The shy sun began to rise over the horizon as expedition Group A scaled the base of Mt. Massive. It was our group’s 5th day on expedition, and it started very early: one of the leaders for that day had to wake everyone up at 3:30am in order to begin hiking around 4:15. We started the hike up a steep section of Mt. Massive’s base, and the lights of Leadville twinkled in the distance as we relied on our headlamps to step in the right area. The moment when our whole group turned around at one of our first summits was an incredibly inspiring moment. The sense of comradery borne from being some of the few people motivated enough to climb a 14,000 foot mountain at 4:30 in the morning was unbelievable. Moments like these made the expedition some of the most memorable few days of our lives.
After sleeping under the stars in a portaledge, Group B was prepared for the main rock climbing day on day 3. We spent the day defeating the hardest climbs we had ever attempted in our lives. Despite the pain and fatigue, we couldn’t help thinking: “wow, we are pretty cool.” It was so empowering and exhausting that it reminded us that we are living on the planet and not simply surviving. Through every day of 2nd expedition, from the little to big moments, every experience was memorable. Every second we were comfortable, we were having fun; every second we weren’t, we were learning from our mistakes. Group B’s second expedition was also filled with many unforgettable memories. On day three, we started off the expedition by summiting Mt. Massive, which is the 3rdhighest peak in the continental United States! At the top of the mountain, many of us celebrated by “kicking a Snick,” or triumphantly eating a Snickers bar at 14,428ft. In addition, the group spent some days fly fishing in Virginia Lake and Hagerman Lake. We even caught fish that we cooked for dinner! Every day, the group would stay hydrated by what we call “slammin’ lits” or drinking liters of water. One night, two students led a star class in which we learned about various constellations and how to identify different stars. One of the main highlights of expedition was rock climbing. At the campsite where we rock climbed, all of the students had the opportunity to sleep in a portaledge, which for many of us, was a very new experience. On the final full day, we celebrated Rainer’s birthday! That night, we surprised the birthday boy with a plethora of desserts, including chocolate cake, brownies, and cookies, all cooked by students and instructors over WhisperLite stoves. We also had the chance to hike on the Continental Divide, and the view from the top was beyond amazing! Throughout the entire expedition all of us got to practice our communication and leadership skills that we had learned earlier in the summer in order to work most effectively as a team. One of the most incredible parts of the expedition was supporting one another in achieving our SMART goals (goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, a Reach, and have a defined Timeframe for achievement). Lastly, we all got the chance to improve and show-off our strongly improved outdoor skills from first expedition. The supportive, fun, and challenging environment of second expedition is something we will draw strength from for a very long time.
Group C also had an amazing expedition, with one day that stood out in particular: we woke up at 6am to make breakfast, pack our backpacks, and meet the whole group at 8:30 am. It was Christmas in July! A small pine tree was decorated with tangerine peels and there were presents for everyone under the tree. Santa had written a poem for us and the line that most stood out was: “Remember all those times you said you wanted to quit? Look at you now, you are totally doing it!” We had been told that it was going to be a long day, but that it was going to be beautiful. We started off by going over a ridge from where we could see the whole Arkansas River valley; it was stunning. Later we got to a lake and from there we had to go down a very steep drainage. We got to the end of the steep part and got into a boulder field we called “the maze”. It took us an hour and thirty minutes to get out of it. After the maze we had to get to a lake and go over a ridge to get to where we were going to meet Chris. However, en route, we were held up by a thunderstorm which halted our travel temporarily. When the storm was over we started singing and dancing to get warm, and a beautiful rainbow came out. An hour later we got to our campsite. All told, it was an 11-hour hike. Although it was a really hard day, our positive attitudes and the fun games we played all day long made it one of the very best ones of the trip.
We are all grateful to be reunited on HMI’s campus, and though we are sad to be leaving this wonderful place soon, we are trying to make the most of our final few days here and continue to live in the present moment.