New Year’s. Hut Trips. Fat bikes. Suffering. This one definitely had it all.
After a two year hiatus from going on hut trips due to Covid, thanks to responsible friends and vaccines we’re back at it with three huts booked this year. Unfortunately, Teh Spousal Unit™ (oh right, need to catch y’all up on that!) was having some pain in one of her feet and wasn’t keen on snowshoeing in like she normally does. Fortunately for us, another couple were bringing their fat bikes and a pair of snowmachines, and were willing to schlep our heavy packs up to the Peter Estin hut for us!
After a fair amount of packing logistics we started off the pedal around 10:45 am, following the snomachine tracks up Hat Creek Road. The grade was fairly gentle, but the snow surface was pretty soft even in the tracks. Roughly a foot of new snow had fallen overnight, and it continued to snow pretty steadily the entire ride. There would have been no way we could have pedaled up without the snowmachines punching through and breaking a trail for us.
By the stats, the pedal up shouldn’t have been a big deal. But what I have learned about fat biking is to triple whatever the mileage is, double the vertical, then add 10% and you might be close to the effort required. At least the surroundings were beautiful, peaceful, and awesome. That helped. A lot.
About six miles and nearly 2000′ vert in, Jim came back down on one of the snowmachines to check in on us. Teh Spousal Unit™ decided she’d had enough and we lashed her fatty to the sled-sled and sent her up the hill. To be honest, I had also had about enough. Even though we were able to pedal most of (90% or more really) the first six miles, I was getting super tired.
Eventually, I made it to the hut and after some serious hydrating and food got to feeling like a normal human. The hut was cold, but fires had been made and we were all getting warm. Drinks were being poured, snacks were put out, dinner was fired up, and the evening revelry was beginning.
One thing to note about this crew, we eat well on hur trips. We divide into teams, each responsible for one meal during the trip. We don’t skimp or bring dehydrated garbage, we bring real food. And a lot of it. Friday’s meal was to be pho, and we were super pumped for the brothy goodness that transpired.
Post pho, games were being played and conversations were being had. Jokes were cracked, and everyone was trying out their best Canadian and New Zealand accents. We all decided we’d do our best to at least celebrate the Nova Scotian New Year’s as a group before peeling off to bed. Turns out, breaking trail through a foot of fresh isn’t super easy on skis either!
While stashing my beers in the wood room downstairs so they’d stay cold but not freeze, I spied an anomaly in the wood pile. What is that? It’s… shiny. Wood isn’t shiny. Upon further inspection, it was a full and sealed bottle of bourbon, tucked into the woodpile a couple layers deep and covered in sawdust!
I brought this to the attention of the crew, and it turns out that one of us knew the story. See, the bottle of hooch was from 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirits and apparently their staff does a summer volunteer trip up to Peter Estin every year to help deep clean, chop wood, and do other hut chores to make sure it’s ready for the winter season. And, they always stash a bottle or two of bourbon in the woodpile for winter guests to find.
Once the bourbon was gone, we stayed up and hit our goal of ringing in the New Year in Nova Scotia. I think we might have even made it to the New York New Year! Though tired, the vibe was great and everyone was happy to be back in a hut with good friends and enjoying being unplugged. We set up some fun lights, since the solar in the hut had been drained due to a week of steady snow and overcast skies.
Our meal team was responsible for breakfast on Saturday. Once there was enough daylight to see what we were doing, we cranked up the fixins for hearty breakfast burritos.
Post breakie, it was time to ski! Thanks to the miracle of snowmachines, my skis and boots made it to the hut. I headed out for some mellow meadow skipping with Oh, Jay! and @singletrackzach and the conditions were awesome. Fresh soft snow everywhere! Breaking trail wasn’t easy, but we traded off lead a few times and got to the top of a beautiful mellow meadow to make some hippie pow turns down.
After a lap we headed back into the hut to grab a bit of lunch, right about the time all the other folks were coming back in from a longer tour. We all hydrated and fueled, then headed back out for party laps down the meadow in front of the hut. Once everyone’s legs were properly shelled, we all headed back in to the hut for appetizers and aprés drinks.
Dinner was killer: bison tips and asparagus. Oh, and cheesecake for dessert! What the what?
No bourbon to be found in the wood pile, but we all had brought ample supplies. Beverages consumed, puzzles puzzled, games played, and we even got two newcomers to the group to do the initiation ritual which consists of stripping down to your skivvies and jumping in a snowdrift to make snow angels. Good thing the fire was cranking in the stove!
Sunday morning dawned beautiful, and Teh Spousal Unit™ and I were up early to make sure our big packs were packed up and loaded on the sled-sled to make the journey back to the trailhead. The couple on the snowmachines had obligations in Denver and had to beat feet to make it work. We were able to get them locked and loaded without to much of an issue, even though Zach accidentally loaded the wrong splitboard at first.
I got our bikes prepped for the ride down by knocking the snow off them, making sure tire pressure was good, and then re-installing the pogies.
After the snowmachines left, we tidied up the hut and relaxed a bit. Groups started trickling and and heading back down the hill. Always a bit sad for a hut trip to come to an end. But our ride down was super awesome, the frigid temps around 0ºF and no new snow overnight meant the road down would be in great shape for fatbiking. It was still a bit slow, because the snow and massive tires just slow you down, but it was way less work than climbing up! We didn’t pedal too hard, as we didn’t want to break a sweat in the cold air. The sunshine and views rocked our world!
Made it back to the truck in 1/3 the time it took us to pedal up, even going slow. Once at the truck, all the other folks started showing up, their way down was more direct but slower on the skis somehow. We said goodbyes to some people, made lunch plans with others, loaded up and got on the road.
Can’t wait for the next one!