Trekking through snow-covered mountains, ice climbing up glaciers and becoming one with the great outdoors—these elements sound a lot like a blockbuster film with a rugged, hairy-faced protagonist who ultimately finds themselves once the end credits roll.
However, the aforementioned elements are not part of a blockbuster film, but instead a brief synopsis of how some students spent their spring break courtesy of Associated Students Inc. (ASI) Campus Recreation’s Eastern Sierra Alpine Mountaineering Expedition.
The trip kicked off with an overnight stay at The Hostel California, a hostel that accommodates hikers, climbers and adventurers.
“[We] met really cool people [at the hostel] from all over the country, flocking to the Sierras for the opportunity to ski within the mountain range,” said Ian Navarro, adventure education coordinator.
Students then trekked through Piute Crags, a mountain summit of over 12,000 feet.
Navarro painted a picture of the day-to-day activities on the mountains.
“Awaking just after sunset, it was a long process [of] getting ready due to the subzero temperatures. Students quickly learned how to adapt to the environment and worked together in teams to be more efficient,” said Navarro. “We enjoyed dehydrated backpacker meals such as Pad Thai and curry, [and] drank tea and coffee around our camp kitchen made of snow.”
Navarro also detailed the difficulties of hauling a 90-pound sled filled with food and supplies around in shifts, in addition to each student carrying a 20-pound backpack before camping on the south end of South Lake at 95,000 feet.
Alex Zadeh, a fifth-year applied math student, described his experience backpacking overnight in the wilderness for the first time.
“South Lake seemed like a hidden winter paradise made for us alone. Not a single person was within five miles of us,” said Zadeh. “It was one of the few times I felt truly isolated from the world.”
“I never thought I would ice climb in my life [so] that alone was a real confidence booster. I found a sense of self confidence in our journeys,” added Zadeh. “That I could face the challenges of a hard Sierra Nevada winter and enjoy it makes me excited to [push] the bounds of my wilderness comfort levels.”
Zadeh reflected on one of the most inspirational moments of the trip.
“The most inspiring part of the trip was watching the other people on the trip struggle with me. Some had more trouble with the cold and altitude, some less, but we were there together, enduring beyond our normal limits towards a greater shared goal. Sharing the journey was easily the best part,” said Zadeh.
Overnight treks were accompanied by a stay at The Pit, a rock climbers campsite with, as Navarro put it, “positive vibes.” Students spent the last two nights in the back-country, sleeping on the snow—secluded from roads or towns.
Navarro reflected on the most rewarding aspect of the trip: “Watching the students take what they learned from the [four-week] workshops, apply it to the trip and come out successful [with] a feeling of accomplishment.”
The four-week workshops, titled The Alpinist, took place at the Bronco Recreation and Intramural Complex (BRIC) during the course of four Thursdays and taught participants the necessary skills to embark on the expedition. This included equipment, packing and decision making; rope traveling up glaciers or mountains; avalanche awareness and mountain weather and lastly, navigation abilities.
“Each day was filled with physical feats and a new respect for the hardships and sheer beauty that Mother Nature can bring,” added Navarro.
Check out the video montage of the trip below: