Harry Gates Hut to Peter Estin via Crooked Creek Pass

Arduous miles, intricate route-finding, rewarding vistas, and the sense of really covering the country— that sums up this fabulous hut to hut ski tour. Get an early start from the Harry Gates Hut and ski the 10th Mountain suggested route 1/4 mile SW to the Burnt Mountain Road, or ski down the hill behind the hut N to the Slim Jim Gulch clearing and the Burnt Mountain Road. The latter route saves time for good downhill skiers.

Follow the Burnt Mountain Road downhill to the Lime Creek stream crossing at 9,190 feet elevation. You will now be in the midst of Lime Park, a huge open area that has confounded the best navigators. The best route through the park follows the road (portions may be obscured by snow) as it climbs and winds about 1/8 mile NW to the intersection with the Woods Lake Road. Do not take the Woods Lake Road. Stay on the Burnt Mountain Road another 1/2 mile W then NW to its intersection with the Eagle Road (9,300 feet). This is your critical intersection. Both intersections are marked by good signs, but the signs could be covered by snow. Your compass, map, and altimeter will insure positive identification.

Turn N and follow the Eagle Road as it leads up Little Lime Creek to the dam and obvious flat area of the Crooked Creek Reservoir. Stay on the road as it climbs past the reservoir up the north side of Crooked Creek Park, then enters the aspen trees at 9,650 feet, and continues 1 1/2 miles to Crooked Creek Pass (10,005 feet).

Now the real climbing begins. Leave the Eagle Road at the summit of the pass by heading NW up an obvious road-cut (starts on the west side of a fence) that climbs just over 1/4 mile to a switchback, then SE to another switchback, then around the west shoulder of point 11,087. The road, still an obvious cut, then follows a long traverse on the north side of point 11,087, then drops 260 vertical feet to a saddle near the head of Spine Creek (10,700 feet).

Stay on the road from the saddle for another 1/8 mile NE to the switchback as shown on the USGS Crooked Creek Pass map (10,760 feet). Leave the road here and climb E 1/4 mile and 90 vertical feet to the top of the ridge separating Spine Creek from Little Lime Creek. Here your route converges with the Lime Ridge Trail (route 5.5) and continues N up a well-marked route through a sparsely timbered logged area to Hat Creek Saddle (11,120 feet). This is the broad saddle just west of the Peter Estin Hut. You cannot see the Peter Estin Hut from Hat Creek Saddle, and you can ski past the hut if you are not paying attention. To guard against this, use your altimeter and map to identify Hat Creek Saddle. Swing E here. When you break through a grove of pines the hut will be obvious.

At many points along this route a navigation mistake will send you down the wrong drainage. So be certain that at least one member of your party is a good orienteer. Whiteout conditions are common in Lime Park when storms roll in.

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