A Winter Weekend Snowshoe Hut Trip
Friday – Sunday, January 3-5, 2020
If you know me or have been following along with my blog for any amount of time, then you probably already know that I prefer to spend my winters hiking in the desert rather than playing in the snow in the mountains. However, this weekend I decided to finally try something new that has been on my ‘to try’ list for a long time, which is to snowshoe to a hut in the mountains. Back in August I decided I was finally going to try it this winter and booked the Mountain Belle cabin above Red Mountain Pass for the first weekend of the year. I chose this particular cabin since it’s not far from home, it’s in an area that I’m very familiar with, and the hike to it isn’t very difficult since this would be our first time doing something like this. We were a little concerned that the Million Dollar Highway might be closed by a winter storm like it had been the previous weekend, but thankfully we missed the storm that moved through on New Years Day and had great weather for our very first hut trip.
I worked a half day on Friday and then picked up Diane from home and we headed over to Red Mountain Pass with a quick stop at Mouse’s in Ouray. We found a parking spot off the road just past the pass and then made sure we had everything packed into our backpacks and onto the pulk that I had built to pull behind me, and then started snowshoeing to the cabin. Pulling the pulk behind me and uphill was a little tougher than I was expecting it to be and was quite the workout! We arrived at the cabin shortly before sunset which was perfect timing since I didn’t want to arrive in the dark. There were great views of the surrounding mountains from the cabin since it sits near treeline. I had invited my friend Jackson and his fiance Amy to join us at the cabin and they arrived right after we did. Perfect timing! We got the wood stove going to warm up the cabin and then settled in for the night. Later in the evening we turned off the lights in the cabin and the stars in the sky were bright up here.
I stopped for this view of Abrams Mountain from the Uncompahgre Gorge just after leaving Ouray on our way to Red Mountain Pass.
A distant view of the Yankee Girl as we neared the pass.
We parked off of the road just past the turnoff to Black Bear Pass and started hiking to the cabin.
View through the trees.
Diane took these photos of me pulling the pulk, which I made using a Jet Sled and these instructions. It actually worked out pretty well!
Diane following me up the snow-covered road.
This was our first view of the Mountain Belle just after the sun dipped below the mountains on the other side of the valley.
No one had stayed here since the last storm came through the area, so I had to shovel off the porch when we arrived.
On Saturday morning I woke up before sunrise to a nice magenta sky, so I quickly grabbed my camera for a couple photos. It was a cold and calm morning in the mountains. Amy and Jackson were only able to stay one night this weekend, so they got an early start and headed out to try hiking to the summit of McMillan Peak. Diane and I had planned to do the same thing, but we had all day, so we waited a little while before starting our hike.
A beautiful magenta sky over the mountains before sunrise on Saturday morning.
I had to get a shot of the Mountain Belle under this colorful sky. What a beautiful way to start the day!
The view from the front porch.
After Amy and Jackson headed out on their hike, I played a little bit with the small drone I borrowed from work and made this short video clip.
We eventually left the cabin and started our hike up McMillan Peak.
It was slow going for us since we haven’t been up at this elevation since the end of September.
The views across the valley are familiar places to me, although always in the summer. Here’s looking across to Porphyry Basin.
Here’s looking across to a couple of the basins I traversed over the summer to reach Columbine Lake.
What an amazing snowy view it was! Much different from the summer views I am used to up here.
We ended up climbing up to around 12,200 feet on McMillan Peak when Diane said she had enough and we decided to turn around about 600 feet short of the summit. It’s OK, the views above treeline were worth the effort even if we didn’t make it all the way to the top.
Following our tracks back down the mountain.
We returned to the cabin just as Jackson and Amy were headed out. They made it about as high as we had on the mountain before turning around, too. We said goodbye and then rested in the cabin for the rest of the afternoon. We may have even taken a short nap right after our arrival back at the cabin.
Later in the afternoon the wind started to pick up a bit and we watched snow blowing off the peaks around us from the comfort of the cabin.
Here’s a view inside the second story of the cabin where there are a few beds. We stayed downstairs in the only bedroom.
There was a little color in the sky at sunset so I went out onto the porch for a better view.
Here’s a look inside the main living room of the cabin with the wood stove.
An Evening At The Mountain Belle
When it was dark out we had dinner and then read for a while before going to bed early. On Sunday morning we woke up before sunrise to another magenta sky over the mountains. Then we packed up, cleaned the cabin and loaded my sled for the hike back down.
These were not bad views to end the weekend on!
Here’s Diane headed back down the mountain the the trailhead. It was a much easier hike today since it was mostly downhill and a snowmobile had driven up the road on Saturday which gave us a good track to follow back down.
We returned to my Jeep around mid-morning and of course it wouldn’t start after sitting in the cold temperatures for the last two days! I have a little battery pack that I have used to jump start my Jeep before, but I guess it was too cold out for that to work this morning, too. Luckily, there were plenty of people around getting ready to head out backcountry skiing and the vehicle parked next to us offered a jump. After hooking up to their battery my Jeep started right up and we were soon on the road back home. We had a really nice winter weekend in the mountains!