For our winter expedition, groups went to separate areas in the Mosquito and Sawatch mountain ranges which are to the east and west of the town of Leadville. Group A went to the Sawatch range, near Homestake Mountain. As a means of transportation, each person was equipped with a pair of telemark skis and poles. The snow gets to be around 4-6 feet deep in open areas at the time during the expedition, and our skis kept us from sinking down. For the first two nights, we slept in snow pits over which we erected tarps to shelter us from wind and snow. Cooking in the backcountry is a blast; in the winter, however, it’s a bit more difficult because of the cold. On winter expedition we also got more food than we did in the desert. For the next eight days, we slept in quigloos. Quigloos are made by mounding snow, letting it sit overnight, then hollowing out the mound the next day. Each expedition group was split into four smaller groups including the instructor team and each smaller group was responsible for excavating a quigloo. The inside of each quigloo was surprisingly warm and usually stayed in the neighborhood of around zero degrees Celsius.
Although our winter expedition was difficult at some points, we’re glad that we got to partake. There certainly aren’t many opportunities to go and live in the snow for ten nights. Not only that, but you really gain an appreciation for the smaller thing in everyday life that you typically take for granted.
Winter expedition was chill(y). With sleds packed behind us and backpacks on, we skied our way up a mountain in the Sawatch Range to our first camp spot where we spent two days sleeping in tents with snow walls. The second camping spot was nestled next to Mt. Zion and had an amazing 360 view of the surrounding mountains. There, we built our first quigloos by mounding up piles of snow and then hallowing them out. The next four days were full of backcountry skiing (which is much more strenuous without a chairlift), decorating our quigloos with snow statues, and fires in a wooden tipi we had found. After getting used to sleeping in our first quigloos, which were nice and roasty toasty, we skied to our third and final camp spot where we made another set of quigloos. Here we briefly met the other expedition group for some hellos and then goodbyes as they left for their last camping spot. We had a fantastic slope nearby where we spent a lot of our time skiing in the last four days. We also summited Buckeye Peak which brought us all together for some bonding. All in all, we had a great time romping around in the snow.
We ventured out to the Sawatch Mountain Range for our second expedition. The first 100 yards of the trip were tough, due to the lack of snow and the ice, but from that point on everything went uphill, literally. We shared a massive kitchen the first two nights of the trip, which offered us much time to hang out and bond. Mounding the quigloos required a lot of shoveling, but we all participated and had a lot of fun. The views were incredible, the stars were bright, and the fried pickles were tasty. We had some amazing days of ski touring, in which our resident videographers, Ollie and Mickey, took cool videos of everyone making nice tele turns. At one point we were able to look out over the town of Leadville, and we could almost see HMI. We had a fox visitor one night, which was exciting to see, but sad as we did not want it to become dependent on human food. We powered through our hardest day, pulling the very heavy sleds, mounding our second quigloos, and digging out mid shelters with no complaining and an amazing sense of comradery and teamwork. It was really amazing to see how we were all looking out for each other and offering help to anyone who needed it at any point in the day. Our kindness and patience made that hard day much better than it could have been. After that day, it was smooth sailing. We had a beautiful, powdery ski hill right under our campsite, and the sunsets were vibrant and colorful over the distant mountains. The girls’ tarp group and one of the boys tarp groups built a joint kitchen and shared many unique, but delicious meals together. One snowy morning the boys even made the girls cheesy bagels for breakfast. While there were certainly challenges along the way, we made it through and had an unforgettable experience.
Group D had an amazing expedition in the Mosquito mountain range. Our days were filled with skiing, shoveling, and laughing. For the first two nights, we set up a snow tarp camp in a meadow. Even though it was cold, our large group kitchen was a highlight of the trip. For the next four nights, we camped at a beautiful area that overlooked Leadville. Here is where we built our quigloos. After a lot of difficult shoveling, our winter homes were finished and kept us warm at night. On the fifth day we celebrated a birthday with a special cookie brownie dessert made by Dylan. There is something extra special about celebrating in the backcountry! The next leg of the trip involved trekking to the tundra above tree line. The tundra was packed with snow so we built snow caves instead of quigloos. Overall, it was a great trip!