Camp Hale, Colorado
10th Mountain Division Hut Association
“The Fowler-Hilliard Hut, owned and operated by 10th Mountain, was originally constructed in the summer of 1988. It was named for Ann Fowler and Ed Hilliard, avid mountaineers tragically killed in a climbing accident on North Maroon Peak near Aspen. Hut construction was generously funded by the Fowler and Hilliard families, and family friends. The hut site was first scouted in April 1984 and the hut proposal was formally approved in a June 1988 decision by the US Forest Service. It was available to the public the following winter, and has proven to be one of the most popular huts in the 10th Mountain Division Hut System, averaging over 2,300 user nights (one person/one night) per year.” – Huts.org
We were still in the midst of our snow-drought in Colorado and despite the apparent 6″ inches of snow that fell the night before (not sure if I believed that…), it was shaping up to be another warm one in the mountains….10 a.m. and already hiking in a t-shirt. Heading due East from the Pando Trailhead at Camp Hale, the directions to the Fowler-Hilliard Hut instructed us to cross the snow bridges over the Eagle River, but due to the overly warm spring, those snow bridges didn’t exist. Instead of getting our feet wet 4 minutes in to the 5 mile skin, we opted to head south to a bridge across the river and hop across a creek, adding on an additional 1.5 miles to the climb.
Had we known that it was an extra 1.5 miles, we might have opted for some wet feet… After finally getting to the entrance of McAllister Gulch, it’s just a straight up grueling climb to the hut. No way to sugarcoat that one. (And it didn’t help that it was so warm out, all our skins had snow sticking to them, making it impossible to actually get any glide in our step.) The next two miles ascend 1089′, but it’s really once we hit mile marker 4 that it turned to pure misery ascending 900′ over the next mile(ish).
I had never wanted my ski boots off more in my life and in writing this a month later, I’m about to lose both big toe nails and I still have remnants of blisters on both heels.
Totally, 100% worth it….
I would say that apart from hiking the Grand Canyon in a day, this was probably the hardest thing I’ve done. I guess 16lbs of booze may have been unnecessary. (That’s completely false.)
The Fowler/Hilliard Hut site is located on US Forest Service land about 6 miles west of Vail Pass at an elevation of 11,500 feet. 10th Mountain rebuilt the Fowler/Hilliard Hut in the summer of 2010 because the original hut burned in September 2009.
Directions to the Fowler-Hilliard Hut from the Pando Trailhead:
- Head due east from the Pando Trailhead 0.2 miles to the Eagle River.
- Cross the snowbridges, if they exist. Head North from there approximately .4 miles. If the snowbridges aren’t there, that really sucks… head south along the river .54 miles to the Resolution Gulch Bridge.
- Simply get on the banks on the other side of the river and head right back north for 1.08 miles to a right-hand turn that heads up and along a hillside to the north.
- After about .4 miles, you’ll see a cabin on some private property. There’s a road to the right of that.
- Head up that road east 1.97 miles to a right-turn where steep, miserable switchbacks await you for the next 1 mile / 900′. It sucks.
- You’ll finally come out to an open ridge and finally get some spectacular views at Machine Gun Ridge.
- Go northeast, traversing below Resolution Mountain. This is fairly mellow climb for .62 miles.
- At this point, there may be a sign pointing east and saying “Fowler-Hilliard Hut,” depending on snowpack (I’d imagine?).
- You should see a mellow gully to your right and you should see the hut right at the end of the gully. We ripped skins here and just skied down to it.
- Chug a beer.
*Distances and elevations were simply measured on Google Earth after the trip.
Layout and Capacity
Upstairs: 1 room with a double bed, 1 room with 4 single beds, and 10 single beds in a communal sleeping area. Capacity 16.
Summer: July 1st through September 30th. Winter: Thanksgiving through 30 April