10th (Tenth) Mountain Division Huts and Summit Huts Online Guidebook
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Betty Bear Hut
ELEVATION: 11,100 feet
HUTSKI.COM FREE MAP: Betty Bear Hut (see below)
GPS: 368 551 E, 43 46 307 N

USGS 7.5 min map: Nast
10th Mountain Huts map: Upper Fryingpan

Betty Bear Hut

From the beginning an important goal for the 10th Huts system was to establish a group of huts you could connect with one long ski tour. With the Betty Bear Hut, even though the system is not a closed loop, you can start at either end of a huge 70-mile "U" and connect more than ten huts for a great ski tour.

Moreover, the unofficial 10th Mountain Trail was originally intended as a direct connection between Aspen and Vail (not to mention Leadville and Camp Hale), but complexities arose because of wildlife, private land, and ski resorts. As a result, the trail evolved into a circuitous route that never really connected Vail with Aspen. Now that the Betty Bear Hut and Skinner Hut link the Aspen area huts with those to the east, you can ski between Vail and Aspen with no car shuttles.

Betty Bear Hut was funded by Jack Schuss and Al Zesiger. The name honors their wives; which one is the betty and which one is the bear are items this author has never determined.

Betty Bear hut is a terrific destination for intermediate backcountry skiers. The easy ski up the Fryingpan drainage on Road 505 is a good run for waxed light tour skis (with a short "skin climb" to finish you off), and the hut location lends itself to mellow walks with short descents. The trip from Betty Bear over Hagerman Pass to the Skinner Hut is rated intermediate, but has a hefty portion above timberline that may challenge your navigation skills if you catch a stormy day. To reach Margy's Hut, the Harry Gates Hut, or the Peter Estin Hut, you'll want to overnight in the Fryingpan valley. See the 10th Mountain Huts website for information about such lodging.

Map below connects to our Granite map on the upper left corner (northwest) and with our Skinner Hut map on the right side. If you have trouble viewing or printing the Betty Bear Hut map displayed below, please try our Betty Bear PDF.


Road 505 Trailhead—Betty Bear Hut via Road 505
DIFFICULTY: Intermediate
HUTSKI.COM FREE MAPS: Betty Bear Hut (see above), Granite
TIME: 6 1/2 hours up, 5 hours down
DISTANCE: 6 3/4 miles
ELEVATION GAIN: 2,020 feet; loss: 40 feet

This 10th Mountain suggested route is the standard trail to Betty Bear Hut from the Fryingpan drainage. The bulk of the route uses snow-covered Road 505. This road is used by both skiers and snowmobilers, but it is wide enough for everyone.

Park at the Road 505 Trailhead on the Fryingpan Road. Ski Road 505 as it gradually climbs SE along the side of the Fryingpan drainage for 3 1/2 miles to the road high point at the obvious concrete structure of the Granite Adit (9,990 feet). Enjoy the superb view of Mount Massive looming on the northeast side of the upper drainage. Continue on level road (with a few slight ups and downs) another mile to cross over Lily Pad Creek. This creek is inconspicuous as it has little flow and passes under the road through a culvert. The stub of the culvert is visible if you look over the downhill side of the road. Another good way to identify Lily Pad Creek is by paying attention to the two rock "gates" you pass through on Road 505. These "gates" are places where road-blasting left remnants of rock outcrops on the downhill side of the road. Lily Pad Creek is located about 100 feet past the second rock "gate."

Ski the road past Lily Pad Creek for several hundred feet. At this point the trail to Betty Bear Hut leaves the road and climbs NE up the side of the valley. With a lack of natural landmarks and your altimeter of little use because of the level road, this intersection of road and trail is a place where the blue diamond trail markers (and possibly GPS use) are essential.

Using climbing skins, climb the marked trail as it makes several switchbacks up the valleyside, then parallels and gradually nears Lily Pad Creek. After the steep switchbacks, the marked trail leaves the Lily Pad Creek drainage by heading E up through timber and clearings to enter a larger open area at about 11,090 feet. Swing S here, enter the trees at the far southwest end of this open area, then continue SW for 1/8 mile through timber to Betty Bear Hut (11,100 feet). The hut sits at the edge of timber overlooking a southwest-facing clearing. If you miss the trail keep your eye on your altimeter and GPS. It is essential to not drop too low. (By no means try to make it down to the road from below the hut as the terrain is quite steep and rough.)

Also note that skiers frequently take more direct lines to the hut from the upper portion of the trail. If you see such tracks and have your GPS working correctly, these can be quite nice as optional and less time consuming routes. Otherwise stick to the marked trail.

REVERSE ROUTE: From the back door of Betty Bear Hut ski N on a blue diamond trail several hundred yards up through timber to a fork and high-point. Here, the trail down to Road 505 heads left. Take the left, and follow the marked trail N across an open area, then left (W) as it gradually converges with Lily Pad creek. A series of scary switchbacks drops you on Road 505, which you then ski NW to the trailhead. With good snow conditions, expert skiers will find good skiing by exploring glades on the way down the upper part of this route. Such skiers can also avoid the switchbacks by skiing down the Lily Pad Creek gulch. This latter option requires a thick snowpack and skill.

SAFETY NOTES: With unusually unstable snow a few "bank sluff" avalanches could fall to Road 505. The first of these banks is just past the Granite Adit, with another at 4.7 miles from the trailhead, and another at 5.3 miles. Skirt these banks as far to the opposite side of the road as possible, and pass below them one person at a time.

SUMMER: Road 505 is a good bet for all activities. Also, the Granite Lakes pack trail, located across the drainage from Road 505, is a fine hike or horse route into the Upper Fryingpan drainage. Start this trail at the Granite Lakes Trailhead.

Betty Bear Hut, 10th Mountain Division Hut System.

Looking at Betty Bear Hut from the south, click image to enlarge.

Betty Bear Hut to Skinner Hut via Hagerman Pass
DIFFICULTY: Intermediate
HUTSKI.COM FREE MAPS: Betty Bear Hut (see above), Granite
TIME: 5 1/2 hours
DISTANCE: 4 1/4 miles
ELEVATION GAIN: 865 feet; loss: 345 feet

Use this 10th Mountain suggested route for the standard connection to the Skinner Hut. From Betty Bear Hut ski for 1/8 mile through timber E to Lily Pad Lake. Ski SE then E around the lake to intersect a snow-covered road which leads through timber and an open area E to an open saddle at 11,400 feet.

Ski E from the saddle on a snow-covered road which traverses SE then E around the head of the Ivanhoe drainage about 1 mile to the Hagerman Tunnel portal (11,520 feet). The road ends at the portal. Take a climbing traverse NE from the portal for 3/8 mile to intersect the Hagerman Pass Road at 11,800 feet. The Hagerman Pass Road can be obscured by snow, but is sometimes marked by bamboo poles. This route also may be marked with blue diamonds, but they are infrequent.
Climb the Hagerman Pass Road for 3/8 mile NE to Hagerman Pass (11,925 feet). Then follow the Hagerman Pass road down to the Skinner Hut (see our Skinner Hut website page by using the dropdown menu above).

SAFETY NOTES: Much of this route is at or above timberline. Be ready for limited visibility due to storm and wind.

SUMMER: Use this route for a good alpine hike. No summer tread connects the Hagerman Pass Road with the Hagerman Tunnel, but this connection is easy to walk.

Betty Bear Hut Regional Skiing

Continental Divide and Busk-Ivanhoe Peak from Betty Bear Hut
HUTSKI.COM FREE MAPS: Betty Bear Hut (see above), Granite
TIME: 5 hours round trip
DISTANCE: 5 miles round trip
ELEVATION GAIN: 1,234 feet round trip

This route is probably the best peak-climb accessible from Betty Bear Hut. From Betty Bear Hut follow marked 10th Mountain Trail for 3/4 mile to the upper end of a large open area (11,320 feet). Leave the marked route here and continue SE to enter timber at 11,400 feet. Pass SE through the timber a short distance to timberline, then climb SE for 1/2 mile to the saddle (12,090 feet) just southwest of Busk-Ivanhoe Peak. Climb the ridge NE to the peak (12,334 feet). Descend via the same route.

SAFETY NOTES: You can encounter avalanche danger on any of the steeper slopes in this area. Follow wind-scoured ridges for safe travel.

SUMMER: Enjoy this as a fine alpine hike. Most of the route has no real trail, but the route-finding is easy.

North Mount Massive from the Fryingpan Drainage and Betty Bear Hut
HUTSKI.COM FREE MAPS: Betty Bear Hut (see above), Granite
TIME: 15 hours round trip
DISTANCE: 14 miles round trip
ELEVATION GAIN: 5,300 feet round trip

Mount Massive, the majestic 14,421-foot peak separating the Fryingpan drainage from the Leadville area, is a long ridge studded with 14,000-foot bumps. The highest bump is the true summit, but another bump to the north of the main summit is known as North Mount Massive. This summit can be climbed from the Fryingpan drainage, from either a high camp or from the Betty Bear Hut. In the latter case it would be a long day and should only be attempted by the strongest and most experienced mountaineers. With either start, it's best to attempt this route during spring snow season or hike it in the summer. Be sure to bring the appropriate USGS map with you for this trip.

From the Betty Bear Hut you must first descend to the Fryingpan valley and Road 505. It's probably simplest to do this by reversing the standard route from Road 505. But given good snow conditions (such as a spring snowpack), or in the summer, you could also take the route of the road that leads downhill southeast of the hut site. Absolutely do not use this road with a winter snowpack—it crosses prime avalanche terrain.

Either way, from the Road 505 terminus at 10,100 feet (or a bit higher if you came down the road from the hut) continue up the Fryingpan drainage to 10,890 feet. If you're on snow start with the left side of the valley rather than the pack trail route shown on the USGS map, then vary your route to stick to the clearings.

At 10,890 feet keep looking to your left and you'll see a very obvious cut through the trees leading up to a wide, deep couloir. Climb this couloir to 11,650 feet. Here swing a bit right and climb an obvious couloir which leads to the ridge. Follow the ridge to the summit. Descent is via the same route.

SAFETY NOTES: Those with knee problems should forgo this route as a hike, since the descent involves an arduous 3,000 vertical foot drop in elevation. Snow climbers and skiers will find the best conditions during the spring season. In winter use the summer route and stick to windblown ribs to avoid avalanche danger. Take care with the many avalanche paths dropping into the Fryingpan River drainage. This would be a difficult route to do in one winter day from Betty Bear.

SUMMER: After snow melt-off, drive (or hike) to the end of Road 505 (see above route) and park near the valve station. Cross an obvious footbridge over the river, then hike a pack trail about 3 miles to the 10,800-foot level in the Fryingpan River drainage. Look up to the east and pick a likely looking flank for a hard hike/climb more than 3,000 vertical feet up to the Continental Divide ridge. Hike the ridge to the summit of North Mount Massive (14,320 feet). Descend via the same route.

Relaxed Ski Tours from Betty Bear Hut
DIFFICULTY: Intermediate to Advanced
HUTSKI.COM FREE MAPS: Betty Bear Hut (see above), Granite

Because Betty Bear Hut is situated on a large flat-topped ridge, you won't find much downhill skiing close by the hut. Yet it's a beautiful location, and short forays will reward you with breathtaking vistas of the high peaks, or intimate communion with icy ponds and quiet winter forests. For a short tour you can orbit Lily Pad Lake. A longer jaunt leads NE from Lily Pad Lake and climbs to the summit of the ridge separating Lily Pad Creek from Ivanhoe Lake. To find turns, creative skiers can link glades and open timber below the hut.

SAFETY NOTES: Even on short tours you should carry your pack with extra clothing, food, and survival gear.

SUMMER: Enjoy alpine hikes in any direction from Betty Bear Hut. Of particular note is a tundra walk on the Continental Divide (see routes above). Mountaineers should consider a hike/climb of North Mount Massive (a long trip via this route, and is thus rarely done).

This book goes great with our maps, highly recommended for any hut skier.
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Please note: The information in this website is based on the experience and research of the site owners and their sources, may not be accurate, and might not be perceived as accurate by other persons. Therefore, extreme care should be taken when following any of the backcountry skiing 10th Mountain Huts, Summit Huts and Braun Huts routes described in this website. This website is not intended to be instructional but rather is a guide for backcountry users who already have the requisite training, experience, and knowledge for the activities they choose. An advanced level of expertise and physical conditioning is necessary for even the "easiest" of the routes and activities described herein. Proper clothing and equipment is essential. Failure to have the necessary knowledge, equipment, and conditioning will subject you to physical danger, injury, or death. Some backcountry skiing routes for 10th Mountain Huts, Summit Huts and Braun Huts have changed and others will change; avalanche hazards may have expanded or new hazards may have formed since this website's publication.

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