Hut to hut |

Hut to hut

Ron RashAspen, CO Colorado

I was not sure how I was going to pick up my backpack, let alone carry it for the next 12 days. My hiking partner had been sitting behind a desk for the past year, and had let his muscles and aerobic conditioning deteriorate. Now I was expected to pick up the slack.Not so secretly, I relished the opportunity to see if I was capable of abusing myself to the extreme with this gargantuan load.We were hiking in the Pacific Northwest so we carried a tent ensuring maximum protection from the elements. On our route, bears and raccoons are pretty efficient at raiding food supplies, so we carried a bear tube – a large heavy-duty plastic cylinder that even grizzlies can’t break into. We carried a marine radio to check on tides and tidal surges since part of our hike would be along the coast. We had 12 days of food, which weighed more than 22 pounds per person. We had an emergency radio that weighed a lot and we hoped we would never use. We carried everything we could possibly ever use for a backpacking trip and then some. My pack weighed in at 110 pounds; my weight at the time was 150 pounds.When we got to the trailhead, I had two people help me put my pack on my back. I was seriously worried about a hernia or torsion of the testis.Torsion of the testis is a medical condition that if you’re afflicted with it and you do not receive medical help in time, and you don’t have the brain power of Stephen Hawking, you may need the local suicide hotline number tattooed to your forehead. Which forehead? It doesn’t matter – at that point, either forehead will be numb enough to work.With poor planning and improper pack weights camping trips can be nothing more than a gruel fest involving unpleasant amounts of pain. Thank goodness in Colorado we have the Tenth Mountain Hut system, which makes lightweight long-distance hiking trips downright pleasurable.One of my favorite hiking trips is starting at the Polar Star Hut south of Edwards and walking to the Estin Hut, then the Gates Hut then the rather long day to Margy’s Hut and finally out to Lenado.This multiday hike will most enjoyable if you have prior experience with a map and compass. I try to keep my pack weight less than 25 pounds for summertime hiking trips to the huts. The majority of hut users, for all seasons, take too much food and don’t bother with repackaging the food to save weight. The daily weight for food should be around a pound and a half per person.Another area for weight savings is to combine group gear, and it doesn’t matter if the group size is two people or 10. You will need only one camera, one first-aid kit, one tube of sun block, one tube of toothpaste and one emergency shelter.Some resourceful mountaineers have taken the group gear concept to the extreme in two-person climbing teams, taking only one sleeping bag or one headlamp and so on. Such sleeping arrangements can be hell on homophobic men, especially if one or the other has a tendency to be physically perky in his sleep. Would you consider one toothbrush?The sleeping bag you use for the huts should weigh only one pound, and you don’t need a sleeping pad for the huts. Your pack should be less then 3,000 cubic inches. If you use a larger pack, the tendency is to fill it with more items than you might possibly use and, in reality, will not use.I try to keep the clothing light, and I don’t worry about doubling up on clothing. By using the huts, I know I can always wash out any clothing that becomes soiled. The most important clothing I carry is full rain gear that works as my survival suit if I have to bivouac between huts.The majority of Tenth Mountain Huts are located close to Wilderness boundaries with the National Forests. The routes I like to choose between huts swing out into these wilderness areas, which will make for a more enjoyable trip than hiking on forest service roads between huts.For summer or winter trips the Tenth Mountain Huts are fast becoming one of our greatest resources in Colorado. Ron is a local mountain guide that appreciates the finer points of roughing it at Tenth Mountain Huts. His weekly outdoors column appears Saturdays in The Aspen Times. Ron can be reached at for comments on ways to lighten packs.