Williams Peak Yurt

3-Day Hut Trip in the Sawtooth Backcountry

I always knew that I wanted to go heli-skiing for my bachelorette party. But the more I researched, the more I realized that we could maybe get a little more bang for our buck if we looked towards a different kind of trip. I discovered the Sawtooth Mountain Guides after googling "Sawtooth Backcountry Hut Trips". With a $260/day price tag, I hesitantly emailed my girlfriends asking if they'd even remotely dream of doing a 3-day trip. Everyone responded within 24 hours. They were all in.

We saved for a year and started geeking out on details a couple weeks before the trip. From Seattle, DC, Denver, Summit County, and Portland, we traveled to Grandma Judy's house in Sun Valley to meet the night before heading out to SMG headquarters in Stanley. 

DAY 1

- 9am meet Sawtooth Guides (Matt & Drew) at HQ in Stanley
- De-brief and organize packs at SMG HQ (they supplied all avy gear - tranceivers, shovel, probe, sleeping bag liner)
- Porters leave early carrying our food and booze (we hired an extra porter to pack in our alcohol)
- Drive to trailhead next to Sawtooth Ranger Station
- Share a couple cans of Kokanee while putting on skins and going over basic avy training
- Hit the trail - 5 miles to the yurt with 1,500ft of elevation gain, a flat & sunny start led way to a gradual climb through the forest
- Lunch break (turkey sandwiches, fruit, & bars) at the top of a ridge. Note the stunning view of the jagged Sawtooth peaks and Red Fish Lake below. Work on blisters.
- Continue touring across the ridge, through some more trees, and a couple of clearings
- Arrive at Williams Peak Yurt (7,900 feet)
- Crack celebratory beers, unpack & settle into our yurts
- Guides do all the hard work while we relax (start melting snow for water, whip up some appetizers, chop wood, get fires started)
- Apps are served (crackers & cheese), yurt orientation (rules of the privy, water, etc.)
- Watch sunset
- Dinner is served (pesto pasta with sausage & kale salad, brownies for dessert)
- Force guides to play Cards Against Humanity with us while sipping on tea & Fireball
- 10pm bed time, cozy in our yurt

*click on photos to open gallery

DAY 2

- 7:30am wake up and sip on coffee while our guides check snow and avalanche conditions
- 8am breakfast is served. Drew & Matt made scrambled eggs with veggies & cheese and a side of bacon
- We go through a crash course in avalanche awareness training and pack up for the day
- 9:30am skin up and head towards Williams Peak and Peak 10,084
- Under bright blue skies, we endure 3 hours of strenuous, uphill climbing with views of Stanley below and towering peaks above
- We learn proper touring kick-turns and summit a saddle to reach upper Murray Lake at the base of Williams Peak and stop for a quick lunch break (salami, hummus, & roasted red pepper sandwiches)
- 1pm we drop into our first downhill run - a mellow pitch through some tiny trees with super buttery snow
- Next up, Pokey Chute (with a roughly 40º pitch, it was one of the steepest runs I've ridden and I was the perfect amount of scared)
- Thoroughly exhilarated from the challenge of the chute, we start descending back towards the yurt
- 4pm the late afternoon sun casts the most beautiful alpenglow on the surrounding peaks, we crest our final ridge before riding down to the yurt
- 5pm back at the yurt we sit on crazy creeks & sip cocktails (margarita snow slushies) while watching the sunset. Too much chili cheese dip and fritos are consumed and we fear the worst for our little privy
- Dinner - chorizo & beef burritos with tons of sautéed veggies and black beans
- Emily & Angela get serious about drinking the box of wine that we had re-stocked by the porters who came up while we were touring (slap the bag)
- Jess & Kate take advantage of the sauna
- We force the guides to play another game with us - this time it's the drawing game
- 10pm we all climb into our sleeping bags for the night (except for one of us, who needs to finish the wine and stay up talking late night with the guides)     

*click on photos to open gallery

DAY 3

- 8am awake to find another beanie fall victim to building supplies for the mice nest under the yurt's floorboards
- Breakfast - toasted english muffins with eggs and sausage
- A few of us skin up for one more quick downhill before we pack up and head back to the trailhead
- 45 minutes of touring (in the bright sunshine) and we are at the top of a shaded glen of trees
- Drop into the best snow of the trip and take a few glorious turns in about 8" of light powder
- 12pm we meet back up with everyone at the yurt and get ready for our descent back to the trailhead
- Quickly realize the disadvantage of the split board on the downhill, single-track tour towards the trailhead. While the skiers were able to remove their skins and snowplow their way down the narrow trail, we had to skin downhill because there was no room to speed check in snowboard mode
- 2pm the skiers arrive to the trailhead. Meanwhile, we three split boarders are in a torturous purgatory between slow gripping downhill skinning and out of control boarder x style riding. Emily is flung into a tree and tears ensue
- 3pm we decide that hiking out is going to be faster and safer than any other alternatives and start boot packing along the icy chute of a trail
- Kate no longer has toenails or skin on her heels
- 4pm we are finally reunited with our skier friends in the parking lot of the trailhead. Thank god they had time to run up to Stanley to restock the Kokanee
- We buy souvenir Sawtooth Mountain Guide trucker caps and bid farewell to our guides
- 6pm Grandma Judy welcomes us back to Sun Valley with celebratory martinis!

*click on photos to open gallery

It was one of the best trips of my life. I feel so fortunate to have such awesome friends to do such amazing things with. It was beautiful up there. The weather was perfect. The company was the best. And we all left with a feeling of accomplishment. I would take this trip again in a heartbeat and highly recommend it. #courtssawtoothsoiree

* Note: It has taken me a year to finally post about this incredible trip. The actual dates of the trip were Feb 13th - 15th, 2015.