Photos by Tyson Bradley
Green-Wilson and Friends Huts
Elk Mountains, Colorado
39 00.179′ N, 106 50.311′ W. and 38 57.835′ N, 106 48.582 W
Located high in the Elk Range of Colorado, the Green-Wilson hut sits on the Aspen side of Pearl Pass, while the Friends Hut is on the other side of the divide, which flows down to the Crested Butte area to the Brush Creek trailhead. Both huts are part of the Braun and Friends family of huts in the famous 10th Mountain Division Hut Association. A common multi-day tour is to spend a few nights at the Green-Wilson hut, then climb up and over Pearl Pass descending to the Friends Hut for a stay. A loop back over Pearl Pass will get you back down to a starting point in the old town of Ashcroft, near Aspen, while it is not unheard of to alternately ski out the Crested Butte drainage with a pre-arranged car shuttle, or to reverse the starting points.
Green-Wilson sits at an elevation of 11,280 in the vast Pearl Basin, and just below timberline. Castle Peak (14,265) towers over the basin and is skiing achievement off the lofty summit. Numerous other lines in expansive bowls, and narrow couloirs are readily attainable for day tours from Green-Wilson. If approaching Castle Peak through Montezuma Basin, you’ll be tempted by many fine looking lines on the ascent. This are is somewhat notorious for large avalanches, so be mindful of conditions.
From Green-Wilson, skiers can make the climb over Pearl Pass at 12,705 feet, and descend to the Friends Hut at 11,370. A popular backcountry refuge with a capacity for 8, the friends hut can often be in high demand, and full. Star Peak (13,521) and the June Couloir, which splits its face directly from the summit, is a prized line though not always attainable unless conditions are in your favor.
Both huts are well equipped with firewood, wood stoves for heat, propane and propane stoves, mattresses, pillows, cookware, dishes, and photovoltaic lighting. Snow must be melted at both huts for water supply. A trip in April when one might be expecting spring conditions instead yielded snowstorms that had our team skiing soft powder, and battling tough visibility. As always be prepared for any weather at these high altitudes. As with any trip into a self-sustained hut, it’s what you make of it. We pulled plastic sleds on the haul out of Ashcroft with plenty of food and assorted beverages to ensure maximum gastro, and then cached the sleds and other unnecessary gear for the climb up and over Pearl Pass to Friends Hut. We collected the sleds and gear on the way back down, which was an easy glide out. The feeling of remoteness in the high Colorado Rockies provides outstanding solitude, and the scenery is amazing of the high peaks that comprise the Elk Range. The surrounding ski terrain can be as committing as you like, with plenty of short “backyard” runs to satisfy the tourer who likes to keep it civilized with a hot cup of tea after a few runs, before heading out for some more- or the big lines off the big peaks that make for an all-day affair. Numerous other huts in the area that are part of the Braun Hut System will also tempt you with further exploration deep into this magnificent range.
Go to huts.org for more information on booking and availability.