St. Patrick’s Day was the start of a great 3 day/2 night trip to the hard-to-get-to Friends Hut, with 4 fun folks from the East Coast. Rebecca & Tony, both outdoor industry professionals and Mike and his son Eric, both West Point Academy folks. The trek into the Friends Hut is long to say the least: 11 miles and about 2700′ vertical gain. With loaded down packs on our backs and smiles of anticipation on our faces we started our slow slog up to the hut. 9 hours later, we were starting a fire in the woodstove, firing up the solar powered lights and stereo, and gettin’ ready for some well-earned dinner.
Day 2 dawned bright and sunny, with a few inches of fresh snow overnight, and incredible alpine terrain in every direction. The hardest part of the day was deciding what to go ski first. Mellow was the word, as everyone needed to adjust their lungs and legs to the altitude (>11,500′). The morning consisted of getting familiar with the transitions of uphill/downhill mode and we made a few laps through the glades above the hut, and were treated to some creamy runs of great sun warmed powder skiing.
After a few laps it was back to the hut for some water and food before a bigger afternoon tour up towards Star Pass. Tony decided to stay behind and enjoy the beauty and solitude of this cozy alpine hut, while the rest of us headed up to the ridge above the hut, and off to ski a couloir below the stark south face of Star Peak. Strong afternoon winds nearly blew us off our feet on the ridge and began to wreck the surface of the snow, but we were able to find some great turns in this sheltered north facing cove. Eric dragged his college chemistry book up to our high point at 12,500′, to win a contest between him and his classmates, and then it was all downhill from here back towards the hut. After the initial steep upper pitch, mountain girl Rebecca decided she was just warmed up, and persuaded us all to climb a short-cut back up to the ridge to ski that shot again. So, with tail-guide Johnny MacKinnon breaking trail we headed up for one more last lap of the day, and once again it was killer powder all the way back to the hut this time.
All done skiing, we enjoyed some wine and antics on the incredibly buried hut roof in the afternoon alpenglow, and admired our tracks from the day. That night we enjoyed more good food, and some musical entertainment provided by Mike & Tony through the resident Friends Hut guitar.
Day 3 dawned even sunnier and warmer with calm winds. With Tony back with us, we headed up to Pearl Pass (12,700′), the main boundary between Crested Butte & Aspen. The views from the pass, of Pearl Mountain and the valleys on both sides was dramatic, and the ski back to the hut beneath all the towering peaks was exhilarating.
Once back at the hut it was time for some lunch, packing up, and heading back out the 11-mile ski to the car, to get Mike & Eric on their way towards Denver. While Johnny began the long, fun, half amusement-park ride half-slog back to the car with Mike, Eric, and Tony, Rebecca & I headed up to Crystal Peak for one last long ski.
Under unseasonably warm afternoon temps at 12,000′+, we were rewarded with a summit ski and a long soft powder run of 1500′ back to the hut. Then from their in t-shirts we began the nearly 2,000′ descent back to the trailhead, cold beer, and a shower. Two miles from the cars we caught up with the rest of the group, and all of us were able to finish together and celebrate our journey to the Friends Hut, before going separate ways. It was a great trip, filled with good company, good food, great skiing, and good high mountain living. Looking forward to venturing into the mountains with you all again soon.
Thanks —- Your Guides: Jayson & Johnny….