10th Mountain Division Hut
ELEVATION: 11,370 feet
HUTSKI.COM FREE TOPO MAP: 10th Mountain Hut (see below)
GPS: 380 530 E, 43 58 640 N
TRAILHEADS: Tennessee Pass, Crane Park
USGS 7.5 min map: Homestake Reservoir
10th Mountain Huts map: Galena Mountain
10th Mountain Division Hut, in exciting alpine terrain. Click to enlarge.
Set high on a gladed hillside near timberline in east central Colorado, 10th Mountain Division Hut nestles in the arms of the Continental Divide like it was painted into the landscape. The log structure sleeps 16 and provides the standard 10th Mountain amenities, as well as a private upstairs bedroom.
The standard route for reaching the "10th Hut" is a short ski up from the Crane Park Trailhead. For travel between the hut and the Tennessee Pass Trailhead, consider the 10th Mountain suggested route that heads up the North Fork of West Tennessee Creek. While other routes are possible, they have not been used enough for inclusion here. The route from the 10th Mountain Division Hut to Uncle Bud's Hut dips through more than six main and subsidiary drainages as it parallels the Continental Divide far above. You'll get good use out of your map on this route!
Plenty of mellow ski terrain surrounds the 10th Mountain Division Hut. You can make short scenic timberline probes or enjoy glade skiing at lower elevations. For experts, the Continental Divide looms above with plenty of peak climbs, bowl skiing, and ridge runs. In particular, cone-shaped Homestake Peak begs to be skied.
|You may see these small badge style signs indicating the Continental Divide Trail.
|Ditto for these.
A few confusing aspects, mostly arising from trail marking, add spice to ski touring in this area. A fairly old trail known as the Main Range Trail is now used for part of the Colorado Trail (which extends from Durango to Denver). As a result, the names Main Range Trail and Colorado Trail are often synonymous -- but not always. Not only that, but parts of these trails are also part of the Continental Divide Trail. Whew. To reduce confusion, these sections of trail are called Main Range/Colorado Trail here on HutSki.com, though we may change the name to simply "Colorado Trail" as that seems to be the name people are using most.
The Colorado Trail is marked with small white triangles with the words "Colorado Trail." At times, the Forest Service allows the Colorado Trail to be marked with the white triangles but not with 10th Mountain blue diamonds. Bewildered yet?
Adding to the confusion, a system of Forest Service managed ski trails (the Tennessee Pass ski touring trails) are used as portions of the Colorado Trail, and in turn used as 10th Mountain Hut trails. The problem is that these are marked with blue diamonds similar to 10th Mountain blue diamonds.
And as if all that trail marker polygamy isn't enough, a network of marked snowmobile trails (marked with orange diamonds) pass through the area.
The 10th Mountain suggested routes both intersect and follow all these trails, hence the possibility of confusion. The best way to deal with this situation is by extra careful map, compass, and altimeter use. If you're new to the area, we feel GPS use is mandatory as well.
Crane Park Trailhead—10th Mountain Division Hut via West Tennessee Creek
HUTSKI.COM FREE MAP: 10th Mtn. Hut
TIME: 4 1/2 hours up, 3 hours down
DISTANCE: 4 1/2 miles
ELEVATION GAIN: 1,353 feet; loss: 120 feet
This route is the standard and shortest way to the 10th Mountain Hut. To begin, either drive or ski up the gravel pit road from Crane Park to the obvious intersection of the Wurts Ditch Road. If you end up at the gravel pit, you have gone too far. The Wurts Ditch Road is usually well signed, but signs have a way of changing. Ski up the well-traveled, snow-covered Wurts Ditch Road just over 1/4 mile to 10,400 feet. Here you turn left (S) off the road onto the Colorado Trail, which is also marked with blue diamonds as a 10th Mountain Huts trail.
|On the trail from Crane Park, a few feet from the 10th Mountain Division Hut.
Continue as the marked 10th Mountain trail takes you on a west and northwest route leading up the North Fork of West Tennessee Creek 1 mile to pass just north of Lily Lake (10,589 feet).
Swing right (N) as you pass Lily Lake, cross the creek and a marshy area, then climb N for 1/2 mile to a low-angled clearing. From here the route climbs NW for 1 1/4 miles along the south side of the south fork of Slide Creek through a series of clearings until it reaches the south end of a large flat marshy area just below and to the south of the hut. The trail to this point can be confusing because of myriad snowmobile and ski tracks. In general, it follows the south Slide Creek drainage, but winds around enough to make "drainage tracking" hard. Your best insurance is to take great care near Lily Lake to identify the distinct cone of Homestake Peak. Using this as a landmark, pay attention to your map, compass, and altimeter to stick to the trail. The route is marked by 10th Mountain, but don't depend on trail markers for navigation.
You can see the hut from the south side of the last low-angled marshy clearing—it's perched on a low-angled hillside on the north side of the clearing. With poor visibility this could be a confusing area, so take care.
REVERSE ROUTE DESCRIPTION: Follow the 10th Mountain marked route down to the Wurts Ditch Road. Turn right (SE) on the Wurts Ditch Road and follow it just over 1/4 mile downhill to the aforementioned gravel pit road. This is the trailhead if the gravel pit road is plowed. If it is not plowed, turn left (N) and follow the gravel pit road to snow closure near Crane Park.
SAFETY NOTES: Though this route is very short, stay alert and leave the trailhead before noon!
The 2 3/4-mile Slide Lake jeep trail from Wurts Ditch Road is a fine albeit rough mountain bike route. See other routes for more summer information.
Tennessee Pass Trailhead—10th Mountain Division Hut via North Fork West Tennessee Creek
HUTSKI.COM FREE MAP: 10th Mtn. Hut
TIME: 5 hours up, 3 1/2 hours down
DISTANCE: 5 3/4 miles
ELEVATION GAIN: 1,150 feet; loss: 204 feet
This scenic 10th Mountain suggested route avoids several popular snowmobile trails, but still crosses a few "sled" play areas. Its primary purpose is to connect 10th Mountain Division Hut with Vance's Cabin. For the most efficient access to the 10th Mountain Division Hut, use the route from Crane Park Trailhead (see above).
|Plaque on the floor of 10th Mountain Division Hut tells the story. Click image to enlarge.
Begin at Tennessee Pass Trailhead. Consider using nordic wax. On the southerly side of the parking area, just a few feet from Highway 24, you'll find a Forest Service "double post" trailhead sign. Take the trail starting at the "double post," then stay left to follow the marked Colorado Trail (small white triangles). Basically, this section of trail travels westerly by traversing several miles of hillside above Highway 24. At 2 1/4 miles the trail crosses through a small gulch at 10,400 feet (intersection with trail from Crane Park, as described above). Put your skins on here if your wax has a light grip.
REVERSE ROUTE DESCRIPTION:
If you're skiing from hut to trailhead, you're in for a treat. First, ski the 10th Mountain suggested route across the flat clearing southwest of the hut, then take the fall line and enjoy a ski run through clearings down to the area just north of Lily Lake. From there intersect the North Fork Road and follow it down to a road fork at 10,340 feet. Turn left (N) off the road at the fork onto the marked 10th Mountain trail, and follow the marked trail easterly to the Tennessee Pass Trailhead.
SAFETY NOTES: This is a relatively mellow route. It does take a few confusing turns to avoid the snowmobile trails, so put energy into your navigation.
SUMMER: The roads and trails marked on the maps make fine horse, bike, and hiking routes for this hut. For regional routes, the Wurts Ditch Road is a fabulous bike ride in its own right, as is the Slide Lake jeep trail. The 10th Mountain marked trail that traverses from Tennessee Pass into the West Tennessee Creek drainage is only suitable for skiing.
10th Mountain Division Hut to Uncle Bud's Hut via Main Range/Colorado Trail
HUTSKI.COM FREE MAPS: 10th Mtn. Hut, 10th Mtn. Hut West
TIME: 8 hours
DISTANCE: 7 1/4 miles
ELEVATION GAIN: 1,460 feet; loss: 1,450 feet
This 10th Mountain suggested route is arguably the only intermediate trail from the 10th Mountain Division Hut to Uncle Bud's Hut. Lower routes would follow devious tracks through dark timber and force you to share trails with snowmobiles. Higher routes are all advanced and expert because of avalanche terrain. This route is longer than it looks on the map, and traverses through many subsidiary drainages. This is a change for skiers used to chugging up and down valleys, and requires attentive map work. The route is scenic, with changing views of the Mosquito Range to the east and the Continental Divide to the west and south.
|Return to the warm 10th Mountain Division Hut after a night tour.
Start without climbing skins, perhaps with a bit of nordic wax. From the front of the 10th Mountain Division Hut, ski S into the large clearing, then S across the clearing to intersect a stream in a shallow gulch. The trail splits at this point, with the left (E) fork following routes to trailheads. For your route, take the right (W) fork and follow the standard marked 10th Mountain trail as it traverses SW to a small pond, then drops through a clearing S to the North Fork West Tennessee Creek (11,100 feet), your second drainage crossing from the hut (count them as you go).
Continue S as you climb a small ridge (11,130 feet) that separates the North Fork West Tennessee Creek from the west fork of West Tennessee Creek. Next, drop S through timber to 10,980 feet in the beautiful open valley of West Tennessee Creek. Navigation in West Tennessee Creek can be difficult when visibility isn't the best. Cross the middle fork of West Tennessee Creek, then climb 1/4 mile SW to a flat marshy area at West Tennessee Creek (11,080 feet).
Swing E for 1/4 mile through the marshy area, then enter a trail cut in dark timber. Follow this trail E, then turn right (S) and climb to a small lake. From this lake climb to a small saddle (11,140 feet), then drop S through a clearing into a marshy area in a subsidiary drainage. Cross S through the marshy area and continue descending SE to intersect the Colorado Trail at 10,880 feet. (At this point the Colorado Trail is marked on the USGS map as the Main Range Trail. To add to the confusion, it is also the Longs Gulch Trail in the USFS Tennessee Pass ski touring trail system.)
Turn right and follow the trail as it leads SW for 1 1/4 miles up Longs Gulch to 10,900 feet. Here you'll see some possible avalanche slopes on the north side of the drainage. Avoid these by staying in the timber to the south of the trail. Regain the trail in the timber and follow it as it climbs SW to a flat saddle with several small lakes.
Drop S into Porcupine Gulch from the saddle and cross Porcupine Creek at 11,240 feet. Still counting drainages? Climb S out of Porcupine Gulch, pass timberline, and continue climbing to 11,800 feet on an alpine shoulder. This is the high point of your route. The climb out of Porcupine Gulch switchbacks up through a slice of timber to avoid avalanche slopes to the right, then stays high to pass above other avalanche prone slopes. Take extra care to choose a safe route here, as you could easily deviate into avalanche terrain. The trail as marked on the text map is accurate, while the trail on the USGS map is inaccurate. If you have time, take a scenic detour at the shoulder and climb point 12,313.
It's all downhill from the shoulder to Uncle Bud's Hut, so strip your skins. From your position on the shoulder, ski E down to timberline at a sparsely timbered saddle (11,680 feet). At this point it is very important to swing W and stay in Bud's Gulch (unnamed on the USGS map, marked on the text map), since it's all too easy to ski the tempting glades down into St. Kevin Creek and end up far from the hut. A compass check can help you here.
Skiing down Bud's Gulch takes you through timber for 400 vertical feet to 11,360 feet where you broach an elongated low-angled clearing. The 10th Mountain marked route follows the Colorado Trail down the left side of the clearing to 11,260 feet. You then swing E and climb through sparse timber 1/8 mile and 120 vertical feet back up to the hut.
This last little climb can be bothersome after all the drainages you've trudged through. On the map it looks like you can contour to the hut from the upper end of Bud's Gulch, but this route is blocked by some fairly dense forest. The alternate that works—if you are good with navigation—is to ski the wide rib dividing St. Kevin Gulch from Bud's Gulch. Stay to the east side of the rib in light timber and traverse the east side of several bumps. Again, don't drop down into St. Kevin Gulch. The hut is only visible from several hundred feet away on either route.
SAFETY NOTES: A topographic map is essential on this route; refer to it often. An altimeter and perhaps a GPS can help a great deal with this sort of skiing. You drop into a drainage, read your elevation (and GPS coordinates), and you know exactly where you are (provided you have counted drainages).
SUMMER: The Colorado Trail is a fine hike or horse route. Most of the route is within designated wilderness, so cyclists should look for other routes. Portions of the 10th Mountain route described above (those that leave the established trails) are marked ski trails with no summer tread.
10th Mountain Division Hut Regional Skiing
Slide Lake from 10th Mountain Division Hut
HUTSKI.COM FREE MAPS: 10th Mtn. Hut, 10th Mtn Hut West
TIME: Several hours round trip
DISTANCE: 1 1/4 miles round trip
ELEVATION GAIN: 330 feet round trip
|10th Mountain Division soldiers training near Slide Lake in 1943.
If you itch for a timberline tour but lack the skills to climb the Divide or ski the couloirs, take a scenic cruise to Slide Lake.
The route is simple. Put your skins on at the hut, then simply climb the hill northwest of the hut, bearing right (N) as the hill gets steeper. At timberline, around 11,500 feet, keep Homestake Peak on your front left as you continue to Slide Lake (11,700 feet) in a superb high basin. On the return, ski the glades that tempted you as you climbed.
SAFETY NOTES: Avoid avalanche slopes on all sides of the Homestake Peak basin.
SUMMER: This is a fine horse ride or hike. Cyclists can ride the Slide Lake jeep trail to the marked wilderness boundary just below the lake.
Homestake Peak from 10th Mountain Division Hut
HUTSKI.COM FREE MAPS: 10th Mtn. Hut, 10th Mtn Hut West
TIME: 5 hours round trip
DISTANCE: 4 1/2 miles round trip
ELEVATION GAIN: 1,839 feet round trip
About 736 peaks in Colorado top the 13,000-foot mark. One of these is Homestake Peak (13,209 feet) which rises west of the 10th Mountain Division Hut. A classic glacier-made cone, Homestake has a relatively avalanche safe climbing route, and makes a good branch route from the hut. Most of the ski lines are too avalanche prone for safe winter descents, but the ascent route (east ridge) can yield some fine lines, provided the snow has not been wind-scoured. For the best skiing, enjoy Homestake Peak during the spring corn-snow season.
To climb Homestake Peak, first travel to Slide Lake (see route above). From the south side of the lake, climb SE about 1/4 mile and 200 vertical feet to a vegetated hillock at the 11,900-foot level. From here avoid the avalanche runouts from Homestake's east ridge by contouring and gently climbing low-angled terrain to the broad ridge crest. Simply follow the ridge to the summit. The ascent route is the safest descent. During the spring cornsnow season you can enjoy fabulous ski lines down the north face of the east ridge from about the 12,400-foot level. For a corn extravaganza, ski the bowls from the Continental Divide south of the peak, then traverse back to the hut. You'll find other corn-snow lines around Slide Lake.
SAFETY NOTES: While ascending the east ridge, evaluate avalanche danger to either side. Don't let temptation lead you into skiing down dangerous slopes.
SUMMER: This fine summit hike adds a "Thirteener" to your list.
Continental Divide Ridge from 10th Mountain Division Hut
HUTSKI.COM FREE MAPS: 10th Mtn. Hut, 10th Mtn Hut West
TIME: Full day round trip
DISTANCE: 5+ miles round trip
ELEVATION GAIN: 2,000 feet round trip
One of the safest ways for advanced mountaineers to enjoy the winter high country is by doing ridge runs. The Continental Divide south from Homestake Peak is a fine candidate for such. At the least, you can make a short probe to several small bumps close to the summit of Homestake Peak, enjoy the view, then get back to the hut by tea time. At the most, you can take the Divide to Galena Mountain, then descend to Turquoise Lake or Uncle Bud's Hut.
To do this route, summit Homestake Peak (see above), then simply stick to the Divide ridge as it leads south. Where logic dictates, make small traverses below the high points of the ridge, usually on the west side.
SAFETY NOTES: You're very exposed to storms on a ridge such as this. In midwinter, most escape routes will be cut off by avalanche danger. Thus, you must plan this ridge run with care. Also, if you plan on traversing the entire ridge, a good weather prediction is mandatory (see Appendix 2). Consider corn-snow season for this route, as avalanche danger will be more predictable and the weather will be milder.
SUMMER: This is a fine hike. Beware of afternoon lightning.