Expedition Group A
On July 24th, Expedition Group A embarked on our final expedition of the HMI Summer Term 2016. Our group of nine had a heightened sense of confidence and excitement while preparing for the adventure. Things such as packing food for the week and prepping our WhisperLite stoves had become a common practice at this point. The group’s increased level of backcountry knowledge made for a very different expedition. From the beginning, we were given more independence and responsibility. A lot of the instructor guidance that we had become used to during our first expedition disappeared. Instead, we had to rely more on our tarp groups and other students in the group, making for a refreshing and rewarding week.
Our group started out the trip with two challenging hiking days, but was rewarded by a beautiful camp spot near Hagerman Lake. We took a layover day and were given the options to either climb at nearby rock faces or fish at Hagerman Lake, both options drawing upon skills that we had learned during our two weeks on campus. Our group split up for the day and we everyone had memorable experiences rock climbing and fishing in the backcountry.
After two days of hiking, we embarked on a summit attempt of Mount Massive, a 14,429 ft. peak that towered over our campsite. The group woke up at 3:30am and began hiking at 4am. We all had an awesome experience hiking under the stars and observing the sunrise from the base of Mt. Massive. As most people were just getting out of bed, we were half way up the colossal peak. By 9:30am, our group had summited the mountain. After about an hour of soaking in the views from the top, it was time to head back down.
The remaining three days of the expedition were amazing and our group had some great laughs and heartfelt conversations. After the powerful weeklong trip, it was finally time to head back to the HMI campus for the remaining days of our Summer Term experience.
Expedition Group B
Expedition Group B set out for a fun-filled eight days in the Rocky Mountains with the hope of summiting Mt. Massive, a 14,000 ft. peak. On the first day we hiked to South Willow Creek and searched for pika, a rabbit-like species so affected by climate change that they are being considered for legal protection. The research was part of a citizen science project for the United States Geological Survey. Though we didn’t see any pika during our research period, we saw several over the next few days as we traversed the rocky slopes of the Continental Divide.
Three days into the trip, we rose before the sun for an alpine start up Mt. Massive, the second highest peak in Colorado. Led by our fearless expedition leaders, Grace, Dietrich, and Graham, we reached our goal just after sunrise and greeted the summit dressed in stylish costumes. Smiles spread across faces as we took in views of the mountains that have become home over the course of the last few weeks. We returned to camp for an afternoon full of naps, classes, and study hall under tall pine trees.
On day four, we hiked to a beautiful alpine bowl called Lynx Den and set up camp for a layover day full of fly fishing and rock climbing. The layover day was full of plenty of challenging routes and elusive fish, and everyone enjoyed spending a relaxed day under the sun. Rising early the next morning, we hiked up the steep slope of the bowl to the Continental Divide. After spending a few miles on the ridgeline, we dropped into another bowl with an emerald alpine lake full of jumping fish. At Virginia Lake, we fished late into the evening and gathered to cook a potluck dinner for the whole group. We were graced with cinnamon rolls, saucy pasta, pizza, stir-fry and couscous, and garlic bread. Absolutely stuffed, we went to bed early in preparation for our hike to Timberline Lake the next morning. On our final day, we wrapped up expedition with a final circle meeting and a night spent under the stars.
Expedition Group C
Second expedition came seemingly without warning. As we gathered in the HMI parking lot on the morning of our departure, people were quiet and not quite sure what to expect of this expedition. Our first hiking day was a site called Lily Pond, and short hike refreshed and reminded us how great HMI expeditions are. We traveled on trail most of the way there and camped nearby the intersection of the Colorado Trail and the Mt. Elbert Trail. That night, our expedition leaders made proposal: because there was interest in hiking Elbert, it was possible to attempt the summit the next morning and still make it to our next campsite. Five adventurous students decided to do the early morning hike, while the other five went back on trail to reach our next camp. The day was long, but at the end of it, we reached the top of Elbert, the highest peak in Colorado, and enjoyed the view before setting off to reunite with the other half of our group.
When we got to our next campsite, we were given a chance to work on the two essay assigned for the expedition. The first assignment was a lyric essay for our Humanities class, and asked us to weave together experiences, quotes, and science facts to tell a story about a place we call home. Our second assignment was for Practices & Principles, and was based on the This I Believe essay series, a series of essays where authors discuss various beliefs and viewpoints. Our prompt asked us what our beliefs where, how we would defend them, and how we would enact our beliefs in order to make a difference in the world.
The next day, everyone hiked at their own pace to South Willows Creek, where we set up our campsite near the Mt. Massive trail to get ready for our layover day, where we would try to summit Massive, the second highest peak in Colorado. We woke up at approximately 3am the following morning and were on trail by 4am, prepared for one of our most difficult days: roughly 4,000 feet of elevation gain over about four miles. Though it was a long day, we made it to the summit, enjoyed the view, and ate cake that our instructors made for us on the peak.
The next few days consisted of hiking past more beautiful alpine lakes before a challenging final day that pushed our navigation skills to the limit as we lost and gained about 1,000 feet of elevation in the dense pine forest. Although it was a rough day, we finally made it to our destination, an alpine bowl near Hagerman Tunnel and Douglas City, where we would spend our final nights and our next layover day.
We had full schedule of activities on our final day in the backcountry. The morning started off with a pika-monitoring project, where we looked and listened for traces of pika in a nearby boulder field. The group split up to rock climb or fly-fish for the afternoon, before coming together to share our This I Believe essays back in camp. The day ended with a baking lesson in our group kitchen, yummy backcountry pizzas, and a night spent out under the stars as a whole group. Overall, we had a wonderful adventure in the backcountry!