February 20Four year old Shaylee, six year old Kessler, Kim and I decided it was time for another winter getaway and since Walters Cabin near Shrine Pass (one of the 10th Mountain Division Huts) was free Friday night and since the kids were out of school Friday, we made a reservation. With the kids we decided to cheat again and use a hut instead of camp.
We left Vail Pass at 12:30 PM and headed towards Shrine Pass in snowshoes. Unfortunately it was cloudy and very windy with a windchill of 0F to -5F. It was much colder than our hut trip in January. The kids were bundled up well, but neither really liked the strong winds and we bribed them with candy and suckers into not stopping for many breaks since it was cold. We more or less went straight to the cabin with only a few short breaks, making the three miles on snowshoes in 2 hours 30 minutes. The cabin (11,223 feet elevation) was a welcome site after being outside in the cold.
February 21It snowed four inches the night of the 20-21st, but quickly became calm and clear throughout the night. This allowed the temperature to drop and we woke up to a sunny but chilly -11F. The original plan was for Kessler and I to climb Peak 11,977, but he was having a good time playing with his sister in the cabin and they decided to stay behind and play.
I set off for the Shrine Mountain Ridge alone. Breaking trail was harder and slower than I thought it would be since there wasn’t a trail broken after the little snowstorm and I couldn’t see the old tracks. It took over an hour and a half just to reach the saddle between Shrine Mountain and Point 11,931. Since the sun was shining brightly and with little wind, it warmed up very fast and I worked up a good sweat climbing to the saddle (I actually initially reached the ridge north of and above the saddle). After climbing Shrine Mountain, it looked like a fairly long way to Peak 11,977, so I didn’t take much time to dilly-dally. I climbed over the top of Point 11,931 and then followed the windblown ridgeline to Peak 11,977. The sky was perfectly blue and with great views with the Sawatch Range, including Elbert, Massive and especially Holy Cross; the Gore Range; the Tenmile Range and a number of other nice peaks as well. I shot dozens of photos before heading back down to Walters Cabin reaching it just in time for lunch.
After lunch we tidied up the cabin and headed back down to Shrine Pass and then back down the mountain to Vail Pass. It was a nice and sunny day and not nearly as cold as the day before (with only occasional breezes) so Kessler and Shaylee enjoyed talking to anyone they met along the way. We got several fantastic photos and a good time reaching Vail Pass after two hours from the cabin. It was a good trip.