Harry Gates Hut Trip

“Hut Trip”.

Those two words conjure up so many vivid memories for me. A wintery landscape with softly swirling snow. Intense blue skies framing the mountains covered in white. Tracks of coyote and elk leading off into the soft white powder. Long meals by the fire accompanied by equal amounts of wine and laughter.

Every time I go on one of these hut trips, I am again reminded of why I live in Colorado. Not just for the ample outdoor pursuits or even the beautiful scenery, but for the fact that I can experience and share these memories with like minded people. That I can experience and share memories that will be talked about long after the last sip of cocoa is drank; long after the last ember has cooled in the stove.

The trip for this past weekend  “luxuriously rustic” and nestled in a picturesque setting. Skiing in the mountains by day; sitting by the fire by night. My days of winter camping are thought of less and less with each hut visit!

The crew for this weekend was a bit smaller than in the past. Terry, Wendy and I met at a local shopping center, piled into Terry’s (a different Terry than the last entry) 4WD vehicle and drove up to Glenwood Springs on a snowy evening.

The following morning we suited up at the trailhead and made our way up the trail. Though the day was snowy and cold, there is a certain magical quality to the woods on a day like that. Everything is so quiet and soft. It really does have a cathedral-like quality.

Since it was only the three of us, and we are all of comparable fitness levels, we decided to HAUL up the trail. Wendy and Terry are training for a 40mi ski race. They informed me that I’m the “backup” if one of them gets hurt! :O

In any case, we made great time…even with my usual picture taking. We passed one group on the way to the hut who kiddingly called us the peloton. 🙂 Long story short: What the guidebook listed as a 5-7 hr took the three of us just a little over 3 hrs.

We usually ski with beginners. It was interesting to see what we could do on our own. Besides, the very cold and windy day made it advantageous to not stop for too long!

The three of us arrived at the hut along with a member from the other group (Rob).

The 10th Mountain huts are usually shared among multiple people. This past weekend was no exception. The group who arrived next at the hut were about our age, similar levels of skiing ability and believed wine is not just a luxury item at a hut but a necessity. We all got along fine!

The last group have all known each other for over 20 yrs and were also fun to be around.

All in all, a great group of people to share a hut with for a weekend!

True to my nature, I couldn’t sit still and made many “brownie points” by greeting everyone who came through the door with a mug of cocoa. One person of the latter group asked Wendy (somewhat) kiddingly if the cabin host was with her and Terry. If I have to get teased, getting teased about being an amiable host is not the worse thing to be known for!

A fire was made, dinner was prepared and wine was consumed. Over the good food and warmth of the hut, and the conversation flowed. A wonderful night.

The following morning had those intense blue skies that seem to define Colorado winters. Though cold, the sun was shining and strong. As we suited up for our ski tour, the warmth of the sun already made us feel good. The views extended in every direction. The world seemed to be in primary colors: white, blue and green. Winter has a simplicity to it that the other seasons do not have. And this simplicity makes everything stand out sharply.

Wendy, Terry and I arrived back to the hut and enjoyed the warm sun while sitting on the deck. We continued to talk to our hut mates and eventually headed back in for dinner.

The alpenglow in the early evening was truly amazing. The mountains went from white to a soft pink. Staring out the window, I was transfixed. It was a moment that no one wanted to end.

After dinner, another fantastic moment happened: A full moon on a winter’s night. No headlamp was needed. Everything glowed silver. The mountains were seen and the cold night air seemed to make all the senses sharper. The stars seemed to be just a bit brighter, the moonlight that much more illuminating.

This moment eventually came to and end as well.

We surrendered to sleep. Woke up in the morning and enjoyed a ski out on a day that rivaled the previous one.

I can’t get enough of these weekends.

As I enter back into the “real world” officially in nine hours, each moment in the backcountry is that much more precious. The scenery will always be remembered. The feeling of shooshing in the powder while the snow is softly falling around us is not far from my thoughts. Most of all, being where I am truly the most content and happy. And sharing the memories with both old friends and new.

We don’t live on our memories.

But we do live to make new ones.

All the photos

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