have to very different hiking styles. I am slow and steady, pushing forward with minimal breaks. Chris prefers to move faster for shorter periods and take breathers. Actually, we are like this with running and biking too.
So, I plodded on, lost in my own head. About an hour into my lonely hike I realized I hadn’t seen anyone in over an hour. I stopped to grab some food out of my bag and just stood there, on the trail, alone in the complete silence of the forest. It was pretty amazing. Before too long I heard Chris coming up the trail. At least now I knew we would be lost in the middle of no where together if we happened to be on the wrong trail!
Less than 30 minutes after my break for food and meet up with Chris I saw a sign that said “hut boundary”. I was under the impression we still had 1.5 miles to go and thought that was the meanest sign ever pounded into the ground.
Then I hiked my way around the corner…and saw the hut! I was so happy! My pack was doing a number on my back and I was getting kind of tired of trudging uphill in snowshoes! As soon as I dropped my pack on the ground I was a whole new person! I felt so light and had a ton of energy!
I immediately headed back down the trail, running in my snowshoes – it is incredible how much lighter you feel without a pack! I met up with Chris and then Kayla and finally Patrick before I decided to head back up to the hut. I was the crazy person running down the mountain telling them they were almost there!
…the last few miles were through the woods – it was so pretty…
We were all under the assumption that we had a 5.7 mile hike to get to the hut but we’d forgotten that we cut off 1.7 miles in the shuttle up to the main trailhead. Instead our hike was only about 4 miles – relatively easy in the grand scheme of things!
The hike took me about 3 hours, 20 minutes and Chris 3 hours, 30 minutes. There are a few things I’d do differently, but I think I’ll safe that for another post. Once we got to the hut we settled in for a bit then jumped right into sledding…also another post, because, well, sledding down a mountain side in an ice luge is really its own story!
So, there you have it, the first of a few posts on our first hut trip. We loved it and we’d do it again in a heartbeat. It was an incredible experience but then we think everything that involves an extended period of time in the mountains is pretty incredible!