Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A night at the Benson Hut

The Benson hut is located on the Pacific Crest just north of the summit of Anderson Peak and roughly three miles south of Sugar Bowl ski resort. One of four sierra club huts in the area, the Benson hut coincidentally shares my last name. Spending a few nights in one of the huts is a great way to spend time with friends and access terrain that is otherwise a long day hike to get to. Some friends of mine reserved the hut for Sunday and Monday nights which just so happened to coincide with the full moon... Since I was busy skiing some crazy lines in the backcountry on Sunday I didn't arrive to the hut until Monday morning. The inside of the hut is quite rustic but the wood stove heats the small space up quite nicely. There is easily room to sleep 15 people, and our group of twelve was quite comfortable. A two burner stove, pots and pans, and firewood are already in the hut, so all you really need is clothing, food, and something to sleep in. Notice in the photo below that the snow completely covers the back windows....There is a ladder from the downstairs to the main sleeping area upstairs, or you can walk to the upstairs window on the backside of the hut and enter through the window.
There is some really incredible ski terrain very close to the Benson hut. The most interesting terrain lies a little ways below the ridge. One of nicest things about the hut is that when you go for a ski you don't have to throw on your climbing skins until after you've already taken a lap. There is an impressive cirque of really gnarly lines that sits just below the hut. The photo below shows only about half of the "gnar zone". The lines in this area are only about 500 vertical feet but they are impressively steep with lots of really interesting rock and ice features. I'm excited to go back out there once we've got a bit more snow and some more of this terrain is filled in and skiable...
After two days of skiing and one night at the hut we packed, cleaned the place up, and headed north on the ridge back to Sugar Bowl. Since you're on the ridge the entire way you can skate and sidestep a lot of the way. The last little bit before you hit the ski area is uphill, and with heavy packs can really take it out of you.
If you've never spent the night in one of the huts I'd highly recommend it. To find out more about the Sierra Club huts around Lake Tahoe click on this link:

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