HUT TO HUT distances are usually longer than from trailhead to hut. Use winter specific topographic maps. Routes between huts are not often used so may not be tracked; navigation and breaking trail may be particularly challenging.
This is the most efficient route between the Peter Estin Hut and Harry Gates Hut. It has some fast downhill sections if you’re traveling from Estin, so be sure you can push a strong “survival” snowplow. The first half of the route descends the ridge separating Little Lime Creek from Middle Creek. Keep this in mind while navigating. While still at the hut enjoy a cup of tea while you do a map check, set your altimeter, and add a few critical waypoints to your GPS. Keep your climbing skins in your pack. From the front steps of the Peter Estin Hut ski W about 600 feet to Hat Creek Saddle. From Hat Creek Saddle travel S down through a sparsely timbered logging area, past the right turn into Spine Creek, and into the trees on the east side of the ridge (10,845 feet). Continue down the ridge and around one switchback to a flat area at 10,200 feet.
From the flat area continue S 1/4 mile down the ridge, through the dense evergreens of Sherwood Forest, and to the meadows at 10,150 feet. Ski the marked trail as it uses intermittent clearings to descend the ridge crest down to the end of the ridge. Here, instead of dropping off the steep end of the ridge, the trail switchbacks left (N) and takes a descending traverse 1/4 mile to cross Little Lime Creek at 9,700 feet. Ski 1/2 mile down the east side of Little Lime Creek, cross the east fork of Little Lime Creek, then begin a gradual climb S then W for 1 mile to an indistinct jeep trail on top of the ridge. Descend this jeep trail 3/4 mile SW along the ridge crest, then drop S into Lime Park and continue S across Lime Park to the bridge crossing Lime Creek at 9,190 feet. The route across Lime Park follows dirt roads. These are usually obscured by the snow cover, but the junctions are well signed and several fence breaks show where the road goes.
Lime Park can be a sublime place for ski touring, Avalanche Peak looms to the east, and the sculpted snowscape of the park lends a special mood. But the place is so vast that navigating in poor visibility can be a nightmare. The danger is that you’ll miss the crossing of Lime Creek and descend into Lime Creek Canyon, a narrow trap where you could die. You must find the bridge crossing Lime Creek at 9,190 feet, and the only way to do that in a whiteout is with compass and altimeter, best combined with a GPS (and perhaps the occasional blue diamond if fortune favors you). From the bridge over Lime Creek follow the snow-covered Burnt Mountain Road as it climbs E than S up to a band of timber, then breaks out into another open area at Slim Jim Gulch. Stay on the road and continue S 3/4 mile to 9,566 feet on the Burnt Mountain Road. Leave the road here. Take a left (E) turn and climb a hill 1/4 mile NE to the Harry Gates Hut. You can’t see the hut when you turn from the road—it comes into sight when you’re about halfway up the hill. This climb is too short to warrant skins, but you may have to use a few herringbone steps.
Locations of Observed or Reported Avalanche Activity: No avalanche activity has been reported along this suggested route.