Tagert Hut Review: Winter
A portion of the RMAR team set out on an expedition to the Tagert Hut as a way to ring in the 2016 New Year. If the idea of a “Hut Trip” is new to you, you should know that “Hut Trips” are the types of trips that people come out of the woodworks for. They are the epitome of what a true Colorado Adventure can and should be. You plan your food rations well in advance, you pack for all types of weather conditions, you carefully consider what you need to bring vs what you want to bring while keeping a watchful eye on the weight of your pack. You will question your physical conditioning every waking hour leading up to the trip and you will constantly debate whether or not to snowshoe in or use your AT or XC set-up. You will find yourself researching new avalanche equipment, GPS equipment, and you may even find yourself researching and purchasing a handful of new maps. You will do all of this for what will in the end be nothing more than a quick 24 hour out and back expedition…. Unless you’re setting off on a true hut-to-hut trip.
Having sleep accommodation’s for 6 (or a very cozy 7), The Tagert Hut is one of the smaller huts in the Braun Hut System. It is located south of Aspen on Montezuma Road (Pearl Pass) and is just 20 yards away from the Green-Wilson Hut. In the summer time, you can park right at the trail head if you are choosing to hike to the hut but in the winter, the main road is closed about 2 miles from the actual trail head. In the winter months it is about a 7 mile jaunt from the winter parking location to the front door of the hut. The majority of the hike is on a consistent grade and really isn’t too bad by most standards here in the high country. Where the trip becomes a little more difficult is after you cross the bridge leading into the switchbacks. At this point, you are only about ¾ of a mile away from the hut but the pitch is enough to make you want to turn back and go home. In the winter, we found that the trail is basically hard packed until you reach the switchbacks. A few of us didn’t even wear our snowshoes until we reached the switchbacks because the trail was so packed down from day use. At the end of the day, it took our slowest group member about 4 hours to make it to the hut and that included many breaks for photos, lunch, and even a long chat with a local from Aspen who was taking his fat tire snow bike for a day ride.
One of the more surprising items to note is that the trail really is not as exposed as other reports claim it to be. We were expecting to be in extreme avalanche country the entire way based on what others had written but in reality, there are really only 4-5 big areas to look out for and they are up towards the top of the hike. Most of the trip included very large, steep mountains on both sides of the trail with very obvious avalanche chute outcroppings but the chances of the slides making their way to you while on the trail would seem unlikely as they would have to cross a very deep river basin first. However, that being said, as you get closer to the top, there are a few spots where you need to pay attention to your surroundings because you will be crossing some very exposed areas. So, the danger is there but it is not the entire way – maybe a just half of the way.
The Tagert Hut being smaller than most, it did not offer the super cool wood burning cooking stoves that you find at Jackal Hut and others but what the hut lacked in creature comforts, it made up for in sound construction. The Tagert hut is probably the best hut I have ever experienced when it comes to insulation – there was not one draft coming into that building. In fact, just after dinner, we had to kill the wood stove. It was just too hot inside. We didn’t relight the woodstove until the morning and it was mainly to help prep the cabin for the next guest. Speaking of dinner, We pre-made a Brunswick Stew and vacuumed sealed individual rations. It made for easy clean-up which is important on a guys trip. We also made Jell-O Shots and shared them with the group that was over at the Green-Wilson Hut. For breakfast we had pre-made Scottish eggs with gravy.
Normally when I participate in hut trips, I try to keep the group together and work as team for safety reasons while ascending/descending on the trail. In the case of this trip, the weather and snow conditions were so perfect that the descent became more of a free-for-all. Some of us left on downhill skis and others went at their own pace on their cross-country set-ups and a few of us slowly meandered our way down on our snowshoes. It took about 1 hour for the slowest person in our group to make it back down to the car.
For being the first hut trip of the season for us, I thought the trip to Tagert Hut was a success. We got lucky on weather and avalanche conditions. Even though each of us had a shovel, probe, and transceiver, I question how truly ready were to use them. If you’re going to Tagert in the winter months, I would also warn you that the propane line that is feeding the table top stove is a little finicky when the temperature drops below 15. If you would like to see a detailed map of the route we took, please visit our Colorado map and find “Tagert Hut” under the Trails Menu. Trails > Huts > Tagert Hut.