Saturday, January 9, 2010


In what has become an annual event, I joined five other friends on a climb up a mountain to spend two nights in the Jackal Hut, part of the 10th Mountain Hut system. I left Parker about 10 PM Wednesday, arriving in Leadville at 12:30 AM where parked the truck at the end of a snowy road and went to sleep in the back under the camper shell. An extra blanket was needed to ward off the frigid air. In the morning I met the others over breakfast at the Golden Burro. We parked at the Camp Hale trail head where we threw on our gear and began the 5 mile trek up the mountain.

The climb took us up nearly 3000 feet, the trail switch backing up the aspen and fir covered slopes. This is always the worst part of the trip, endlessly shuffling one ski past the other climbing the slope, breathing in deeply the thin mountain air, struggling to keep going. On and on we trudge, feeling like it will go on forever. But eventually we ascend the ridge, the trees give way to a snow covered meadow and there finally is the hut. Unclip the torturous boots, drop the heavy pack and relax on the sunny deck, surrounded by mountains belonging to four named mountain ranges. One of the best views in all the hut system!

A spectacular sunset followed by a well made meal settles us all down for the evening. We have difficulty finishing off the two bottles of wine allotted for the evening. Sleep is welcomed after spending the day exerting ourselves reaching this wildly beautiful destination. The stars burn brightly overhead, a normally dim winter Milky Way glowing brightly across the sky.

The next day was spent scouting out different slopes, looking for the best skiing available around the hut. Although about a foot of fresh snow had fallen during the last week, there was a soft crust below, underneath which was bed of soft hoar snow that offered no support. After a few turns the skis would break the crust and one would plunge into the soft snow below, the leg plowing into the crust and bringing one to a halt. That's the way it seemed everywhere checked, regardless of which direction the slope faced. By the early afternoon I had called it a day and joined others to relax at the hut.

A couple other groups of people were also spending the time with us at the hut. Vincent, who hails from France, entertained us at sunset by jumping a ramp that sent him flying over a corner of the deck. Another fine meal followed by more drinking (two new bottles of wine!) and cards. By 10 PM everyone called it a night.

That first night I took my cigar, glass of tequila and music outside on the deck under the stars. My show this evening was Echo & The Bunnymen's live performance at the Royal Albert Hall in London on July 19, 1983. A great soundboard recording of this classic performance. This official release lacks three songs (With A Hip, Heroin and Do It Clean) they performed that evening and found on other bootleg recordings. That editing may have been due to time constraints imposed on a one disc recording. I have also heard that the cuts were made based on the songs content which was deemed to be inappropriate (Heroin, for example). But the reason did not matter because it was a wonderful show, causing me to dance atop the frosted picnic table outside under the stars, following Ian's command to "lay down thy raincoat and groove."

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