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Training • August 23, 2023

Our Week of Hut Running With Salomon and Rickey Gates

salomon hut run - actual hut

What You Need To Know

The What

Hut Run Hut with Salomon and Rickey Gates in the mountains of Colorado


July 23-27, 2023

All photos were taken by Dylan Harris for Salomon. Check out the rest of his exceptional work and follow him on Instagram at @spiritofdylan.

How it Started

July 5th, 2023.

That was the day I received the following Instagram message from @normcorerunner (aka Robbe Reddinger, Senior Editor of Believe in the Run): 

“Any chance you want to go on a Salomon Trip on July 23rd?”

It was a pretty, sunny day and I had been enjoying some running, fishing, and archery on my family’s 20-acre property in the hill country of Texas. I was shocked. As I sat down for lunch, filled with excitement and curious about this opportunity for adventure, I replied: “I would love to do that, man…what are the details?:

The plan itself was pretty simple. I would fly into Colorado, where I would run 10 miles every day through the mountains with a select group of runners led by world-renowned runner and Salomon athlete Rickey Gates. Each night we’d sleep in mountain huts on top of the mountains, enjoying each other’s company. Repeat for four days. All while wearing the latest and greatest gear from Salomon. This, my friends, is what’s called a runner’s dream trip.

With a big assist from my Fleet Feet manager, Carol Cary (who kindly adjusted my schedule to accommodate the trip although it had already been posted), I confirmed that I was in. I was now looking at a 100km stage run less than two weeks away with experienced, well-known runners. Needless to say, a full month of July lay ahead.

salomon hut run - peak

Where life would soon take me

What is a Hut Run?

I touched on it briefly in the last section, but essentially, a hut run is an adventure trip in which each day consists of a point-to-point trail run from one backcountry mountain hut to another. These huts are generally used by skiers in the winter time and hikers and mountain bikers in the summertime. 

The huts sleep up to 16 people and while they don’t have electricity, they do feature wood burning stoves and propane burners for cooking. Water comes by way of snow melt and/or streams and must be purified by those staying in the huts.

Rickey Gates is a former hut-keeper and trail-worker with the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association, so he’s well versed in the area and the accommodations. This particular trip traversed an area along the breathtaking Continental Divide. (By the way, if you’re trying to do this trip yourself, Rickey leads six-day adventures that can be booked via his website. Check it out if you’re interested.)

The best part about a hut run? Cell phone coverage is nonexistent.

mountain huts sign

This way to the backcountry huts

Day 1: Austin to Denver

As expected, this trip came quickly. I left the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport at 6:30 a.m., and aside from the baby that cried the entire flight, all went smoothly. Once in Denver, I grabbed lunch and headed to the shuttle.

Waiting for the shuttle to pull up, I recognized two others about to board as well: self-proclaimed non-elite runner and shoetuber Kofuzi, and Pat Heine-Holmberg, Senior Video Producer at Runner’s World. While we were talking, an older woman, curious about the trip we were chit-chatting about, told me her son had run the Leadville 100 and how awesome she thought our adventure would be. (At this point, I’m just going to assume everyone from Colorado has run the Leadville 100.)

Once in Vail, we met Salomon’s PR contact (Corrine), who happily welcomed us, discussed the plans for the rest of the night and led us to the hotel. As we arrived in the lobby, Rickey Gates shook my hand and asked if I had ever been to that area in Colorado. When I told him I’d only seen it from a car while on a road trip, he looked me in the eye with a smile and said: “I believe you’re in for a real treat, Seth.” My spidey senses tingled.

salomon running shoes

Trail running in the Salomon Thundercross

As we walked into a hotel boardroom to meet the others on the trip, I saw stacks of Salomon shoe boxes, treats, and goodies. One of them had my name on it. Its contents were as follows:

  • One (1) pair of Salomon Pulsar Trail Pro 2
  • Two (2) pairs of Salomon Ultra Glide 2
  • One (1) pair of the all-new Salomon Thundercross (one of our favorite trail shoes of 2023 so far)
  • Clif bars, sour candy, Courtney Dauwalter watermelon-flavored Tailwind, a sleeping bag, and more

I was pumped, and asked if any of the guys would like to get in a few miles before dinner. After traveling or working all day, everyone said they would pass and rest up for the following day. 

However, Rickey and Corrine kindly suggested some trails behind our hotel. I carried my luggage and goodies up to my hotel room, threw on the Salomon Ultra Glide 2 and headed downstairs and out. About half a mile into the trail I realized I was looking down at the hotel and running straight uphill. I turned around once my watch hit the two-mile mark. I had already climbed 600 feet. The run back (all downhill) was much easier. It was a short run, but I felt like I had an understanding of how most of this trip could go.

After getting back to the hotel and showering, we headed to dinner to meet the rest of our crew– Tonya Russell, Nick Triolo, Dylan Harris, Steff Gardner, Gus Gibbs, and Ryan Caton. Following a delicious double cheeseburger with coconut seltzer water, Rickey had us do a group huddle to discuss the plans for tomorrow and introduce ourselves as well. We made it back to the hotel full and tired, ready to get some good sleep to prepare us for this incredible adventure. 

divide sign

Pick your poison

filling water

Water from mountain streams

Day 2: The Jackal Hut

The morning’s breakfast consisted of a mouth-watering steak and cheese omelet, a “Happy Birthday” sing-along for a fellow hotel guest and then a quick meeting to get situated for the day. Ricky advised that our gear would need to fit in one car and to pack as minimally as possible; I divided everything I packed in half. Ready to roll, we hopped on our shuttle and headed towards the trail head– a scenic drive with stunning views of the mountains. I stared out the window searching the peaks and looking for animals.

We started off the trip with a fun shoe, the Salomon Pulsar Trail Pro 2. Quick, nimble, and plated, this shoe was the perfect option for the not-too-technical terrain trail we were currently running on. An upcoming road would be the only pavement we’d see for the rest of the trip, so Rickey suggested we come up with a fun way to cross. I had to show them how we get down in Texas– we pretended like cows being herded.

man showing runners where to go

Our fearless leader, Rickey Gates

Closer to our lunch spot, we crossed a crisp, clear stream. I was excited to use my “Soft Flask XA Filter” Salomon bottle, designed to filter out bacteria and protozoa and perfect for the fresh Colorado water sourced from melting snow at the top of the mountains. Nick took off his shirt and walked right in for a cold plunge; I followed his lead and was shocked by the temperature (it was cold). I dipped the filtered flask in the stream and sat down in the center so the entirety of my legs were under the water. Drinking and plunging in that crystal clear mountain water was basically heaven.

We ran another half mile and stopped for lunch. Expecting some uphill, technical terrain we switched into the Salomon Thundercross (recently released on August 1!). This shoe features grippy 5 mm lugs with a nice stack of cushion, perfect for the upcoming section. Running our way to the Jackal Hut we came across a beautiful waterfall, located on the Colorado Trail near Cataract Creek, each taking turns standing under the very strong and cold water– so powerful it almost knocked me over. 

After that, it was all uphill. Rickey’s Revenge, a trail that seemed invisible to my eyes (almost as if we were off-trail hiking directly up the side of the mountain) brought us to the top of this climb near Pearl Peak overlooking the Jackal Hut. We headed downhill and transitioned onto the main dirt road. When we arrived at the Hut, our gear was waiting for us; Rickey told us to go claim a bed upstairs. Mine? A cozy spot with a window view of the peak directly behind. 

The Jackal Hut itself includes a roomy wooden porch with benches surrounded by beautiful, stunning views– tall trees with endless mountains, ridges and peaks in the distance; an outhouse (for handling your business while enjoying an epic view), and a lightning rod to protect the Hut from a direct strike.

Unfortunately, by the time dinner came around, I began feeling pretty awful; lethargic and a pounding headache. Fair enough, I did just come from 400 feet of elevation in Texas to 11,600 feet at the Jackal Hut, with a day of running in between. Morgan and Mercedes recommended I drink more sodium to help the water get to my muscles more efficiently. I pounded some electrolytes, threw down some chicken tacos, told everyone goodnight and headed upstairs to sleep it off.

Day 3: The Hilliard Fowler Hut

I woke up at about 8 a.m. a bit drowsy, relieved to be free of that awful headache from the night before and headed downstairs. Kofuzi was already working on his YouTube video and Rickey was working on breakfast. I said good morning, filled up my mug with some freshly-brewed joe and sat on the front porch, sipping and gazing off into the distance, imagining what today had in store.

Following my yogurt and oats, Rickey went over the plans for the day. Today’s run would be nine miles with around 2,500 ft. of elevation gain. We ascended Pearl Peak then ran to Sugarloaf Peak, stopping for lunch amidst an epic view– hikers looking as small as ants in the distance, blades of grass flashing in the wind, huge peaks and shadows of the clouds passing over the mountains. Interesting fact: per Rickey, the bullet shells and old cans found in the rocks were from the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division. In the 1940’s during World War II, the Division was started so soldiers could train in rough terrain similar to Italy.

We made our way to Elk Mountain, where Morgan and Rickey spotted a golden eagle at the peak. The raptor watched us closely before gliding off into the wind to search for prey on the ground far below.

Our next climb was Ptarmigan Hill, where we spotted two small, shack-looking buildings– the hut was in sight. We ran down Ptarmigan and finished on a nice, smooth dirt road. Following  a snack of sliced fruit, meat, crackers, and plenty of water, Morgan and Gus joined me for a few miles up Resolution Mountain, wrapping up after finishing five.

I started feeling the same headache as the night before; I drank some electrolytes and went upstairs to take a nap. Nick let me know dinner was ready, but I didn’t have much of an appetite for either the brats and pasta or dessert. Corrine and I did the dishes to pitch in, but I was ready to brush my teeth, head upstairs and rest up for our longest run of the trip yet– 15 miles!

salomon hut run - seth climbing

Did I mention there were climbs?

Day 4: The Shrine Mountain Hut

After enjoying my yogurt, granola, oatmeal, and coffee we headed out for our 15-mile trek up the side of Resolution Mountain (11,900 feet). At the top, breath was hard to come by. We continued six miles downhill, descending about 3000 ft. while crossing multiple, freezing-cold streams. My legs were numb and throbbing, but like an ice bath to-go it was absolutely refreshing and allowed me to use my filtered bottle to replenish my water.

At mile 9, we had lunch on a dirt road off the side of a pretty stream that cut through the trees. The remainder of our run would be uphill, climbing another dirt road ascending 3,500 ft. where we’d pass more gorgeous ridges, streams, a waterfall, and a patch of field full of Elephant’s Head plants.

Verdant valleys of green

Did I mention there were climbs?

salomon ultra glide 2

Salomon Ultra Glide 2

Once we reached our trailhead, Rickey told us we would have the final and steepest climb of the day. We ran alongside Shrine Mountain, and once at the top, we ran on a ridge for the final stretch of the route. A huge crack of thunder released right above our noggins and Rickey yelled “Everyone start heading down!” Carefully and quickly moving down the mountain, the rain began.

I heard Morgan yell “Hail!” and I looked down into the valley, plotting where I would take cover for shelter if it got too nasty. As I reached the bottom of the hill and the tree line, the hail stopped. Between our group and the tree line lay marshland; although the majority went to the left and around, I noticed Rickey was about to go straight through. “Feel free to go either way, Seth,” he said. “I’m going this way so I can walk barefoot through the cold and soft marsh.” I was in. 

He smiled and began taking off his shoes and socks, and I followed suit. The water was just as bone-chilling as the streams we had been passing through, but surprisingly no thorns or rocks.

Walking barefoot through the grass and cold, squishy weeds felt stress-relieving and was a welcome chance to reconnect with mother nature. Rickey spotted some strawberries in the grass, smaller than store-bought but had a burst of flavor that can only come from a place not on a shelf.

After fueling up, we ran a couple more miles before arriving at our final hut, the Shrine Mountain Inn.

man holding a tiny strawberry

Strawberry fields forever

Salomon Pulsar Trail 2 Pro

As usual, Ryan had prepared lots of fruit and spreads for us to snack on as we laughed and talked about our journey. Kofuzi lay on his back with his arms and legs spread out and eyes closed. I almost went over to check his pulse. After laying down for a bit, I talked to Tonya and Gus about the sauna. (Yes, we actually had a sauna in our hut!)

Gus chopped wood to prepare it;  we could see the smoke rising out of the top as we approached. HOT! He had that sauna cooking at 200°, and I felt like a turkey on Thanksgiving. After staying in for about 25 min., I was ready to take my first good shower with soap in 2 days. I was a new man.

You’d have thought it was actually Thanksgiving; Rickey had prepared an epic feast – ribs, potatoes, chocolate brownies – you’d have thought it was our last meal. As I approached the table, Rickey said, “A full rack of ribs for the Texas Boy!”

 We ended the night playing a game called “Box” where you balance on one foot and bite a box on the ground and bring it up without falling or touching the ground. Rickey was exceptional, but Morgan was like a flamingo drinking water and effortlessly won the game. Afterwards, we all went to bed and rested for our final day of the trip.

salomon hut run - ribs

Nothing hits better for a Texas boi

salomon hut run - accordion

Because of course there’s an accordion

Day 5: Downhill and Home

To finish off this trip, Rickey generously chose a route that was all downhill on a dirt road, descending about 3,000 ft. We passed ATV’s, people camping in their RV’s, embracing the mountain views along our final run. The last seven miles Rickey picked up the pace; I decided to stick with him.

We went from an 8 min./mile pace then dropped all the way down to 6:30. We smiled and chatted the entire way until we finished in Red Cliff Colorado where we had lunch, a town hidden behind the mountains that had a super chill vibe to it– a calm, clear stream running through with houses sitting on cliffs. No traffic, just a small, quiet, and peaceful town.

After lunch, we said our goodbyes and parted ways with Rickey and Ryan. We arrived at the hotel where Steff and Corrine returned our stuff and took all the Salomon gear back so we didn’t have to carry it on the plane. We shuttled from Vail to the Denver airport, where I said goodbye to my new friends Mike, Nick, and Pat.

My first flight was delayed and caused me to miss my connecting flight; I ended up getting a hotel and meal voucher, arriving at my hotel at 1 a.m. (My morning shuttle was leaving at 5 a.m., so I was basically able to nap.) I landed in Austin at 8:30 a.m. and arrived at work at noon.

 Such a fun-packed trip and an unknown journey that I wouldn’t have wanted any other way.

BITR Website Large - 1600 x 1066 - salomon hut run - group shot

A special group of people

Final Thoughts

This Hut Run Hut trip was the perfect way to experience the nature and outdoors of Colorado. Led by running legend Rickey Gates– who has been running, hiking, skiing around these trails, peaks, mountains, and huts since he was just a boy– the entire route was very doable and enjoyable, with just the right amount of challenge.

There is no one better suited to guide you safely or provide the best views and experiences in the mountains. For anyone yearning for adventure, I highly recommend experiencing one of these Hut Run Hut adventures. And while the mountains and scenery were certainly breathtaking, the experience of sharing it with a group of new friends was equally meaningful. This is a trip I will never forget and an essential to add to your bucket list.

Lastly, thanks to Salomon for inviting me along on the journey. There’s a reason they make some of the best gear for some of the best athletes on the planet. From footwear to hydration vests and everything in between, I felt comfortable and secure through the entirety of the trip.

If you get the chance: do it

Shop The Gear

Salomon Pulsar Trail 2 Pro $160 (on sale for $110)
Salomon Thundercross $140

Have something to say? Leave a Comment

  1. Jeff says:

    Cool products, great adventure, awsome article! Cant wait for the next one! Very proud of Seth Epley!

  2. Carol says:

    So proud of Seth! Great article about an awesome adventure. Seth continues to inspire the local running community.

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Seth Epley
Texas Trail Reviewer
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Seth Epley is an ultramarathoner and avid outdoorsman. After graduating high school, Seth struggled with drinking and was ultimately unhappy with the way he was living. Running became a remedy, and 3 years later he ran his first 200-mile race and has maintained a 100% sober lifestyle. In addition to running, he enjoys archery, videography, photography, and all things outdoors.

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