Kelly had the entire Sangree Hut reserved in advance for more than a year. We spent the first three full days of spring surrounded by outstanding ski terrain during a window in which stable snowpack allowed us to ride steep lines.

Our winter in the central Colorado mountains has been dwindling as of late. The continuous soft powder days enjoyed during December and January are now a distant memory. While Vail Mountain has a snow water equivalent of 67% of average, Fremont Pass (closest to our hut) enjoys 111% average equivalent.  Overall the Upper Colorado basin sits at an 85% index; on the drier side still, but I’ll never complain about an earlier start to the backpacking season.

DSC00171Sangree is one of the easier 10th Mountain Division Huts to reach. The designated blue diamond route is only 3 miles one-way, and the terrain you reach and the fantastic views once arriving near treeline are terrific.

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Yann in desperate need of glop stopper. That typical spring-like issue for climbing skins.

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We wasted very little time upon reaching the hut to go out and find the goods.

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Immediately and conveniently to the north of Sangree is treeline. Easy access via skin track to moderate slopes are imminent.

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Sam scouting his line from 12,150′, and looking up to Buckeye Peak (12,867′).

We decided to return to the peak and the large bowl the following day for laps.

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Riding back south to our warm hut; Robert is a role model for inspiring split boarders everywhere.

DSC00230Hut living isn’t hard living

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A short stroll to watch the sunset from up high

DSC00258Morning breakfast and a pre-skin stretch on the deck the following morning.

DSC00268Skinning the saddle while scouting Buckeye bowl. The view in the photo above looks directly towards Mount Elbert and Mount Massive.

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The ski descent plan had changed numerous times … for the better. The rim of Buckeye gulch was filled with cornice and what laid below was steep. Good snow coverage on south facing slopes was about as good as one could ask for, but cautiousness always remains priority.

Meanwhile the views of the high peaks of Holy Cross Wilderness, the biggest 14ers in Colorado, the Collegiate peaks and the Ten Mile Range were all right there. The gorgeousness briefly halted me from travel many a time.

DSC00305Time to ski

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Looking back to our lines

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Immediately ready for another round of that

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Me, Em, Kel

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Party skiing our way down Buckeye Gulch

We eventually found the skin track which reaches the hut from the east. The only downside of taking this route is the inevitable skin through a massive avy path located near the hut. It would not have been the way to go had snowpack conditions been worse.

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The crew that remained at the hut the final evening felt like staying comfortable; I was extremely restless. After cutting tinder and hauling up more firewood to the hut, I convinced Kelly to go on one last skin with me. The descent skied surprisingly well for crust.

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Early light creeping into our corner of the world, the final day in the woods.

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Back in January Kelly and I had skinned to Sangree to check out the route and to get a feel for the ski terrain. At the time, after our arrival at the hut, we had skied directly down to the fork of Buckeye Gulch and the designated skin-trail creek-crossing. The snow on the south facing aspen stands didn’t hold up as well as expected.

Instead for round two, I decided it better to descend more southeast, and drop to Buckeye Gulch. The snow skied much better and the trees opened to terrain like in the final photo above.