22 December 2010

The Hut Trip That Was Anything But

Trailhead to Betty Bear Hut
Over the weekend I was headed to the mountains for a new experience, going on my first hut trip.  It is actually pretty sad that I had not been on one before so when Sean said he was planning one I was in.  Ron at Mountain Chalet hooked me up with a nice set of AT ski's, boots and skins for the weekend so that I could take full advantage of going up to the mountains for a few days.  The group met at 6 am Saturday morning in Frisco and headed out to Glenwood for a last fuel stop before heading to the trail head to venture to Betty Bear Hut.  After plowing through 10-12 inches of fresh powder for 30 miles we reached parking lot and got the things together and began heading off on a nice trek through a foot of virgin powder, thankfully it was a light and dry snow not wet and heavy.  We started a bit later than desired so we needed to keep a decent pace as we headed up the 7 miles from 9,000 feet to 11,100 feet.

Myself, Christoph, Chantel and Aron doing final prep before we skin and snowshoe to the hut

Getting the trail to look like this is hard work, your welcome guys.
As we traveled along and gained more and more altitude the group gradually got spread out.  We would stop periodically and get a drink and admire the beauty of the snow covered forest and mountains around us and quietly appreciate what we were doing.  After a couple miles the gaps were growing quite large between the group and at the halfway point Sean, Aron and I knew that some decisions had to be made to ensure the safety of the entire group.  Sean headed back down the trail to talk to Mike and Josh and give them the reality of the situation.  At the pace they were going they were going to make it to the hut well after dark and the hardest part of the trek was the last 2 miles.  It was safer for them to turn around and head back to the car and head home than to try to press it to the hut.  It is never an easy decision when it comes to denying someone something but safety was the biggest concern.  I was still concerned about them getting out and was debating on heading back with them to make sure they made it out.  There were a few other things on my mind as well, one was that I had to leave early on Monday to get back to work that afternoon and with the amount of snow expected still to fall it wasn't going to be as easy a trip out as anticipated so I would be leaving either super early on Monday morning or ski out late on Sunday on my own.  The second thing was that I didn't get the boots warm before putting them on and skinning up and so my shins were getting bruised and sore with every step.  With that in mind I decided to head back as well, it was not what I wanted to do but I would feel better knowing that Mike and Josh made it out and it would take stress off my shoulders about getting back myself for work on Monday.  The three of us headed down, Mike and Josh had no problems and would have easily made it had I not been there.  It was a tough not going through with the trip but such are decisions that are made.
Adam, myself and Sean deciding who will break trail next.

Once back at the cars we loaded everything up and decided to hit up the Glenwood Brewery for dinner before heading home.  The first 15miles of the drive out were cake just following the tracks we made when we drove in.  It was then that I noticed as I was driving my speedometer was not working, then the ABS light came on, then the revmeter stopped working, check engine light, oil pressure light all turned on.  Then the car just died and I rolled to a stop.  Josh and Mike pulled up behind me and I told them what was going on, Josh said that it was probably my battery and or alternator that was causing the issue.  After a couple minutes the car started and I drove about 400 feet before it died again, oh crap, there is no cell service still and it is starting to get dark.  Josh pulls around in front and we jump my car and let it charge for a little while.  Thankfully that seems to work the lights are brighter and all the warning lights are off.  Knowing that driving the car helps charge the battery and wanting to hopefully make it back to Glenwood to get the car checked out I tell Josh to keep my jumper cables and to catch back up and I will keep going.  I pretty much expected the car to die again before we reached the next small town of Basalt.  My Subi stayed strong and I reached Basalt before Josh and Mike had caught up.  Now what to do, do I continue to Glenwood  or try to drive in circles and wait for them.  I elected for the latter but missed them heading through town and we were separated as we were getting off of the small mountain road and on to HWY 82 back to Glenwood.  So I made to bad choices 1. leaving the only guys I knew behind with my jumper cables and 2 I didn't have their cell phone numbers to get a hold of them.

Nothing needs to be said.
Now I was gambling as I headed out on HWY 82 to hopefully make it the 20 miles back to Glenwood and not have the car die.  So far so good for the first 10 miles, then I started to hit stop lights and as I would slow down the car would start to die.  It made it an interesting drive as I was braking and revving the engine to keep things going, and trying not to come to a complete stop.  On one occasion I had to make a hard right turn on a red light did a loop in a dirt parking lot and shot back out on the highway.  Then about 3 miles from Glenwood the last shoe fell and the car died.  After a call to my parents and searching the grand old internet we finally found a tow truck and after a while got a tow to Glenwood which was maybe a 5 minute drive from where the car died.  After a few other calls to friends I managed to get a message to Josh and Mike and we got in touch later.  I was back in Glenwood about 8pm on Saturday all the auto shops were closed and would open back up on Monday and that is when I would know what was happening to my car.  My parents helped in finding and booking a hotel for me that was close by the auto shop and it was now just a waiting game.  I was hoping that the shop would be able to fix the car on Monday and I would be able to get out of there but I wouldn't know till Monday morning.

Mary at the Cedar Lodge was great letting me charge my cell phone in the snowplow truck on Sunday so that the auto shop could get a hold of me on Monday.  They had a nice continental breakfast which helped save me a couple meals, gave me info about the free bus that ran around town and had a computer so that I could access the internet and figure out what to do and let people know what was going on.  I spent Sunday lounging around watching a bit of football then took the bus downtown and to the hot springs, not a bad way to spend my Sunday considering what had been going on.  First thing Monday morning the Alpine Motors called and confirmed that the alternator had died.  Thankfully they had one in stock and they had me up and running and I was headed out of town by 10.
The route accomplished by the group minus Mike, Josh and myself.  We made it about half way to the hard left turn uphill.
As I headed back to the Springs, I thought about a few things, one is that it was a good thing I decided to turn around and head out with Mike and Josh.  If I had continued to hike in and left on Sunday I probably would have gotten back to my car alone and it wouldn't have started.  I then would of had to of skinned another 10 miles or so to the nearest house to get help, I would have definitely been in the dark then.  Or I would have left early Monday morning and then waited around for Sean and the rest of the crew to get out to then get help from them.  Either way Mike and Josh saved me from multiple hours of trouble by being there and getting be back to "civilization".   Next time we will leave a bit earlier that way we all make it to the hut and we will have multiple ways to get a hold of one another, radios are a very good thing when you are out of cell service.

So it may be a while before I can head back out for another HUT TRIP, but it is definitely on the pail list.