This is a trip report of our hut trip on Thanksgiving weekend, Thursday 11/28 – Sunday 12/1/2013.
I had been organizing and planning this trip for several months. We ended up with a group of 12 strong CMCers on this trip, all with extensive backcountry experience:
Bill, Sue, Kent, Nicolle, Gary, Joe, Mary, Katie, Brenda, Jim, Matt and Chris.
We all used snowshoes due to the early season and lack of enough good snow for skiing.
This was Matt’s and Jim’s 1st hut trip and they picked a challenging one. Several of us had been to UBs before. Gary, Sue and I had been to Skinner before via the direct route around the South side of Turquois Lake 5 years ago. On that trip Sue and I followed the standard BD route up Glacier Creek route, which was well broken and tracked. Gary broke his own trail up the East end of the ridge for fun and met us at the hut! The BD route was too easy for Gary at that time! None of us had ever been from UBs to Skinner in winter. In September, 2013, Sue and I had done the Colorado Trail Segment 9 from Tennessee Pass to Timberline Lake TH, going close to UBs Hut, and which we used on this trip. So we had the route well scouted.
Fortunately the weather was clear and sunny all weekend and temps were in the mid-30s for a high during the day and mid-teens for the low at night and only light winds.
The 10th Mtn office called me on Weds right before the trip to let me know the route from UB to Skinner would not be tracked at all. We had expected this from the beginning of planning the trip so this was no surprise but it was nice of them to warn us. They were right.
Here is a link to the few pics I took.
https://picasaweb.google.com/1110764986 ... pBillSPics
https://plus.google.com/photos/11663091 ... Yf49e2O1wE
We met in Golden at 7AM Thanksgiving morning and carpooled out to the TH by Turquoise Lake west of Leadville at CR 99 and CR 9. We shuttled cars over to the exit TH at the Turquoise Lk Dam and were snowshoeing to Us’s hut by ~10AM. The last of us were at the hut by 3:50PM. We relaxed and had a great Thanksgiving dinner with all the fixin’s. 3 of us got in a good game of Scrabble after dinner.
We were up early and gone from the hut by 8:15AM. We headed West and easily found the Bear Lake TH at the bottom of the hill below the hut. Our plan was to follow this West to the Colorado Trail and follow that SW all the way to the Timberline Lake TH at the West end of Turquoise Lake. We had a little difficulty following the Bear Lake TH but once we found the CT, we were able to follow it quite well down to the TL Lk TH, thanks to the tree blazes and occasional CT trail marker. There was more snow than we expected on this section. It’s about 4 mi from the hut to the Timberline Lk TH and that took us about 4 hours. The route was totally untracked the whole way. Despite much of the route being on South facing slopes, there was still plenty of snow on the route and we needed our snowshoes the entire way. We made it to the TL TH right at noon.
My goal was to be at the TL TH by noon at the latest so we were on schedule. We had ~5 hours of day light to make it 3 miles/1600’ up the Glacier Creek drainage to Skinner. No problem.
We headed out from the TL TH and found the Blue Diamonds leaving the CT heading up toward the Glacier Creek drainage, breaking trail all the way to the Skinner. The snow was even deeper in this area but we were able to follow the route dead on the BDs all the way to the 1st lake at ~10,760’. But there are numerous places for more frequent BDs would be nice.
At the 1st lake, we skirted the lakes on the North side and eventually found the BDs on the West side of the 2nd lake/marsh/meadow. We would be able to see our tracks in this area from the hut. Following the route above the lakes, along Glacier Creek up to 11,200’ – 11,400’ is challenging. The route is very windy, steep and often right up the streambed. We punched through the snow numerous times to the stream below, soaking boots and snowshoes with slush and ice, making travel even more difficult. Fortunately no one actually got their feet wet. The BDs are often difficult to find and follow in this area.
It had taken us 5 hours for the last 3 mi from TL TH to Skinner, 9 hours total from UBs to Skinner.
That was with 12 strong people rotating leads and carefully following the route with maps and GPSs and watching for the priceless BDs!! But we had broken the 1st track of the season from UBs to Skinner in deep snow. And stayed dead on the BD route 90+% of the way. Everyone worked well together, cooperated and handled the difficult route very well.
Sue and I had been to Skinner in winter once before, 5 years ago, but the route was well broken. I had also scouted the route in the fall once, right before that trip 5 years ago, and had a good GPS track. But none of us had ever broken the trail up Glacier Creek drainage to Skinner before so this was a real challenge.
The hut was cold but we were thrilled to be there. It took hours but we eventually got it warmed up and snow melted for water and had another great dinner. The 3 of us even got in another game of Scrabble. We all slept well!
This was a rest day and everyone enjoyed it. We slept in and eventually most of us headed out up to Hagerman Pass to enjoy the views. 6 people, Matt, Joe, Chris, Jim, Katie and Mary went on to hike up to Divide Peak, North of the pass. The rest of us took our time going back to the hut to relax for the rest of the afternoon.
We enjoyed another great dinner and another game of Scrabble
We were up early again, had a great breakfast and were gone from the hut by 8:15AM again.
The route down was a piece of cake and what took us 5 hours to go up from TL TH to Skinner on Friday, only took us 1:50 to down on Sunday arriving at 10:05AM.
Sometime Friday or Sat, Jim realized that he left a down jacket at UB on Fri AM and decided to go back and try to get it. So he left us at the TL TH and solo, hiked 4 mi back to UBs, following our Friday track, and then 6 more miles out to the entry TH. Clearly Jim is very strong. He said he needed more training! I got a call from him that he was back to his car at the TH before 3PM. Unfortunately his jacket was not at the hut! If anyone was at UBs Fri or Sat 11/29 or 30 and found a jacket, please post a message here.
The rest of us had ~5-6 mi from TL TH back along the South side of Turquoise Lake to the cars at the exit TH. We cruised out with no problems and the last of us arrived at the cars ~12:45PM. It was a quick drive back to the other cars at the entry TH and on home. Traffic was not too bad on I70 for a Sunday on a holiday weekend. I think we were ahead of the heaviest traffic.
All had a great time and worked well together. Another challenging and highly successful hut trip.