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Breckenridge to Aspen Hike

Breckenridge to Aspen Hike Hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc with a baby

Your humble Tour du Mont Blanc hiker is featured in Backpacker Magazine

Just wanted to let you know that none other than little old me has a (tiny) feature in the May issue of Backpacker Magazine, in an article on how to make time for your life-list hikes.  In my case it wasn’t really a question of making time (I had a four-month maternity leave; what else was I going to do:-)) but of getting back in shape quickly after the pregnancy and birth, and managing an infant on the trail.  If you’re interested in learning more about how we did it, you can check out the series of articles I wrote for the TMB guide book company here. Continue Reading

Breckenridge to Aspen Hike Hiking & Backpacking

Reflecting on the Breck to Aspen Hike (Most difficult yet?)

In total, Carys and I hiked about 83 miles and 17,000′ of elevation gain on this trip (elevation loss was slightly greater as we realized that all of the bushwhacks we shuttled around were uphill…).  I’m including the day hikes we did at the beginning and end because I was carrying exactly the same weight on a day hike as on the hut-to-hut part of the trip.  Estimates are rough, especially for elevation gain, as it’s easy to tell net gain from a map but much harder to keep track of all the ups and downs over the course of the day.  The hike from Continental Divide cabin to Uncle Bud’s hut was only a net gain of 800′, but Tom’s GPS said we covered about 2,000′ over the course of the day!

I always put these trips in context of the Tour du Mont Blanc, where we covered about 75 miles and 28,000′ of climbing – turns out Colorado isn’t that hilly after all!

Skinner Pass

A monochromatic day at Skinner Pass

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Breckenridge to Aspen Hike Hiking & Backpacking

Last Days on the Breck to Aspen trip: Hike Days 10 & 11; Margy’s Hut, Aspen, and Travel Home

Day 10: Diamond J to Margy’s Hut

When Marian called the Diamond J to set up our reservation she had been told there would be no problem shuttling us to a different trailhead in the morning but when we tried to reconfirm the arrangement last night the manager claimed she hadn’t realized we needed a second shuttle. Her husband had to help her get breakfast ready for the wedding party but after that she released him to drive us, so we ended up getting out by 8:30 which wasn’t bad at all.

The hike started out easily enough around a meadow but as we headed toward Sawmill Park the trail got steeper and steeper. We had started giving Carys raisins earlier in the week as a way to keep her going through the last fidgety mile or so of a long hike day, but over the course of the following days she had begun demanding them earlier and earlier in the day. Marian kept a stash in her pocket and whenever Carys stuck her arm out the side of the rain cover I would stop and Marian would hand one over. Finally today she was asking for them right after breakfast and because we were going up a steep hill I had to stop fairly regularly. Each time I stopped and she saw Marian she would stick her arm out and when I turned to start hiking again leaving her raisin-less, she would pitch a fit. I got so fed up of it that eventually I took you out of the backpack and told her to eat as many raisins as you wanted while we were stopped, because we weren’t having any more raisins while we were hiking. She stuffed her face for 15 minutes while we took a break but we had to pack up and get moving before she had completely finished because rain was not far away. Luckily she fell asleep soon after that and remained that way almost until we got to the hut. We had a bit of a hard time locating the trail at Sawmill Park; I think it would have been much more difficult if we didn’t have the GPS. We did find DSC01035the intersection and sign but I think we would have wandered around the meadow for quite a bit if we hadn’t been guided. It was a fairly flat mile or so from there to the hut, which was lucky because it started to rain. I picked up the pace and barely got wet at all; Marian and Tom were a bit behind and they were soggy by the time they got to the hut.

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Breckenridge to Aspen Hike Hiking & Backpacking

Breck to Aspen, Hike days 7-9: Leadville Hostel, Skinner Hut, and the Diamond J Ranch

Day 7: Uncle Bud’s Hut to Leadville Hostel


Early light on Mounts Massive and Elbert

Today began the first part of our two-day layover, which was forced by the winter route leading uphill from Turquoise Lake to Skinner Hut. We could make it down to the lake on trails with no trouble but the Trails Guru had told us that the bushwhack back up to Skinner would be very problematic with you on my back. We were about ready for showers by then anyway, so we had arranged for the co-owner of the Leadville hostel to pick us up at the lake. We had actually made the reservation with the other owner, “Wild Bill,” but were rather shocked to find upon checking the hostel website not long before the trip that he had died in a car accident a few weeks previously. There was a newspaper article posted in the kitchen about the hostel and the awards it had won, which said that Wild Bill was really the life and soul of the place. Cathy, the other co-owner, had apparently stayed at the hostel 15 years ago and never left; she ended up marrying Wild Bill and while she was hospitable and accommodating it was obvious that she was still a very sad lady.

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Breckenridge to Aspen Hike Hiking & Backpacking

Breck to Aspen, Hike days 5-6: Continental Divide & Uncle Bud’s Huts

Day 5: Jackal Hut to Continental Divide Cabin

DSC00872We had a nice stroll down the hill back to Camp Hale this morning – well, as nice as a stroll down a rocky dirt road can be. We were, once again, very early for our shuttle across Camp Hale – it would have been a 10 mile day without the shuttle and while it was mostly fairly flat, it was also the only day we had to carry two full days’ worth of food (plus an emergency dinner) so M&T were loaded up pretty well. Our guide took us across the Camp, giving us a bit of history on the way, and up the old dirt Highway 24 to a point where our trail crossed the main road. We started an easy walk along the edge of a meadow, although by the time we started a gentle climb Tom was feeling the weight of his pack and when we hit the ‘bushwhack’ section he was none too happy with it. The map indicated that we just needed to follow one ski trail right to the hut, but it turned out that there was a whole network of ski trails on the hill and our hut wasn’t actually right on any of them. I had said all kinds of rude things about Tom’s GPS before we set out on the trip, even suggesting that we not bring it to save weight, but I took them all back when it led us right where we needed to go.

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Breckenridge to Aspen Hike Hiking & Backpacking

Breck to Aspen, Hike Days 3 and 4: Janet’s Cabin and Jackal Hut

Day 3: Copper Mountain to Janet’s Cabin


It was pretty cool to be able to hike straight out of our condo’s front door and up a dirt access road – located via Google Maps – to our trail, which we found with no difficulty. We paralleled the freeway for a while and enjoyed its associated noise, while Marian told us about her childhood in Colorado before the freeway existed. Her Dad would take her fishing in the valley when there was nothing at Copper Mountain either. Eventually we turned southward up Guller Creek and proceeded to gain 1700’ of elevation at a very reasonable rate. We saw the cabin from quite a distance away and thought we were almost there, but somehow it seemed to take forever to actually get there – especially toward the end when the trail switchbacked in the ‘wrong’ direction to avoid a cliff.

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Breckenridge to Aspen Hike Hiking & Backpacking

Breckenridge to Aspen Trip: Travel and Acclimation, and Hike Days 1-2

10th Mountain Division Hut Map...doesn't show Breckenridge or Francie's CabinI had a hard time finding a map of the 10th Mountain Division huts in a shareable form; this one came from an article about Robert McNamara, the former Secretary of Defense, who paid for the construction of the first two huts in the system (McNamara and Margy’s, named after his wife).   I’m guessing it’s the version the huts system used before they got their fancy interactive map that won’t give me a single image of where the huts are located.  Our route started in Breckenridge (off to the right of the map) and went to Francie’s Cabin and to Copper Mountain.  From there we are on-map: Janet’s Cabin to Jackal (there is a trail, even though it looks like there isn’t) to Continental Divide and Uncle Bud’s; a night at the hostel in Leadville then Skinner Hut and a night at the Diamond J Ranch (which is approximately at the center of the triangle between Betty Bear, Harry Gates, and Margy’s. Next, up to Margy’s and down to the Lenado trailhead (where the dotted line coming from Margy’s randomly ends).  Finally we shuttled around to Aspen and did a day hike to and above McNamara.  Pretty epic!

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Breckenridge to Aspen Hike Hiking & Backpacking

Well, here I am – and I’m a winner!

Does every blog begin with some navel-gazing about what on earth the writer has to offer that hasn’t already been said in the world?

Seems like oftentimes when I tell someone about one of my adventures, they say ‘that’s awesome – you should write a blog!’.  I guess now we’ll see if they really meant “that’s awesome – if you wrote a blog, I would definitely read it!”.  Page views from grandparents will likely keep this site looking popular for a while, anyway…

Carys and I just returned a week ago from a backpacking trip in Colorado; we hiked from Breckenridge to Aspen.  It was awesome, but also hard.  (And it wasn’t the hiking that was the hard part.)  More on the trip to come over the next few posts, but firstly I wanted to talk a bit – actually, a lot – about prep for the trip, which was extensive and took many months.

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