Our expedition was so awesome! In total, we did about 50 miles and attempted to summit two 14ers (peaks above 14,000 feet), and got up most of Mount Massive and completed Mount Elbert! The first day, one cook group fried mac ‘n cheese Not a bad first meal to have in the backcountry! Every night we had Circle, where everyone gathers and shares based on a certain prompt; the first prompt was “why did you choose HMI?” Other prompts throughout the trip included what is your spirit cake? Who is your role model? What is your proudest accomplishment? About half way through the trip, we resupplied our food and switched instructors; we were sad to see Jess leave, but were excited for all the new adventures with Jacob. For the next few days, we did trail work on the Windsor Lake Trail. Jacob introduced us to many games (miniature tanks, animal master, big booty) and helped us start new traditions. Riley, Julian and Lizi built the best stairs ever on the trail (if you are ever there check them out), and we also hiked up to Windsor Lake and did some classes there. After those four days, we continued our adventures backpacking. We hiked through a boulder field to a really pretty lake that looked like an infinity pool. The next few days, we fell back into our hiking rhythm of waking up, cooking breakfast (a favorite was curry cheesy brown sugar bagels), hiking, setting up camp, doing some classes, making dinner, doing Circle, hanging out, and then going to bed. Then, one day we attempted to summit Mount Massive. We were all super stoked and we made it up to this beautiful boulder field and then hung out there for a while before heading back down to our campsite. A few days later, we woke up at 3:00 AM to summit Mount Elbert. While hiking up, we could see the Milky Way and the stars and it was so beautiful. We stopped mid-way up to watch the sunrise, then we hiked up to the summit where the view was so beautiful!
There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that this most recent expedition to the Sawatch Range was an incredibly wild ride for everyone involved, and our expedition group was no exception. Our leaders were Hayden, Carrie, Sadie, and Charles, and it seems to us that we could not have had a better combination. When we arrived the first day, all the tarp groups were excited to learn new skills: cooking, purifying water, hiking efficiently, wilderness survival, and a host of other things. The learning curves in all these categories were incredibly steep so the first few days of the expedition were shorter hikes, culminating in a layover on the third day at an alpine lake where we were given the option of a beautiful hike up a ridge overlooking our campsite. After our wonderful day, we trekked on, becoming more independent as we went. Each night was a different adventure in the kitchen whether we were cooking good ol’ rice and beans or some sort of lovely sauté couscous stir fry. A crowning achievement happened for us on day eight when we had the privilege of waking up at 3:00 AM to summit the beautiful Mount Massive. The summiting went as smooth as can be with a 9:00 AM summit, and we were even able to watch a beautiful sunrise over the town of Leadville from halfway up the mountain. As re-ration came and went, we became proficient at everything outdoors. As we became more confident, our tasks became more complicated. After the re-ration we were able to do some wonderful trail work with folks from the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, and it even snowed on us during one of the colder mornings. We finished our trip hiking through the lovely Collegiate Range, having hiked over 60 miles in total. We are all immensely excited for expedition number two!
Our group’s experience was full of enjoyment and learning. We started off as a group that knew virtually nothing about each other, but as the days went on and the backpacking made us converse, we started to learn more and more about everyone. Of course, there may have been times that there was difficulties but they all vanished as the group felt more like a family and team. Everyone made great memories during our backpacking expedition; from seeing moose in our near vicinity to seeing Buena Vista from the top of Mount Harvard (the third highest mountain Colorado), we all made memories that we will never forget. Even the cooking was pretty enjoyable. Every day, all of the students would cook food for themselves. We even made pizza a couple of times! To finish this off, the main reason that our group was able to work so efficiently and pleasantly together is that we opened up to each other and that we wanted to have the best experience for not just ourselves, but for everyone in the group.
Our expedition group had a blast in the Sawatch Mountain Range! We started off our trip with an anxious bus ride to the trailhead. Many were nervous as they hadn’t camped or backpacked before, but after the first night we knew the trip would be an experience we all looked back on fondly. From exploring old remains of Colorado’s mining industry (we got to see the rickety Champion Mill) to baking pizzas in the middle of an aspen grove, we started off the trip with a lot of laughter and curiosity for the beautiful forests surrounding us. We hiked on a new route for HMI, which was exciting to all of us and definitely put our navigational skills to the test. After a few days, we found our way onto the Colorado Trail! Klaus taught us all about the birds we saw (which totaled to 52 species) and Ray, Sophie, Coco, and Timbah kept us entertained with a ton of new games to play while hiking (or around a fire late at night). Towards the middle of the trip, we camped at a beautiful alpine lake and even found an “alpine pineapple” (which is really just an actual pineapple that the instructors fooled us with)! We climbed over the notorious Hope Pass, which was tough but the view it exposed made every vertical foot we climbed well worth it. After the first ration period, we base-camped for three days to do trail work with the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative. We had a ton of fun singing old pop songs while lifting 800-pound boulders and eventually building a new staircase on the trail. At the end of trail work, we were rewarded by being able to walk on our trail to summit Mt. Huron! We woke up at 3:30 AM to try to summit by sunrise, but we were delayed by a blizzard! Our group showed incredible resilience and perseverance, as climbing up 4,000 feet in a white-out certainly was challenging. The cheers at the top and the shared Snickers bars that followed, however, definitely made us all feel amazingly proud of ourselves, despite not being able to see more than 10 feet around us! Our descent took on the form of a slide down the mountain in the thick powder, which was an amazing way to start the day! After a few more days hiking (and some more wading in the many alpine lakes we saw), we sadly had to board the bus and leave our life in the mountains in our memories. We had a bittersweet goodbye, as we had so much fun and got so close within our small group, but we were also so excited to go back to HMI to well-cooked meals, running water, and a whole new community of people!
Our lucky group of ten had an amazing, tough, new, fun, wild, and sometimes whacky experience on first expedition. First for some impressive mountain highlights: we went over two passes, Hope Pass and Elkhead Pass. We sat at the top with our Sour Patch Kids and Snickers bars, staring out at some of the most beautiful views we had ever seen (although our feet did hurt a bit by the end). Waking up to begin at 3:00 AM one morning, we summited the tallest mountain in Colorado, Mount Elbert. In total over the eighteen days we walked about 69 miles and gained 15,900 feet of elevation. Not everything was quite so extreme though. We had several shorter days, hiking only a few miles and watching as streams and lakes and meadows and bright blue skies passed us by. We made food in small groups over WhisperLite stoves. Sometimes the stoves broke. Sometimes the fuel lines clogged. Sometimes we cooked together as a whole group and made brownies that inevitably did not fully cook over our little stoves and had to be turned into “brownie scramble.” Everything was always alright. We sat in circles at night and talked about our hopes and our dreams and played games. The games were silly, but everyone was okay with that. We slept deeply in tarps with the mountains outside our doors and did not feel the little rocks and slanted earth beneath us.