Group A: Second expedition was an adventure in the Colorado back-country, one like no other. Between the curiously strong weather and various challenges with the native wildlife it taught us physical and mental fortitude. There was nothing more satisfying than our first night in the quigloo (a type of snow cave) after a day working tirelessly to hollow it. Or, our first night of appetizers, and the divine smell of the mozzarella sticks. Spending 18 hours in the quigloo taught my group patience and how to make our own fun. The conversations we had in those long days fostered depth of thought and brought us all closer together. And while dragging a 20 pound sled up the mountain was trying; the satisfaction of a summit was unparalleled. Overall, I learned to appreciate the power of type-two fun, or when things are fun only in hindsight.
Group B: There we were, climbing a mountain in the middle of a bomb cyclone, thinking that this would be the end of us. In a sense, Mount Zion was a twisted metaphor for us. We would reach the top, and at the peak of our struggle, we would summit and our hardships became pleasure. Each time we would reach the top, our packs and sleds would get just a little bit lighter. Somehow, through it all, we kept high spirits. We did evacuate at one point to dry out our sleeping bags and clothing. A day or so later we headed back out to that mountain, but that time we did our two day route in a one day haul starting at 6 am. Anticipation and nervousness built up during our previous days on campus, but once we were out there, the skies were clear and our spirits were high. We climbed the entire mountain for our third time by 11 am. But, this time our moods were great for the entirety of the day, almost as if there was a correlation between our happiness and the sun being out. (Hint: there is) We dug out our quigloos and spent the next three days laughing, cooking, vlogging, and free skiing. Spirits were still high as we traveled even further along the ridge of Mount Zion. We spent the sunniest day of our expedition looking out over Leadville, Colorado and Mosquito pass.
In total we spent roughly six days traveling back and forth between our quigloo sites, hiking the mountain, and an additional day and a half huddled in our quigloos for 40 hours. That was quite the experience. If we weren’t already close with our tarp groups by the time the storm hit, we sure were after. What is important to know about the entirety of this expedition, was the energy and sheer mental and physical strength of our expedition leaders. Hayden, Jess, and Renee were absolutely amazing, and there is no doubt in our minds that they worked twice as hard as any of us. From pulling the heaviest sleds, to making back and forth trips for members of the group, and staying up all night to ensure the safety of each tarp group, they really did it all. If it sounds like they’re standing over my shoulders: they’re not. I speak on behalf of our entire expedition group to say that we all feel tremendously in debt to them. Overall a 10 out of 10 experience, and something that none of us will ever forget.
Group C: Step. Step. Step. Miles of stepping and hard breaths. Finally, after a lost water bottle crisis, we arrived at our first campsite with eight sleds and twelve people. Dinner followed shortly after. Mushy rice never tasted so bad and snickers never tasted so sweet. When we woke up, a blizzard was the only view. The following hours were the most hectic of the trip. They consisted of ripped tarps, lost homework and many tears. Accepting our lack of comfort, the day went on. As the sun snuck out from under a blanket of grey clouds, smiles suddenly appeared on all of our faces. Soon our camp was filled with sleeping bags thrown over skis to dry, steam from every pot and pan on stoves working double-time, and the smell of trying bacon encircling our quigloos. Just like that we were off to our second campsite. From buried food bags to sinking ceilings, we were all ready to say a farewell to campsite one. After a sweaty day we were pleasantly surprised with a clear view of Leadville just over the final hill. A snowy forest soon transformed into a little village quigloos and kitchens. The day ended with egg rolls, pink skies, and tag with a view. And then, boom, blizzard number two hit us. Forty eight hours of quigloo time left each group significantly closer than before. The last few days flew by as well as the last scraps of our frozen appetizers. Our final night of this chaotic yet silly expedition was spent under an ombre sky, lots of giggles, and many hugs to be given. Driving back to campus, it felt as if we had just left. It’s safe to say that this is a trip that I will definitely never forget.
Group D: Our expedition, fondly referred to as our beach vacation, took place on Mount Zion. On day zero, we gathered our hiking packs and sleds and started up to the first (and little did we know, only) camp site. There, we made a big group kitchen and dug out our first tarp sites. On day one, we headed up the mountain, passing through a narrow, tree-lined trail to get to our second camp site. That afternoon, we headed back down the mountain to our first site to sleep. We enjoyed an assortment of appetizers as well as a very cheesy dinner. That night, while we were all nestled in our sleeping bags, two mid tarps collapsed from the snow. We were temporarily trapped, but spirits were quickly restored by hot water bottles and milky ways. The next morning, there was some talk about a 24 hour evacuation to HMI to dry out our wet gear and grab new tarps. However, avalanches shut down highways, and evacuation was no longer an option. The next two days were spent mounding, eating, learning, and enjoying the sun (or blizzard.) The next few days we climbed up to the top of the ridge and enjoyed a downhill ski! We also got to see Hayden’s groups. On the last day of skiing, we enjoyed a fresh, frozen pineapple. The last day (the sunniest day) we packed up early, destroyed our kitchens, and headed out to the bus! It was a successful beach vacation to say the least.
Group E: Second expedition was easily one of the hardest but most rewarding experiences of my life. Camping in the Sawatch Mountains, surrounded by beauty, the 13 of us (9 students and 4 instructors) faced some of the toughest winter conditions possible. Not many people in the world can say that they were huddled in a quigloo in the middle of this most recent snowstorm, much less a snowstorm that made national news and shut down the Denver Airport. But this trip wasn’t only survival. We also had so much fun. You could find my tarp mates, Emma, Anna, and I laughing and finding the fun in getting soaking wet while digging out a quigloo, cooking dinner while it was snowing, figuring out that I am an East Coast skier and that powder is not my friend, or digging ourselves out of our quigloo when it would snow upwards of a foot at night. The whole group played soccer and gaga ball, made snow cones, and had an hour long photo shoot when the sun finally came out about five days in to the trip. Despite the tricky weather, my entire group persevered, had an absolute blast, and came out stronger and better people.