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College outdoor clubs can introduce students to landscapes such as the Wind River Range.

College Outdoor Clubs: A Necessary Resource

Image you’re a parent and your kid has just come home from college. They joined a club with a crazy group of dirtbags and now spend every weekend outside getting sunburnt, climbing, backpacking, and caving. Your first thought might be, “Oh lord, they’re gonna drop out and live in a van down by the river.” I want you to know it does not always end up that way. However, you probably will have to work with them on showering more often. Whether you are the worried parent or the adventure-driven kid, college outdoor clubs are important and can be life changing.

When I went to the University of Cincinnati, I initially struggled to make friends, especially my first semester. I joined the UC Mountaineering Club (UCMC) at the start of the fall semester, but a demanding chemistry lab prevented me from being active in the club. First thing spring semester, I went to meetings and became an active member of the group. It was incredible! I fell in love with these people. They welcomed me with open arms and made me feel included. I tried all sorts of new things, like canyoneering, more serious backpacking than I had done as a kid, and hanging out at the crag (climbing wall) at Red River Gorge.

College outdoor club students connect over a shared passion for adventure.

UC Mountaineering Club students at Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

You are able to see so much with these clubs, even as a college student. They can put on a week-and-a-half long trip to western national parks for around $250 per student. Although that doesn’t include food, it is still phenomenally cheap. Without this group, I would not have explored as much of the country as I have.

Opening young adults up to new adventures is not all these clubs are good for. They provide the interested college kid with a group of individuals who share the same passions. This will help them find their identity and create lifelong friendships. Some of my friends from the mountaineering club later became my roommates!

College outdoor clubs also teach new skills; UCMC taught me to climb. I had tried it as a wee Boy Scout but never got into it. Then, UCMC really taught me. I learned the importance of climbing safety and having the right gear. I grew from top-roping to belaying others and eventually lead climbing. When my time came, I was the one teaching other mountaineers how to climb, passing on the lessons I had been taught.

College outdoor clubs are an avenue to discover passions and valuesr

UCMC students connect around shared passions at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

These club relationships can even help with careers and networking. If it was not for UCMC, I would not be working for the best store in the world: Roads Rivers and Trails! Several RRT staff come from UCMC and I’m grateful for that. In the summer of 2019, RRT needed more gear ninjas (that’s what they call us sales associates when we start). Another member of the club helped me apply and get the job. Now, I’m the “Director of Gear Science and Technology.” Pretty fancy, huh! I learned so much about outdoor gear and had some incredible co-workers and supervisors. Emily even helped me get a chemistry job with the Food and Drug Administration by writing a letter of recommendation.

Furthermore, these clubs are instrumental in helping a kid build their identity and adult life. I don’t know what I would have done without UCMC. So, if you’re the kid thinking about joining, just try it out. If you’re the parent, relax. You have to let your kid become the person they want to be, although it may stress you out and make you worry. Just ask my mother, she’ll have some stories for you. But more importantly, it will make a huge difference for your kid.

I love UCMC and I wouldn’t trade its people or experiences for the world. College outdoor clubs are awesome and so important to your personal growth. Check out the UC Mountaineering Club or a similar outdoor club at your college of choice; the impact can be astounding.

College outdoor club students visit Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park is a favorite destination for college outdoor clubs over fall break.

by: Joe Carver

Peak Bagging 14ers

By: Ben Shaw

*For more on this story join us February 13th at 7PM at Roads Rivers and Trails in downtown Milford for a more in-depth presentation by the trip participants. (2020)

Going on the first adventure of 2020, only took me a few days…  I’d been planning this one for months though, getting out to Colorado again and climbing some snowy mountains has been in the back of my mind for years now.  The weeks leading up, I obsessed about routes, weather, avalanche conditions and all the other things you actually have very little control over. When the week of the trip hit, I oddly found myself in a funk.  The most experienced climber of the group bailed out on Monday and I started having weird shoulder pains on Tuesday.  I shrugged it off, still excited, celebrated New Years and packed for the trip.  As I got closer to leaving that Saturday I could feel my “funk” start to go away, but unfortunately some of it was still hanging on.

 

“In the mountaineering parlance of the Western US, a fourteener is a peak with an elevation of at least 14,000′. There are 96 fourteeners in the United States. Colorado has the most (53) of any state”

 

We left at 3 AM on a Saturday morning with the intent to be in Colorado Springs in the evening. The plan was to spend the night with our friends Olivia and Ike, who would then join us on our trip.  On the car ride out, I started to notice the conditions on Bierstadt were already changing, with high winds, colder temperatures and potentially snow forecast for our prospective first summit day.  Joining me on the trip were friends Dalton and Toren. I tried to put my thoughts to rest with a combination of laughing at shared stories and playing “My Cows”, but that didn’t help much.  I made the call to push our summit day up, our plans were already changing.  On top of that, an hour outside of Colorado Springs I got a fever and almost passed out, the trip was going swimmingly…  After getting to our friend’s house and throwing down a few slices of pizza we all got to bed early for our 4 AM start the next day.

In the morning, the sky was clear, and after a windy, restless night, the air was calm.  Our group quickly covered the two-hour drive to Guanella Pass​ and before I knew it, I was standing at 10,000′ putting on snowshoes and heading up the snow-covered road.  We gradually hiked up, making it to the top of the pass in just under an hour.  Toren, Dalton and I setup camp, planning to stay the night after summiting to acclimate at near 11,500′.

Mt. Bierstadt: After we setup camp, and gathered our summit packs we started into the willows up the west slope.  As you head up Bierstadt in the warmer months, you travel through about a mile of thick willows and mushy marshland.  Luckily, as we headed up, the boggy ground was frozen stiff, and the willows had a clear trench worked in by other climbers.  We quickly progressed up above the swamp to 12,500′.

I could feel the altitude wearing on my body.  My chest was tight, it was hard to breath, the cold winter air bit at my lungs but upward we went.  Gradually we closed in on 13,500′ with a final 500′ vertical push to the summit.  This would be the only semi-exposed part of the climb; the east face was shear and the final pitch was blanketed in two small snow fields.  As we rested behind some rocks before the push, a pair came down and said it was brutally windy up there.  We weren’t discouraged being so close, but we knew it would be a quick up and down.  Toren and I set off, climbing up, I felt like he was sprinting ahead of me, excited for the 14,060′ summit.  After a few short minutes we reached the top and took in the panoramic views of nothing insight but an endless expanse of mountains. Quickly, we were chased down by the wind as our friends made the final push up behind our descent.


We trotted down the mountain.  I could feel the air warm, and my body slowly regaining its posture.  I was still exhausted.  Having not felt well the day before, I was at a major calorie deficit and dehydrated, not good things for being in the mountains.  The lower we descended the more I could feel muscle fatigue and the other effects of the past 48 hours setting in.  I needed a nap…

Eventually we all made it down to 11,500′ where we had setup basecamp.  We traded stories of our somewhat separate trips up and down as we got a much-needed snack.  Eventually Olivia and Ike continued down the mountain, back to their car and headed home to Colorado Springs.  Dalton, Toren and I got that much needed nap.  After brushing off our alarms for close to an hour we finally arose from our slumber.  I sat up, threw up and continued heaving out the tent door…  I either had altitude sickness, or food poisoning or a combination of the two.  Even if it was just food poisoning, being up at 11,500′ was not making it better, both ends of my body felt like they wanted to explode…

We made the smart call to go down.  As we packed camp, I was furious at my body for not keeping up.  Once back at the car, I sank into my seat, defeated and feeling like trash.  We started off towards Colorado Springs.  About halfway down Guanella Pass we ran into some skiers that had locked themselves out of their car and needed a ride to their key.  Dalton and Toren obliged and helped them with a ride.  I like to believe that that was our payment in good karma for the rest of the trip.  After a few hours shuttling and then being stuck in Sunday ski traffic we arrived back in Colorado Springs and I was quickly in bed.

Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) “The negative health effect of high altitude caused by rapid exposure to low amounts of oxygen at high elevation. Symptoms may include headaches, vomiting, tiredness, trouble sleeping, and dizziness.”

The next day I had a decision to make, pull it together and head towards DeCaLiBron for our 4 summit day or wimp out and give into my body…  I told my body to shove off.  Dalton and Toren, as they would many more times on this trip, encouraged me to go for it.  By sunset we found ourselves at 12,000′, snuggled up in our 4-season mountaineering tents and 0-degree sleeping bags as the wind whipped off the summits outside.

Around 9 PM Ike arrived at our camp, waking me up from what had been a pretty good nap.  I was happy though, him being there gave me a bit of comfort, after all, he’s been there on most of my biggest trips.  After getting settled in, we again dozed off to sleep to the sound of howling wind outside. ​My watch began to vibrate at 6:30 AM, it was still dark.  I began moving around looking for breakfast and water, knocking frost of the top of the tent.  The wind had settled, but it still kicked up here and there.  As the sun started to rise up through the gulch we reluctantly put on our cold boots and started up the south slope of Mt. Democrat from Kite Lake.

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Mt. Cameron: After losing the saddle back towards Cameron, we grabbed a snack and felt rejuvenated by our speedy pace.  As a group we agreed to push on to the other summits back above us.  Again, we quickly regained the ridge going up to Cameron and bagged the sub-peak at 14,238′.  Dalton and I were beginning to feel the effects of the wind and the day, we were becoming sluggish as Ike and Toren continued to push on.  As we traveled across the flat saddle towards Mt. Lincoln, Dalton and I started to doubt ourselves.  We could see the peak in the distance, but we were worried about getting too fatigued after our long ascent and knew we still had the journey back.  Halfway up the summit push we were deterred by the wind and Toren and Ike carried forward.  We found shelter as they bagged the summit and we were already beating ourselves up.  Dalton was trying to think when he could come back here next when Toren got back to us and said it wasn’t that bad and that we should have gone for it.

Mt. Democrat: Ike had been smart and brought snowshoes, Toren, Dalton and I thought we were better off without the weight.  For the first mile we post-holed up the slope, trying to gain the high ground.  Ike moved like a superhuman and we moved like sloths.  As we progressed up to the ridge between Cameron and Democrat, we crossed a few different avalanche zones.  We always made sure to spread out and take it slowly, one at a time, but the suspense as each one of us would cross was palpable.  Eventually, we made it up onto the saddle and excitedly started up the east ridge of Democrat.  It was a windy push, with strong gusts coming over the north ridge.  We were completely exposed since we didn’t want to go over to the snow-covered south slope.  The wind was punishing and after we would all talk about how this was the first time we all collectively thought to ourselves about abandoning the day.  The group persevered though, and we reached the 14,152′ summit before 10 AM, we still had a full day ahead of us.

Mt. Lincoln and Mt. Bross: Full of excitement, Dalton and I dropped our packs and pushed over to the 14,286′ summit of Lincoln as well.  It was surprisingly easy, and it was also extremely rejuvenating.  We crossed over the furthest part of our route, we had all bagged 3 of the 4 and we were about to be on our way down.  Slowly, we crossed another avalanche zone before continuing on to Bross at 14,172′.  At the top, we sat for a second and celebrated.  Something we had doubted doing that morning had just been completed.  The group began down the summit back towards Kite Lake, all feeling tired, but happy.  We did a combination of rock hopping down the scree slopes and glissading down the couloirs to get back to camp.  After an uneventful descent, we were back.

Our original plan was to do Quandary the following day but I knew I would probably be too tired still and severely wanted some rest.  I convinced Dalton and Toren to go to Leadville that night and stay at the Inn of the Clouds Hostel for the next two nights to rest up before we finished our journey.  Out of all the decisions I made I think this was the only one I regret.

Glissade: “The act of descending a steep snow- or scree-covered slope via a controlled slide on one’s feet or buttocks.  Typically done with the support of an ice axe.”

We spent the night in Leadville getting delicious food at Tennessee Pass Cafe, enjoying a beer at Periodic Brewing (the highest microbrewery in North America) and relaxing at the hostel.  The next day we poked around the local gear shops, played in the snow, had some great pizza from High Mountain Pies and took full advantage of a much needed day off.  On Thursday we were going to be heading up Quandary to bag our 6th peak so we got to sleep and prepared for an early morning.

Quandry Peak: As we woke up in the morning and went out to the car there was a light dusting of snow and the air was bitterly cold.  We had an hour car ride, so I was hoping that as the sun came up it would reveal clear skies, it did. Sitting in the parking lot just before 8 AM, we geared up, and got out and started up the easy but steep slope.  The trail was well packed below treeline, the group made great time.  Before I knew it, we had reached tree-line and were heading up slope with no signs of a trail, everything was windswept.  As we pushed onward, it became a post-hole fest up to 12,500′, but we did it.

We continued to gain the ridge, closing in on 13,000′ and the final summit push.  On the other side of the mountain, we could see a massive cloud blowing in.  The winds were 50-60 mph with higher gusts and the light powder from the night before blew against the smallest bit of exposed skin like shards of glass.  It was a brutal and dangerous slog.  Every time we stopped, I thought about how long we could continue up into the -36°F weather with this kind of wind and what would happen if we found ourselves in a whiteout.

I made the hard call and turned us back.  Dalton understood what the issues were, Toren wanted to go on but reluctantly understood and I felt defeated by my own decision.  I honestly believe the hardest decision you can make when mountaineering is to turn back.  You abandon the summit; you abandon your goal and you go down.  It takes a lot out of you to put in that kind of work and quit. As we drove off, I thought of all of the things that could have gone differently.  Would the conditions have been better the day before?  If we got a later start, would that have helped?  Should I just have kept pushing onward?  It sits on your mind…

We left central Colorado and headed towards Rocky Mountain National Park in the Front Range for an overnight snowshoeing in the backcountry.  When we got there the Rangers said we’d be the only people out, it was the height of the slow season.  It was a fun couple of hours as we headed up to Glacier Gorge, enjoying the winter weather and making the most of the end of our trip.  The snow blanketed everything and made the valleys beautiful.  Longs Peak was socked in by snow, but it loomed above us as the night set in.  It was an enjoyable end to a very memorable trip.

After RMNP we got food, went back to Colorado Springs, visited Garden of the Gods and had one last night in Colorado before heading home.  I was proud of our successes, with 5/6 peaks bagged, and being able to make the smart calls when we needed to make them and keeping the whole group together.  I had dreamt about this trip for so long and then spent months planning it.  It took a lot out of me and definitely didn’t go completely according to plan (but nothing ever does).  I was finally excited to live it though, to get the experience in the mountains and push my limits on what I can do and what I know how to confidently do.

 

Making the Middle Teton

Making the Middle Teton
Written by: Louie Knolle  

Who starts a hike at 3 a.m.?  If you say only crazy people, then paint me crazy.  Starting from the Lupine Meadows trail head parking lot in Grand Tetons National Park, my 8 fellow summit seekers and I had over 6,000 feet in vertical elevation to gain before accomplishing our goal.  Why so early?  As afternoons progress generally, chances for storms at higher elevations increase dramatically.  When you’re above tree line on the side of the mountain, your body is way more conductive and lightning friendly than any boring rock.

The climb began first with 4 miles of trail up the base of the Tetons through largely lodgepole pines.  With only the light of our headlamps and the moon, we were all abnormally quiet reflecting in the serenity of the early morning.  As the time neared 5 a.m., we paused for a group break having reached the bottom of the boulder field.  Finally, the sunlight began to creep over the horizon and we began the slow crawl over boulders higher than our heads.

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When climbing a mountain and hiking in general, if you’re in a group, you should do everything in your power to stay in that group. In our group all 9 of us were in good shape after hiking around Glacier and Yellowstone for two weeks, so stragglers were not an issue we worried about. After a bit of boulder hopping, two members of our group continued upward when the rest of us descended a little following the “trail”.  One of the two was used to hiking alone and the other was not as experienced, but was in great shape so we didn’t think much of it.  An hour later however, we lost sight of the two and the yelling began.  As it turned out, they continued too far to the left of the valley on the Northeast side of the Middle Teton and starting going up a different peak entirely.  We were able to catch John, who was closer to the group (the experienced solo hiker), but Brad, who was way out in front kept going, more on him later.

After reassembling and a speech on sticking together, we split up again (ironically) and left 3 members of the group to wait for our crazy friend who decided to climb the wrong mountain.  After reaching the lower saddle which would commence the final push of 1200+ vertical feet to the top, we were stopped by a breathtaking view of Iceberg Lake.  The western edge of the Tetons literally drops right down to it.  The final push is always the steepest part. (Which makes it my favorite part!)  I was not feeling the effects of the altitude at all and led the remaining 5 of us most of the way to the top.  Pausing for breaks and being careful on loose rock, the final ascent took us almost 2 hours.

teton2Near the top, 2 more from the group said they were not feeling well so they turned back and eight dropped to three.  The rest of us took this a cue to stop for a food break, but I was already consumed with summit fever.  With prowess a mountain goat would envy, I was at the top in what seemed like no time and I could see everything.  The Grand Teton looked like it was close enough to be grabbed and surrounding me were sheer rock faces and glistening blue lakes.  I was glad I continued the last little bit alone before the other two joined me.  There is no greater feeling of solitude than on top of a lone peak, no other word to describe your feeling but “infinite.”  After my hoots and hollers to tell whoever was listening in the cosmos that I had topped my mountain, I began the climb down so the others could experience their own Middle Teton.

And back to the courageous/foolish young man who summited his own peak that day, suffice it to say he got off very lucky.  As it turned out, Brad climbed a much more difficult route by hand on the way up, and once on top, was not able to find a way down.  After 20 minutes of pacing back and forth, swearing, and near self-defecation, he was able to find an old climbing rope.  He then bravely/foolishly climbed down the length of the rope,

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rocks falling on his head and everything, and went back to the trail head where he napped for 2 hours waiting for our return, utterly exhausted.  Thankfully on our way down, we had enough cell service to receive a voicemail letting us know he made it down safely.

So a variety of lessons were learned on the Middle Teton that day by the University of Cincinnati Mountaineering Club.  1) The larger the group size, the more important it is to stick together when attempting to summit a mountain on a day hike.  2) When you’ve never actually climbed a mountain before, don’t go off on your own thinking you’re Superman.  3) Drink lots of water during your hike.  As your body adjusts to altitude, you have to pee… a lot.  4) Take your time.  Start early, take sufficient rest breaks, and don’t rush yourself especially going from boulder to boulder and ascending on loose rock. 5) Most importantly, have fun!  Don’t ever get discouraged, the euphoria you feel on the summit of a mountain far surpasses as negative thoughts of not being able to complete the climb.

Silence in the Mind & Adventure in the Heart

Silence in the Mind & Adventure in the Heart
A UCMC Goosedown Gazette Original
Written by: Louie Knolle

John Muir once said, “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” Before coming to college, I would not have given much thought to this statement. However, that was before I ever truly experienced all that nature had to offer. A few weeks after I graduated high school in 2010, some close friends and I went backpacking for 3 days in Shenandoah National Park, located in northern Virginia. We wanted to go on some sort of trip, and one friend (a former boy scout) suggested hiking. And we figured, why not? It would be a good challenge and most importantly, it would be cheap! Little did I know however, I would be coming back from that trip with a changed perspective. Growing up, I had never camped for more than one night, and that was only car camping. My family was never one to venture deep into the outdoors, just the occasional walk in the park or visit to Eastfork State Park to go to the free public beach located there. But after returning from Shenandoah and not seeing a road, car, or building for 3 days straight, I was thrilled by the prospect of going and doing it again. And that was even with 90+ degree days, too much in my pack, and pushing myself to new limits, but that’s all part of the fun! And in the years since, I have gone on numerous weekend backpacking trips (2-3 days) and more recently a 6 day/75 miles hike on the Appalachian Trail, climbed mountains, whitewater rafted, kayaked, rock climbed, and even gone caving.

The feeling and kind of person I am when I am doing these things is hard to explain. The best way I can think of describing is that it just feels natural (no pun intended, not even sure if that is a pun). There is a sense of calm and serenity, the likes of which I have never experienced before. When you wake up in the morning, peer over the edge of your hammock and see light refracted through dew covered spider webs, dawn breaking through a mist blanketed lake, nothing compares. It’s both the small sights and the large vistas alike that draw me back time and time again. You feel ever the accomplishment when you realize that the only way to see these sights is to walk away from any road or parking lot, and nothing can take that away from you. I always like to imagine that every sight or object that I’m seeing is being viewed in a completely original manner. Whether it be because I climbed a tree to get a better look, the stream was running especially high and fast that day, or even standing two feet to the left of a friend, what I am taking in is 100% original.

Enough about me though! You can be having these feelings and revelations too! First thing you have to do, is go outside of course. One of the most positive things I find I get out of hiking is a closeness to the earth that cannot be duplicated anywhere else. In this day and age, the average person spends eight hours in front of an electronicscreen, in some form or another, each day. Ironically, that is what I’m doing in writing this article… But despite this slight hypocrisy, I am an advocate of removing oneself from these screens. All this screen time really accomplishes is separating yourself from the world around you, numbing the wonderful machine your mind can be, and not making use of each and every person’s unique skills. I know when I spend too much time on my laptop whether it is on Facebook, Netflix, Reddit, Stumbleupon, etc. I sense an inner restlessness within me and am much less productive as aresult. Not only are these websites time wasters for me, but they are motivation killers too.

One of the most therapeutic benefits of hiking is the sense of peace it brings you. You totally forget about work deadlines, trivial personal matters, and anything else that may worry you on a day-to-day basis. I know the best sleep I ever get is in a tent or hammock after a day or days of hiking. And of course you can argue, sure you sleep soundly after hiking 15 miles with a 30 pound pack on your back, but I’m referring the silence in my mind as I am closing my eyes for the night. We all have those nights where we toss and turn because it doesn’t seem like our mind wants to turn off, but rarely will you find that as a problem when you simply let your mind exist. I’m not saying you need to strap on a pack and carry 3 days’ worth of gear off into the wilderness to achieve this, I can reach the same level of inner calm by simply walking my dog in the park for an hour (a black lab/border collie mix named Korra, she’s adorable). And once you have done this a few times, you can bring this state of mind into your daily routine, whether it is through meditation, yoga, counting to 10, or whatever it is you do to calm yourself after a stressful day. And as a side note, if you don’t do some sort of meditation, I highly recommend it!

Perhaps the most important part of all of this is to be happy. Look deep down and find what makes you happy. It doesn’t have to be hiking. It could be any sort of activity you truly love doing. Every single human being is born with an adventurous spirit, it is up to you the individual to utilize it. For me, going on adventures helped me find a purpose in my life. Not that my life was destitute and directionless before, but planning hikes and other adventures with both myself alone and friends helped remove me from a state of silent acquiescent acceptance. I did not think deeply about most things, just took them as they were and did not question them. I was not able to realize all the blessings I had in my life.

I learned what it truly meant to live in the present and fully enjoy what I was doing, instead of simply going through the emotions. Without adventure in our lives, life can get stale really quickly.

And what’s worse than not using our natural adventurous nature? My wish for you reading this right now is that if you have not already found something you truly love to do, that you keep trying new things until you do find it.

And even after you find it, keep trying even more new things. No one ever loses their childlike sense of curiosity; all they need is a kick in the rump by something that truly invigorates them to clear the film from over their eyes and see the world how it truly is again, a wonderful and spectacular place.

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