My wife and best friend (same person) went up to the Fowler-Hilliard Hut Thursday and Friday this week. It was Elaine's first ever hut trip and she slayed it. We got to Camp Hale, home of the former 10th Mountain Division ski troops, skinned up under chilly afternoon temperatures, and attacked the Pando//McCallister Gulch route – 2,450 vertical feet in 5 miles. A fairly benign start, and then the thing simply pitched straight up. I had been on this ski years ago, but it seemed steeper than before. Elaine crushed the lower section at a pace that I can honestly say would be top five in a women's category in the Cosmic Series – she's been wearing ankle weights and doing intervals to get mega fit – and then experienced her first ever bonk about 2/3rds of the way up. It was bound to happen soon, and the way she kept it together was awesome. I employed the King Nimby "skin for five, drink and rest for one, repeat till the damned hill is done" support crew method and she arrived smiling and stoked, just as darkness set in. Three-hours and thirty minutes up is still thirty minutes less than the four hour mark which was the fastest time in the Hut-to-Hut book. (Pretty damned good babe…you're going to be one scary fast climber sooner than later…and I don't think there are any other twenty year old girls – or most guys for that matter- in the area who can go anywhere close to that quick.)
Got up there, Elaine took advantage of a real stove to cook some Tortellini while I struggled with what must be the most flame retardent fire in the history of the planet. I understand the hut burned down, but a fireplace that doesn't eminate heat is a bit useless. We ended up pulling the mattress downstairs and sleeping right next to the fire.
Dawn came and I was up early, starting back up the useless fire and getting the griddle going with some Jimmy Dean sausage patties. Sunrise through a window in a hut and the smell of frying sausage is a hut treasure, and I wanted Elaine to experience it. We feasted on Swedish pancakes with real Vermont maple syrup and then clicked in for some skiing action.
Truth be told, the previous day was hard, so we settled for three quality skin run/skis. First run, straight off the deck, into some of the best powder I have ever skied. This took ski-in/ski-out to a new level. Set the aesthetic skin track back up, and then eyed a loop off Resolution Mountain and what looked like the most perfect, artistic line in the area. It was good. I gave Elaine first tracks and then mirrored her run down. Natures beauty, enhance briefly by the ski tracks of humans. Another run and then back to the hut for clean-up duties. And then, the scary fast, quad burning ski back down the Gulch. Truth be told, I was confusing hut trips in my head, and sort of took a misdirection here…it would have been way sweeter to ski right down from the hut to the gulch and then back on the road, but that's adventure. Screeched and then shuffed back to the car, to Mountain Pizza in Leadville, and homeward. A perfect two days, and more on the horizon.
Here are a few photos that tell the story.