Semester 44: 2nd Expedition

Written by: Benny, Audrey, Daniela, Sam Y, & Bella

Led by Justin and Carrie, Group A drove about 15 minutes to our trailhead and unloaded the van. A forgotten beacon proved to only be a minor setback as the group essentially flew to our campsite. The group’s efficient pace became the hallmark of the trip as they called themselves the “best ever.” Having reached the first campsite the group dug snow tarps and started dinner as the sun went down. After “Circle,” which is a time to share with each other, the group stayed out for a few minutes and continued to talk and joke with each other. This chemistry also proved to be a huge asset for the group as it got them through hard times. The first few days proved to be “scorchers,” as the warm weather allowed most of the group to skin, dig, and play in only t-shirts. During these days in the sun, the group established their first quigloo site and went ski touring for the first time. Their first ski touring day they saw a steep ascent up a hill and had a prolonged photo shoot before the group ripped down the mountain doing their best to “free the heel, free the mind.” Their nights remained eventful as the group played games such as Gaga Ball and saw a vast array of satellites. Perhaps the most memorable evening activity was when each advisory group made their own mini golf course, complete with at least three features and everyone played mini golf with a ski pole and tennis ball. The group’s days at their second quigloo camp tested their endurance and resolve as they climbed an incredibly steep pitch with sleds and shoveled out quigloos in blowing snow. Despite taking time to complete their second round of quigloos the group pushed through a tough day of digging and skinning in a bit of a snowstorm. After one more day of skiing in the sun, the group was subjected to a day hiding in their quigloos from the elements. Despite a chilly penultimate day, the group managed to finish their expedition in style. On their final day they sent it down a perilous steep section and zipped all the way back to where they had started truly holding up their title of “best ever”. After a frenzy of repacking the van they raced back to campus to try and remember what it was like to feel warm.

The Gummy Bears, led by Hayden, strapped into their Tele skis on and prepared for Semester 44’s Second Expedition. The group put their sleds onto their waists, lifted their packs onto their shoulders, and started the 1.5-mile ski to their first camp spot. As they skied, some of them wondered what they would experience in the next nine days. None of them could imagine the fun that would occur. At their first quigloo site, their days were full of Spikeball, frisbee, and studyhall. They were lucky enough to have sunny “warm” days (some people even wore shorts!). At their second quigloo site, they had even more fun! When they got to the site they found that Jacob and Sadies group had built a jump. Almost everyone in the group took a turn going off the jump. The group also spent time having interesting P&P and History discussions. On the last day of their trip, they had to ski to the bus. It was the most chaotic day of the trip. Almost every person fell. Some people crashed into other people and trees. However, through the craziness, they all laughed their way down the hill. As they all got on the bus to go back to HMI, they reminisced on the yummy food they ate, the fun skiing they did, the heavy sleds they had to pull, and the fantastic memories they made. 

The cast of High School Musical, also known as Group C, led by Jacob and Sadie, started their journey with a talkative 20 minute bus ride, practically through HMI’s backyard. After unloading the bus and getting excited to start heading into the mountains, one member remembered that he forgot his avalanche beacon back on campus. So, Jacob bravely drove back to campus to grab this necessary piece of equipment and safely returned it to its rightful owner about 45 minutes later. Despite this initial setback, the group quickly gathered their sleds and headed off into the backcountry. Although they were carrying incredibly heavy sleds on steep incline for the majority of the skiing day, the group maintained a very positive and high-spirited attitude throughout much of the trip, with only occasional moments where morale was low. On the most challenging ski day, an inspiring quote was born; “die with the sled, die a hero”… words to live by. The days, especially on those that each tarp group had to build their quigloos, were filled with fun conversations about TV shows and our other interests. Each tarp group, the Wildcats, the West High Knights, and the Evans Residence, continued to keep spirits high during dinner with fun and interesting conversations every night. About midway through the trip, Jacob dropped off our “waste” in town and brought back a surprise: ice cream! (Also an apple and some sunglasses.) All the tarp groups were ecstatic! They all huddled around together as they ate ice cream and talked. Every night, the group would commence with Circle, a time where they could share personal feelings and deepen their connections with each other. Usually Circle started with a quick game, the most memorable game being “Little Sally Walker.” No one expected it, but Jacob managed to hit the “woah” so hard that the ground almost shook. Alarmed and shocked, the entire group laughed and screamed for what felt like hours. After a fun game, they would have more serious and meaningful conversations, sometimes lasting until midnight. On the last three nights of the trip, each tarp group had the opportunity to lead a Circle. After 10 days of skinning, skiing, laughing, and talking together, they forged tight and lasting connections. 

After saying goodbye to all their friends on campus, Group D, led by English and History teacher Liz, began their winter expedition on the 15 minute bus ride up to the trailhead near Ski Cooper. It took a while to ski the mile up to their first tarp-site in the Sawatch Range, since all the students were getting used to ski touring, especially with heavy packs and pulling sleds. At the tarp-site they erected their tarps in the snow, which took over three hours for some. On day two, they skinned up to their first Quigloo Site. They passed a few snowmobilers and took a left at the 10th Mountain Hut, where they began to break trail in the snow. At the end of the journey they found difficulty pulling the sleds up a steep pitch, but they worked together to make it to the quig-site, which sat at the base of Homestake Peak. They mounded the quigloos with hundreds of shovels of snow while singing and chatting. That night, back at the tarp-site, they freaked out when they looked up and saw what later turned out to be SpaceX’s Starlink satellites streaking across the sky! On day three from noon past sundown, everyone shoveled out their own Quigloos and designed their own kitchens. They didn’t expect there to be so much snow! The view was breathtaking as they ate gazing down upon the mighty Arkansas Valley with the Leadville lights shining from the other side. On the 4th day the group had their first study hall, a beacon-search class, and checked out a local ski pitch. On day 5 they made their own summit of Homestake Peak, nearing 13,000 feet. After skinning up the slope for a few hours they were rewarded with breathtaking views of the Arkansas Valley and the mountain ranges beyond the Sawatch. On the way down they had the opportunity for some free skiing in a bowl where they got a few turns in the powder. On days 6-9 they repeated the process of Quigloo construction, then had two days off for student-led discussions and study hall, which was moved inside of individual Quigloos because of heavy snowfall. Although the group did not know each other so well at the beginning, they bonded over keeping their toes warm, fun games before Circle at night, and working together on travel days. The last day, the group had a tough time getting down the mountain with many falls and gear malfunctions. They persevered and finally made it to the bus, leaving the Sawatch Range with warm smiles and a shared experience they’ll never forget.

Before the esteemed winter expedition even began, the entire semester circled up by the busses in their boots and avalanche beacons. There, they were led by Charlie in a “boom-chicka-boom” hype circle, hugged to say goodbye, then filed into the busses and were off. The first day was a travel day to our tarp site. The group strapped on their skis with skins, and some lugged sleds up steep uphill with some grunting, but they made it to camp in one piece. Kitchens were designed and snow tarps were dug in time for dinner to begin before dark. Lots of inadvertent punching through the snow and falling up to waists along the way. After Circle, some members of the trip got into an intense snowball fight and then hurried to be in their tarps for tarp-check in. The next day the group was up bright and early to mound at the first quigloo sight. And the following day was a moving day—all sleds on deck—as the group relocated to their new homes, quigloos! To finish the construction, there was one skydiver on top of the mound, digging down, and a mole going through the door. Eventually two people could fit inside to speed up the process, and the rest of the group worked on digging out the living area. The Yung P’s (a tarp group) switched a designer for a digger with the boys quigloo, and carved out a big living room space which all the students used to hang out and do study hall. This quigloo was living large. Once settled into the quigloo site after a night, classes began. There was a history discussion on water rights that took place in the “hot tub” overlooking Leadville with mountains encasing the valley. After classes came “free ski” where the group summited the mountain right behind their site, took in the views, and then skied down at their own pace. The snow was untouched and sometimes crusty, so there were a good amount of highspeed tree-hugging and hilarious spills that could be watched from the camp. The routine stayed pretty much the same with classes and then free ski, but the group got a great visit from their advisors, Amy and Jess! Starting on day six the group started to prep their next campsite, which was unique from all the other groups, staying in a cornice! The cornice was essentially a tunnel of hardened snow that left an area between its snow wall and a hill. The group dug into it without having to mound, and made their new homes—snow caves! They also had to build up walls outside the living spaces to minimize the amount of wind from the tunnel-like shape of the feature. On day eight they moved in after a P&P class about race, socioeconomic status and nature. Moving to a new location brought new types of weather. The cornice proved to be very windy (with strong snow) so the next morning, the kitchens were covered in snow! The tarp groups stayed in their quigloos for studyhall to avoid the wind, and snacked on the delicious rations (gardettos is a group favorite). But, midday the sun came out and the wind dissipated, so almost everyone went free skiing in the best snow yet. Some of the group crafted a jump, and student Dylan did his first 360º ever with teacher Dylan tagging along for the fun. After Circle, the group did a big hug and fell in the snow: laughing, screaming and thinking about their return to warm beds but their sadness to leave an amazing experience like sleeping in the snow for 10 nights.