A Family Adventure


Tyson, Emilie & Isaac

Ski Ascent to Tagert Hut

February 25, 2024
Emilie Phillips

This is the third post of the 2024 Colorado Hut Skiing trip.

Rest stop after the Cooper Creek fork

The trek up to Tagert starts on an unplowed road that bisects a groomed cross country ski area. The parking is rather confusing. We hoped we guessed right. At 10AM when we got on the trail, it was sunny and 10F. We all started bundled up. The road was a gentle grade and tracked out by snowmobiles going to the ski area cafe. It looked like we could make easy progress. That turned out to be wishful thinking. We hadn’t even finished the avalanche beacon check when someone overheated. Over the next half mile, we must have stopped nine times as one person or another took yet another layer off. We couldn’t get people organized to do a single stop. It was maddening. In the end, everyone stripped down to their lightest layers. Isaac even took off his outer pants and Benoît was still overheating in a t-shirt. The high altitude sun was fierce. We slathered sun screen on every bit of exposed skin.

Large avalanche path at the stream crossing

Finally around 11AM we started making continuous progress. Just beyond the ski area cook house, we came to the first avalanche slide. I paused and checked in with everyone that we were in agreement to keep going. Yep, we all agreed. The avalanche danger was “moderate”. The snow far above us on the valley walls shouldn’t make a big enough avalanche to slide into the flat areas below. We crossed that avalanche slide path, then another, then back into the trees for a bit, then another slide path. All of the slide paths were wide. Some had small aspen trees growing in them, others were open snow. Tyson was surprised at this. He had read that the avalanches were rare major events. These paths looked like they saw multiple large avalanches a year. Some of the past avalanches had jumped the creek at the bottom and run back up the far side. (Someone else’s trip report when they saw big avalanches.)

More blowing snow

The views from the avalanche run outs were stunning. The Cooper River valley to our left was flanked by sharp peaks and rose to a clear U shaped glacial valley carved out of rock. Our valley was topped with snow chutes and rocky pinnacles enswirled by blowing snow. The trail got steeper and the air thin. We traded pulk pullers more often. John and Benoît pulled one sled, and Tyson and I the other. I had intentionally volunteered for the flat portion. I was glad Tyson was more acclimated to the altitude. As we climbed, we kept crossing avalanche paths. This was more than the few avalanche paths I had expected. This was a continuous gauntlet of avalanches.

Last hill before the hut

Down on the flats, we had seen plenty of nordic skiers cruising the trails through the aspens. Up here, we saw one group headed to overnight at Lindley hut. Another group passed going uphill in the morning, and then, when we were in the higher spruce trees in the afternoon, they skied back down. They were locals who had gone up to Tagert for lunch. In the last mile, we crossed an avalanche path that had run recently. There were obvious blocky chunks of snow slab piled at odd angles. The wind picked up too. The sun was lower and cooler. In the spruce trees, it was noticeably cold. By the final leg, I wasn’t looking at the scenery any more. I was tired. A few snowmobile tracks continued on the road to Liberty Pass. There were only ski tracks for the last 100 meters to Tagert. A couple of skiers from the neighboring Greene-Wilson Hut went whooping and hollering down through the trees while we paused. We debated taking the untracked road past Tagert vs the steep ski route. I am glad we picked the ski route even if it took two people to haul each pulk up the final hill. The road would have gone the long way around trying to avoid the stream. We arrived at the hut at 4:30. Six and a half hours for a 5.2 mile trek up 2,000′ is reasonable for our motley crew.

Breakfast at Tagert Hut

Tagert hut was as promised. The basement was filled with wood for the wood stove. The group that had come up for lunch must have had a fire. It was still warm inside. They had also left a generous pot of snow melt. Isaac found the switch upstairs to turn on the inverter for the lights. Mom started freeze dried dinner on the propane stove. Dad and Benoît shuttled skis down to the basement away from the wind, and brought wood back up. Tyson and I went for snow melt. I spotted a cornice over the stream and went to investigate. I was careful to dig steps down to the ground so I wouldn’t plummet into freezing water. Even though the open part of the stream was shallow, we quickly hauled enough water to last several days. That was much faster than melting snow. The only two downsides to Tagert hut were that the pit toilet smelled. And the structure of the A-Frame intruded into the living area where people kept banging their heads. The bathroom had a collection of matches which my Dad claimed were for burning off the methane smell.

That night, the stars came out, and then later the moon. The midnight trek to the bathroom was beautiful.

Continue reading more of our 2024 Colorado Hut Skiing Trip.

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