Ski Mountaineering

Ostrander Hut Trip 2007

Feb 9-11, 2007

Leslie Hofherr

If you haven't been to the Ostrander Hut to spend a night you are truly missing a classic experience. The Hut itself has character and then add the mix of the people visiting, the hut keeper, and the library. It is a truly rich experience. We were a group of 5 people, Paul Iracki from San Francisco, Bill Kells and his friend on snowshoes, Lisette, Reiner Stenzel, and me.

We took the recommended Horizon Ridge Trail route to and from the Hut. It is about a 9 mile, 1700' foot gain ski - half on the groomed Glacier Point Road and half on the ridge. The trail is well marked and easy to follow.

We left Badger Pass a little after 9 am. Along the way we happened to meet and ski with others staying at the Hut. At this point we had a glimpse of their personalities. It started to lightly rain and as we climbed on the ridge it gradually turned to snow. It was beautiful and felt somehow like it should be Christmas or some wonderful winter holiday. Finally, we were getting some snow to supplement the meager coverage. The Horizon Ridge trail is mellow at first crossing over an area burned by a fire in the past and a creek. Then it starts to climb up onto the Horizon Ridge. It drops down again meeting up with the Bridalveil trail, then up "Heart Attack" hill, and finally down and around the corner to Ostrander Hut. As Reiner and I, and two women we were skiing with (Kim and Denise) rounded the last bit toward the Hut we ran into a tall, thin, mountain guy on skis coming up the trail. He had a big bushy but trimmed beard and mustache and seemed like he was part of the scenery. In fact it was legendary Howard Weamer, the Ostrander Hut keeper out for a tour in the falling snow. He told us he would return in a while and that we may want to add some wood to the stove.

When I walked through the Hut door and saw the large wooden table, the big rafters, the stonewalls, the nice bunk beds, and the warm fire going in the wood burning stove I felt like I was in a very special place. It was good to be out of the snowstorm.

We arrived around 4 pm. Others arrived up until about 6:30 pm. We were tired from the 9 miles and lugging up the bottles of wine and other Hut essentials. It was happy hour and a time to settle in, explore the Hut, its contents, and meet the others who were staying at the Hut.

There is a small library in the Hut containing books, magazines, and games. I found great books in the library including "Tropical Animal" and other various novels, classic backcountry skiing guidebooks, historic books about the Ostrander Hut including one written by Howard Weamer.

There were 3 groups at the Hut - us, a group of young women from the Yosemite Association, and a group consisting of 3 physicians and one lawyer. After a while and several glasses of spirits later the physicians were giving free consults to the Yosemite Association women. The guys from the physicians group took an interested in the novel "Tropical Animal". One of the physicians, Carlos, recited poetry. We talked with Howard, looked at some of the skiing books, made a plan for skiing on Saturday. Howard has skied for years in Yosemite and the Sierra and is essentially historic like the Hut. He has been an Ostrander Hut keeper more than 25 years and has considerable knowledge about the mountains and its contents. He is an accomplished photographer, writer and ski mountaineer who in 1999 retraced the Orland ``Bart'' Bartholomew legendary 1929 300 mile solo winter crest tour of the Sierra Nevada from Mount Whitney to Yosemite Valley (read summary).

There is a kitchen room at the hut that contains a propane 2-burner stove, various pots and pans, some provisions, a sink, and a 55 gal trash can of water from the lake. Some great meals are made at the Hut. There are menus from past dining at the Hut posted on the wall. One of the physicians (Jane) made a special birthday dinner that was pretty yummy.

It snowed off and on all night and into Saturday. The weather forecast was for more snow and on Sunday 3 feet of snow. We considered leaving and in the end Bill and Lisette left to avoid snowshoeing in deep snow. It was raining at Badger Pass. Howard left too while the rest of us stayed. Right before Howard left we found out about the inner workings of the Hut. Like, how to get water into the 55 gal trash can, how to make sure the solar panels are working, etc.

We watched it snow from inside the warm Hut and thought about what to do next. We ended up filling the water supply in the kitchen and then the entire group skied together with the goal to reach Hart Lake. We never made the lake but skied around in the snowstorm in an organized manner. Reiner managed to find some hills to do some turns. By the time we returned it was getting close to happy hour. We read from the library, sat by the fire, and waited for the new hut keeper - young Fritz who was also on the High Odyssee II team. Some went out for another ski tour toward Hart Lake. History repeats. We had another fine evening in the Hut and woke to about 6 or more inches of new snow. We packed and skied out. The new snow on top of Horizon Ridge was fine for some downhill thrills. It turned to mashed potatoes, as we got lower in elevation. We had some nice views from the top of Horizon Ridge. All the trees were coated with snow. Skiing the road back it started to half rain and snow. Perhaps the next 3 feet of snow was starting to fall.

Pictures (click for large version):

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