Let’s get real, my boyfriend and I have been together for 5 years, and sometimes it seems like we’re roommates sitting on opposite sides of the couch drowning in munchies mix. So I thought a backcountry winter hut trip would be a fun mix of a relaxing and exciting adventure for us to do together. I pictured us snowed in, cuddling beside a roaring fire, drinking wine and playing cards. What we got instead was one part storybook winter hideaway and one part the type of story that’s only funny once your fingers defrost and your big toenails grow back months later. Seriously though, here’s a full recount of our weekend at Ken’s Cabin.
The Distance – 6.5 miles (one way)
When I originally booked the cabin, I saw that the distance was listed as 6.5 miles. This seemed like a short enough distance for us to trudge through the snow, until I realized that it was 6.5 miles one way. I figured taking Boreas Pass Road up and back would be an easy slog on a splitboard (a board that can be separated into two skis for the uphill trek and then put back together as a snowboard for the ride down), especially if we could ride down.
The Hike – Splitboard
I’d just bought a splitboard and had only ridden it twice, both distances were less than 2 miles round trip. Andrew had never been on a splitboard, but seriously what better way to learn than to do it for almost seven miles with 30 pounds of crap on your back? In retrospect, it probably would’ve been a lot easier with snowshoes, mostly due to just how flat the road is–we figured out pretty early on that being able to snowboard down the 6 miles back was, in fact, a pipe dream. Here is a real-time glimpse into my thought process on the hike:
- Mile 1: wow this is fun, look how pretty everything is!
- Mile 2: I’m finally getting this movement down I think
- Mile 3: My hip is starting to ache.
- Mile 4: We’ve got to be there right?
- Mile 5: Why can’t I see any tracks? Are we going the right way? Did we lose the road? Why is it snowing so hard?
- Mile 6: Everything hurts. I don’t have toenails anymore. I am going to die out here. Can we be airlifted out?
- Mile 6.5: Oh, there it is. Buried in 5 feet of snow. There better be a damn shovel.
On the way back, we admittedly found it easier to boot pack through others’ tracks for the last 4.5 miles of the hike out.
The Conditions – 2 Feet of Snow in 48 hrs
It snowed 8 inches overnight that Thursday. Then it snowed the entire morning of our hike (around 6 inches). By the time we made it to the open valley, we couldn’t locate the tracks we’d been following in the snow. The next day, it had snowed another 6-8 inches overnight.
The Hut – Ken’s Cabin, 10th Mountain Hut Division, CO
When we finally made it to Ken’s Cabin around 3 pm, we had to dig a hole in the snow just to crawl our way to the door. Ken’s is an old wagon house built in 1830 and later named for a Denver man caught in an avalanche in the 90s. Ken’s is situated beside Section House, which sleeps around 12 people, usually in multiple groups. Part of the unique thing about Ken’s Cabin is the intimacy it affords couples or folks who want privacy.
It sleeps 3 technically, though the third person would likely need to sleep curled up like a cat on a dirty daybed beside the actual bed. Once inside, the hut was a welcome reprieve from the wind-blown, sideways snow outside. There’s a wood-burning stove just feet from the bed, so we built a fire and I crawled into my sleeping bag awaiting warmth.
Ken’s has a rustic vibe, with not much in the way of amenities besides the wood stove, a set of propane burners, three solar-powered lightbulbs, kitchen utensils, bowls, and cookware, and sheets and pillows.
The Overnight Experience
Once inside, we drank wine, played cards (Ken’s claimed to have board games, but all we saw was a deck of cards), and read the old log books. Which, in all honesty, was my downfall. About six different entries mentioned Ken’s being haunted, and I was pretty much up all night imagining the ghost of a gold miner braiding my hair while I slept. So instead of sleeping, I laid there sweating beside the fire.
The Next Day + The Hike Out
The next morning, our toes were feeling more alive and ready take on the hike back. We made pancakes, readied the cabin for the next visitors, repacked, and started the trek out. Our bodies immediately began hurting on the splitboards (knees, hips, toes), so about a mile or so in we attached them to our packs and booted it the rest of the 5 miles out.
Would I do it again?
The question you really want to ask: would I do it again? Maybe not this distance in the dead of winter—even two less miles would’ve made a difference. But the backcountry hut experience overall was great. And we’re finally able to laugh about me threatening to be air-lifted out when I couldn’t see a foot in front of me during the blizzardy hike in.
Packing essentials for the experience:
- Hut slippers were essential having hiked all the way in snowboard boots (hence the black and blue toenails a month later)
- Extra socks X2 (seriously bring a lot)
- Another set of base layers
- Wine (again more than you think you need)
- Fire starter/ lighter
- Sleeping bag
- Back-up mini stove (we brought our Jetboil)
- Snow gear – jacket, pants, boots
- Avalanche gear – if you plan to ski or snowboard anywhere in avalanche terrain
- Two-way radios
- Headlamps/ flashlight
Got questions? Leave a comment below!