Prior to this hut trip, a 5.7 mile trail with 2,000 ft. of elevation gain would have meant nothing to me. Now, I know better. Because now, I know what it felt like to hike in snowshoes for 5.7 miles, uphill, with a (somehow) 12 lb. backpack. Let's put it this way: if the hike was hard enough to make me pour out the entire bottle of Zinfandel for the sake of a lighter packload, it was difficult. At 10,360 elevation, the Mcnamara Hut is one of the original two huts established by the 10th Mountain Division.
10th Mountain Division
In Colorado, you can't hear the name "10th Mountain Division" and not have some sense of reverence. The 10th Mountain Division is the mountain warfare division of the United States Army. It was officially created in response to the on-set WWII in 1939. The outnumbered and outgunned Finnish troops defeated the Soviet Union by navigating difficult terrain on skis. The U.S. National Ski Patrol caught wind of this, and decided to create the 10th Mountain Division as a means to use mountaineering and alpinism in warfare.The huts honor the men of 10th Mountain Division of the U.S. Army, who trained during World War II at Camp Hale in central Colorado. While my group wasn't training to fight any battles, participating in the hut trip certainly felt like training, for something.
Let's put it this way: if the hike was hard enough to make me pour out the entire bottle of Zinfandel for the sake of a lighter packload, it was hard.
After this trip, I am encouraged to completely ditch the idea of ever snow-shoeing again. But it was all worth it, once we lifted our head up from the hike to see McNamara Hut, shining in the sunshine of the perfect spring day in the Colorado. For those unfamiliar or anyone who lives in Iowa, the "perfect spring day in the Colorado" means the sun is shining, the sky is blue, it is warm enough to wear a t-shirt even though snow is on the ground; and your pals are soaking up the rays with a few cold brews. Or whiskey.
The hut came with its learning opportunities...
No running water in the hut meant we had to melt snow down for water by heating it up in a cauldron over the fire. The lessons we learned were:
1. It takes a considerable amount of time to melt.
2. The snow melts down into far less water than you anticipated so...
3. Always be melting.
We learned these lessons when we ran out of water on the last day (not for lack of resource mind you, we were surrounded by snow). The group forgot to keep the cauldron filled with snow, melting over the fire, and we woke the next morning needing water for the hike out, cleaning, cooking, and just about everything else.
It is also camp etiquette to leave melted snow in the cauldron for the following cabin users so they have water after the hike in (thinking about completing that gruesome hike to stumble upon a cabin without any water makes me want to break into tears).
As we sat for the next three hours melting stone and reminiscing over the incredible experience, we all came to the same conclusion: hut trips bring the kind of adversity that enhances confidence, friendship, and euphoria that is difficult to find anywhere else. We were also eager to full-send again.