The 5280 Mountain Guide

November 2011

Rustic Rewards

Even when you’re prepared, roughing it can still be…rough.

This is the story of seven girlfriends in the city who ventured into the snowy wilderness for a “get-away-from-it-all” trip: no email, no husbands, no reality TV…heck, no running water. Destination: Hidden Treasure Yurts, near the top of New York Mountain between Vail and Aspen. Naturally, we met over cocktails to divvy up the duties. Food list: check. First-aid kit: check. Deck of cards: check. Then, the most important question: “Soooo, I can wear my Uggs with snowshoes, right?” And so it began.

Uggs stowed safely at home, we arrive at the Yeoman Park trailhead south of Eagle for the 6.2-mile trek to the yurt at 11,200 feet. I’d persuaded the group to rent avalanche beacons and probes (see page 73), and we’re armed with maps, a compass, and a GPS to chart our progress. All we need to do is follow the blue-diamond markers on the trees.

About an hour in, I whip out the map: I’d missed the very first turnoff. (Note to self: Never rely on markers alone. They make maps for a reason.) One powwow later—and a vow never to disclose this blunder to our male counterparts, who mocked our bravado before our departure—we opt not to backtrack and forge ahead to the steeper trail we’d vetoed earlier. We navigate switchbacks through aspen stands and pine glades until we reach the two circular, tentlike shelters just below tree line.

Hardcore skiers might have skinned up to the summit past the yurts to get in some backcountry turns, but we’re plenty happy to drink mugs of hot cocoa and watch the sun set from the yurt’s little deck. Inside are four sets of bunks, a table, a wood-burning stove, prechopped wood, propane burners, dishes, and utensils. We melt a pot of snow till it boils and whip up the spaghetti feast we’d packed in to fill our calorie voids.

The next morning, snuggled in my sleeping bag, I can’t bring myself to emerge from my cocoon into the biting cold. We’d expected the fire to die overnight; what we didn’t anticipate was running out of wood so quickly.

Thunk! My eyes fly open at the sound of an axe hitting the iced-over ground outside. Someone had unearthed a log—and missed her target. The door creaks open and a voice wafts in. “Uhhh, does anyone actually know how to chop wood?” Silence. It’s going to be a very chilly morning. —JD

Try It

Where: Hidden Treasure Yurts, Eagle County, backcountry-colorado-yurt.com

Cost: $200/night (sleeps eight)

Quick Tip: Never leave home without moleskin. Six miles of climbing in snowshoes is a recipe for blisters.

Also Try: Never Summer Nordic, $90 to $120 per night, neversummernordic.com; 10th Mountain Division Hut Association, $25/person/night to $304/entire cabin/night, huts.org