10th (Tenth) Mountain Division Huts and Summit Huts Online Guidebook
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Vance's Cabin
ELEVATION: 10,980 feet
HUTSKI.COM FREE MAP: Vance's Cabin (see below)
GPS: 388 056 E, 43 60 100 N
TRAILHEADS: Ski Cooper,South Camp Hale
USGS 7.5 min map: Pando
10th Mountain Huts map: Chicago Ridge

Vances cabin is a cozy hostel located close to a trailhead. Perfect for a casual hut trip or for bringing kids.

Vance's Cabin is a privately owned hut located on a timbered mountainside near Tennessee Pass. Through compact, it has a gas stove, gas lights, and sleeps sixteen. Reservations are taken by 10th Mountain.

Construction of the cabin began in 1980 and was completed in 1988. The quick trail to Vance's Cabin is the Piney Gulch route from Cooper Hill ski area. Novice mountaineers will find enjoyable day trips on Taylor Hill to the east of the cabin. Experts can explore alpine terrain on Chicago Ridge farther to the east.

In the past, Vance's Cabin has been open in late summer and fall (as well as in winter). The best hiking, bike, and horse route to the hut takes Piney Gulch from Cooper Hill ski area (10th Mtn. route marked with blue diamonds).

All the dirt roads and trails in the area are worth exploring during summer. You'll find good alpine ski touring on Taylor Hill and farther east on Chicago Ridge.


Map below connects to Jackal Hut on the top (north), 10th Mountain Hut on the left (west) and Sangree Hut on lower right (southeast). If you have trouble viewing or printing this map, please try our Vance's Cabin PDF.

Tennessee Pass Trailhead—Vance's Cabin via Piney Gulch
DIFFICULTY: Intermediate
HUTSKI.COM FREE MAP: Vance's Cabin (see above)
TIME: 3 hours up, 2 hours down
DISTANCE: 3 1/8 miles

This is one of the shortest, easiest trailhead to hut routes in the whole 10th Mountain system. As such, it's a good "first hut" tour. But it still follows a backcountry trail, so be realistic. It is a 10th Mountain suggested route, but know the standard 10th Mountain trail markings can be confused with the cross country trail markings at the beginning of the route.

Begin at the Tennessee Pass Trailhead. Park on the west side of Highway 24, cross the highway and walk up the obvious road east for 1/2 mile to the parking lot of the Ski Cooper ski area. You can ski on the north side of the road if walking is not to your taste. Once in the parking lot, find the start of the Nordic trail system at the northeast corner of the lot next to the Nordic Center building. Follow the maintained Nordic trail NE along a water ditch that traverses into Piney Gulch. At 3/4 mile from the Nordic Center the gulch splits (10,520 feet). Leave the Nordic trail system here and ski up the left fork of the gulch for 1/4 mile to a large clearing (10,660 feet).

Climb NW up through the clearing to the north end of the saddle north of point 10,963. At the saddle use your map and compass to identify the slopes of Taylor Hill. Climb E for a short distance, then swing back N and make a long 1/2-mile traverse along the west face of Taylor Hill. At 11,160 feet, just to the east of the hut, you enter an open area. Turn left here and descend 1/4 mile to Vance's Cabin. Some structures around the cabin are visible from several hundred yards.

REVERSE ROUTE: From the front door of Vance's Cabin ski N for 1/4 mile, then turn right (E) and climb to 11,160 feet on the west face of Taylor Hill. Turn right (S) and ski a level traverse for 1/2 mile through timber, then drop S and W to the saddle north of point 10,963. You don't quite ski to the apex of the saddle. Instead, from the north end of the saddle, turn SE and drop through clearings to 10,660 feet in the north fork of Piney Gulch. Ski down the gulch a short distance, cross the creek and follow the east side of the creek to the confluence of the north and south forks of Piney Gulch. From here follow the Ski Cooper Nordic trail system to the Ski Cooper parking area. Take the Ski Cooper access road to the Tennessee Pass Trailhead. You can walk this road or ski next to it on the north side.

SAFETY NOTES: Don't let the short length of this route make you lazy.

SUMMER: This is the preferred summer route to Vance's Cabin.

South Camp Hale Trailhead -- Vance's Cabin via E Fork Eagle River
DIFFICULTY: Intermediate
HUTSKI.COM FREE MAP: Vance's Cabin (see above)
TIME: 7 hours up, 5 hours down
DISTANCE: 8 miles
ELEVATION GAIN: 1,700 feet

This 10th Mountain suggested route is the longer trailhead to hut route for Vance's Cabin. It serves most often as part of the ski-through route from the Jackal Hut, but it also makes a fine tour in its own right.

From the South Camp Hale Trailhead ski E across the flats of Camp Hale (no bridge across Eagle River). Intersect the snow- covered road at the base of the mountain (usually packed by snowmobile) and ski this road for 2 1/4 miles up the East Fork of the Eagle River to 9,560 feet, just past a flat marshy area with a small pond. In winter this pond will be obscured by snow. Turn right (S) off the road just after you cross the East Fork of the Eagle River (no bridge). Continue S for several hundred feet across the flat area. Swing SW and begin a climbing traverse that leads up a marked trail-cut for 2 miles through timber to Jones Gulch. Stay on the northeast side of Jones Creek and parallel the creek to a marshy clearing at the 10,400-foot level.

Follow the marked trail W along the north side of the clearing, then continue on a climbing traverse NW (on sections of road and trail) to 10,600 feet on a shoulder. Swing S and climb the shoulder to 11,033 feet. From here the trail leaves the crest of the shoulder and follows a long 1 1/2-mile climbing traverse through medium density timber to the lower edge of a burn area at 11,000 feet on the west shoulder of Taylor Hill.

The hut sits at the lower southwest end of the burn on the side of a rise and is not too visible from where you enter the burn. However, several structures around the hut are easier to spot.

REVERSE ROUTE: From the front door of Vance's Cabin ski N across a clearing. In the timber at the north end of the clearing take care to find the marked 10th Mountain trail that leads N from the clearing on a 1 1/4-mile traverse (on roads and trails) to 11,033 feet. From here continue N down the ridge for 3/4 mile to 10,600 feet.

Turn right (E) and follow another dropping traverse to a flat marshy clearing at 10,400 feet in Jones Gulch. Stick to the north edge of the clearing, cross Jones Creek, then descend N down the east side of Jones Gulch (can be a scary downhill). When the angle eases off at 10,220 feet, turn right (E) again and drop through several curves to a long easterly trail-cut that takes you to the East Fork of the Eagle River.

Cross the Eagle River and ski the snow-covered road for 2 3/4 miles downvalley to the South Camp Hale Trailhead. Take care not to overshoot the trailhead. Basically, when the road you skied NW (down the East Fork) turns N, take a hard left and ski SW across the flats of former Camp Hale for 1/2 mile to the trailhead at Highway 24. Experts can save a great deal of distance—and get more turns—by continuing down the fall line from the turn at 11,600 feet. There is dense timber on this route, so only experts should attempt it.

SAFETY NOTES: During storms, visibility in the flats of Camp Hale can be limited. Careful use of compass bearings can keep you on the correct path.

SUMMER: This trail is unsuitable for summer travel. Vance's Cabin may be open in the summer; check with 10th Mountain for the latest information. The dirt roads and trails in the area are fine horse, bike, and hiking day-routes.

Vance's Cabin to Jackal Hut via Cataract Creek
DIFFICULTY: Intermediate
HUTSKI.COM FREE MAP: Vance's Cabin (see above), Jackal Hut
TIME: 8 hours
DISTANCE: 8 1/2 miles
ELEVATION GAIN: 2,156 feet; loss: 1,476 feet

This 10th Mountain suggested route is the standard ski-through route from Vance's Cabin to the Jackal Hut. It includes a nice ridge crest and a fairly direct climb. From Vance's Cabin take reverse route 11.1 down to the crossing of the East Fork of the Eagle River. Follow the snow- covered road (north side of valley) for 1/4 mile downvalley to the Cataract Creek jeep trail. Turn right (N) and follow route 10.3 up the Cataract Creek jeep trail and on to the Jackal Hut. The Colorado Trail uses the Cataract Creek jeep trail, so you'll find the little triangular Colorado Trail markers along with standard 10th Mountain markers.

SAFETY NOTES: See referenced routes.

SUMMER: See referenced routes.

Vance's Cabin to 10th Mountain Division Hut via Tennessee Pass
DIFFICULTY: Intermediate
HUTSKI.COM FREE MAP: Vance's Cabin (see above), 10th Mtn. Division Hut
TIME: 9 hours
DISTANCE: 9 miles
ELEVATION GAIN: 1,150 feet; loss: 760 feet

This 10th Mountain suggested route is the standard ski-through from Vance's Cabin to the 10th Mountain Division Hut. It passes Ski Cooper ski area and crosses HWY 24. Take the Piney Gulch route southerly from Vance's Cabin back down to Tennessee Pass, then follow the route to the 10th Hut as described elsewhere in this website.

SAFETY NOTES: A long route so start early.

SUMMER: This area is good for all manner of mountain recreation.

Vance's Cabin Regional Skiing

Taylor Hill from Vance's Cabin
DIFFICULTY: Intermediate
HUTSKI.COM FREE MAP: Vance's Cabin (see above)
TIME: Several hours to half day
DISTANCE: 1 1/2 miles round trip
ELEVATION GAIN: 745 feet round trip

This branch route is a fine climb with plenty of ski options.

ROUTE DESCRIPTION: Put on your skins at the cabin. From the front door of the Cabin ski N about 1/4 mile, then turn right (E) and climb to 11,160 feet on the west face of Taylor Hill. At 11,160 feet, where the marked trail turns right (S), leave the trail and continue to climb E for 1/2 mile to the summit of Taylor Hill (11,725 feet). For good skiing stay north of the ascent route and enjoy open slopes back down to the clearing just north of the cabin. You can also find some glade skiing by dropping from the Taylor Hill summit S into Piney Gulch, then picking up the standard trail back to the cabin. This is a more advanced option. If you want shorter runs, play on the open slope behind the cabin.

SAFETY NOTES: Stay away from the steep north face of Taylor Hill and beware of cornices on the summit.

SUMMER: A fine alpine hike.\

Chicago Ridge from Vance's Cabin
HUTSKI.COM FREE MAP: Vance's Cabin (see above)
TIME: Full day round trip
DISTANCE: 4 1/2 miles round trip
ELEVATION GAIN: 1,562 feet round trip

If you thought Taylor Hill was a mountain, wait until you see Chicago Ridge! This majestic crest winds for 5 miles along a north/south axis to the east of Vance's Cabin. If you were ambitious enough, you could gain the high point via this route, then ski the ridge S all the way to the outskirts of Leadville.

To climb from Vance's Cabin to the high point of the ridge, follow route 11.5 to the summit of Taylor Hill. As you'll see, Taylor Hill is really just a west shoulder of Chicago Ridge. From Taylor Hill simply drop E into saddle 11,635, then continue climbing E. Stick with the ridge until you gain point 12,542 on Chicago Ridge. Ascend the ridge S from here for 1/2 mile to the summit. Return via the same route

SAFETY NOTES: Carefully judge slide hazard on the broad ridge leading to point 12,542 on Chicago Ridge. Watch for cornices on the ridge and don't let the excitement of a ski descent win over good judgment. With Colorado's midwinter snowpack, sticking to the ridges is how you survive.

SUMMER: A fine alpine hike. It is not suitable for horses or bicycles.

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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