Sunday, February 26, 2012

SWAG Hut Trip in San Juan mountains

Good evening from Boulder! Portland!   I have a few spare minutes and a lot of catching up to do.
Last Thursday Mark rolled back into town from Houston and we loaded up the next morning for a back country "hut trip" put on by South West Adventure Guides.   The sales pitch was a fully supported 4 days of skiing and 3 nights in huts, but the actual event wasn't quite as smooth as that.  The first issue I had to deal with was packing 3 nights of supplies for three different places with none of it following us around, plus lunches for 4 days, and for both Mark and I as he was out of town.   Lisa Lieb, Mark's riding friend, was also able to join us, and loved digesting the logistics as well.

On Wednesday I gave 2 bags of stuff to our guides Mark Allen and Drew Billstein to take with them, and then on Thursday was instructed to pare it down even further since there was so much new snow that they couldn't get the snowmobiles up to the hut or our "winter camp."   My head was hurting from thinking too much (this reminded me of Steve Watkins Death Camp v 1.0).

Friday morning rolled around, Mark Allen picked us up at the villa, and we were off.

I'll update details as I get some more time... but here are the pictures to start.

Silverton, CO, from the road.
"Skinning" up the mountain.  For those not in the know, here is the equipment story:  skis are normal, usually powder width, but light is the key.  Skins are synthetic "fur" that are smooth one way and rough the other, so they glue to the bottom of the skis and allow the ski to glide forward and then grip.  Bindings are special:  the toes lock in and the heels release so you can essentially walk straight uphill.   Boots are light versions with a switch on the back that allow "walk" mode with extra flex.  So we skin up the hill and then at the top lock the bindings down, peel the skins, and ski like normal.  Only we earned it.

Guide Mark Allen showing relaxed pose.

Lisa- "We're going up there..."

This fontina cheese is stinky!  But lunch is good!

Finally made it to the top of McMillan Peak, 12,400 feet!

Lisa and Mark clowning.

They look far away from me because I'm getting dropped.
First night was at a motel in Silverton.  Not very comfortable at the time, but after tonight we'll be looking back fondly.  This was breakfast Saturday morning (Day 2).  

Mark and Drew planning on how to keep us out of avalanches.

Lisa:  "I am soooo glad I'm not at work right now!"

"Ok, lets get out our Beacons and make sure you know how to find me if I'm burried"

I'm almost there!

Mark and ilan clowning.

Break time.

Big hill coming.

Avi danger here... space yourselves!

What?  Sunblock?  Where?

You guys are blocking the view!

All smiles!

I'm speechless.

On the way to US Peak.

Finally!  Up US Peak at 12,700 feet.

It was a bit windy and chilly up top.

Getting ready to head down.

Food.  Skins off.  Check.

Now what?

Lisa doing something.
Pose on US Peak!

Group shot continues.

Use the timer!

Full group shot w/ timer!

On the way back down, spacing out due to avi danger.

Mark Allen - lots of very good avi info and keeping us safe during one of the most dangerous years in a long time.

Lap two in the old growth.

Drew lucky enough to bring up the rear.  Behind me.  The whole day.

This is STILL better than being at work!

We were up there yesterday!

I'm on top of the world!

Can you guys see how nice the day is up here!?
Mark enjoying himself.

About to descend into...

Winter CAMP!  Brown's Gulch, 11,400 feet.

Dinner tent.

Lisa taking a break from digging the fire pit.

Knob Creek.  Mmmmm.

Mark tired.  Very rare.  I like to get evidence.

Ski collection.

Mark Allen making dinner.

The fire pit!

Our tracks right into camp.

The hard work is over.

From the other side...

Mark ready for a fun night!

The old growth tree run was outstanding!

This tent is cozy!

The calm before the... cold.

Beautiful sunset.


ilan, Lisa, and Mark.  A three person tent isn't really a three person tent.  It was a bit cold, a bit cramped, and not a whole lot of sleep that night.

Lisa enjoying breakfast!

Mark's true calling in life- digging!

We. Are. Just. Sitting. Here!

We. Are. Just. SITTING! HERE!

Runya the hut dog.  She is very sweet.

Monday (final) morning.  2 degrees outside.

So, wait. We are going up then down?

Finally!  We get out on the trail!

Do do do... easy for me.


My view many times.

Up up up.

I might be breathing hard already.

Sun comes out...
The long road home.   Breaking trail down hill and moving slooowly.

Movie maker Mark.

Sweet day!

At the bottom, waiting for our ride.
These are from Mark's camera:
Smiles, lots of smiles.

What's happening back there?

Never ending blue sky and snow.

Up up up.


I'm crushing your head!

The US Basin slide video is on Colorado's avalanche page.  A hucker triggered it.


The avalanches are that way, so we are going this way.  Or was it the other way around?

Master chef.

The fire goes here, we go over there.

Master fire pit maker Lisa.

Ahhh, another meal.

Morning in the kitchen tent.

Nothing says good morning like a shot of whiskey!

Trying to keep our feet cool and the rest of us warm.

Opus Hut on Ophir pass at 11,700 feet.  The lap of luxury!

Sweet kitchen here!

Skis outside please.

Yay puppy!

That's it!   Soda was safe and sound at Connie's house in Durango with her dogs Zia and Zoey.  She was very happy to have avoided the kennel yet again.   The fatigue I felt after this trip was akin to an Ironman.  4 days and 3 nights at altitude with hours of climbing each day took the piss out of me.
Thanks Mark for the trip!

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