I love all the different landscapes you pass through during a long drive in Colorado. In the front range it felt like climbing weather and wild fires were threatening the state (already). Near Vail the roads were snowy and slow going. In Grand Junction, dry and desert-like, but a hint of snow-covered peaks appeared in the background. As we drove closer to Ouray, I could see Mt. Sneffels, where Andrew proposed. I saw Mt. Wetterhorn, which battles Mt. Sneffels for favorite 14ers hikes. The San Juans are ridged mountains and by far some of my favorite. Driving through Ouray, I want to unpack and call it home. I’ve spent very little time there, but it’s beauty and small town feel makes me want to stay. Past Ouray, we head 13 miles up Red Mountain Pass. A road that screams avalanches and threatens you with drop-offs, that go hundreds of feet down, and only start about a foot away (where it’s not eroded) from the pavement.
Soon we see our friend Adam’s car and we get our gear together. This was my first hut trip and I was told “it’s only .8 miles from the road.” I’d be lying if I said we packed like people who test gear. We figured .8 miles wasn’t that far, so we brought a lot of food, a few things to drink, an extra pack for the skiing and probably too many layers. With two heavy packs strapped unevenly on our backs, .8 miles, uphill, is more exhausting then you’d expect. Still, it’s too short to be horrible and I still don’t regret all the good food we brought up.
Our destination was a little cabin called the Mountain Belle hut. We joined our friend Adam and his friends, who all have time off before starting their residency in June.
The start of the week involved icy, wind-blown snow. So, the boys built a jump, photos were taken, we skied short laps near the cabin, practiced avy safety, drank beers, hit the hot springs in Ouray and rested up for the snow, we heard was coming, mid-week. Our little home for the week felt far more solitude then it actually was. The snow started falling Wednesday night and Thursday morning we woke up to a nice layer of powder. Some of the group left for Silverton, a place that intimidates me and seems almost mythical. Adam, Betti, Andrew and I strapped on our gear and did laps around the cabin. The terrain was lower than 30 degrees, in most sections, but we practiced avalanche safety and discussed the terrain the entire time. We took laps, found spots where powder came up to our knees and had a blast. My new skis were finally used for what they were made for and I finally got to experience how perfect powder can be with a good pair of skis.
By the end of the day on Thursday, I was ready to head home. I’d had a blast, but I was battling a cold and in need of a shower, running water and my dog. We drove back to Golden on Friday, where we were welcomed with a big spring snowstorm.
Drive time from Golden: Around 6 hours
Hut: Mountain Belle on Red Mountain Pass
Hiking distance: .8 miles (one way)
Skiing around hut: beginner to expert terrain
Gear that rocked: Osprey Viva 65, Deuter Freerider Pro 28, FITS and Darn Tough ski socks, Tasc Performance baselayer, Patagonia Troposphere Hardshell, Rab MeCo 250, Rossignol S7, Dynafit Radical ST bindings.
Photos by Andrew Bradberry