Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sangree's Hut

As you all know by now, I survived my first foray into the wilderness. Here I am starting out on the hike. Please note the sled attached to the back of my pack (more on that later).

The trail head starts at about 10,000 feet and climbs roughly 1,500 feet in 3.5 miles so, while not a long hike per se, it was definitely steep. For those of you not familiar with exercising at altitude you might think that a 3.5 mile hike sounds like a warm-up but the lack of oxygen at that elevation combined with the 30lb back pack makes any exertion seem much more strenuous. Of course, the rewards for such an endeavor are views along the way like this one:

About two hours later we catch a glimpse of our “hut” which, as you can see, is a substantial log cabin. It is located at 11,600 feet somewhere in the Rocky Mountains between Copper Mountain and Leadville.

The hut has a large main room with a sitting area, dining area and kitchen, and a wood-burning stove to keep you toasty warm and to melt snow for drinking water. That’s right; there is no running water so you have to “make” your own water which I can honestly say is one thing that I have never made in the FAL test kitchen. Now that I am an expert water-maker I can share this little secret with you: clean snow = clean water and dirty snow = dirty water.

While I've always considered myself adventurous and outdoorsy, I've never really camped. I generally prefer to be active during the day and then reward my efforts with a hot shower, nice meal and warm bed. This trip was a little bit different. Lack of shower and sleeping bag accommodations aside, the real issue for me was this:

That is the outhouse which was a cold, snowy 50-yard walk from the hut. It was particularly miserable in the dark, at night, with nothing but your headlamp to guide your way. So my plan of drinking enough wine to endure sleeping on a thinly padded bench in a sleeping bag backfired. Because really, who wants to get up in the middle of the night, don a headlamp and walk 50 yards in the snow to sit on an ice cold toilet?!? Not this girl.

However, when you wake up to views like this it's easy to forget the outhouse issue:

See how happy I look? It is day two and the lack of oxygen is finally getting to me.

The next photo is from the deck looking off to the right side of the hut. Do you see the trail down the center of this photograph? That's the trail leading to and from the hut. It takes you away from the hut for about a mile or two before it starts to wrap back around to the valley. That’s the way most people ski or snow shoe to and from the hut.

And this photo is taken from the center of the deck looking down towards the valley. Do you see the little make-shift trail just to the left that someone created while sledding? That essentially takes you straight down the mountain, into the gully and eventually meets up with the trail-head in the valley. That’s the exit strategy I chose.

Do you remember that little plastic sled in the first picture? Well, I secured my back pack to the sled and then jumped on the pack-sled and sledded down the mountain head-first. I believe this practice is called “skeleton” and, as you might imagine, it was not without its share of wipe-outs and mishaps. In hind sight, it was perhaps not the safest choice but it sure was a lot of fun. Besides, thanks to the twins’ hospital stay earlier this year we already met our insurance deductible.

I'm hoping someone snapped a picture of me bombing down the mountain head-first because typically activites that are THAT much fun are also illegal.

Thanks for joining me on this photographic tour of my first, and possibly last, hut trip. After two days of eating trail-mix and more than my share of peanut butter and energy bars I am looking forward to making some healthy meals that I can share with all of you.


  1. Oh Erin, that looks AWESOME!!!! One question though...did you have coffee? Because this girl can't camp or do snow without coffee!!! :) I told my husband about the hut trip and we've since looked them up and decided next time we go to CO (we have family there), we'll definitely be working in one of these adventures.

    I hope this was a very refreshing time for you and that you brought away some jewels for your heart, soul, & mind!

  2. LWL: Look into the 10th Mountain Division of huts (that's what Sangree's was a part of); I was told that they do a better job of maintaining them, etc. than some of the other ones. And you probably want to give yourself a day or two in Denver or wherever to adjust to the altitude before heading up the mountain.

    It was a really good time and, most importantly, it gave me an opportunity to miss the family, something that's hard to do when you are ALWAYS with them :)

  3. I havent spent a night away from C yet. I asked for a night in a hotel (4 star and up preferred) for my birthday! Not quite into roughing it :)

  4. Erin, how on earth did you ever hear about this and get into doing it? It sounds like a retreat but . . . more!

    You're amazing! And I know those little shining faces welcoming you back home made the climb worth it!

  5. Erin! I love it! A well deserved break, no doubt. Can I come with you on the next one? (Oh, wait, you said it might be your last...but somehow I don't believe it. You look waaaay too happy.)

  6. What a funny post. The pictures are really awesome. Looks like a lot of fun. Your next trip better be back to VA to see me.


  7. Absolutely beautiful! If they have a similar event that ends on a hut along the water, say in Malta or the Maldives... I'm in.

    Congratulations! I hope you feel recharged!

  8. Em - We are coming home soon (most likely May), I promise.
    Jeannie - I will definitely include you if there is another hut trip in my future!
    Harm - yes, opt for the hotel with room service and a massage. Smart girl.
    SLM - everyone in CO does hut trips; I'd never heard of them until I moved here.

    I have bruises on my knees and shins from my little "skeleton" adventure. Perhaps next time I will just walk off the mountain like a normal person.