S Trek 1 has been steeped in hostel luxury this past week–thanks to our Inn the Clouds hosts. We got to sleep under a roof, enjoy running water, and sit on some very plush couches. Our stint in Leadville started off with some much needed showers (the odor on the van was becoming a little unbearable). We all proceeded to pass out in what would be our first sleep in a bed in over a month. As much as we love our sleeping bags, I think we all needed a zipper-less sleep situation. The next day brought unstructured recharge time in Buena Vista, a town near Leadville that is known for being a bit warmer as it’s farther South. Our delightfully empty day was capped off by an Open Mic night. The other S Trek group was perhaps a bit more prepared (and, dare we say, naturally talented) than we were. While they played guitar and sang for us, we performed a few very chaotic songs with some embarrassing choreography. The night ended with an epic dance party (Primadonna by Marina and Diamonds is our group’s go-to sing-along song if any loved ones were wondering).
Prep for our upcoming expedition began the following day. We had to get our gear together and pick up heaps of rental equipment from the lovely HMI campus. That evening, we found out we would be receiving our first dose of the COVID vaccine. Mixed with excitement about beginning our ski week, the spirits were really high. Our first day on skis brought us to Turquoise Lake. We learned the basics of skiing with skins on. The skins allow us to traverse on flat and uphill ground. We had a really enjoyable but exhausting day on skis before we loaded up the van and headed to our vaccine appointments. The next two days were identical in itinerary. We went to Ski Cooper, a local ski resort, where the goal was simply to get down the mountain. For some, it was their first day on skis. For others, it was a chance to learn telemark turns. The weather was very good to us, so we got to ski in t-shirts. After our two days at Ski Cooper, we had our touring day. It was our first backcountry ski day. Before embarking on a strenuous journey uphill, we tested our beacons– devices that emit a sound in the event that you get trapped in an avalanche–just your very typical Saturday morning! Then we began climbing up. The elevation, and also maybe being a little out of shape, made the journey uphill pretty exhausting. We were all quite winded so we were uncharacteristically quiet on the way up. We got to our lunch spot and the chatter started to flow again. Lunch on this tour day looked like all of us sprawled out on the snow with our skis still on, stuffing our faces full of our packed lunches. The afternoon took a bit of a turn, as the maps had not reflected how difficult the terrain would be for our descent. The snowpack, the trees, and a sprinkling of rocks made for a pretty intense afternoon. We took our time and helped each other up after we fell (which was very, very often). That was our last ski day before we began the next element of preparation: ration shopping and sled packing. We all were assigned different quigloo and cook groups and spent the day planning logistics within those groups. We learned about how to set up shelter, prevent cold-related injuries, and use the dreaded “pooper”.
Excitement levels are running pretty high right now as the expedition looms closer. While it still feels very foreign to us, we are starting to feel very ready to get back outside and learn some new skills.