Shrine Mountain Inn (Jay's, Chuck's and Walter's Cabins)
Elevation: 11,290 feet
HUTSKI.COM FREE MAP: Shrine Mountain Inn (see below)
GPS: 393 034 E, 43 77 790 N
Trailheads: Vail Pass, Redcliff
USGS 7.5 min map: Vail Pass
10th Mountain Huts map: Resolution Mountain
Jay's cabin at Shrine Mountain Inn.
While still located far enough from paved roads to maintain a backcountry mood, Shrine Mountain Inn is the easiest 10th Mountain System accommodation to reach; being just 2 1/3 miles from Vail Pass Trailhead.
The Inn comprises three privately owned cabins (jay's; Chuck's; Walter's) that sleep a large number of people if necessary. Most amenities are available: kitchen, hot and cold running water, showers, lights, and sauna. You bring your own sleeping bag or rent bedding and a towel.
Shrine Mountain Inn is open all year. During the summer the Inn is surrounded by fine cycling, horseback riding, and hiking. The Shrine Pass dirt road is a popular bicycle cruise and a nice auto tour as well. Cyclists, hikers, and equestrians who want less auto dust can follow the Commando Run (see routes below) to Vail. This is also a popular ski route in either direction.
For hut-to-hut skiing, use Shrine Mountain Ridge for the quickest and most scenic route to the Fowler/Hilliard Hut, or Shrine Pass to get to Red Cliff. If you want to stay for a few nights and use the Inn as a base for tours, cut some turns in the Black Lake Glades (see "Regional Skiing" below), or take a scenic tour up Shrine Mountain and perhaps find some turns there as well. You can also connect with Copper Mountain Resort by using a ski trail that parallels I-70, or ski to Janet's Cabin.
Vail Pass Trailhead—Shrine Mountain Inn
HUTSKI.COM FREE MAP:
TIME: 2 hours up, 1 hour down
DISTANCE: 2 3/4 miles
ELEVATION GAIN: 696 feet; loss: 67 feet
This is the shortest trailhead to hut route in the 10th Mountain system, and is a suggested 10th Mountain Huts trail marked with the usual blue diamonds.
From the Vail Pass Trailhead walk or ski up the snow-covered Shrine Pass Road a few hundred feet to the first switchback. A signboard here indicates the non-motorized trail you'll follow up West Tenmile Creek to Shrine Mountain Inn. Simply follow the well marked trail 2 1/3 miles to a flat nondescript area known as Shrine Pass.
Chuck's Cabin at Shrine Mtn. Inn.
The pass looks more like a large park than the classic "pass summit" you get used to seeing in the Rocky Mountains. Nevertheless, it is the divide between the Turkey Creek and West Tenmile Creek drainages. Once you're at Shrine Pass be very careful to turn southwest and find the marked trail that continues to Shrine Mountain Inn via a snowcovered road and gate. The obvious road-cut leads through the forest 1/4 mile S to the lodge buildings of Shrine Mountain Inn (Jay's Cabin is visible from several hundred feet down the road.)
SAFETY NOTES: This is certainly the easiest trailhead to hut trip on the 10th Mountain suggested routes and is one of the only we rate as Novice. Indeed, it is used by many novice ski tourers—as it should be. But every skier should remember that given poor visibility during a storm, even this simple trail could be dangerous.
SUMMER: The Shrine Pass Road is a good cycling route. Hikers can explore Shrine Mountain and the surrounding drainages. Horse people can ride the road, but heavy car traffic could be a problem.
Shrine Mountain Inn—Vail Trailhead via Commando Run
HUTSKI.COM FREE MAPS:Shrine Mtn. Inn (see above), Vail
TIME: 9 hours
DISTANCE: 16 1/4 miles
ELEVATION GAIN: 2,080 feet; loss: 5,069 feet
This is a popular, traditional tour. It is named for the commandos of the 10th Mountain Division who used the route for informal training during the Camp Hale training days in the 1940s. For the first 8 miles the Commando Run follows a superb timbered ridge with several summits that poke just above timberline, offering great views. This route is higher and longer than most 10th Mountain suggested routes and has more downhill skiing. Thus, you'll find it a nice alternative if you have the skills to enjoy it.
Note the Commando Run is a section of the Colorado Trail, a "trans-state" route that connects Durango and Denver. The Colorado Trail is marked with small white triangles that say Colorado Trail. While these markers may be buried in the snowpack, you may see a few and should know what they signify. The traditional Commando Run starts at Vail Pass, but this description starts at the Shrine Mountain Inn.
ROUTE DESCRIPTION: From the Shrine Mountain Inn ski to Shrine Pass(reverse route 8.1) to Shrine Pass. Ski the snow-covered Shrine Pass Road 1 1/4 miles down Turkey Creek (good downhill cruising) to 10,660 feet. Leave the Shrine Pass Road here (time for skins) and take a right (N) turn onto the Lime Creek Road. A sign here says Lime Creek Road No. 728, but the sign may be covered by snow.
Ski up the Lime Creek Road 1/2 mile to a low-angled area (10,990 feet). The road forks here, with a sign indicating Timber Creek to the right and Lime Creek to the left. Take a left (W) and ski several hundred feet up the Lime Creek Road to a lightly timbered area. This is where the real backcountry skiing begins. Watch carefully for an indistinct signpost on the right that says Colorado Trail. Turn right (N) off the Lime Creek Road and follow the Colorado Trail to the upper left (W) of the light timber, then contour around the left (west) side of point 11,611 at about the 11,400- foot level.
From the west side of point 11,611 follow the ridge to the summits of points 11,710 and 11,696. Enjoy terrific views that include famous 14er Mount of the Holy Cross. Strip your climbing skins, then descend N to a heavily timbered saddle. Stay on the ridge from the saddle, climb a bit, then contour around the left (west) side of point 11,618. Take care with your route-finding here, as you can get too far west and end up in Two Elk Creek. Descend the ridge to Two Elk Pass and enjoy the open views. Dig out your map, spot the back bowls of Vail Ski Area (all the south-facing terrain west of Siberia Peak is part of the ski area), and identify your next goal, Siberia Peak, the highest point on the Commando Run. Put on your skins and sweat it out.
At the summit of Siberia Peak head W along a narrow ridge crest until you are following the ski area boundary, which takes you to a catwalk on the ridge. Follow the catwalk to the restaurant/lift terminus, pick up a trail map, then ski N down the ski area to Vail. Take care not to ski down into the Vail bowls, as you need a lift ticket to get back up!
REVERSE ROUTE: The best way to begin is to ride Vail ski lifts 21 and 22, and ski to the summit of Siberia Peak. Drop to Two Elk Pass (if the skiing is good strip your skins, then re-skin at the pass) and stay on the ridge south of Two Elk Pass for 1 3/4 miles to points 11,696 and 11,710. Take care in the timber past Two Elk Pass, it is all too easy to drop into Two Elk Creek.
Still sticking to the ridge, swing E at point 11,710 and ridge run to point 11,611. Drop down the southeast side of point 11,611 to intersect the Lime Creek Road in a sparsely timbered area at 10,840 feet. Ski the Lime Creek Road downhill E to a low-angled area and continue downhill E to the Shrine Pass Road. Climb the Shrine Pass Road to Shrine Pass, then follow routes described on this webpage to the Shrine Mountain Inn or Vail Pass.
SAFETY NOTES: The east side of Siberia Peak is steep and often capped by a dangerous cornice. Other slopes on the peak are usually wind scoured into stability, but should be carefully examined for avalanche hazard. Good emergency egress can be made down Two Elk Creek to the bottom of the Vail Bowl ski lifts. Remember that the lifts may be closed, and that Two Elk Creek has some narrow sections with possible bank sluff hazard and danger from avalanche control in the Vail bowls. You can get good weather and avalanche information by dialing 4652 on the red phones within the Vail Ski Area.
SUMMER: Hikers, equestrians, and mountain cyclists will find that, with the amount of use this trail is getting, the Commando Run section of the Colorado Trail is well maintained, easy to follow, and fun. Cyclists must occasionally shoulder their steeds.
Red Cliff Trailhead—Shrine Mountain Inn via Shrine Pass Road
DIFFICULTY: Light Intermediate
HUTSKI.COM FREE MAPS: Shrine Mtn. Inn (see above), Vail
TIME: 7 hours up, 5 hours down
DISTANCE: 9 miles
ELEVATION GAIN: 2,529 feet
This 10th Mountain suggested route follows the well-used, snow-covered Shrine Pass Road. It is a long trip with comparatively easy navigation. Thus, this is a good "classroom tour" for the freshman backcountry skier. Note you'll share the road with snowmobiles.
In the town of Red Cliff find the Shrine Pass Road and reconnoiter your parking (see Red Cliff Trailhead). In general, remember that you will follow the distinct, snow-covered Shrine Pass Road up the Turkey Creek drainage to Shrine Pass. At Shrine Pass you leave the main road and take a dedicated 10th Mountain suggested route to the Shrine Mountain Inn.
Shrine Mountain Inn, typical interior -- cozy and rustic.
Start with Nordic waxed skis as you'll be following a fairly low angled snow-covered road. At 2 1/2 miles (9,000 feet) on the Shrine Pass Road you'll pass an obvious intersection at Wearyman Creek, where a lesser used route goes to the Fowler/Hilliard hut. Take care to stay on the Shrine Pass Road and continue 4 miles up Turkey Creek to the only switchback on the road in a large clearing at 10,360 feet. In poor weather it is possible to lose track of the road here, especially with high winds. Just remember that the road leaves the gut of the drainage and climbs E through the clearing (staying on the north side of the drainage). The important thing is to find the road as it re-enters timber at the east end of the clearing.
Just 1/4 mile into the timber (10,660 feet) you'll pass the left (north) turnoff of the Lime Creek Road Stay on the Shrine Pass Road and continue E then SE through light timber to Shrine Pass, a nondescript, flat clearing that forms the divide between Turkey Creek and West Tenmile Creek. Ski to the east end of the Shrine Pass clearing. Look for a White River National Forest sign facing east. Ski W from this sign several hundred yards across a clear area and enter a conifer forest at a gate. Follow an obvious road-cut through the forest 1/4 mile S to the Shrine Mountain Inn. Use your map, compass, altimeter and GPS for insurance. Jay's cabin is visible from several hundred feet down the road.
REVERSE ROUTE: Take care to identify Shrine Pass, then ski the snow-covered Shrine Pass Road to Red Cliff. Reverse the directions above.
SAFETY NOTES: Be sure to stay on the Shrine Pass Road, as there are several tempting turnoffs along the way. Don't let the ease of following this road lull you into complacent route-finding—use your skills. The Shrine Pass Road is heavily used by snowmobiles, so keep your eyes and ears open, and be courteous.
SUMMER: This is a fine horse, hike, or bike route. The Shrine Pass Road has heavy auto use in the summer.
Shrine Mountain Inn to Fowler/Hilliard Hut via Shrine Mountain Ridge
HUTSKI.COM FREE MAPS: Shrine Mtn. Inn, Vail, Fowler/Hilliard Hut
TIME: 6 hours
DISTANCE: 6 3/4 miles
ELEVATION GAIN: 1,221 feet; loss: 930 feet
This 10th Mountain suggested route begins with a terrific ridge run and possibly some good downhill skiing, but ends with a long "treadmill" logging road through the forest. Before you start, be certain that the weather will be good enough for travel above timberline. Several groups have reported near disasters from attempting Shrine Mountain Ridge during wind storms. If you're looking for branch routes from the Shrine Mountain Inn, use this route to climb Shrine Mountain. Experts will find a bit of skiing on the east face of Shrine Mountain, but intermediates should retrace their steps back to the Inn.
From Shrine Mountain Inn climb SW 1 mile and 531 vertical feet to Shrine Mountain Saddle (11,740 feet). This is the first saddle southeast of Shrine Mountain. Enjoy the awesome view of the Holy Cross Mountains and take the time to evaluate your position. For the next 1 1/4 miles the trail stays above timberline, skirting and gradually dropping around the west side of Shrine Mountain Ridge. In poor or deteriorating weather you should consider turning back.
Continuing from Shrine Mountain Saddle, use your compass, map, and altimeter to make an accurate dropping traverse to timberline on the southwest face of the ridge, on the north side of the Wearyman Creek drainage. From here you can ski directly down to the apex of the drainage at 11,000 feet or take a more gradual dropping traverse SE into the drainage. With good snow you can make some fine turns with the former option. Novice downhillers should stick to the latter.
At 11,040 feet in the Wearyman Creek drainage you'll be in an elongated park. Near the lower (west) end of the park find the channel where Wearyman Creek leaves the park. Here you'll find the marked 10th Mountain suggested route. It crosses to the west side of Wearyman Creek for a short distance, enters the trees on a trail that may be packed by snowcat, and drops down a steep hill to a small clearing. From the clearing stay on the 10th Mountain suggested route as it climbs SW through forest for a short distance to a distinct logging road (10,880 feet). Follow this road SW 1 3/4 miles to about 11,200 feet, where it begins to climb SE via a series of low-angled, inefficient switchbacks. If you're using wax you might like these switchbacks. Many skiers, however, put their skins on and cut directly up the hill, use the switchbacks for reference, and regain the 10th Mountain suggested route at the last switchback.
Whatever your choice in routes, once you gain the ridge at the 11,460-foot level (Ptarmigan Ridge), follow it W then SW 1/3 mile to the Fowler/Hilliard Hut. You can not see the hut until you reach the small knob several hundred yards southeast of the site.
There is a good variation for this route that gives you a lot more high altitude ridge-running and alpine feeling. Simply stay on Shrine Mountain Ridge all the way to the saddle that divides the Wearyman and Wilder drainages. From the saddle climb S to Ptarmigan Pass, then ascend the ridge W to the summit of Ptarmigan Hill. Drop down the west side of Ptarmigan Hill to a distinct road-cut. Ski the road W as it skirts the south side of Ptarmigan Ridge and then intersects the 10th Mountain marked route leading W along the ridge to the Fowler/Hilliard Hut. Only use this route with excellent weather.
SAFETY NOTES: Take care with route-finding and weather on the alpine portion of this route. There is an active avalanche path on the south face of Ptarmigan Hill.
SUMMER: A fine hike. One short section of trail, connecting Wearyman Creek with the logging road to the SW, is only a marked route through the forest with no defined tread. Cyclists will enjoy all the roads in the area. Shrine Mountain Ridge is too high and rough for equestrian traffic, but the roads and established trails in the area are fine horse routes.
Shrine Mountain Inn to Janet's Cabin via Shrine Pass Road and Upper Stafford Creek
HUTSKI.COM FREE MAPS: Shrine Mtn. Inn, Janet's Cabin
TIME: 7 hours
DISTANCE: 8 1/2 miles
ELEVATION GAIN: 1,197 feet; loss: 796 feet
Use this for the most efficient backcountry route to Janet's Cabin from Shrine Mountain Inn. From Shrine Mountain Inn ski to Vail Pass, see route above. From there follow the Upper Stafford Creek route to Janet's Cabin, for details, see the Janet's Cabin section of HutSki.com.
SAFETY NOTES: See referenced routes.
SUMMER: See referenced routes.
Shrine Mountain Inn Regional Skiing
Black Lake Glades from Shrine Mountain Inn
HUTSKI.COM FREE MAP: Shrine Mtn. Inn
TIME: Half day or more
DISTANCE: 4 3/4 miles round trip
ELEVATION GAIN: 776 feet round trip
Within a few hours travel from Shrine Mountain Inn, possibly the best place to go downhill skiing is the Black Lake Glades. You can reach this area from the Inn or from Vail Pass. One run nets you about 700 vertical feet of skiing and you can push as many laps as your lungs allow. Black Lake Glades are easy to find. At Vail Pass just look NW and you'll see the gladed north-facing slopes dropping to the Black Lakes. To ascend, skin up through the glades or use the Shrine Pass Road as a route to saddle 11,156, and explore downhill from there. If you're skiing from the Shrine Mountain Inn, head back down to Shrine Pass. Experts can head N from the pass to point 11,325, then ski to Black Lake No. 2; intermediates should follow the Shrine Pass Road SE to the aforementioned saddle at 11,156 feet and ski from there. In general, you'll find more mellow terrain the closer you are to the Vail Pass Trailhead.
SAFETY NOTES: Though the Black Lake Glades are not classic avalanche paths, pocket slab avalanches can occur on the steeper slopes. If you're staying at the Inn, give yourself enough time to return before dark.
SUMMER: This is trail-less ski terrain unsuitable for bikes and horses. The sparsely timbered areas around Shrine Pass are good for alpine hikes.