A Family Adventure

Tyson, Emilie & Isaac

Reading in the living room

My dad rented a 10th Mountain hut in Colorado for our winter 2020 family vacation. The cabin, Seipel Hut, is a small off grid cabin. It has no running water and no electricity. It has a good kitchen with a propane stove and propane lights. The outhouse is right next to the cabin with a covered walk in between. There is a giant supply of firewood and a wood stove that easily overheats the cabin. And best of all, it is up at 11,040′ near the tree line on New York Mountain.

The map showed one trail going north from the cabin into the wilderness, and another trail going south to the parking lot. You can see the area on this caltopo link. Above the hut we could ski alpine snow fields on the peak. I spent the weeks before the trip worrying about our options for fun day trips. If we went up for steep turns, would we be exposing ourselves to mid winter avalanche conditions? I took an avalanche course, bought beacons, and ferociously read the first half of all the avalanche books on my bookshelf. If we went down for cross country skiing, would the roads all be packed out by snowmobiles? What skis and boots could I bring that would let me change plans on the fly when we got there?

Blue skies, powder, and a broken out trail

My parents happily settled on Fischer 112 skis and Scarpa T3 boots, a perfect middle ground in their mind which would work for both telemark and cross country. Tyson wanted powder — glades full of fresh Rocky Mountain powder. So he brought his modern Telemark skis and three buckle plastic boots. As a nod to the touring aspect, he cut and sewed 1-inch wide climbing skins to use when scales would be appropriate. Isaac got off easy, we brought both his cross country track skis and his down mountain Telemark setup. And me? I couldn’t convince myself to give up either cross country glide or down hill turning performance. Finally a couple weeks before the trip, I ordered some compromise Rosignol BC 100 skis, with Voile Hardwire bindings, and Scarpa T3 boots. On a test run down the Sherburne, the setup was just as mediocre as I projected. And of course, my thumb was still in a splint. I wasn’t too worried about that. I brought extra mittens and left my poles behind without a second thought.

In the weeks leading up to the trip, my parents and us shared spreadsheets of group equipment and food. We have done so many trips together at this point that we just copy and paste the spreadsheet from past trips. We planned to tow our gear in sled rented at REI, so my mom splurged on larger items like canned scrambled eggs.

Canned scrambled eggs, what’s that?

It is a can of freeze dried scrambled eggs intended for your home emergency stash. My parents rented the biggest SUV they could find. Hopefully it would fit all our gear. And hopefully it would make it up the last 6 miles of snowy dirt road to the trail head. The avalanche forecast settled into a constant “Moderate” due to a persistent weak layer at the bottom of the snow pack. That relieved my concerns about avalanches. We wouldn’t have to guess “is the avalanche danger low or moderate today?” We knew it was moderate, which meant we would stick to slopes under 30 degrees. All of the northwestern slopes on New York Mountain are under 30 degrees. We would be fine. We even planned a day of lift serve skiing at Beaver Brook to get adjusted to the altitude.

Phew, we had all the planning done, now time to enjoy the trip.

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