Life Lessons from the Green-Wilson Hut Trip
There were several factors that might have dissuaded a more rational thinking adult from joining the Green-Wilson Hut trip. Yet, I’ve discovered that these occasions of choosing adventure and pushing comfort zone boundaries result in the most memorable, character building, soul filling, worthwhile experiences. Life lessons reveal and repeat themselves and solidify that I must be on the right track.
Lesson 1: Choose adventure
Opting for the more adventurous approach, I committed to join my buddy Jon, and his friends Jen, Carly and John for a 2 day hut trip in the Elk Mountains, situated between Crested Butte and Aspen.
Hmmm...is this really a good idea?
I realized that the decision to go on the trip was questionable:
I had just returned home from a 6-day work trip in CA and just had 2 nights with Matt and the pups;
I was slammed with work (i.e. a keynote speech & workshop, a video to produce, a cycling class to lead, a chamber presentation...all in the 48 hours that I was home);
I don’t own half of the equipment required for a hut trip (including the right skis, beacon, probe, shovel, functioning headlamp, and a pack);
I had never met 3 of the 4 people going on the hut trip;
and finally, it would require a 6-mile skin at 8pm, in a blizzard (!) after work on Thursday.
Those personal issues aside, what I actually should have been concerned about was the description of the hut and the warning issued by the CAIC on Thursday rating the avalanche danger at a level 4:
Green-Wilson Hut Description:
It's worth noting that the Green-Wilson Hut and other huts in the Braun system are located in areas that are known for avalanches with recurring avalanche cycles. The routes leading into the Green-Wilson Hut, located at 11,300, are unmarked and are not maintained.
CO Avalanche Information Center Warning:
A Special Avalanche Advisory is in effect for the mountains of Colorado. Avalanche conditions are dangerous. Backcountry travelers can easily trigger very large and deadly avalanches. Avalanches may break across terrain features and run long distances. Since January 11, the CAIC has documented 10 people caught in avalanches, 44 avalanches triggered by backcountry travelers, and over 280 avalanches in total. Backcountry travel this weekend will require conservative decision making, cautious route finding, and careful snowpack and terrain evaluation.
Thursday, January 17, 8pm-11pm
Nighttime skin from Ashcroft to Green-Wilson Hut
Finishing the work day, renting and gathering backcountry equipment (thank you @skihaussteamboat, @astroock1, @marksatkiewicz), I drove to Wolcott to meet Jon just after 5:30pm. We had to ditch my car and drive to Ashcroft, the trailhead in Aspen.
Lesson 2: Do 1 thing every day that scares you (Eleanor Roosevelt)
In summary, we started our 3-hour, 6 mile trek at 8pm! With the full moon approaching, this might not have been too bad, but it happened to be DUMPING.
Lesson 3: Surround yourself by experts
To be clear, this is not something I would have considered doing on my own. I do subscribe to a certain self preservation standard. The fact that Jon Kedrowski has climbed Everest 3 times, has written 3 books on climbing, skiing, sleeping on all of the 14ers, has climbed 6/7 continental summits, etc. etc., and claimed that he could ski to the hut blindfolded, I felt fairly safe.
Friday, January 18
Our first morning started as all hut trips should, with a massive breakfast including inordinate amounts of bacon. Carly, the designated day 1 breakfast chef (and fun, energetic girl), expertly managed 4 burners of Keto deliciousness, including sizzling bacon, broccoli (!), eggs and paleo pancakes.
With full bellies and already developing a group dynamic of lifelong friends, we ventured out on our first tour from the hut. In a nutshell, the conditions were epic. I realize that word is overused, but I’m not exaggerating...EPIC!
Lesson 4: Laugh often
The first tour invoked high levels of adrenaline, crash course training & skill building, accelerated bonding, and lessons in remaining calm. With an incredibly close call with a slide, everyone knew exactly what to do, remained composed and mitigated what could have been a much worse situation.
Lesson 5: Remain calm, take action
Returning to the hut, and a bit shaken from the close call, we decided that it must be time for margaritas!
We were lucky enough to have one of the most well-known landscape photographers on our trip, John Fielder ($5 says you have at least one of his coffee table books at your house!). John taught me about angles and composition with our snow-filled margarita glasses.
Lesson 6: When you’re with a professional, seek advice
In logical sequence, the margaritas were followed by appropriate hut attire to match the occasion. Yep, shiny silver pants, a power arm band, a lighted, sparkling skirt and ugg slippers.
Lesson 7: Don’t take yourself too seriously
Best of all, the following causal development unfolded...
Early Happy Hour ⇨ Early to bed ⇨ Early to rise ⇨ Sunrise tour ⇨ 😄💣🌅
Saturday, January 19 - Sunrise Skin
Jen, John, Jon and I set out at 6:45am to capture the pink & purple sky. It was one of those magical Colorado clear mornings where every direction we turned had a better view than the previous. With giddy enthusiasm, we absorbed the spectacular views, the effort required to climb, the brisk, January mountain air, and the accelerated connection created from our 48 hours together.
Jen, Founder of You Just Got Chicked, Physical Therapist, Vail resident, and all around awesome girl, will be on my short list to call for upcoming adventures.
All it took was a couple of days at 11k+feet, deep in the Colorado mountains to feel invigorated, energized and grateful.
Takeaways: Choose adventure, take calculated risks, surround yourself by great people.