This post is about the second day of our winter vacation to Colorado in 2020.
Monday morning we drove to the Yeoman Park trailhead. We would leave our car there for five days while we stayed at a remote cabin on New York Mountain. We hit heavy snow squalls on the drive from Beaver Creek. The plows could barely keep up plowing the highway. Luckily, the squalls let up before we got off the highway at the town of Eagle. From there, Brush Creek road was plowed all the way up to the parking. The toilets at the parking area were even shoveled out. The clouds started to break not long after we arrived.
We had four nights and five days of food, sleeping bags, and spare clothes in addition to our regular day trip gear. The easiest way to carry stuff in the winter is to pull it in a pulk or gear sled. We rented a gear sled from REI in Denver. We filled it pretty full. At least we didn’t have as much luggage as the other family at the car rental. They were amazed we could fit five people and luggage into one SUV.
From Yeomen Park, there are two routes up to Seipel Hut (and adjacent Polar Star Inn). You can follow the snowmobiles up the summer road to Fulford, or you can take a designated ski trail through the woods. Fulford is an old mining town which some people now use for summer cottages. Supposedly one person lives there year round. Above Fulford, the two routes merge. You turn off the snowmobile road and climb trails straight up the mountain for two miles and a thousand feet of vertical.
With five to eight inches of fresh snow, we were happy to see three snowmobiles head up the road before us. Their tracks made it easier to pull the gear sled. Even then it was still easiest if two skiers went in front of the sled puller to pack the track down more. There were no tracks headed to the skiers only trail. We opted to stay on the road. We could ski out the other way in a few days.
Tyson towed the sled first. As the strongest in the group, he figured he should do most of the towing. But it turned out, that day, my Dad and I were up for more towing, and faster. Our compromise half cross-country, half Telemark skis were now an asset. I could kick and glide up the hill with the sled. And, as long as I was towing it, I didn’t have to feel guilty about having put my sleeping bag and clothes into the pulk when I was pretty sure my parents were carrying theirs on their pack.
The views got better and better the higher we got. We didn’t see anyone else, snowmobile or skier, on the trail until just before Fulford. There we encountered the prior night’s tenants from Seipel hut descending. They had come down via a long route on snowmobile roads, hoping to avoid breaking trail. But no snowmobiles had come, so they had slogged through deep snow for hours. That route was too long for us to want to take. We then expected to have to break trail up the final steep 2 miles.
We stopped for a snack at the junction near Fulford. At that point we had been on the trail for 5 hours and covered 4.2 miles. Clearly this 6 mile jaunt was harder than we expected. My mom was really feeling the altitude. Everyone else probably was too. We were at 10,000′. Well, two miles to go. We had our headlamps, so we would be ok even if we got into the hut a little late.
Those two miles were really hard. We struggled with the altitude and keeping everyone fed, hydrated, and warm. In the end, we got some help from the folks in the neighboring Polar Star Inn. We didn’t arrive at our hut until 9PM.
Once I am done writing up the remaining days in the trip, I will post an analysis of what went wrong.