Section House Hut Trip

Our last big adventure for the year was a snowshoe/hike hut trip. Nick's been slowly accumulating gear for trips - hoping to eventually transition to back country skiing. The last big purchase was the Osprey Kode packs so we could carry the snowshoes and all our gear. With that, it was time to actually get out and try a hut trip. At that late date, there weren't many openings in the 10th Mountain or Summit Hut systems. There was plenty of room in Section house - a restored railroad boarding house perched on the top of Boreas Pass. It was also a shorter hike in, so perfect for testing gear out.

On Gold Dust Trail - heading up towards Section House
We approached the hut from the East side - parking at the Gold Dust trailhead. It was already pretty windy out, but the trees down in the valley shielded us from the wind. Hearing the creaking and moaning of the old pines was a little freaky at times - especially with the number of trees down along the trail. To Nick's dismay, there wasn't much snow down low and the trail had been tracked down into a firm path. Our snowshoes stayed on the packs for most of the hike. As we got higher, the snow got deeper and the wind picked up more. I was post holing a little and almost stopped to put on my snowshoes a few times. But it was never bad enough to really make me want to stop. Then as we neared Boreas Pass road and approached the tree line, it was time to bundle up. That wind was cold! And the snow had been blown into drifts feet deep along the trail. As we neared Section house, the reason for the name "Boreas Pass" was perfectly clear. A howling north wind scoured the pass and surrounding mountains. We were lucky - it was a clear day and we could see for miles. A storm would have reduced visibility to nil!

As the first group to reach Section house, we claimed our beds - on the main floor so we were close to the fire and didn't have to deal with stairs all night. Then off into the woods to do some exploring. We snowshoed up the mountain to the west of the house, enjoying the deep deep snow and wishing for some skis on the way down. We didn't reach the top of the mountain, just a ridgeline at about 12,000 feet. But that was enough for me - I'm not that fast on snowshoes, especially in the deep snow. It was also getting later in the day. So back down to our home for the night. Two other people were there at that point - they had gotten the fire started and were busy cooking soup. Nick spent about half an hour chopping wood - it was still really cold in the house and the wind was starting to pick up. With snowmelt water on the stove and fully stocked woodpile, it was time to relax and enjoy the evening.

Exploring the ridge to the west of Section House -
you can see the hut below me to the right
Unfortunately, with communal huts, the experience is only as good as the company. Six late arrivals to the house proved to be rather annoying, with a complete lack of common courtesy and respect. Small things like taking all the pre-boiled water to cook with, making a huge mess in the kitchen and not cleaning it up well at all, spreading all of their stuff out everywhere, and most annoying - not taking their snowy boots off when the got in the house. They spent the whole time tramping around in boots, leaving small piles of snow to melt into freezing puddles. And with four men in the that group, Nick was still the only one to lift a finger and an axe to chop wood.

We woke up to near whiteout conditions. A storm had blown in overnight. Nick and I ate quickly and bolted for our hike back down to the car. This time, we decided to take the road down, just for something different. For the first two miles, the wind was miserable - howling around us, driving the snow. We were lucky it was to our backs! Then as we descended into the trees, the wind abated. We were left with a idyllic winter scene with deep powder, snow covered trees and flakes gently falling. Beautiful and so peaceful. The only sounds were our snowshoes crunching into the snow and our breathing. We didn't see any wild life - just plenty of rabbit tracks darting across the road. As we got lower down the mountain, the snow diminished and it was off with the snowshoes for the rest of the hike. It was a long hike, but easy as the road followed the old railroad grade up the pass. It did start getting tedious as we hiked further and further with feeling like were were getting anywhere. Finally, the trees opened up and we were treated to a snowy view of South Park and the city of Como. Almost done! We reached the car just as another wave of snow rode the wind down from the mountains.

On Boreas Pass Road
For a first time trip, it was fun. A few things to work out, especially with food. But I think the gear Nick's gotten will work really well. We'll do a few more snowshoe style trips, then start looking at skis next year. Something new and different for the off season!


  1. Sounds like an awesome trip. Happy New Year! Hope to see you in August. Cheers - Greg


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