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dalius

Mountain Huts - what's the deal?

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There are two types of huts in the Alps: those owned by the various Alpine Clubs and private huts. I think the club huts are mostly in Germany and Austria with some in the other countries. Switzerland and Italy seem to have mostly privately owned huts. Each alpine club hut is sponsored by a club chapter in the cities - which city runs the Berliner Hutte? Uh, let me think about that... Alpine club members from any country or chapter get a reduced room rate in any of the club huts as well as other benefits.

 

Americans can join European alpine clubs too. The best I have found is the Brittania Section of the Austrian Alpine Club, since they speak English.

 

The private huts are run more like hotels and are generally low in elevation with longer seasons or located on ski resorts so they can stay open all year.

 

It is a great system. Nothing like spending all day in the mountains and coming into a hut for a comfortable bed, warm food, cold beer (wine, schnapps, etc) and good company without having to hump all your extra crap along (food, stove, fuel, sleeping bag, tent, etc.) or go all the way back down into the valley (often 1000's of feet down).

 

It would be very difficult to build similar huts in the US, becuase of all of the rules and regulations - building codes, health codes (water and sewer), ADA, etc. - let alone permission from the land owner (NPS, FS, whoever). I've stayed in huts where the third floor fire escape is a knotted rope tied to the roof beams next to the window. Can you imagine getting by with something like that in the U.S.?

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Could astronomical insurance rates have something to do with why there aren't more huts in the states? It's getting ridiculous up here with rising insurance costs for backcountry huts so I can only imagine that it would be worse south of the border.

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It would be very difficult to build similar huts in the US, becuase of all of the rules and regulations - building codes, health codes (water and sewer), ADA, etc. - let alone permission from the land owner (NPS, FS, whoever). I've stayed in huts where the third floor fire escape is a knotted rope tied to the roof beams next to the window. Can you imagine getting by with something like that in the U.S.?

Very true. The Ostrander was shut down for a bit because of sanitation issues, and the friends hut story shows the regulations problems. Some of the European huts are probably grandfathered in, and some may have the New Zealand exception "the inspectors to fat and lazy to walk his arse up here" (a quote when I asked about a rather dodgy installation)

 

A second to the Britannia Section of the Austrian Alpine Club. $80 (current rate) gets you a hut discount and good rescue insurance. If you want a hut discount with an American Alpine Club membership you need to purchase the hut stamp which costs about .... $80

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Actually Washington does have a handful of modest ski huts: the Mt Tahoma group SW of Rainier, the Scottish Lakes hut near Leavenworth and a few others in the Winthrop area. They are generally pretty humble in size compared to other countries, and are definitely not in wilderness settings for the land ownership reasons mentioned above. Having stayed at a Tahoma hut, they provide a nice tent-free backcountry option, if you can manage to book a spot. They're popular.

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Actually Washington does have a handful of modest ski huts: the Mt Tahoma group SW of Rainier, the Scottish Lakes hut near Leavenworth and a few others in the Winthrop area. They are generally pretty humble in size compared to other countries, and are definitely not in wilderness settings for the land ownership reasons mentioned above. Having stayed at a Tahoma hut, they provide a nice tent-free backcountry option, if you can manage to book a spot. They're popular.

 

But by and large, they're not near any desirable climbing or skiing (the Scottish Lake huts may be an exception to this sweeping generalization, but I've never been there).

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But by and large, they're not near any desirable climbing or skiing

No, they’re not set up for climbing access. And though they’re not the Purcells, somebody fills them up each winter….

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I stayed in the mountain huts in New Zealand and the ground around them was virtually untouched. The land surrounding the huts was much more pristine and untouched than the land around campsites (even remote ones) in the Cascades.

People in Cascade camps tend to wander around, beat down the brush, crap behind a tree etc...With the huts, most stay in the hut or on the porch etc...

 

Additionally, we already have fire lookouts all over the place.

What's the difference between those and huts as far as the Wilderness Act is concerned?

I like sleeping on a bivy sack on a rock as much as the next guy, but having huts in key locations WOULD keep the environmental impact of hikers and climbers to a minimum.

They help keep the food inside, keep the crap in the can and keep the tramping on the trails.

 

The environment in the following places would beneift greatly with huts:

Baker(Coleman/Deming)

Sahale

Hanaggen Pass (that campground is tramped to hell)

Snow Lake

Various spots on Ross Lake every 10-15 miles

Glacier Peak

Wonderland Trail every 10-15 miles

Yellow Aster Butte tent area (trampled to hell)

Ptarmigan Ridge(Baker, end of 3rd ridge)

Denny Lakes

Mt. Olympus

Pine and Cedar Lakes (Chuckanut)

Many others.

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The Coleman-Deming route had a hut at one time. Kulshan Cabin was formerly located along the Heliotrope Ridge Trail. It decayed to the point to where it was intentionally burned, I believe. A friend of mine stayed in it back in the 1970's.

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My buddies on ASC agree with me, so go fuck off.

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I couldn't agree more, Mark. Some good arguments. Huts a half-day ski from the car??? Perkins must be getting soft in his old age. My experience with structures is in teh Adirondacks of New York. They have extensive trail systems and a great system of lean-tos; however, they, and many of the trails were maintained by the Adirondack Club (ADK) or whatever they are called. There is also John's Brook Lodge out from Keene Valley and I think that was privately run.

 

In a population dense area like the Cascades, making people work for their wilderness experience keeps the numbers in check. From things I've read, easy access to the Dolomites, the hut systems, and via ferrata, really make it crowded up there. I definitely think that you can't compare the Cascades to the Alps/Dolomites of Europe.

 

Besides, how do they plan to pay for it?

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Hell no, I think the Cascades need huts, mountain top pubs, trams to remote peaks so more first assents can be put in Euro-style & a light rail system that would allow the masses to get some alpine time the easy way, PLUS we should think of privatizing the public lands so more recreational development can take place (ATV trails, Mt. Bike trails, XC systems with lodges offering massage, wine, cheese, caviar, champagne, Nordic resorts in North Cascades National Park so more extreme skiing can take place with little effort of approach). Man Old Perkins is on top of things, lets run him for “pubic” office.

 

Just to add a side note to this: I attended a American Alpine Club meeting on Capital Hill a few years back with some of the "blue noses" of CC.com. They were mostly Brits that work for the Evil Empire. Their main concern was how to change AAC attitude more toward "THE" Alpine Club. WTF this is United States of America, last I remember we kicked their asses out of the Colonies to do it OUR way. Fuck the hut system because 1. we won't hire a hut guardian to keep it ship shape 2. to guard against vandalism 3. to keep users that don't pay for the hut from using it 4. keep the hutn in repairs. Just look at the NPS and the NFS so see how well of a job our taxes keep things in repair.

Nope keep it like it is...

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The more complicated the Starbucks order, the bigger the asshole.

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I think huts are a great idea. It's a great place to go pee-pee so no one can see your pathetic excuse for a wang. It makes a good place to poop when it's raining. You can use it for target practice, or a place to park your 4 wheeler in the wilderness. Also, AlpineKunt can smoke his dope in there and piss off Scottery'x.

 

------------------------------------------------------------

 

At Smith Rock, we do not have, nor do we need, any huts. We hang out in our puffies until it's time to send, then we step up and fire that rig. Then we head to the fucking pub like men; none of this lurking in a hut drinking Nutella tea and eating dry pancake mix because the jerky got eaten by a polar bear.

 

Fuck yeah!

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The Coleman-Deming route had a hut at one time. Kulshan Cabin was formerly located along the Heliotrope Ridge Trail. It decayed to the point to where it was intentionally burned,

Yes, in 1986

A friend of mine stayed in it back in the 1970's.

That is incredible. You really have a friend?

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The Coleman-Deming route had a hut at one time. Kulshan Cabin was formerly located along the Heliotrope Ridge Trail. It decayed to the point to where it was intentionally burned,

Yes, in 1986

A friend of mine stayed in it back in the 1970's.

That is incredible. You really have a friend?

 

is this spray? jizzy, stfu!

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The environment in the following places would beneift greatly with huts:

Baker(Coleman/Deming)

A fine and historical hut site. CJZ would firmly support it.

Sahale thumbs_down.gif

Hanaggen Pass (that campground is tramped to hell)

Snow Lake No

Various spots on Ross Lake every 10-15 miles Sure

Glacier Peak again, historical sites thumbs_up.gif

Wonderland Trail every 10-15 miles ditto

Mt. Olympus thumbs_up.gif

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Mark McKillop (Jizzy) continues to try to bring a personal attack while posting under an anonymous avatar and declining to substantibely discuss whatever his issue may be. Is he concerned about recreational impact in general, or just at his favorite sites, or are climbers "too soft these days" or what? Does he think it is OK to enjoy the woods but not the alpine areas? Is there some reason why a place is more suited to building a modern hut if there was a wreck of a miner's cabin there 25 years ago? His position is unclear.

 

I believe that a variety of options and access scenarios is appropriate, and I think that the fabulous huts in the Bugaboos or the Wapta Icefields, or closer to home in the Coast Range are indeed pretty cool. Practical in terms of cost and upkeep? Maybe not. Everywhere? Certainly not. But I'm in favor of discussing options and I think a well placed hut would be appreciated by many people and would not constitute an assault on nature if properly implemented. There are a lot of mountains in Washington. Would it be the worst thing in the world if two of them had a popular hut facility above timberline (there is currently one in place on Mount Rainier).

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I believe that a variety of options and access scenarios is appropriate, and I think that the fabulous huts in the Bugaboos or the Wapta Icefields, or closer to home in the Coast Range are indeed pretty cool. Practical in terms of cost and upkeep? Maybe not. Everywhere? Certainly not. But I'm in favor of discussing options and I think a well placed hut would be appreciated by many people and would not constitute an assault on nature if properly implemented. There are a lot of mountains in Washington. Would it be the worst thing in the world if two of them had a popular hut facility above timberline (there is currently one in place on Mount Rainier).

 

thumbs_up.gif At least somebody is trying to take a logical approach to this.

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The impact of a hut in a heavily forested valley is less than a building at Boston Basin. Duh. You could see the building and it's shiny metal roof from the road. People who camp at Colchuck Lake do not want to bunk in a building with fifty other people. Is that clear enough.

 

The comments about "soft" came from others, from ascensionist, which I clearly stated. There is no analogy between the Bugaboos and any spot in the Cascades.

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OK, Mark. Now were talking. You are concerned with the visual impact of a hut and you state that those who enjoy Colchuck Lake as it is will not like the imposition of a hut. I'm not sure I agree with either point, but you DO give a reason.

 

As to visual impact, I think one or two huts somewhere in the Cascades would be acceptable level of impact and as some have argued already in this thread: a given hut may even mitigate the environmental impact of dozens of tent platforms in an unplanned array which tend to be very close to streams and lakes.

 

As to your friends at Colchuck Lake I wonder if you've taken a survey. Lots of people seem to LIKE huts. It would be different, for sure, and not everybody would like to see it, but many would. Does that make it "right?" Maybe so, maybe not. Does the fact that some of those or even most of those who visit a place now like it just as it is entitle them to say it should never change? Probably not.

 

I don't think we'll likely ever see any new huts in the Canadian model. The Scottish Lakes and the huts down by Ashford illustrate that there is some viability in maintaining overnight huts for cross country skiing, but the type of huts we are talking about here would require government support or a highly organized and well funded club and a special relationship with the Forest Service that is not likely to happen for all kinds of reasons. It is still something worth dreaming about, though.

 

By the way, in referring to "ASC" you were NOT 100% clear about who it was. American Ski Club? American Speed Climbers?

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Huts don't need to be unpainted aluminum either, all nice and bright and shiny. There are several examples in NZ where they were finished with powder-coat or something a little more permanent than paint (I'm not fmailiar with the processes available) in blue or brown - these building blend in very well to the avalanche-protecting ridge or hill-top that they're built on.

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Since I haven't built a one, you're probably right. But I have assembled some prefab structures that were panels of insulation sandwiched in between aluminum, and the aluminum was already coated. Could have been paint, but the stuff didn't scratch very easily. I have to say I didn't look to hard.

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I remember seeing an article about "unauthorized" huts and shelters in British Columbia. What are the consequences of building a shelter here in the states. I'm looking for specific, not "you'll get a ticket and a fine and in a lot of trouble". Do the consequences change from wilderness to regular forest land, fed to state, BLM to USFS to NPS?

I'm not asking anyone to admit to having done it. I'm not looking for shelters or advocating. I simply want to know the consequences for breaking the rules...

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I agree with Mr. K here. I think a hut in a place like Boston Basin or Colchuck Lake would make a lot of sense.

Sorry Matt, not to me. Colchuck Lake has a special significance for me, so I feel compelled to wade into a discussion that I would normally avoid.

 

I don't have any illusions that Colchuck Lake being pristine wilderness... it isn't. And I don't have a knee-jerk opposition to huts in general (I've stayed in some cush huts in NZ). Nevertheless, packing (or helicoptering) construction materials and equipment into either CL or BB just seems like a poor idea. I guess if you're just talking about a simple wood lean-to, that's not such a huge deal. But an actual structure with bunks and a foundation? I think it would change the character of the place, and in the case of Colchuck Lake, not for the better.

 

Anyhow, these days, a tent + sleeping bag together weigh what, 5 pounds, or 6 in winter? It hardly seems worth the impact of the construction, even if the money could be found to pay for it. Summer camping is already severely limited in that zone, so the argument someone made about "concentrating usage" would seem to be irrelevant as concerns Colchuck Lake.

 

And to the extent that money is very limited for the FS, I think money is better spent on restoration, roads and trails.

 

Just my opinion. wave.gif

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Fair enough, Ramsey. I'm not sure that would be the best location and I'm not committed to the idea that we NEED a hut anywhere, though I do think that if there were to be a hut anywhere in an alpine area in Washington, Colchuck Lake might be as good a location as any because, as you note, it is far from pristine Wilderness. It is also a very popular area already and a place that would be of interest to a variety of users.

 

A question I have for those voicing their opposition: is there anywhere in the Cascades north of Snoqualmie Pass where you would favor a hut in an alpine or subalpine area? Maybe it is a bad idea altogether but is that what you are thinking?

 

What do you think about some of the huts in Canada: Bugaboos, Lake Lovelywater, Wapta, etc. Have they been a bad thing? How about Ostrander in Yosemite? I've never been there.

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I can only think of one spot that has all the key elements: top quality skiing and climbing, a half day from the road and not within an established Wilderness: Silver Star basin. Still would take a hell of a lot of red tape to get it through and it’d be a damn long drive during the winter.

 

As to whether we actually need any huts in the Cascades, I’m in complete agreement with Goatboy (way back there): Huts are a nice change, but for my local mountains, I’ll happily live with the protection provided by the Wilderness Act, despite the few limitations it puts on us climbers.

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I stayed a couple of nights at Ostrander in the 80's. The ski in was about 10 miles, 1K vertical rise, though more than half was on the flat, groomed Glacier Point road. We barely found the hut before dark, and the one party behind us turned back rather than spend a night in the snowy woods, so our party (myself, Dad and Brother) spent a very casual weekend hanging out with the ranger and his wife. They even lent us ice skates to use on the lake (I remember Mrs. Ranger skated out first, with a rope around her waist, to test the ice for the rest of us). We ice fished for trout also. Didn't do much skiing-- a little deep, fluffy and steep for touring skis. My brother and I took an old NPS toboggan from the rafters and went sledding. We unfortunately smashed it to pieces agains a tree. (At least we jumped off in time to save ourselves the same fate.) The ranger was mad and we were embarrassed, but we let Uncle Sam pick up the tab. Typical spongers off the feds, I know.

 

I have no idea what the Ostrander is like in summer, but its presence in YNP in winter gave me my first backcountry ski experience: one which, while not quite so hardman-ish as a snow cave, was steeped in wilderness, probably lower impact than camping (no poop in the woods) and unforgettable. I would not personally favor having a hut in every Cascades alpine basin, but huts at a few select locations-- maybe a whole day's hike from the road, so as not to encourage overuse-- would in my opinion not be a bad thing.

 

One more thing: snaf.gif

Edited by Norman_Clyde

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