Mindy and I head to the San Juans to celebrate her birthday and explore a new area. We had reserved the Last Dollar Hut, owned/operated by the same folks (San Juan Huts) as the Ridgeway Hut that we went to last year. The approach is very short (about 3 miles) with maybe 1500′-2000′ of vertical gain. The yurt was very nice and slept up to 8 people. When we showed up we had company, two very nice guys from Flagstaff Arizona. The view was so spectacular that by the time we finally got to the hut we simply hung out, watched the sunset, and got psyched for what tomorrow would hold.
The next morning we took off heading east up a ridge to a plateau at 12,000′. I boot-packed it up the ~12,300′ peak to the east and then we took a nice run down one of the “safe avalanche chutes” to the north. Then we decided to head closer to the yurt where the snow was supposedly better. It was indeed great snow and when we got to the bottom of a sweet run, Brendan and Chaz popped out of the woods to surprize Mindy for her birthday! Our new group of 4 was so much fun, some of my favorite people in the most beautiful mountain ranges in the states. Unfortunately Vaness and Terrie has to bail last minute and couldn’t join us. We skinned back up to the plateau at which point Brendan, Chaz, and I skinned over to Whipple Mountain SE of the yurt. The north face of it turned out to be oh so good and left us all incredibly giddy. But, the sun was going down so we skinned back up to the yurt to meet Mindy and start making dinner. We surprised mindy with a small cake, candles, and ballons and a really poorly sung version of “happy birthday”.
The next morning Chaz and I took off to ski a chute off the west face of Hayden Peak that we had seen the prior day. We followed the ridge from the ~12,300′ peak mentioned earlier all the way to our desination chute, dropping off the eastern side for a bit to avoid what looked like multi-pitch rock climbing, which we didn’t have gear for. The chute was very steep and icy so it wasn’t the best skiing, but the setting was incredible. On the way back our skins were like fly paper to the wet snow underneath and it made for a “pure hell” experience for about 3-4 miles. Plus I broke a pole so it made it that much more fun. After cleaning off our skins it only took one or two steps before we’d have 10 lbs of snow on each foot along for the ride. It was futile, we just had to push on through. Since I broke my pole Chaz was kind enough to break trail for a large portion of the skin back. Thanks Chaz! Eventually we made it back to the yurt, quickly packed up and skiied out to hook up with Brendan and Vanessa who had decided to ski Whipple Mountain again. Upon getting back to the car we found out that Brendan had hit a tree on their approach and got a fairly good concussion, something that would mess up his memory (transient global amnesia?) for a week or more. The trip ended on a strange note, but overall the trip was still excellent.
Some pics of the trip here. As well as a short you-tube video of Chaz below: