Eiseman Hut 10th Mountain Division – 3.12.14 – 3.16.14
Likely the best snow conditions I have ever encountered in Colorado. We broke trail going in, and that evening a storm came through and dumped several more feet on us while at the Eiseman Hut. The grandest days of powder, and a trip that will imprint in memory.
Built in summer of 1996, Eiseman Hut was funded by Dr. Ben Eiseman and a number of charitable foundations. Of special note is the wooden porch of the hut, easily the most commodious of any 10th Mountain lodge. Out the hut door is the best skiing of any 10th Mountain hut, where a short walk up the ridge behind the hut yields a cornucopia of glade skiing. Farther afield, tall Colorado peaks entice with glistening faces and snow filled couloirs. For good views and access to ski terrain, you can’t beat this ridge run along the rib behind the Eiseman Hut. From the hut outhouse, take a climbing traverse NE to the timbered ridgecrest. Enjoy a view of Bald Mountain. Ski northerly along the timbered ridge. At about ½ mile, ski around the left side of the first major bump to an 11,400 foot saddle. From the saddle, a steep headwall blocks you from continuing along the ridge.
Layout and capacity: Two private bedrooms with double beds, and 12 single beds in a communal sleeping area. Capacity 16.
Hut Location: The Eiseman Hut is north of Interstate Highway 70, about 7 miles north of Vail resort at 11,180′
USGS Map: Vail West and Vail East Quadrangle
SAFETY NOTES: With extreme avalanche instability, it’s possible slides could fall on the last switchback up to the hut, it has on occasion historically slid.
Winter Trail Access
- Trailhead: Spraddle Creek, Elevation: 8,620′ Route:Via Spraddle Creek Jeep Road and Middle Creek. Total Mileage: 6.8
- Trailhead: Red Sandstone Creek, Elevation: 8,620′ Route: Via F.S. road 700, F.S. road 786, F.S. road 719 to the hut Total Mileage: 7.9
The main winter route into the Eiseman Hut follows Spraddle Creek and the Middle Creek into the hut. It is one of the more challenging routes in the system because of length and elevation gain but it more than makes up for it with its seclusion and beauty.
Skinning in was somewhat fun, although brutal in a sense breaking trail through the fresh snow. It was about 6.8 miles on the Spraddle Creek route, but the last mile or so in fresh snow definitely was ‘earn your turns’. The last crux to the hut known formally as the ‘ice wall’ is a steep and long climb. Once at the top though, the beauty of the Eiseman Hut is magnificent! The layout and views that Eiseman offers are top of the class in the 10th Mountain Division Hut System.
Some of the best lines are right off the front deck heading west, and the ridge northeat to Bald Mountain. We opted for all of it. In fact, since we had a full moon we even made some turns under the moonlight, which was just awesome.
I did a snow profile just up the ridge from Eiseman and the depth exceeded my 240cm probe. The top three feet of new snow offered the greatest winter playground of the season. Certanly a trip imprinted in my memory for a long time to come.
For the ride out, we opted for the Red Sandstone Creek route, which was a solid eight miles of riding. On a splitboard there is sufferage and ‘unfun’ for about a mile just before Red Sandstone Road. After that, it’s all down hill on the old logging roads which are more approximate to groomers with all the snowmobile operations grooming the roads.
Endless lines near Eiseman
For good views and access to ski terrain, you can’t beat this ridge run along the rib behind the Eiseman Hut. From the hut outhouse, take a climbing traverse NE to the timbered ridgecrest. Enjoy a view of Bald Mountain. Ski northerly along the timbered ridge. At about ½ mile, ski around the left side of the first major bump to an 11,400 foot saddle. From the saddle, a steep headwall blocks you from continuing along the ridge. Some people boot up this, while others take a series of ski traverses through timber to the left. Either way, follow the ridge after the headwall to Point 11,770. If you like steeper skiing, a good run drops directly N down a bowl at the head of South Fork Red Sandstone Creek. For more mellow skiing, try the timbered face W off the point. It’s also possible to continue along the ridge E to Peak 12,390, though this does involve a tricky drop into another saddle. Expert skiers who deem snow conditions to be appropriate can also find several nice gully runs down the easterly sides of the ridge. One good one takes drops from the 11,400-foot saddle. Beware of cornice here. Return from all these descent routes is via a series of traverses back to the hut or ridge.
SAFETY NOTES: The skiing in this area ranges from avalanche safe low-angled timber to dangerous avalanche slopes and cornices. Choose your level of risk and proceed accordingly. It’s possible to get somewhat lost in the timber while skiing in this area, especially if night catches you during an evening run. Carry proper equipment and pay attention to your location.
A photo spread of the Eiseman trip