Aspen Times Weekly Book Review: ‘The Friends’ Hut’

by Andrew Travers


“The Friends’ Hut: A Living Memorial in the Elk Mountains”

Paul Andersen, Xavier Fané and others

84 pages


On June 18, 1980 two planes carrying 10 Crested Butte and Aspen residents collided in mid-air over East Maroon Pass. But the tragedy and the lives it ended left more than a legacy of grief.

It motivated a group of dedicated friends and volunteers to create an oasis of healing, in the spirit of mountain adventure, in the form of the Friends’ Hut deep in the wilderness between Aspen and Crested Butte, which opened in 1985.

That’s the story that Aspen Times columnist Paul Andersen, Crested Butte writer/photographer Xavier Fané and others set out to tell in the enormously moving new book “The Friends’ Hut: A Living Memorial in the Elk Mountains.”

This lavishly illustrated glossy soft cover book is a fascinating chronicle of how the hut came to be, and how its volunteer board has kept it running.

The experience of reading the book is a lot like huddling close in a backcountry hut and swapping stories in good company. From Andersen, Fané and a rotating cast of storytellers, you learn about the people whose deaths birthed the hut and those who raised $45,000 to build it, and then trekked to construct it beneath Star Peak. You hear reflections on its meaning and some colorful tales — like how Friends’ Hut board members and others nearly burned it down with an oversized bonfire, and how they got solar panels to it ­— via llama — in the mid-1980s.

A section of the book includes notes and doodles from the Friends’ Hut logbook. Another includes newspaper clippings from over the years about its construction. It offers an overview of accessing it via Brush Creek from Crested Butte and via the more demanding route over Peal Pass from Aspen, along with essays on the debate over motorized access and how getting there has changed over the decades due to advances in touring equipment.

The Friends’ Hut is an accomplishment worth celebrating and “The Friends’ Hut” is a worthy addition to any Aspen or Crested Butte book shelf.

Explore Booksellers will host a book-signing and talk on “The Friends’ Hut” on Thursday, Jan. 8 at 5 p.m.