Eiseman Hut Trip – Day 1

| UltraRob | Tuesday, February 14th, 2006 at 11:55 am

I got up early Sunday morning on February 5th because David was meeting at my house at 5:45 AM to drive to Vail for the ski in to the Eiseman Hut. We were also picking up Matthew at the Red Robin at the north end of town at 6:00 AM. We were there a minute or 2 early but Matthew was 10 minutes late which gave use time to fill up on gas since I hadn’t gotten it done. Tom and Dave took another vehicle and Jaime drove from Boulder.

It was pretty windy when we left and it got worse as we drove north. I had thought of taking the bike rack and Thule box off but didn’t. I wished I had. At times I was struggling to stay in my lane with the wind gusts. When we got to the water ski ponds along 470, the wind was spraying the water onto the road. There was a construction message board on a trailer that had blown over. There was no construction there and they sometimes use them for high wind warnings but it was a little too windy. There was construction at 470 and I-70 and there was stuff blown into the traffic lane. I was having visions of trying to ski into the hut in white out conditions.

By the time we got farther into the mountains the wind calmed down but the skier traffic kept us going slow. We made a couple stops in Dillon since Matthew had new skis and he had forgotten his leashes. The last thing you want in deep power in the backcountry is to lose your ski. We were planning to be at the trailhead around 8:30 but didn’t get there until after 10. I almost expected the other 3 guys to have already headed up the trail but they were still getting everything together. They soon took off and had a 20 minute head start over the rest of us.

It looked like it had just stopped snowing and the sun was peaking through the clouds. It was perfect weather for skiing uphill. The trail was broken out of the parking lot by people doing a short morning ski. About the first hour is up a road along Spraddle Creek that has a pretty steady climb. You then cut across the creek and take a winter only route that goes over the ridge and drops a little into the Middle Creek drainage. I’m not sure but I’m guessing the trail wasn’t broken on this route since people that are just out skiing for a few hours seem to keep going up the road. If it wasn’t broken, the 3 guys wouldn’t have had to break trail long because I could see them on the hillside above me and it wasn’t long until I meet the first 2 people skiing out from the hut.

I passed Dave a little before getting to the Middle Creek drainage and I saw Tom disappearing into the trees as I dropped into the meadow where the route drops into the Middle Creek drainage. I stopped for a few minutes and had a snack. It wasn’t long before Dave showed up and also stopped for a snack. I took off before he was ready and after while caught up to Jaime and Tom. I skied with them for a bit before continuing on by myself. For a couple miles the trail is mostly gentle uphill in the trees along the creek. For a while there is a ridge to the left with some cliffs but then the trail goes to the right so you can’t see the ridge anymore.

After a while the trail turns back left and this means one thing, it’s about time to tackle the “wall”. It is a steep, open section up the ridge and for me it comes about 3 hours into the ski so I’m getting a little tired. I know that from the bottom to the hut takes me about 45 minutes and it climbs quite a bit. This year I was the first one up the “wall” and with the new snow it was extra hard. People headed out from the hut and come down it but their tracks were too steep for going up. Once over the wall, it gets easier but still keeps you working hard. The sign that you’re almost to the hut is an extra steep section that’s probably only 30 feet. Most years I have to side step up. This year the snow was still soft so I was barely able to get enough grip with my skins to get up it without side stepping.

I made it to the hut in 3:45 which I didn’t think was too bad of a time since the trail wasn’t as hard packed as normal. The fastest I’ve done it was in 2003 when I was really fit and the trail was very packed. That year I did it in 3:20 and the last couple years I’ve been around 4 hours. Jaime showed up at the hut within 5 or 6 minutes after I did and Tom wasn’t too far behind. We hung out for a little while and then Tom, Jaime, and I headed out to try out the snow. David and Dave had made it to the hut and Matthew came in a little after we left.

We went up the ridge behind the hut to where it drops to a saddle. We skied down from there. There are a few trees but it’s fairly open. Even though there was nice, new snow it had been packed by the wind. Not enough to get a crust but enough to make it slow skiing. It didn’t take many turns to keep our speed under control. Once we got down to where it wasn’t steep enough, we put our skins on and cut a track back up to the hut. By then David and Matthew had come out and done a short run down from the hut. There was enough new snow that the whole time we were there I only saw a couple mostly buried old tracks. By the time we left, there were tracks everywhere. Jaime and Tom went and did another short run but I thought I should save a little since the only skiing I had done this winter was a couple hours on High Drive and Captain Jacks 2 months before and that was just cross-country.

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