The Friends Hut

Friends Hut

One of the more challenging huts to access in the Elk Range, the Friends’ Hut is tucked into the edge of old growth forest beneath the south face of stunning Star Peak on the Crested Butte side of 12,700-foot Pearl Pass. This remote timberline hut is a long slog from either of the two trailheads, one at Ashcroft, south of Aspen, the other at Brush Creek, southeast of Crested Butte.

The Friends’ Hut is named for ten victims of a head-on collision of two small planes over East Maroon Pass in 1980 that shocked the citizens of Crested Butte and Aspen. Their deaths reached deeply into both communities and inspired this lasting tribute in the form of the Friends Hut, a remote, high mountain refuge linking the two towns in a spirit of friendship and common love for the mountains.

The hut was designed by two local architects and built in 1984 by scores of committed friends who volunteered endless hours and funds. Skiing to the hut entails a rigorous adventure of route-finding and avalanche preparedness. The Grand Traverse backcountry ski race passes by the hut in the springtime.

Layout and capacity:Friends Hut is a one story structure with a sleeping loft. A small room with double bed is the only private sleeping. Amenities: wood stove heat, firewood, propane burners for cooking, photovoltaic lighting, cookware, dishes, mattresses, pillows, and toilet paper. Hut users melt snow for water. Friends' Hut sleeps 8 and is booked to capacity. There is no minimum booking number. If you do not reserve all eight spaces, other groups may be booked in with you. NO DOGS!

North side of Pearl Pass on the way to Friends Hut
On the north side of Pearl Pass, headed to Friends Hut.

Hut Location: Friends Hut is a remote backcountry shelter located high in the Elk Mountains. The hut site is in a wooded area south of Pearl Pass at 11,370'. [locator map]

Warning: The Alfred A. Braun Huts and Friends Hut are located in areas of known avalanche terrain with recurring avalanche cycles. Routes are not marked or maintained.

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  • Winter Trails & Info


Dates Open: Winter: Thanksgiving through the end of May

Owned By: Friends Hut Inc. Oven: No Sauna: No

The Friends Hut can be accessed from either Crested Butte on the south side of Pearl Pass or from Ashcroft on the north side of Pearl Pass. When skiing in from the north side you can ski all the way into Friends Hut from Ashcroft in a day but many people go first to the Tagert or Green Wilson hut for a night then over to Friends. Be aware that the last half of the route over Pearl Pass from the north offers only a few safe travel options due to avalanche terrain and during times of high avalanche danger the route may be impassable. Traveling from Ashcroft to Friends Hut in a day is best done during times of low avalacnhe danger and good weather.

Skiing in from Crested Butte via East Brush Creek is the most common route to Friends Hut from the south but is still approximately 10.5 miles and crosses numerous avalanche paths along the upper part of the route.

Winter Trail Access

  • Trailhead: Ashcroft Elevation: 9,498' Route: Via Pearl Pass Road and Star Basin Total Mileage: 10
  • Trailhead: East Brush Creek Elevation: 8,960' Route: Via East Brush Creek Total Mileage: 10.5
  • Trailhead: Tagert or Green Wilson Hut Elevation: 11,250' Route: Via Pearl Pass Road and Star Basin Total Mileage: 4.5

Winter Route Description

A note on Braun and Friends Route Descriptions: These descriptions are overviews and general in nature and intended for trip planning purposes. They generally describe the frequently used routes from the trailhead and not such routes between the huts, which may or may not overlap these routes. These descriptions are no replacement for the use of proper mountain navigation tools and skills, such as maps, GPS devices, compasses and the like. Navigation in poor weath-er or darkness has added challenges. These frequently used routes have been devel-oped over the years by users. Given the mountainous terrain and severe avalanche hazard, all such routes are subject to objective hazards that cannot be avoided. The route selections to access the huts are generally limited by terrain. There can be user choices within such routes that may reduce but not eliminate such hazards.

Friends Hut from Crested Butte/East Brush Creek Route:

  • Distance: 10.5mi
  • Elevation Gain: 3205ft
  • The route from Crested Butte to the Friends Hut follows the long and gradual drainage of East Brush Creek in its entirety. Although it doesn’t involve the crossing of any alpine passes it is not devoid of avalanche danger and de-mands excellent navigational skills as well as a good fitness level to cover its considerable length. The Brush Creek trailhead is situated at about four miles from Crested Butte just after the old buildings of Cold Spring Ranch (you must park at the established parking lot and not at the Ranch). Between the first (West Brush Creek) and second (Middle Brush Creek) creek crossings lies a short but steep canyon that can present serious avalanche danger. It is possible to bypass it by following the road above the canyon but this alternate route is not devoid of danger either. Af-ter the second crossing the route follows the road through beautiful stands of aspen on the north side of the valley and underneath some red rock formations, then, a little after the intersection with Block and Tackle Trail the route moves to the south side to avoid the steep chutes of Timbered Hill. It then winds through dark timber which at times can be difficult to navigate. The hut is situated in a protected stand of spruce, almost at tree line (11,450 ft). Routes to and between the huts are not marked or maintained.

Friends Hut from Ashcroft:

  • Distance: 11mi
  • Elevation Gain: 3230ft (High point 12,705')
  • From the Aspen side the most frequently used route starts from the Ashcroft trailhead (9,500’). Parking for hut users is in the lower lot on the East side of the road. The first 5 miles of this route share the route to Tagert and Green Wilson Huts. From Ashcroft this route follows the Castle creek road South and passes the Pine Creek Cookhouse after 1 1/2 miles. From here on the route is continually exposed to serious backcountry avalanche terrain. The route can either contin-ue to follow the Castle Creek Road or, it can take the Hunley nordic trail on the Eastern side of the valley to the fork of the Cooper Basin and Pearl Pass Roads. From here the route follows the Pearl Pass road up the Castle Creek Valley. About 1/2 mile before the Tagert and Green Wilson Huts the route passes the Mace cabin on the right, negotiates steep switchbacks and the runout of an ava-lanche path before reaching the Tagert and Green Wilson on the East side of Castle Creek. The route then passes the Tagert and Green Wilson (11,300) and climbs South West up a road cut and leaves tree line. From here it climbs South East to Mace Saddle (located between peak 12,528’ and 13,312’) and then traverses South East through the Pearl Basin and climbs to Pearl Pass (12,705’). From here the route descends South East to the Friends Hut located in a stand of trees at (11,450’). Note: This route is continually exposed to serious backcountry avalanche terrain and challenging above tree line travel that can present extreme navigational challenges and exposure. Note: The route to the Friends Hut from Ashcroft travels through the Ashcroft Ski Touring nordic center. AST allows hut users to use the Hunley nordic trail if they wish to travel on the East side of the Valley. Please do not use any of the other nordic trails. Routes to and between the huts are not marked or maintained.