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Although we all survived our second expedition, this does not mean that Mother Nature was overly kind. Within the first two days we had some sunshine, but we also experienced buckets of rain and six inches of snow. The remainder of the expedition proved to have a lot of frozen toes and every time someone exclaimed, “Well, at least it’s not windy,” the wind would start to blow. To say the least, we had varied and interesting conditions—especially to attempt summiting a 14,000 foot mountain.
When four of us decided to climb Mt. Belford, we were not sure what to expect. We were climbing from our base camp at about 11,200ft to Elk Head Pass at 13,000ft and finally summiting Belford peak, a staggering 14,203 feet above sea level. To say we were nervous is a bit of an understatement. At the summit there would be only two thirds of the oxygen our bodies are used to getting at sea level. Nevertheless, we left at 8:00am with confidence and determination, arriving at the top around 12:30. Once there we admired the view—our instructor Karl said we could see for over 100 miles—and relaxed after our challenging hike. After enjoying the landscape for a while, we delved into the tastiest snickers bar you could imagine. Close to the best thing ever, almost as good as the sweet victory of summiting a 14,000ft peak.
Alas, climbing high peaks is not the only time we enjoy a good treat. Every time we move our bodies, whether it be down a ridge, up a steep hill, bush-wacking through sharp Alpine Willows, or what have you, we HMI students tend to find ourselves lost in one conversation topic: FOOD. It seems, after a long tough day of walking there is no better reward than a delicious meal. We throw down our heavy packs, put up our tarps (home sweet home), and then promptly assemble our favorite part of the campsite… the kitchen. Each member of the tarp group sits (at a safe distance) around the small stove, preparing quesadillas, Gado Gado pasta, ramen, and so much more; during this time we never fail to have the most fun conversations. Sure, every once in a while we find a pine needle or dirt specks in our dinner, but no matter! “Nature’s Spice,” we call it. We’ve got big appetites and at that point, food tastes good not matter what!
One day, challengingly cooking a masterpiece due to chilled fingers and runny noses, we discovered the legend of Molly Barnes, The Weather Goddess. As the tale goes, her ears are the wind and she is always listening to us. Purposely, she trapped us poor HMI students in an icy inferno. But, one day, the legend said, we would fly across the land, at speeds no man could run, and we would come to a place where there was heat in our frozen toes and where porcelain thrones would get rid of our waste. Until that time came, however, we would have to buckle down and embrace the brisk winds and falling snow.
For the beginning part of this expedition, we partook in trail work to fulfill HMI’s commitment to community service. The notion that we as a school use and impact the trails a lot led us on a bright Wednesday morning to the head of the Mt. Elbert trail. There we were met by Dan, a soft-spoken Austin, Texas native who would be our teacher and coordinator for the next several days. Dan quickly educated us about the tools and safety procedures that accompanied them with ease and knowledge that instilled us with competence from the beginning. Donning safety goggles, with Pickmatics and McClouds in hand, we marched through a dense aspen grove to the site of our trail work.
At our site, we dug into the ground creating check-steps and water bars. The work was exhausting and made us realize how little we think about the huge amounts of time and energy that go into trail creation and maintenance. We moved rocks to prevent erosion and bared other paths to prevent the destruction of wildlife. Walking down after a long exhausting day we stopped and considered each rock and log along the trail in a whole new light. After only a few days of work, we were left with a profound respect for the people who dedicate their time to building trails that we all enjoy.
Believe it or not, the legend of the Weather Goddess is true, and thankfully, here back at HMI, the students have found warmth and happiness… until The Weather Goddess gets her revenge.
By: Andrew Allison-Godfrey, India Bushnell, Dylan Kingsbury and Cody Michael Smith