Thursday, 11/23, to Sunday 11/26, trip from
Vail Pass to SMI Jay's to Fowler-Hilliard to Jackal to Camp Hale.
We had a strong group of 10 friends for this trip.
7 of the 10 were veteran's of a hut trip last TG and other hut trips.
All were strong, experienced backcountry travelers and
all worked great together to complete this challenging TG hut trip
exactly as planned with no major issues.
In Sept, 2 of us scouted the route from Shrine Pass,
over Shrine Mtn, down the valley, up to FH hut,
around Resolution Mtn and down to Resolution Creek.
We had done this whole trip 13 years ago but needed to
refresh our memories on the details of the route.
We found the route on Shrine Mtn had changed.
The old GPS track used to go up Shrine Ridge from the saddle,
before eventually dropping off down into the Wearyman Creek Rd valley.
The current track drops off the ridge at the saddle,
traversing down below Wingle Ridge.
A pre-trip planning meeting with everyone and
many emails over the previous months helped create the
strong, cohesive, cooperative group we needed for this challenging route.
We met at the I70/Morrison exit PNR at 10 AM on Thursday and
carpooled to the Vail Pass TH, dealing with a significant car problem along the way.
We left the TH shortly afternoon and were at Jay's by ~2:30.
The snow on the skier/snowshoe route was minimal with lots of willows, etc. to trek through.
At Jay's we enjoyed warming up the hut with the wood-burning stove,
getting unpacked and prepared for our TG feast.
4 of us went out to scout the route to Shrine Ridge.
We found the route already tracked on a combination of the winter and summer routes.
For dinner we enjoyed a grand TG feast with all the trimmings.
After dinner we enjoyed games of scrabble, cards, etc. and
stories of many previous adventures developing strong camaraderie within the group!
Friday, we were up before 7AM and gone from the hut by 8:30 AM.
We knew we had a long day ahead so we wanted to get an early start.
We made it up to the pass on Shrine Ridge in just over an hour.
Weather was overcast and breezy but not snowing and good visibility.
From Shrine Ridge, we tried following 10th Mtn's GPS track,
traversing off the ridge to the SSW below Wingle Ridge.
We initially found 2-3 blue diamonds, indicating we were on the right route.
but eventually lost the diamonds in tall willows and dense timber.
We found better traveling paralleling the track but above it ~100+ ft,
eventually finding the route again in the opened slopes and
descending to Wearyman Creek and FS RD 747.1 below,
enjoying a food break near the road.
Weather was improving with occasional periods of sunshine.
After trying to follow this new GPS track,
we think it may be better to stay on the ridge to
about the top of Wingle Ridge before dropping off down to
Wearymen Creek Rd.
following the diamonds over to the old Ptarmigan Mtn-Resolution Mtn roadbeds.
Once on these roads it was a straightforward slog up to FH hut.
Clouds moved in again with some on and off light snow.
The last of us were at the hut by 3:30.
We were breaking trail from the top of Shrine Ridge to FH hit,
except for a short mostly bare section on a South facing slope below Wingle Ridge.
We rotated leads, breaking trail, but
the 2 strongest, fastest, people did the majority of the trail breaking up front.
The FH hut was cold and it took hours to get it warmed up enough to start to shed our gear.
By bedtime the upstairs was still cold and half the group brought
mattresses down from upstairs to sleep downstairs.
We had another great dinner together.
Soon the bluetooth speaker was out and the dance party got going!
It said a lot about this group that after 7.5 hours of hard snowshoeing,
with almost 2K of gain,
and getting to a cold hut, many were still up for partying!
Along with scrabble, hearts, chess, etc.
gone before 8:30 for another long day over to Jackal.
Heading up the notch from the hut to the saddle North of Resolution was a little tricky
due to the early season patchy snow conditions.
Approaching the saddle, our lead snowshoer almost triggered a small avy,
generating the classic, heart stopping, WHOMPF!, of settling snow,
leaving a long crack through the slope.
Fortunately the snow didn't actually slide, it just settled, and
our leader quickly backtracked to more stable ground where
we were able to find a better route up to the saddle.
We continued on around Resolution Mtn, down the ridge and
down the long slope to Resolution Creek.
We found a few diamonds in this area but not consistently and
eventually lost them before finding our way down to Resolution Creek Rd.
We had made good time and were at the road by ~10:30 AM so we took a
well earned food break.
We continued on down to and up the old Pearl Creek Jeep road.
That road eventually disappears and we continued on and up,
sometimes finding diamonds and following the GPS track as close a possible.
The GPS track was particularly critical to our route-finding today!!
Gaining the ridge East of Jackal was a huge relief
after slogging up the steep slopes out of the Pearl Creek drainage.
Continuing on, we were at the hut before 4PM.
Another hard day but everyone made it, working together and rotating leads.
When our strongest leaders eventually got a bit worn out,
others stepped up to take the lead.
Jackal was not as cold as FH but still chilly and
it took hours to get warmed up.
Dinner was great again, followed by more games, music, etc.
Sunday we slept in, knowing we only had to do the standard route
down to Camp Hale. Weather was sunny bluebird Colorado morning.
We left ~10 AM taking our time with numerous stops to enjoy the views, see some of CH and
were down to the South CH TH right on time to meet our shuttle at 12:40 PM,
which took us back to our cars at Vail Pass.
We stopped for lunch and celebrated the great trip at
Pug Ryan's in Dillon on the way home.
All in all, a fantastic trip.
Thanks much to everyone for working so well together to make it a great success!