March 31, 2010
Waking up the next day was like waking up in my bed at home. I wasn’t welcomed by the freezing ass bitter cold like I did the previous weekend. This time, I woke up to a beautiful sun peeking in the entrance of our snow cave. I was excited that I wasn’t going to be shivering for the bulk of my morning. I got out of my sleeping bag and it was very warm inside the quinzhee. It was so warm that I noticed a layer of ice had formed on the inside wall of the quinzhee. This meant that it was so warm inside the previous night, that the snow softened and refroze into ice. Because of this, It was a joy getting dressed for the day.
When I crawled out of my quinzhee I greeted the warm refreshing sun. Everyone was already up before I was, and they had already started making breakfast. The smell of cooking made me extremely hungry! I hurried over to my backpack and grabbed some eggs and bacon and we had a nice little kitchen fiesta going on. It was such a cool site seeing everyone cooking in the middle of the back country. I have never had so much fun cooking in a long time. It was essential that we got a good morning meal because we were going to be out of camp for the entire day on an exploration mission. So we took our time making a fantastic breakfast meal before we took off.
This is me before we left
Around 10 am, we had packed our day packs, strapped on our snow shoes and head off into the hills. Our first mission was to get to higher grounds to catch an incredible view. On the way we learned about different animal tracks that we saw in the snow. We tried to identify the tracks but it was very hard. Our teacher Pete was an expert on the subject and taught us everything about snow tracks. On the way we also learned about different tree species and plant species. It was an information packed day that was for sure.
Hiking up to the summit
When we reached the summit of the mountain we were on, we decided to stop and grab some lunch. I had some PP&J. While eating lunch, we were soaking up the warm sun rays while enjoying the marvelous view the entire Steamboat valley. We even were able to see Haans Peak across the valley. I had to get a picture of me with the peak in the background for this is a legendary peak. While we were up there, our teacher gave us a lesson on how to properly read a map. CMC doesn’t believe in using GPS systems because those don’t teach you anything! So we spent a good 30 minutes going over everything about map reading. I am still trying to learn the magical art of map reading.
After we had plotted our way off the peak, we made our way into some trees that were away from the breeze. It was time for Jareds fire starting presentation. One big aspect of Snow Orientation is the ability to survive in a severe survival situation. With that being said, we needed to know how to start a fire with nothing but flint. I thought it would be impossible but Jared made it look really easy. He had the thing going within minutes of setting things up. I was extremely impressed. Even to this day I havn’t perfected my fire starting skills.
When the sun went down, it began to get very cold. We had another kitchen fiesta and everyone cooked a fantastic meal once again. After dinner we used our fire starting skills to get a campfire going at base camp. This was the best night of the trip. By that point, everyone had gotten over the shitty feelings of camping in the winter. Everyone had their systems down perfectly and there was no better way to celebrate over a nice group campfire. This gave us a very good opportunity to dry our clothing by the fire. I dried everything from my jacket to my boots. Boy was it a great way to kick off the final night. Going to sleep was extremely easy.
Waking up the next morning was once again very pleasant. I was kind of upset to know that this would be our last day camping in the wild however I was eager to get back home. We went over one final lesson and we learned about avalanches in the back country. We built a mote and learned the dynamics of snow and everything that can cause an avalanche. We tested the snow after that. My body was aching and extremely sore. Our instructor told us that we had to completely destroy our camp because of their leave no trace policy. So we began destroying our quinzhees and kitchen areas. It was depressing, but we had to do it. Once everything was taken care of, we took off back to the car.
Driving home gave me a lot of time to think about things. I had learned so much over those 2 weekends. I learned that humans really only need the bare essentials to survive. I also learned that humans can do incredibly amazing things if they just put their minds to it. We were challenged mentally and physically but the entire group ended up on top in the end. It was a marvelous experience. I would highly recommend taking Snow Orientation for everyone!
March 25, 2010
This is part 2 continued from part 1. There will a final 3rd post from this trip. Stick around for part 3 soon to come!
When I got back from my first weekend out on Snow O, I had a lot to learn from the trip. I realized that winter camping is a whole different ball game than summer camping. I realized that winter camping requires perfection in every way possible. Everything you do in winter camping, contributes to the outcome of your well being. If you leave your gloves off for 5 minutes, your hands will be ice cold for the rest of the night. If you get your socks wet trying to change clothes, your feet will be wet and cold for the rest of the day. The biggest thing that made my first weekend hard was the actual food I brought. Me and my partner tried to save money on food and that was a disaster. We were weak and hungry because of our poor food choices. For the 2nd trip, I would end up spending almost 40 dollars on food and it paid off. In the end, I would be more than prepared for weekend 2.
The following Friday after weekend 1, we all met back in the lower Monson parking lot. Everyone had a totally different mind set this time around because we all knew what was we were going to be in for. Everyone also looked a lot more better packed. When we left CMC, I was happy to see that the sun was out this time! I was so sick of the constant snowing from the previous weekend, I was relieved to know that the next few days were going to be mild according to the meteorologists. As we were driving back to the same mountain region, we made it extra clear to Pete not to drive in another ditch! Luckily, he listened and we didn’t get stuck 3 hours behind schedule like we did last week. When we arrived, we were not so much in a hurry as we were last time.
The hike into our campsite was quite pleasant. The sun was out and it was warm. It was nice to know that we could actually see into the mountains we were hiking to. The view was fantastic. We were making such great time, we decided to actually sit down and eat lunch. Eating tons of carbs and drinking tons of water really helps with your energy and performance in a winter environment. So the sit down lunch did wonders for the entire group. When we continued on, we passed or original campsite and wanted to go further into the steep hills so we could get closer to some better backcountry terrain. About an hour after we passed campsite 1, we decided to make refuge.
The first thing we did was do a briefing on quinzhees. A quinzhee is a shelter made out of snow that looks very similar to an igloo. The only difference between a quinzhee and an igloo is an igloo is made out of snow blocks, while a quinzhee is carved out a pile of snow. With that being said, we mapped out our
camp and began constructing our quinzhee shelters. We started shoveling snow into a giant pile like there was no tomorrow. After about an hour of shoveling, we were done. In the process of all that, we managed to have 3 giant snow piles adjacent to each other. There was also a sweet mote path that connected the 3 snow structures. In order for a quinzhee to not collapse, you must let the snow sit for an hour to harden. So that was what we did. In the meantime, we got the stoves fired up and began making some hot chocolate and ate snacks to keep our core temperature up.
When an hour passed, it was time to carve. I volunteered to be the main mole for the project because I had the most waterproof clothing in my group. Slowly but surely, our quinzhee took shape. Calling myself a mole was perfect because I looked just like a mole doing it. Surprisingly, I got really hot in there and I began to sweat. That didn’t bother me at the time though because I just wanted to get the structure finished. After about an hour of straight mole action, the entire structure was finished. It was a really awesome set up. Like I said before, we had a sweet mote connecting the 3 quinzhee. We decided to turn the mote into a fantastic kitchen area.
At this time I began to start freezing. Exactly what our instructors had warned us about. If you get wet from something or sweat, you will freeze. My body temperature began to drop very quickly because of the sun going down. I ran over to the kitchen area to make a hot cup of tea and that made me temporarily warm. While I had some warmth, I decided to change clothes. Now I must say, changing clothes in the middle of dead snowy winter is one hell of a task. After 25 minutes of struggling to get clothes on, I finally did it and I felt a million times better. Having dry clothes on is a gift!
At this time it was dark and everyone was tired. I whipped up some dinner and went right to the snow cave for a great night sleep. I loved how much warmer the quinzhee was compared to the tarp. Inside the quinzhee, it was a whopping 42 degreese. SO warm compared to the -6 degree tarp! With that being said, I was excited to get a great night sleep. With all the hiking we did that day I was ready to pass out.
This concludes part 2. Stick around for part 3 coming soon!
March 23, 2010
Colorado Mountain College is just like any other college out there. It has classrooms, dorms, a dining hall, a campus and degree programs. One thing that makes CMC different however, is the actual atmosphere inside the classroom. Besides small class sizes, CMC is right in the middle of the Rocky Mountains… An amazing place to be. Because of this, Colorado Mountain College is notorious for its outstanding Outdoor Education program. Like most colleges, classes are conducted inside a classroom or lecture hall with a teacher and a chalkboard. At CMC, outdoor education classes are conducted outdoors right where things matter most. Unfortunately for me, I am not in an outdoor education program however there is more to this story. At CMC, if you take 15 credits, the next 3 credits are free! With that being said, when I was registering for 2nd semester classes, I was stuck on 15 credits. I had no idea what I wanted to take so I figured I would use my free credits and take an Outdoor Education class. Since we were right in the heart of a mountain town, I thought that taking a class called Snow Orientation would be a ton of fun.
The first day of class we went over the basics of the class. The purpose of the class is to give students a better understanding of a back country winter environment while trying to learn about the natural history of the land in the process. Our teacher, Pete Huber, said we would be spending a total of 3 nights in the middle of the back country for 2 consecutive weekends. I have never been winter camping before so I was excited for what the trip entailed. At the time, little did I know that this would be one of the hardest things I would ever do in my entire life.
When the first day of the trip rolled around, I was up and awake at 7:00 a.m. sharp with all my gear ready. Our group of 12 met in the lower monson parking lot and that was where we piled in our huge heap of gear we would be needing for the part 1 of our trip. Since this was the first weekend, we were only going to spend 1 night in the wilderness so we can get a feel for how it is going to be. I wasn’t too worried about 1 night so I didn’t really put a lot of time and effort in what I had packed. Little did I know that I was going to be in for one hell of a time. at 7:30, we left the college and off we went! I am not sure of the exact place we went to however I do know that we were close to Steamboat Lake and Haans Peak.
While we were driving to our location, it was snowing quite hard. The road had accumulated about 6 inches on the ground and the heavy van/bus we were taking was having a hard time making it through the storm. A little ways up the road, our teacher Pete cut a turn too sharp and managed to get our vehicle stuck in the deep snow! Luckily for us, we all were equipped with our own shovels so we thought digging the bus out would be no problem. The picture to the right is us trying to dig the bus out. After 30 minutes of digging, we still got nowhere and had to call for backup. About two hours later, one of Pete’s friends came to the rescue! Within no time, we were back on the road with only a 3.5 hour delay
When we got to our destination, everyone was eager to hit the trail quickly because our daylight was precious and we were behind schedule. Once we got everything situated, we hit the trail. At this point, I knew that there would be no turning back now. After 10 minutes of hiking, I was exhausted! My 30 pound pack and 12 pound sled I was trailing was getting heavier by the second. Although it was 20 degrees outside, I was sweating profusely and I had to shed layers down to my undershirt. Even with no clothes on I was still hot. About an hour into the hike we were only 1/3 of the way there and it was snowing harder the further uphill we went. We stopped briefly for a lunch break but we had to kick it into high gear in order to make it to camp before it got dark. When we made it to base camp, the first thing we did was set up our tarp tents.
Everyone had specific jobs to teach to the class. Jared gave us a thorough class demo on how to build a tarp enclosure. He covered everything from snow carving, tarp material, knots, to securing the tarp to the ground. He made everything look so easy so me and my partner were not worried about the construction. Once again, I had underestimated things and building a tarp shelter is very difficult. Especially when your fingers are completely numb from the extreme cold. Fortunately for us, we managed to erect our beautiful hobo shack for it was going to be home for a night. After the tarps were set up, I was excruciatingly cold and immensely hungry. We cooked dinner over our 1 precious stove and melted snow for the morning. Dinner was not so great. We had packed those grab and go rice boxes and it was very un palatable. I knew that for the next week, I would go all out on buying substantial food.
As soon as the sun went down, I was exhausted and cold. I wanted to go to sleep but I was simply just too cold to even do so. Me and a few kids were feeling the same way so we spent the rest of our energy building a fire pit. Boy did that fire warm my freezing ass up and boy did it feel amazing. I wanted to sit by the fire all night but eventually it would go out and I would be forced to go to the hobo tent. When I did manage going back to the tent, it was extremely hard getting dressed for sleep. I had nowhere to stand, and nowhere to put my clothes. It had to be done though. After 20 minutes of getting dressed for sleep, I finally made it in my life sustaining sleeping bag. I went to sleep faster than I have gone to sleep in a long time. Surprisingly, I was not that cold in the tarp. Maybe a little shivers every now and then but considering we were outside in the middle of the winter, it was not too bad.
Waking up the next day was very hard. It may have been tolerable inside my sleeping bag but as soon as I got out of my sleeping bag, I began to shiver uncontrollably. I had nowhere to stand because I had no shoes and there was snow everywhere. The first thing I tried to do was put my boots on. Tried is the key word in that sentence. When I tried to put my boots on, there was one problem. The entire boot structure was frozen solid. Even the laces were frozen to the boot making it impossible for me to even slip my foot in. After 30 (yes 30) minutes of breathing on my boots, I finally was able to slip my foot in them. My feet would be frozen ice cold for the next 2 hours. Once I got outside the tarp, I eagerly made breakfast. Everyone else in our camp had quality food like omlets, oatmeal, hot chocolate etc. Me and my partner had bagels. That was it. Just bagels. Once again, I realized that we packed very immaturely as far as food went. Bagels simply don’t cut it when you are out in the wilderness.
Since everyone was feeling similar to me, we packed our bags early and took off back to the bus. I was so relieved that I had survived the impervious night for it was one of the hardest things I had ever done. The hike back to the bus was easier for we were going downhill. Slowly but surely we made it back and my body was in survival mode. I didn’t want to do anything but take a hot shower. That was all that was on my mind. Hot shower. Hot shower. Boy was that the most incredible hot shower I have ever taken. After the first weekend was over, I knew there was a lot I would have to change if I was going to survive part 2.
March 22, 2010
Like every Sunday, the Resident Hall Association puts on a program for the fellow dorm kids. This week was me and Josh’s turn to to a program and we thought what a great idea it would be to do a relay race! Since the snow has recently been melting, we thought this was a great time to do a naked relay race because of how warm it has been. Ever since we put the promotional signs up last week, students have been talking about this event for quite some time.
The race entailed students to strip down to their skibbies and complete a set of relay oriented tasks. They had to first run across the parking lot, up the muddy hill and put on a freezing cold wet tshirt. Once they did that, they had to high tail it over to the basketball hoop to spin around 10 times and make a basket. Once they scored, they had to run all the way back to the starting point to close in their time. The top 3 winners would be granted gift card prizes to safeway. 1st place – $60 2nd place – $30 3rd place – $10.
At precisely 8:00 sharp, students started to gather in the MPR waiting for the race to start. I was surprised when 20 or so people showed up but I was let down to hear that only 7 wanted to compete. The rest were too chicken to compete. Throughout the entire race, there was 1 spot where kids were slipping and getting all sorts of mud over themselves. I felt kind of bad for how cold it was but it really didn’t matter because they were all going for the gold! in the end the top 3 came out victorious and finally can afford some food for a change! When everything was all over, we had hot coco waiting in the MPR for all the freezing contestants that didn’t win anything.
March 18, 2010
Before I go into this post, I must give credit to the St. Patricks Day photo on the left. This photo was taken by Larry Pierce and I got it off the Steamboat.com. If you are interested in seeing more photos, please their photos of the day section! Anyway… do you remember my post yesterday about how it was so hot I was able to skate the mini ramp? If you don’t, scroll down a bit, its the post right under this one… With that being said, today was another beautiful/hot day. I woke up this morning to the sound of dripping water and a bright sun shining into my room. I looked outside and there it was, once again, not a cloud in the sky. What a great way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day! Me and my roommate got dressed in our green T’s and head for the Mountain.
When we arrived at the mountain we were in utter shock. The crowd was just insane!! There had to be at least 200 people waiting in line at the gondola and it didn’t stop there. The base of Cristie was packed as well. It had to be a combination of spring break week alongside the fact that it was a holiday. I thought it was pretty funny to see security guards searching people’s backpacks upon entrance of the gondola. I guess they were pretty serious about the DUI enforcement the city has been talking about. Not only that, but there was even police officers on the mtn skiing around! Me and my roommate were even lucky to get on a lift with some of them thats how many there were today. Other than that, it was an amazing day! There was not a cloud in the sky and there was so much green on the mountain. Check out these pics of me and my roommate lounging on the lifts.