Written by Douglas, Krain and Hazel
This expedition began with our drive from Leadville to Moab. We set up our base camp at a group site right on the banks of the Colorado River with the view of the sandstone hills spreading out in front of us. We got back into climbing with some top rope climbs set up by our lovely instructors. Throughout our two climbing camps we moved through the climbing progression and many people in our group were learning how to lead climb and build anchors by the end. It felt great to be back in the warmth of the desert and was a stark contrast from our ski expedition!
Yael turned nineteen during the first part of our expedition, and we celebrated her day of birth with many festivities including but not limited to: a piñata (brought by our previous instructor Sam!) filled with capri suns, crab whiffle ball (in which one plays whiffle ball but runs and bats in the position of a crab), dirt and worms for dessert, and a fun sparkly jacket that made her shine like a disco ball, especially when she was up on the wall.
We also spent a couple of days bouldering during this expedition! It was fun to switch up our climbing and learn new skills. Ethan was accused of cheating many times because climbs that were difficult for the shorter members of the group he covered in two steps due to his gangly limbs. We love him anyway though 🙂 On one of our last days bouldering, we drove back to our campsite and had the BIGGEST dance party in the car – the bus moved from our insane dance moves. Michael and Krain had to exit the vehicle ASAP because of the energy (and most likely the smell from bouldering and 10 days of no showers).
Our conservation work during our time in Moab included trail work, bird monitoring, and writing letters to local representatives. Partnering with Trail Mix, a conservation group focused on maintaining trails all over Utah, we built a trail near Fisher Towers (that our instructors Emma and Olivia climbed!) that facilitates non-motorized travel, protecting the ecosystem in the area from ATVs and other potential threats. On a visit to Bears Ears National Monument, we learned about the pinion jay, an endangered bird that inhabits the same area. By recording our encounters with the pinion jay while backpacking in the canyons, we will inform local representatives about the areas that need protection. Finally, we engaged in the democratic process by writing letters to local representatives in the government about environmental issues, including the preservation of protected areas like the Bears Ears National Monument.
The area around Moab gets around 9 inches of rain a year. Our streak, which started during our St. George climbing camp, of having precipitation follow us in such arid environments, continued. Three nights before our expedition ended, we crawled into our slumber tubes under the stars, only to wake up 3 hours later, wet and scampering to get a spot under the gazebo.
With the rain also came the problem of wet sandstone, which is too fragile to climb. We made the best of the day by going on a hike to Corona Arch and then having a Great British Bake Off. Each cook group received a pie crust and a can of mystery fruit, and the chefs were off to the races with one hour on the clock. (Somehow, the amount of time we had left was strongly correlated with how much time it took to cook the i-team’s pies, but who knows how that happened.) Our delicious creations were artfully presented on a variety of cutting boards, frybakes, and leftover cardboard, and everyone dug in before crowning the peach cobbler (aka “the meatballs”) the winner of our event.
We rounded off our expedition by starting our Canyonlands backpacking planning. This planning is unique because we can do our culminating student-planned expeditions, where we have student leaders and more autonomy in our route choices. We poured over maps, wrote up RAD (Route and Description) plans for how we will get to our next campsite each day, and generally got stoked for what was coming ahead.
Some other highlights were cans of frosting eaten as a dessert, a visit from Claire, beautiful desert afternoon runs and dips in the Colorado, our six-hour first aid curriculum we knocked out in a singular day, and another game of assassin.