Semester 31: First Expedition

We’ve hit the ground running since returning from our first expedition and have been readjusting to life back on the HMI campus.  We’ll be sharing some of our recent activities in our next post!  For now, we’d like to share some of the successes we had during our first expedition.

All of the expedition groups were able to climb and summit peaks during their expeditions—a true welcome to living in and around the mountains of Leadville!  Expedition Group A summited Homestake Peak.  The day started with the muffled sounds of watches going off before sunrise.  Spencer recalls his alarm coming to him through his dream—he thought it was the bell from his old middle school signaling that a class period had ended!  As the expedition walked out into the darkness, we were simply a trail of headlamps dwarfed by the challenge to come.  Halfway up the mountain, one of the expedition leaders told us to look for a rock that stood out to us and carry it to the top.  About three quarters of the way up to the summit, the sun started to peek out from behind the Mosquito range, which we could see to the east.  At that point, we took a break to watch the sunrise and admired the breathtaking view of the greater Leadville area that lay before us.  When we made it to the summit, we all signed the summit register.  Having spent some time celebrating, we gathered our rocks and sat in a circle—we dedicated our summit to important people in our lives by placing the rock in the center of the circle in a special ceremony.  We stayed quiet after the ceremony and admired the world before us.  It was one of the greatest moments in our lives, and we’ll remember it for years to come.

Expedition Group B was able to summit Mount Ouray.  The day before, the expedition’s faculty leaders convinced us that students had never been able to get up early enough to wake up the faculty.  We wanted to make sure we were the first group that could, so we did something we would never do at home—we set our alarms for well before sunrise!  After rolling out of our tents in the dark, shortly after our alarms went off, we grabbed pots and pans and made our way to faculty tent.  We serenaded the faculty wake-up with banging and singing of one of the faculty’s original expedition song, “We Love Uphills.”  It was so fun!  About an hour and a half later, we were ready to start hiking with our packs full of rain gear, our Moleskine notebooks, warm layers, water, and snacks.  We went up a ridge quickly enough to watch the sunrise from a good vantage point.  We continued up the mountain and made it to the top just after 9 am.  It was the first summit of a big peak for most of us—we stood at just under 14,000 feet!

While we didn’t summit mountains everyday, we managed to have a ton of fun hiking to different campsites each day, even when we got stuck in the middle of rain storms.  When that happens, singing helps lighten the mood.  Expedition Group C was on the last leg of the hiking day, when we looked up and saw some of the darkest, most ominous clouds any of us had ever seen.  We knew we were in for an experience.

While we waited out the storm together, FuRen decided that we needed to pass the time in an entertaining way.  She started singing “Umbrella” by Rihanna and that kicked off a flurry of songs that involved rain in some way. The song choice evolved overtime to Disney—including “The Lion King,” “Mulan,” “Hercules,” and “The Little Mermaid”—and then to oldies—Michael Jackson and The Beatles. Suddenly, we heard voices in the distance and recognized them as one of our other hiking groups!  Reinvigorated, we sang as loud as we could as a response to the other group. Before we continued hiking, we finished with a nice verse of  “I Can See Clearly Now” and warmed ourselves up with a penguin dance.

Every night, after getting into camp, setting up our shelters, cooking dinner, and (often) having class, expedition groups met for the nightly ritual of circle.  It’s a ritual that we really looked forward to in Expedition Group D.  We learned the two rules for circle when we started the ritual in our first days on campus—that we listen with respect and that we speak from the heart. Sometimes circles have prompts to get us thinking about certain things, but often, they’re “open circles” and don’t have a set topic.  In any case, circle is a chance for our expedition mates to get to know one another better and brought us much closer.

For Expedition Group E, we would meet in the evening to exhaust our last bits of energy with silly games like silent football (which actually has nothing to do with football), miniature tanks, and mmm chichi.  This was the best time to get goofy and really close to everyone in the group.  After playing a round or two of these games, the best part of the day came along.  Circle!  As eleven people gathered together, we would learn the meaning of the power object for that night from its provider—this made each one of us feel connected to the object and to each other.  It was a time of reflection and deep thought. Circle was one of the richest times of day because it really made us think about our lives—we became really grateful for all the things that we were learning and for all the things we have back at home.

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