Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Backcountry Fun in Colorado

We just returned from Colorado where we spent a week with Kerry (Sheri's sister) and her husband Brandon exploring the backcountry trails with our new splitboards.   Our goal was to spend two nights in the later half of the week at the Betty Bear Hut near Aspen.  The hut is situated near Hagerman Pass on the Continental Divide and affords million dollar views at 11,100 feet.

We arrived in Fort Collins to balmy 60 F temperatures and bright blue skies.  It seemed improbable that it could be so spring-like given the considerable avalanche conditions we had been tracking prior to our departure.   We warmed up to the altitude on our fist day with a gentle hike in the Horsetooth area.  The next two days we headed north to Cameron Pass.   To our delight we found plenty of snow to try out our split boards in both ski and snowboard modes.  We skied the Sawmill Creek Trail the first day and then towards Montgomery Pass on the second.  There was plenty of snow and at times more than we could ride through.  We were treated to some sunny weather and fresh snow and made it to 11,500 feet which is comparable to the elevation where the Betty Bear Hut sits.

For our rest day we traveled to Basalt, CO which was "base camp" for an "alpine start" from Frying Pan Road trailhead for a 7 mile ski to the hut.  We were on the trail at 8am (ok, not quite an alpine start) with big flakes of snow falling to give a us "freshies" for the ski-in.  We skied five "easy miles" along the Frying Pan river valley.  We headed away from the valley to climb two steep miles winding along a series of switchbacks.  Breathless we arrived at the Betty Bear Hut at two 2pm even with a late start. The Betty Bear Hut was built to honor the 10th Mountain Division of the U.S. Army using funds donated by 10th Mountain Division Veterans.   The hut was warm and bright and we were welcomed by some fellow skiers who had been keeping the woodstove going all day.

We enjoyed a relaxing first night at the hut with a simple dinner and an early night.  We awoke to clear skies and breathtaking views.  With bellies full of hot oatmeal we skied in the direction of Hagerman Pass with hopes of climbing to the Continental Divide and catching some powder on the way back.  We had to turn back along the trail to Hagerman Pass due to some unstable snow slopes in the path of our traverse.  However, Plan B gave us the chance to ski and ride through some fantastic powder sitting just below the pass.  With bluebird skies, moderate temperatures and some fine trail snacks it was a day of which dreams are made.

On our second night at the hut we had the place to ourselves.  We enjoyed a curry dinner and a chocolate cake in honor of Kerry's birthday.  The cake was baked at 11,100 feet in a wood-fired oven and was surprisingly good. What we didn't finish that evening was gone by breakfast.  We skied back down the switchbacks on our third morning and were pleased we didn't have to take off our skis and walk like many have reportedly done.  Our ski back to Frying Pan Road and the car was a relaxing way to end the trip.

See more photos of our trip here

1 comment:

Eric and Jo said...

Sounds like a wonderful trip. Plus lots of snow to come home to with all your practice.