A guided hut trip is an ideal introduction to enjoying the winter backcountry. Some times midwinter camping can be just plain uncomfortable but a hut gives a perfect basecamp and a place to come back to and relax and warm up other than a tent.
Our hut is a Weatherport structure 14×20 feet in size. Constructed of plasticized fabric stretched over a steel frame and with a wood floor it provides sturdy shelter from the elements. We have just have added a new floor and deck to make it even better. Inside is a wood fired stove to keep things warm and to warm up boots in the morning, a gas lantern to provide light during those long winter nights and a gas stove to keep the hot chocolate coming in the evenings or coffee to start the morning.
Outside we have tents to provide private sleeping accommodation at night. The hut will comfortably seat 10 to 15 people; with small group sizes (4 – 6 people) everyone is welcome to sleep in the hut but it can be more comfortable to sleep in your own tent outside.
Accommodation before the trip is not included, but we can help to set it up. There are two options;
- Stay in Bishop at any one of the local hotels and lodges. This is the best option if you are driving up late.
- We can arrange lodging is Cardinal Village Resort, up above Bishop, near Aspendel and at about 8,500’. The resort is an old style backcountry resort and the ideal place to start the vacation. Owners Shale Ann and Ken will set you up in one of their 100-year old (but now comfortably winterized) cabins. This gives you more time for acclimatization to the elevation. And you are on holiday too, so make the most of it.
If staying in Bishop we meet at the SMC office at 8:00 am for an equipment check and last minute packing. If staying at Cardinal Village we will meet you there. Either way be breakfasted and ready to go.
It is an easy but steady climb up the closed and snow covered Sabrina Lake Road, where we leave “civilization” behind and head the final couple of miles to the hut. The hut sits near North Lake near the Paiute Pass Trailhead, a half-mile short of the John Muir Wilderness boundary. This is an area of tranquil beauty with open meadows and lodgepole forest, offering a wide variety of skiing with wonderful downhill runs through the trees. Touring options include all day trips to Lamarck Col or Paiute Pass or more turn focused tours of pretty much any length or difficulty. It is about three miles tour to the hut all of which are done on a closed snow-covered road. We usually reach the hut with time for a good afternoon tour.
We spend the morning touring around the area, getting as many turns in as possible before packing up and heading down the quick return to our cars.
On holiday weekends we generally schedule a three-day version of this trip, which allows a full day to tour around the area and get a little farther a field.
The hut area has a great range of options for skiing nearby. There is great run just out the door on the south side of Bishop Bowl or there are some narrow steep gullies further up Paiute Creek. But it is not just steep skiing and touring opportunities abound. A great high alpine tour is to head up to Wonder Lakes and loop back into the Paiute drainage. Lamarck Col is another ideal objective and gains us a view out over the incomparable Evolution drainage with Mounts Darwin and Mendel dominating the view.
We have found that he hut is ideal for taking those first backcountry board adventures. The approach on a pair of snowshoes or a split board is straightforward. We can select terrain that is primarily up or down and so minimize the flats on the way back. The valley has a variety of aspects so we can always find something that is in condition.
We have found the hut is a great place for a family and kids who want to get out and experience the winter wonderland. For kids we can minimize the load on the back getting to the hut and then once there, there are plenty of hidden places to explore. We often build an igloo adjacent to the hut and give everyone the chance to sleep in it. How often does anyone get that chance these days?