10th (Tenth) Mountain Division Huts and Summit Huts Online Guidebook
Return to homepage Routes and maps for each hut All the how-to backcountry skiing information. Incredible free topo maps. chat room bbs for backcountry skier hut folks Shop for hut stuff. Summit Huts and 10th Mountain Huts information, maps and routes.

Friends Hut

ELEVATION: 11,400 feet
HUTSKI.COM FREE MAP: (see below)
GPS: 343080 4314323 ( 38.96383 112.8112)
TRAILHEADS: Ashcroft, Brush Creek Road, Cement Creek
10TH MTN OFFICAL MAP: Star Peak
USGS MAPS: Hayden Peak, Aspen, Pearl Pass, Cement Mountain, Crested Butte, Gothic
Friends Hut, Aspen and Crested Butte Colorado
Lisa and Louie Dawson enjoying Friends Hut front porch.

Picture a small hand-crafted log cabin with a high peaked roof—comfortable for nine or ten people—but cozy and efficient. Now, think of a pristine mountain bowl extending from timberline at 11,500 feet up to the summit of 13,521-foot Star Peak. Combine the above and you've got the Friends Hut. Through the front door, on your left is the kitchen area complete with propane stove and oven. An efficient wood stove stands in the middle of the common room, bordered on one side by couches that double as beds, and on the other side by a beautiful hand-crafted trestle table. Indoor wood supply and sleeping loft complete the picture.

For the mountain skier or snowboarder, Friends Hut opens up endless possibilities. In winter, routes to the hut can be an enjoyable challenge: they are varied, rewarding and truly spectacular. Yet the most exciting use of this mountain cabin is for basecamping during glorious spring days when seemingly infinite slopes of corn snow tempt you from every point of the compass.

The south-facing front deck is great for power lounging. Countless candlelight dinners have been enjoyed on the trestle table. Who knows how many folks have taken a rest day after a hard midwinter tour and lounged around the wood stove with a good book from the hut library.

Friends Hut is a memorial to eleven people who died in a 1980 mid-air collision above East Maroon Pass a few miles to the west of the hut. Shortly after the crash, friends of the victims resolved to build a memorial hut. Pearl Pass was chosen as the site because of its historical use as a winter route between Aspen and Crested Butte (the towns where the victims lived).

After lengthy negotiations, a Forest Service Special Use Permit was given for the hut, and the hut committee began a massive and successful fund raising effort. Volunteers from Aspen and Crested Butte completed construction in 1984. The Friends Hut stands as a testament to the spirit of such volunteerism and the mountain communities of the Elk Mountains. More history of Friends Hut, Colorado.

Because of avalanche danger most of these routes to and around Friends hut are safest with a compacted spring snowpack (usually sometime between late April and mid-May). The hut is located in south-facing Star Basin, so you’ll find many exposures where the spring snowpack cures early.

From the Crested Butte side (south), there are three basic routes to the hut; ditto for the Aspen side. Because the north side of the Elks is generally steeper the Aspen routes are shorter yet involve strenuous climbing. They also cross more avalanche slopes, something that can be virtually avoided using the East Brush Creek route from the Crested Butte side.

Friends Hut via Castle Creek and Pearl Pass

Climb rating: Moderate skins

Recommended seasons: All with snowcover
Starting elevation: 9,500 feet
Summit elevation: 12,705 feet
Elevation gain: 3,230
Trip distance: 11 miles
Day trip? Yes, long
Maps: Elks South East, Elks South Middle, Friends Hut North
Photo: [various in both chapters]

This historic route, used extensively as an all-season supply route for miners in the 1800s, is the most efficient, safest and civilized way to Friends Hut from the north. It’s the main snow season foot-powered highway to Pearl Basin, Green-Wilson Hut, Tagert Hut and scores of fine summits, couloirs and bowls. The trip begins at the ghost town of Ashcroft nestled in the Elks near the head of Castle Creek valley. Above timberline the route traverses through the enormous Pearl Basin Oberland to a final leg up a steep 300 vertical feet to Pearl Pass. From the pass it's a 1,300-vertical-foot descent to Friends Hut at timberline. This route is often traveled, complex and important. Thus, this description is more detailed than most herein and is divided into sections for clarity.

Ashcroft to Pearl Pass Road

Start from Ashcroft (section introduction). From Ashcroft ski, walk, drive or snowmobile (depending on conditions, desires and prejudices) 2 miles up the Castle Creek Road to a Y intersection. Park snowmobiles here.

Note that traveling the last mile of flat road here (to the Y intersection) exposes you to major avalanche danger. Ashcroft area resident Lynne Durr died in a massive slide on this section of road in March of 1991, while out for a casual tour (on a day with known high avalanche danger). Ironically, a trail that’s almost totally safe from the slide that killed Durr runs up the valley, parallels the road and passes farther away from the toes of the more dangerous paths. Sadly, Durr was avoiding those trails because they are part of the commercial ski touring operation. Tsk tsk to everyone involved. This author’s solution? Use a snowmobile and quickly race beneath the paths, thus avoiding private property issues—and death by avalanche.

Pearl Pass Road to Tagert and Green-Wilson Huts

At any rate, once you’ve got your slide safety strategy taken care of and you’re at the Y intersection, head up the right arm of the Y (usually signed as Pearl Pass Road, with possible sign for Tagert Hut as well). Stay on Pearl Pass Road as it passes under various fearsome avalanche paths. You’ll come to the private Mace Chalet at 10,860 feet. From this point on, the route changes from a valley and road tour to an alpine challenge.

Continue up the road from the Mace Chalet. It cuts through forest, then crosses Castle Creek at 11,000 feet. In case your adrenal glands are not already parched, you’re exposed to huge avalanche paths here as well. Stay on the roadcut as it climbs to a switchback, then heads back SW to another switchback at 11,120 feet. Continue up the road for a few hundred feet. There may be a sign here indicating the route to Tagert Hut. You have two choices here. To reduce avalanche exposure, leave the road via the route indicated by the sign, then as soon as possible ski to the left (S) and climb the tree cutline up the edge of the avalanche path. Doing so will lead you to a small bump that people often have to sidestep up. Just past the bump you’ll come to the huts.

Tagert and Green-Wilson Huts to Mace Saddle

Ski southerly past Tagert Hut (an A-frame), continue past Green-Wilson Hut a few hundred yards farther, and again you’ll be on the cut of Pearl Pass Road. Use the road as a route to timberline—it’s usually well-traveled by hut users.

After timberline the route to Pearl Pass requires careful map reading. A GPS unit could be useful as well, especially for travelers new to the area. Head a short distance up past the Green-Wilson Hut, where you pick up the Pearl Pass summer road and follow it to Mace Saddle at 12,160 feet. It’s important to note that Mace Saddle is actually a pass on the divide between Castle Creek and Cooper Creek. Several somewhat clueless skiers have mistaken this for Pearl Pass and ended up in the deadly confines of Cooper Creek.

Mace Saddle to Pearl Pass

From Mace Saddle you can see Pearl Pass for the first time. Keep that in mind, as it’s easy to be tempted by other passes as you climb into the basin above the huts. Drop a short distance S from Mace Saddle and ski a southerly contour at about 12,100 feet around the head of Cooper Creek. Pick your route to avoid several avalanche prone rollovers, generally by trending a bit left into the Cooper Creek bowl. Your ultimate goal here is a long humped moraine that appears to lead up the center of the bowl to the base of Pearl Pass’s final headwall. Use this route to avoid avalanche danger on steep slopes to either side of the bowl.

The steepest and arguably most avalanche-dangerous part of the route is the final 250-vertical-foot headwall leading up to Pearl Pass. At times this is loaded and touchy; other times it is wind-scoured and safe. The slopes just west of the pass slide most frequently, with the safest being a fairly direct line up the headwall to the pass (as indicated on the photo herein). Do not gang ski this slope, and use all other avalanche safety procedures. Near the top of the headwall, you’ll usually find the last few feet of jeep trail blown clear of snow. A large sign indicates you are actually on Pearl Pass (that same sign looks like a person when viewed from Mace Saddle). Note that for the most part, the route from Mace Saddle to Pearl Pass does not follow the summer road.

Pearl Pass to Friends Hut

It’s now all downhill. From the Pearl Pass summit (12,705 feet), head down Pearl Pass Road S for about 100 feet, then drop E down a short headwall (about 200 vertical feet) to a large low-angled shelf (about 12,500 feet). Take a dropping traverse about ¾ mile easterly (with a few very small bumps and drops), and this low-angled terrain will gradually bend south then dump you into steeper terrain leading down to the hut. The building is located at 11,400 feet, hidden in a grove of large conifers at timberline, several hundred yards east of the last confluence in East Brush Creek. GPS coordinates are 38 57.835’ N, 106 48.582 W. You can actually see the hut roof from Pearl Pass, if you know where to look—or have the map skills of an interstellar astronomer.

Shoveling the Friends Hut roof during the huge winter of 1995.


Friends Hut from Ashcroft up Cooper Creek

Climb rating: Harder skins
Ski rating: Intermediate, S3
Recommended seasons: Late winter or spring
Starting elevation: 9,500 feet
Summit elevation: 12,705 feet
Elevation gain: 3,205 feet
Trip distance: 7 ½ miles
Day trip?
Map: Elks South Middle, Friends Hut North
Photo: [aerial in Central Elks Chapter]

Cooper Creek can get the best of the best. You’ll find no defined trail here. You’ll gaze up the throats of countless avalanche paths. You’ll wish you were home having tea with your mother. And perhaps you’ll discover you should be doing just that!

Seriously, only use this route if you’re after an unusual variation during times of lowest avalanche danger (best during a cold spring morning with a compacted snowpack). Probably the worst thing about Cooper Creek is if you’re staying at Lindley Hut and you need to get to Friends Hut, you’ll be tempted by Cooper Creek. If you know what you’re doing and conditions cooperate, be Cooper Creek’s guest for a day (while keeping Dante’s famous words in mind). Otherwise backtrack a bit and use the standard Pearl Pass Road route described above for access to Pearl Basin and Friends Hut. Ye have been warned.

Your exact route up Cooper Creek will vary with snowcover and micro route finding for avalanche danger avoidance. In general, most parties end up using the actual drainage at times, but also moving to climbers left.

Friends Hut from Ashcroft via Taylor Pass

Climb rating: Harder skins
Ski rating: Intermediate, S3
Recommended seasons: Late winter or spring
Starting elevation: 9,500 feet
Summit elevation: 12,300 feet
Elevation gain: 4,000 feet, varies with exact route
Trip distance: 10 ½ miles
Day trip?
Maps: Elks South East, Friends Hut North

Seldom done, intricate, demanding. Bored with the standard routes to Friends Hut? Try this. Start at Ashcroft Trailhead, and ski up Express Creek Valley to about 11,100 feet (see routes for Opa's Hut and Markley Hut. Swing S and climb into a low-angled side valley known as Little Italian Basin (due to some rocks remniscent of the Dolomite Mountains).

The key here is not to travel the summer road to Taylor Pass, which has a great deal of avalanche exposure. Instead, climb to the Taylor Pass divide via the side valley, then cross the ridge via safer terrain you climb from about 11,500 feet in the side valley.

Once you’re on the divide, you’ll be south of Taylor Pass, with Taylor Lake below you to the east. Don’t go to the lake. Instead, descend E and S to a large shelf (11,800 feet) perched above the lake. Head SE, passing to the right of Point 11,918, then dropping into a steeper drainage. With care for avalanche safety, drop S into the Taylor River Valley. Follow the valley up to Crystal Pass (12,300 feet, also known as Star Pass). Descend the bowl SW from the pass for about ¼ mile to 12,000 feet. If avalanche conditions allow, contour W around the bowl to Pim Point (12,072 feet). Continue contouring around the ridge holding Pim Point. When you see reasonable terrain below you, drop E about 600 vertical feet to the hut.

If avalanche conditions are touchy, you can descend from Crystal Pass down to timber, then follow safe terrain back up to Friends Hut. A GPS unit could be useful; coordinates for the hut are 38 57.835’N, 106 48.582’W. Only travel this route during times of low avalanche hazard.

Note that this route does not follow Taylor River drainage down to Taylor Park. Known as the “Roman Slave Route” this may tempt you as an escape route in an emergency, but using it involves a deadly slog through miles of flat valley where you might meet a snowmobiler—or might be on your own for several days and end up boiling your socks for food.

Friends Hut from Crested Butte via Pearl Pass Road

Climb rating: Moderate skins
Ski rating: Intermediate, S3
Recommended seasons: Late winter and spring
Starting elevation: 8,960 feet
Summit elevation: 12,400 feet
Elevation gain: 3,700 feet
Trip distance: 13 miles
Day trip? Yes (long)
Maps: Friends Hut North, Friends Hut South

This is a long scenic route that includes a ski down from Carbonate Hill to the hut. It's not a good midwinter choice because of prevalent avalanche danger and possible lengthy trail breaking. But it can be excellent in spring, given you get to the downhill skiing before it softens too much.

Start at the Brush Creek Road Trailhead (see trailheads via menu above). This description assumes you’re starting from road closure at Cold Spring Ranch (8,960 feet). Stay on the road through the flat East River Valley. At 1 ¼ miles from Cold Spring Ranch, turn right (NE) at a group of buildings known as Cow Camp. Stick with the snowcovered road as it leads up the side of the Brush Creek valley. Following the road leads you into sidehill terrain and avalanche danger. During times of high avalanche hazard you can avoid this by following a route closer to the creek rather than the road. Either way, you’ll end up at the confluence of Brush Creek and West Brush Creek. Stick with Brush Creek and continue E into the aspen forest where the valley narrows (9,200 feet). To avoid a steep-sided gorge, take the jeep road as it climbs left (N) then heads easterly through lower-angled terrain above the gorge. The easterly end of this section, where the jeep road drops back down to the creek, may include a bit of route finding around a cornice and steep section created by huge snow drifts.

Once you’re back near the creek, head up the flat open valley for a mile, where it closes off with steeper timbered terrain. This is the Middle Brush Creek and East Brush Creek confluence. For a more efficient route to Friends Hut you can continue up East Brush Creek (see other routes in this section of HutSki). But we’re doing the scenic option here, so swing N into Middle Brush Creek.

Find the cut through timber where Middle Brush Creek Road heads uphill, and stick with the road when possible (vary your route to avoid avalanche runouts) as it leads you up the Middle Brush Creek Drainage about 3 ½ miles around the base of Timbered Hill to 10,800 feet. The summer road takes an aggressive switchback here, then climbs E out of the valley. The switchback lies under a huge avalanche slope, so instead of following the road, pick a route up through safer terrain that still takes you up the side drainage heading E toward Carbonate Hill, and regain the road where you deem it safe to do so. Using the road when appropriate, continue E then N up the drainage, with Carbonate Hill above you to the east. At 12,200 feet climb out of the drainage NE to Carbonate Saddle (12,400 feet).

Catch a gander eastE from Carbonate Saddle and notice the large shelf that runs around the north side of the huge basin under your feet. That shelf is your route to Friends Hut. Note that it seems logical here to simply ski the drainage below your feet down to Friends Hut. Indeed this is possible, but only do so if you know the route and avalanche danger is nil. If you’re unfamiliar with the area and you know there is avalanche danger, the following route is better. It stays out of the steep-sided drainage and is easier to ski.

Taking care not to descend too low, trend left as you make easterly turns down from Carbonate Saddle for about 350 vertical feet. Now take a huge northerly dropping traverse N then E around the head of the basin, the idea being to use the large shelf you so handily spotted from Carbonate Saddle. (Use the first part of this traverse to get positioned below Pearl Pass if you’d like to skip the Friends Hut portion of the route.) Once you’re about ¾ mile along the traverse, the terrain starts to swing you S. That’s when you make turns down to Friends Hut, located at 11,400 feet, somewhat hidden in timberline conifers on the east arm of East Brush Creek. Refer to the text map to clarify this whole maneuver.

Friends Hut from Crested Butte via East Brush Creek

Climb rating: Moderate skins
Ski rating: Intermediate, S2
Recommended seasons: All with snow
Starting elevation: 8,960 feet
Summit elevation: 11,400 feet
Elevation gain: 2,800 feet
Trip distance: 10 ½ miles
Day trip? Yes

While this is the most common route to Friends Hut from the Crested Butte side, it is vastly inferior to the Pearl Pass route from Ashcroft in terms of aesthetics. Use as a transportation device or for travel when weather keeps you from Pearl Pass -- or if you're needing a route from the Crested Butte side.

Start at Brush Creek Road Trailhead (see trailheads via above menu). Travel up the summer road in the East River Valley to Cow Camp, where you swing easterly and follow Brush Creek to the Middle Brush Creek and East Brush Creek confluence. Head a short distance up the Middle Brush Creek Road. At 9,500 feet, in the aspen forest, take care to identify the cut of the East Brush Creek Road heading easterly. A sign indicates this turn, but it may be covered by snow. Follow the road 1 ½ miles easterly, and continue on the road as it swings northerly. Now you’ll enter a more alpine section of the route, in a valley with many avalanche paths. The route of the road exposes you to many avalanche runouts. If need be, you can avoid this by swinging to the opposite side of the valley.

At 10,800 feet you’ll enter a large open area. If you’re on the west side of the creek cross to the east side here, then continue up the main drainage using open terrain on the east side of the creek. Continue up the valley as it narrows, using sporadic openings for your route. The next section is tricky and critical.

At 11,200 feet, leave the drainage by climbing through timber NE then N, eventually gaining a nondescript shoulder in the woods. Watch your altimeter carefully here. If you nail the route, the shoulder will lead you almost exactly to the hut at 11,400 feet. A GPS can be useful for this last section, though the trail is well-used and will likely be marked in various ways. Friends Hut GPS coordinates are 38’ 57.835 N, 106’ 48.582 W.

Friends Hut from Cement Creek

Climb rating: Harder skins
Ski rating: Advanced, S3
Recommended seasons: Late winter or spring
Starting elevation: 9,240 feet
Summit elevation: 11,960 feet
Elevation gain: 2,720 feet
Trip distance: 12 miles
Day trip? Yes

Though this is a tedious route for foot travel, use of a snowmobile for the long, flat Cement Creek section can make it the shortest way to Friends Hut. From snow closure on Cement Creek Road, travel the Cement Creek drainage about 8 miles to 10,150200 feet. Leave the main valley here by climbing N up a shoulder next to a side drainage, then following that drainage NW and N to a small alpine bowl and the distinct pass at its head (11,960 feet). Map reading in this area is essential, and GPS is recommended.

After identifying landmarks, calibrating your altimeter checking your map and fiddling wiht your GPS, take a dropping traverse N and NW from the pass through a large basin, passing through timberline trees at 11,500 feet beneath Pim Point. Stay on a slightly dropping contour NW for about ¼ mile to Friends Hut, which is located in a grove of stately conifers just below timberline at 11,400 feet near East Brush Creek. Friends Hut GPS coordinates are 38’ 57.835 N, 106’ 48.582 W.


Friends Hut Regional Skiing

Carbonate Hill From Friends Hut—East and West Faces

Climb rating: Harder skins, easy boots
Ski rating: Advanced, S3+
Recommended seasons: Spring snow season
Starting elevation: 11,400 feet
Summit elevation: 12,713
Elevation gain: 1,313 feet
Round trip distance: 5 miles
Day trip? Yes

Now you’re at Friends Hut with several days booked, plenty of food and time on your hands. What to do? These bowl and gully systems on Carbonate Hill provide excellent spring skiing and riding. Get an early start; the sun hits this area at sunrise.

Follow the Pearl Pass route (see above) to 12,100 feet on the south side of Pearl Pass. From here take a climbing traverse to the 12,400-foot saddle that separates Carbonate Hill from Pearl Mountain. From the saddle follow the ridge ½ mile to the summit.

The east face descent route drops into the small, beautifully-shaped bowl just below the summit. Exit the bowl via the logical gully and stay high so you can traverse over to the area in the bowl north of Friends Hut. From here you can ski to the door.

The west face descent route is just a simple line directly off the ridge anywhere within a few hundred feet of the summit. You can ski down for what seems like forever, so be careful to remember that you have to hike back to the 12,400-foot saddle to make it back to the hut before the sun ruins the snow in Star Basin.

Friends Hut aerial photo.
Friends Hut and Star Peak viewed from south, click image to enlarge.

 

Star Basin and Pearl Pass from Friends Hut

Climb rating: Moderate skins
Ski rating: Intermediate, S3
Recommended seasons: All with snowcover
Starting elevation: 11,400 feet
Summit elevation: 12,705 feet
Elevation gain: 1,305 feet
Trip distance: 1 ½ miles

Star Basin is the vast alpine area north and west of Friends Hut at the base of the ridge holding Pearl Pass and connecting Star Peak with Pearl Mountain. You’ll find incredibly varied glisse in Star Basin. Easy terrain abounds (S2-), while you can find steep lines dropping from every ridge, point and summit above the basin. For a mellow tour leave the hut early and eat breakfast on top of Pearl Pass while watching the sunrise over Star Peak. The more ambitious can tackle the different slopes on the south side of Star Ridge. This is the ridge that connects Star Peak to Pearl Pass. Incidentally, climbers enjoy this ridge as a long and intricate mountaineering route to the summit of Star Peak (see routes below).

From Friends Hut, you reach Star Basin via the same route you use for Pearl Pass. Since the Pearl Pass route is the key section of a number of routes, here is a detailed description:

While at Friends Hut, check your map and visually identify Pearl Pass and Star Peak. Calibrate your altimeter. From the front deck, ski around the east side of the hut and head northerly toward Star Peak. After a few hundred feet you’ll be out of the timbered flat area holding the hut. You’ll be moving through willow flats (though deep snow may cover most of the willows). After a few hundred yards of willow flats, swing left (westerly) and climb steeper terrain up a broad shoulder-like terrain feature that leads you to a huge gradually-climbing shelf you can follow westerly through upper Star Basin toward Pearl Pass, from about 11,800 feet to about 12,200 feet, where a steeper step leads you to another shelf below the final pass headwall. Climb the headwall (about 200 vertical feet) to the pass. Use wind-scoured ribs if you suspect avalanche danger. Return via your ascent route. Descending the headwall is steep for a short distance and can be done on foot. The rest of the descent, using the most mellow route, is moderate.

Star Peak from Friends Hut via June Couloir

Climb rating: Harder skins, Advanced snow
Ski rating: Advanced, S4+
Recommended seasons: Early spring snow season
Starting elevation: 11,400 feet
Summit elevation: 13,521 feet
Elevation gain: 2,121 feet
Round trip distance: 3 miles
Day trip? Yes from hut

This is the classic extreme ski descent available from Friends Hut. It includes an enjoyable snow climb and summit.

Examine your map at Friends Hut. Look out the back window of the hut to identify Star Peak. June Couloir appears to lead to the left side of the summit (see photo). From the hut, ski about a mile NE up the drainage leading to Star Peak. This will put you at about 12,400 feet elevation in the basin underneath Star’s south face. Put on your crampons and ascend the obvious June Couloir gully system to the summit. Descend your ascent route. Because this is southerly-facing, late April and early May are good times for an avalanche-safe trip on compacted spring snow. When you’re below Star’s south face, you’ll notice an unusual series of couloirs, one after the other, that cut Star’s southeast ridge above you. These all are good descents for those desiring steep skiing (provided avalanche danger is minimal), though none are skiable from the summit.

Star Peak from Friends Hut via East Ridge

Climb rating: Harder skins, Advanced snow
Ski rating: Advanced, S3 (optional S5-)
Recommended seasons: Spring snow
Starting elevation: 11,400 feet
Summit elevation: 13,521 feet
Elevation gain: 2,121 feet
Round trip distance: 3 miles
Day trip? Yes from hut
Map: Friends Hut North

This is not a summit ski descent, but rather a fine semi-technical route first done as a snowclimb by Otto Schniebs in 1938 (see chapter introduction). Use the same approach to Star’s south face as 10.2.9 above. At 12,500 feet in the bowl below the south face, notice the series of couloirs starting with Star’s south face June Couloir and continuing to the right with at least 5 major couloirs and several minor ones. To the far right, just before Star’s southeast ridge drops abruptly to a notch, a couloir leads to the ridge crest. Climb the couloir then follow the ridge to the summit. You can use any of the other continuous couloirs as well. The reason for doing the farthest east is it allows you more distance and time on the southeast ridge, since this is a climber’s route rather than a ski route. Descend your ascent route. Note that below the section of ridge you’ll be using, a large notch on Star’s southeast ridge is blocked by a rock step that may require ropework to climb or descend.

Crystal Peak and environs from Friends Hut

Climb rating: Harder skins, easy boots
Ski rating: Advanced, S3+ to S4
Recommended seasons: Late winter and spring
Starting elevation: 11,400 feet
Summit elevation: 12,777 feet
Elevation gain: 1,377 feet
Round trip distance: 4 miles, depends on exact route

This small massif to the east of the Friends Hut has excellent skiing. For an ascent of Crystal Peak, ski east from the hut ½ mile and 600 vertical feet to the top of point 12,072, known as Pim Point. From Pim Point continue along the ridge to the next high point at 12,600 feet (Ruby Point). From Ruby Point descend a short distance SE down the ridge to Crystal Saddle (12,300 feet). Then ascend the northwest ridge of Crystal Peak to the summit.

For descent from the summit of Crystal, the bowl to the east that drops you into Cement Creek is spectacular. The bowl to the west is good as well. You can ski this partway down and traverse back to Friends Hut. Or, hike back up to Pim Point and enjoy a shot almost directly to the door of the hut.

A good variation for a longer tour is to take the Pim Point route to Ruby Peak. From the summit of Ruby, ski the east bowl into the Taylor River drainage. Hike back up to the saddle between Crystal and point 12,415. From the saddle ascend the ridge to the summit of Crystal, then use the routes mentioned above to ski back to the hut.

A reasonably avalanche-safe winter ascent of Crystal can be made by using the ridges mentioned above. Skiing the bowls should be left for spring or periods in winter with unusually low slide hazard. During spring tours beware of letting temptation trap you down in Cement Creek or Taylor River, as the early morning sun thaws the east-facing snow above you, which is the snow you must climb to get back to the hut.

 

Reverse routes from Friends Hut to trailheads

Friends Hut to Ashcroft via Taylor Pass

Climb rating: Moderate skins
Ski rating: S2+
Recommended seasons: All with snowcover
Starting elevation: 11,400 feet
Summit elevation: 12,300 feet

With stable avalanche conditions, this is a longer and more interesting way to Ashcroft than via Pearl Pass. The route described here is essentially the reverse of route above; use that route description for details. Start from Friends Hut. Contour SE below Pim Point about ½ mile into the drainage below Crystal Peak and Crystal Pass. Climb the drainage NE to Crystal Pass (12,300 feet). Descend into the Taylor River drainage. Follow the drainage, with variations to avoid avalanche runouts, down to about 10,800 feet where the valley flattens and holds a series of ponds. Cross to the north side of the valley if you’re not there already, then climb N through timber into a hanging valley leading to a marshy shelf (11,800 feet) southwest of Taylor Lake. The idea here is to avoid the summer route to Taylor Pass, since the actual pass is somewhat useless for winter travel due to avalanche danger.

Once you’re on the marshy flats, continue NW to one of several saddles on the main ridge (about 12,000 feet). Descend W and N into Express Creek, then follow the Express Creek drainage down to Markley Hut and Ashcroft (see Markley Hut section of HutSki, via the menu above).

Friends Hut to Crested Butte via East Brush Creek

Climb rating: Moderate skins
Ski rating: Intermediate, S2
Recommended seasons: All with snow
Starting elevation: 11,400 feet
Summit elevation: N.A.
Elevation gain: 200 feet
Trip distance: 10 ½ miles

This is the standard route from Friends Hut to the Crested Butte area. It’s the reverse of the Crested Butte to Friends Hut route describe above.

From the front door of Friends Hut, head S down a timbered shoulder that drops you to East Brush Creek. Staying to the left (east) side of the creek, ski open areas and light timber down to a large open area (10,800 feet). Continue downvalley. For about ¾ mile you’ll be below huge avalanche paths. The summer trail follows the west side of the creek, but you may want to give these avalanche paths respect by skiing along the edge of the forest on the east side of the valley.

At any rate, you’ll reach denser forest and less avalanche danger when you get to about 10,600 feet. Follow the summer trailcut as it passes through timber along the west side of the creek. After about ½ mile of timber you’ll again enter a section of valley that passes below major avalanche paths. Show your undying respect by switching to the east side of the valley yet again. When you get to the lower end of this section, at about 10,300 feet, it’s important to switch yet again to the west side of the valley, where you descend S through timber on the route of the summer path and jeep trail. Take pains to follow the roadcut as it stays to the north side of the creek and drops to the main Pearl Pass Road, intersecting at about 9,560 feet in aspen forest. There may be a sign here, but it could be obscured by snow or missing.

Continue downvalley near Brush Creek, using the summer road where appropriate. After a mile-long open flat, the road leads into timber and climbs NW up the valleyside. This important section avoids a steep-sided gorge with extreme avalanche danger and the potential of falls down steep gullies. As the road climbs, it takes you through an open aspen forest with a small section that could hold avalanche danger. With careful “micro routefinding” you can pass safely here. After traversing westerly a bit, the snowcovered road drops down an open area southerly to the valley floor. Again, you could encounter avalanche danger here, but careful navigation will eliminate hazard.

Once you’re in the valley, continue W about ¼ mile to the Middle Brush Creek and main Brush Creek confluence. You have another choice here. The summer road crosses Brush Creek and sidehills along the north side of the valley, and though it’s a good route, it may force you over avalanche terrain. For a safer route, consider staying on the easterly side of Brush Creek, and from the confluence work your way down open and low-angled terrain. Cross the creek where suitable, and continue down the low-angled valley to the East River Valley. This latter option may require a bit of effort to avoid private land, but it’s worth it if you’re avoiding the white death.

Once you’re in the broad “Siberia” of the East River Valley, carefully identify and follow the summer road downvalley S to Brush Creek Road Trailhead (see chapter introduction). This last 1 ¼ miles of flat road can seem like walking from the earth to the moon. Cope by humming tunes from your favorite pop icon, or sing Rossini if you speak Italian. A little nordic wax can help as well.



 

 
 
 
This book goes great with our maps, highly recommended for any hut skier.
 
   
   
 
 
All Rights Reserved - HutSki.com - Copyright 2017- Privacy Policy
 
   
 

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 due to human error or source errors, 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.

Mission statement: The mission of HutSki.com is to provide backcountry skiers and other Colorado hut users with a complete set of high quality free topo maps, plentiful how-to information, and brief route descriptions that include alternate routes as well as standard trails.