“When you do something truly physically demanding, it goes beyond muscles; it goes to your soul, to your spirit. Some transcendence occurs out there in the wild.” – FVS English Department Chair Dave Reynolds
Frigid temperatures. Grueling exertion. 17,000 feet of ascent.
This is professional development, Fountain Valley School of Colorado style. With the aid of the Ballantine Family Grant, English Department Chair Dave Reynolds tested the limits of his strength—physically, emotionally and spiritually—by participating in the Benedict 100, a cross-country skiing journey traversing roughly 100 miles of wilderness from Aspen to Vail.
Named in honor of 10th Mountain Division veteran, Aspen architect and philanthropist Fritz Benedict, the trek is an inspiring tale of perserverance for all who attempt it.
Reynolds’ leaders on the journey were from Paragon Guides, an Edwards, Colorado-based outfit founded by Fountain Valley School alumnus Buck Elliott ’69. Elliott’s son, Will, was the lead guide.
The five-day trip was hampered by snowstorms, but nothing stopped the arduous daily journey. On day one, Reynolds and his fellow skiers traversed 11 miles from Aspen to Margy’s Hut, and they followed that with a 17-mile journey on day two to Betty Bear Hut.
“The snow continued throughout the day,” Reynolds said. “Water bottles froze if they weren’t tucked into jackets inside daypacks.”
From Betty Bear, the group skied up and over Hagerman Pass and the continental divide at 11,925 feet, finally resting at Uncle Bud’s Hut near Turquoise Lake.
At each hut, two hosts had a fire going and greeted the weary travelers with hot tea and warm soup.
Day four was the longest, beginning in the dark at 6:30 a.m. They headed around avalanche danger and passed numerous huts before arriving at Jackal Hut 23 miles later.
“Because the snow had continued to fall, we often had to break trail, which added more strain and challenge to the route,” Reynolds said.
The group finally seized on spectacular views of the mountains on day five when the skies cleared. The last evening was spent at Shrine Mountain Inn, and on day six, they skied the famous Commando Run, a route Reynolds first skied with fellow FVS faculty Rob Gustke, Juniper Hunter ’93 and other FVS students 20 years ago. The back bowls of Vail beckoned, and they broke trail down the front side of Vail Mountain along an out-of-bounds road.
Reynolds shared his experience with the FVS community at All-School, Feb. 13, adding another fun nugget. At Margy’s Hut, he searched the logbook until he found his journal entry from his first hut trip for FVS in 1994. He ended that notation with this quote:
“Thanks to all who made it possible and here’s to those who enjoy the winter splendor!”