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Trip Report San Juan Huts (Version 2)

Discussion in 'Backcountry Trip Reports' started by Slowman, Mar 30, 2018.

  1. Slowman

    Slowman One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    A recent family trip to Telluride provided the excuse of travelling over "a few days early" for a hut to hut tour using part of the San Juan Hut System and Peak Mountain Guides based in Ouray Colorado.



    It was my first visit to Ouray which is a rather cool old Victorian mining town where the main economic activities now seem to be ice climbing, summer Jeep trips and brewing beer. It sort of struck me as a smaller version of Telluride - circa 1975. Hence there are ample opportunities for keen handymen and women to acquire a property in need of some love and a spirit level.


    The San Juan Huts which are used for ski touring consist of a series of 5 huts situated along the length of Sneffels Range. Access to the first "Burn Hut" is a quite straightforward ski up an access road through mellow terrain. The surrounding terrain is quite varied with very pleasant glades below the hut and steeper tree runs on the ridge above the hut which runs up to the Sneffels Range itself.



    If you were just interested in a short trip this hut would be ideal. The huts themselves are similar to the mountain huts in New Zealand and are equipped with mattresses, a propane cooktop, very cool wood burning stoves and cooking and eating utensils. They all have quite civilised separate composting toilets and substantial undercover wood stores.

    The photo below shows the interior of the next hut along the range called Ridgeway Hut.



    It was equipped with a solar power system and some LCD lights (unlike the Burn Hut which had old school propane lamps).

    Alas my visit coincided with the thinest Colorado snow pack for a long, long time and our attempt to reach the alpine terrain above the Ridgeway Hut was an epic fail thwarted by thinly covered old avalanche debris. With insufficient snow cover to reach the next hut a bold decision was made to retreat to Ouray to further sample the local beers.

    Good things can come to those who wait and mother nature came to the rescue with a nice dump the following day. Not far from Ouray is a very impressive backcountry area known as Red Mountain Pass. A cleared and sealed road leads to an extensive area of gladed terrain and alpine steeps. The photo below shows my suitably pleased looking guide, Dan Zokaites. Dan is a bit of an underacheiver and merely a triple certified AMGA Rock, Alpine and Ski Guide plus a Bachelor of Engineering. He also has a nice grin - which might have had something to do with getting first tracks.

    I was very impressed with Peak Guides who run a very professional operation and stock a good range of top quality hire AT gear (mostly Scarpa and K2) if you are travelling light. With more typical snow conditions the area is well worth a visit and if you are into ice-climbing it is probably a must visit location.
     
    SMSkier, luke1234, GS and 7 others like this.
  2. bluestick

    bluestick One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    Looks very cool thanks for posting March after Japan would be good?
     
  3. Slowman

    Slowman One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    The locals tell me that March can be their best month of the season. The high altitude in this part of Colorado apparently keeps the temperatures down and the snow can be as good as mid winter. Because it is so high I try to spend at least one night in Denver on the trip in to try to adjust. The above photo at Red Mountain Pass was taken at about 12,000 feet.
     
  4. Rabid K9

    Rabid K9 A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    Spirit level, bollocks, balcony on the Western looks fine....

    Could easily shoot some varmints with my .44 from there.
     
    Slowman likes this.