Benedict Hut to McNamara Hut to Margy’s Hut
This was a 2012 Thanksgiving Weekend Hut-to-Hut-to-Hut trip
• From the Hunter Creek TH to Benedict Hut on Thanksgiving, Thursday 11/22/2012, to
• McNamara Hut on Friday via No Name Creek, Thimble Rock and Hunter Flats to
• Margy’s Hut on Sat via Woody Creek and Spruce Creek and
• out to the Woody Creek TH near Lenado on Sunday.
Who: 16 Colorado Mtn Club members:
Ryan, trip leader, Gaye, Michele, Dave, Joe, Tom, Kent, Nicole, Larry, Fran,
Toni, Chris, Bob, Dan, Brandon, Bill
Gaye, Dave, Kent, Nicole, Bob and Bill are veterans of Ryan’s previous TG Hut trips.
This was Ryan’s 4th Thanksgiving Hut-Hut-Hut Safari trip and toughest by far.
A planning meeting held on Weds 11/14 at Brooklyn’s Downtown where meal assignments were made, the route, gear and other details were discussed.
Due to the lack of early season snow and difficulty of the route, we all decided to use snowshoes and Microspikes/Yak Traks/ etc. and not skis.
By the time we started the trip, the weather forecast showed clear and sunny skies for the entire weekend and there and been little or no new snow for more than week.
There was little or no snow in Aspen and at lower elevations and a max of ~18” at our highest elevations.
Given these excellent travelling conditions and our strong group, we chose to take the shorter direct routes between the huts,
despite the additional route finding difficulties through the primitive wilderness area with little or no trail or markings,
rather than going back towards the TH and up the standard route to each hut.
This TR primarily focuses on the navigation, routefinding and route conditions we encountered to aid future hut-hut-ers.
Weds 11/21/2012 – Drive to Aspen
We all met in Aspen Wednesday evening. Several met at Woody Creek Tavern at 6PM to shuttle cars to the exit TH. We then met for dinner in Aspen at Little Annie’s ~7:30PM.
We all met at 9AM at Clark’s Market and headed up to the TH parking lot.
We also shuttled packs up the the skier drop off. The last of us left the parking lot at 10:20AM to hike up to meet everyone else at the skier drop off.
We started hiking up to the hut from the skier drop-off area ~11AM.
There was no snow at the drop-off area but as soon as we got into the shady areas of the trail it was somewhat icy.
So we quickly donned our Micro-spikes/Yak Traks, etc. that we wore the rest of the way to Benedict’s hut, carrying our snowshoes the whole way.
We were easily able to follow the standard route up to the hut.
The snow was thin at best all the way to the hut. Above about 10,200 there was barely enough snow to ski on.
But the last half mile to the hut in the trees the snow was thinner and the rocks would make it unskiable.
Upon arriving at Benedict’s Huts, we were able to open the Fritz cabin but the lock on Fabi’s cabin would not open!
It took ~2 hours to eventually get the door open, including calls to the Pitkin Co. Sheriff to contact 10th Mtn to confirm the combo.
We enjoyed a great Thanksgiving dinner with all the fixins more or less on schedule!
We were up early, before 6AM, done with pancakes and eggs breakfast and gone from the hut by 8:20AM.
Using GPS routes we headed East from Benedict’s across the meadows and towards No Name Creek. The snow was deep enough to warrant using our shoeshoes. We started heading North a little too soon but soon realized this and eventually worked our way further East to the No Name Creek drainage and fought our way to No Name Creek down long steep slopes full of deadfall. Down at the creek we repeatedly found the remnants of a trail which quickly dissipated in lots more deadfall. We continued to work our way down stream, eventually finding a better trail that we were able to follow for quite a while before it again dissipated in deadfall. We eventually found more old trail that took us down to Hunter Creek. We found a good way across creek and on the North side, South facing side, of the creek, there was no snow and we found a nice sunny spot for lunch about 1PM and shed our snowshoes.
We were now down at Hunter Creek, just east of Thimble Rock at ~10,400 and ~1000 ft and 4 miles to the McNamara Hut. After lunch we worked our way up the short steep snow- free slope to Hunter Flats, picking up a pack trial NNW across the “flats” which weren’t so flat, just less steep, but still making good time. We followed this trail through a small saddle to the intersection of another E-W pack trail. So far still on route. From Hunter Creek on, the snow was non-existent to just a few inches deep.
Here we left the trails and bushwacked NNW to Slab Park. There we found an old but great trail on the West side of the Slab Park clearing heading up through the trees that is not on the maps. This was a distinct trail through the trees with lots of cut logs and little deadfall. It took us right to the saddle NE of Bald Knob right where we wanted to be. Near the saddle we eventually lost the trail in the deadfall but easily found the rest of the way to the saddle.
From here we generally bushwacked a bee-line to the hut, down more steep slopes with deadfall to the drainage between us and the hut. We eventually followed the bottom of this drainage down to the intersection of the trail from McNamara Hut to Woody Creek. This trail was great and took us right to the hut. This bee-line route was steep and difficult but saved us at least 30-60 mins going to the top of Bald Knob and down to the hut as the 10th Mtn route shows. The last of us made it to the hut just after dark, ~5:30PM. It had been a long day, just over 9 hours, and we were all quite tired but thrilled to be at the hut and another great dinner was had by all.
We were up early again on Sat and done with a French Toast and hashbrowns breakfast and gone from the hut before 8:30AM.
One member, Dave, was having trouble sleeping and dealing with the altitude and decided to go out on his own. Dave is very experienced in the back country and was very comfortable hiking out on his own down the standard route through Van Horn Park to the Hunter Creek TH and the cars. He went back to Aspen and met us Sunday went we came out.
The routefinding today was expected to be much easier. We left the hut and followed the trail to Woody Creek that we followed to the hut. At the creekbed just East of the hut where we picked up the trail, we had to look around a bit to find where the trail continued East but we did find it. We were able to follow this trail for at least 1.5 miles where it was very good and distinct with limited deadfall to the point where the trail turns due North at a tributary of Woody Creek where the trail immediately disappeared. We bushwhacked North in the area of the trail, occasionally finding short sections of trail and tree blazes that soon disappeared under large areas of deadfall. We eventually came to and tried to cross a boulder field that was quite treacherous with only ~12” of snow, just enough to make them all slippery and covering the holes between boulders.
We had 1 spranked ankle and numerous falls in this area. We eventually bushwhacked straight down to Woody Creek and found the trail again there where it was distinct and free of deadfall. We stopped here for lunch right at 11AM
After lunch we followed WC down to Spruce Creek, up Spruce Creek to Sawmill Park and WSW to Margy’s hut. The snow was thin and most people shed their snowshoes at Spruce Creek. At the WC-SC trail jct, it is 4.7 miles and a full 2000’ gain to Margy’s. But this was the most steady, consistant and easiest 2000’ gain I have ever seen in the mountains. There were only a couple very short steep areas and otherwise this is a very steady grade all the way up Spruce Creek and we were able to make good time all the way to Margy’s. There was little or no deadfall up Spruce Creek and only one short spot of deadfall on the way to Margys from Sawmill Park. The last of us were at the hut right at 5PM, well before dark.
The WC-SC trail junction is well marked and distinct as is the junction at Sawmill Park to turn West to Margy’s.
This was the last tough day, tomorrow would be a relatively easy down and out, so we enjoyed another great dinner and many stayed up late playing games and sharing stories. A very enjoyable hut evening.
This was a relatively easy day. We slept in a little later and enjoyed relaxed breakfast and were gone from the hut by ~9:20AM.
The route out was well marked and easy to follow and we were at the cars at the exit TH near Lenado by 12:30PM.
The snow was deep enough to start out in snowshoes and use about half way down with some bare spots, then an easy walk out the rest of the way to the cars.
We headed back to Aspen to pick up the cars at the entry TH and met for a late lunch in Basalt at the Riverside Grill.
Everyone agreed this was tough but great trip and plans were started for a post-trip picture show get-together
which was held on 12/9/2012.
Bob collected everyone's pics and made them into a nice movie with copies for everyone.