Eleven Outdoor Adventure Leadership students spent three days and two nights at the Ludlow Hut, living a simple but busy life in the backcountry over the weekend of Feb. 8-10. The students traveled to the Ludlow Hut to gain winter backcountry knowledge and leadership experience.
“It was a rewarding winter environment experience,” said Sophomore Ashley Mantione-White. “We expanded our avalanche safety skills, as well as our general backpacking, snowshoeing and alpine touring skills.”
Students departed from Sugar Pine Point State Park on the west shore of Lake Tahoe, wearing snowshoes or skis for a six mile ascent that took about seven hours including lunch and “classroom” time.
Heavy packs were neatly filled with warm layers, camp stoves, bacon and other backcountry essentials and personal luxuries. The weather forecast predicted snow, but the storm passed leaving a blanket of sparkling powder. Students pioneered fresh tracksunder blue skies.
It was an “amazing experience with amazing views,” said Junior Andrew Mavin.
Finding the safest and most efficient way to get from point A to point B was a major theme for the weekend, but countless lessons were learned.
“The group was positive and enthusiastic about being out in the backcountry learning about avalanche conditions, winter camping, navigation and leading each other,” said Freshmen Casey Gordon. “As a group we all share the same positive attitude towards learning and experiencing new adventures.”
Students were challenged not only to learn, but to teach. During one exercise, students were asked to write down the 10 most important things in their lives. Under the light of headlamps and the warmth of crackling wood stoves, students shared their essential personal needs.
“Things that we all shared were trust, family, friendship, adventure,” said Mantione-White. “We all had material things we felt were important such as our snowboards or skis, but those are just tools for the lives we lead.”
Before the journey, some students with previous Ludlow Hut experience admitted to a love/hate relationship with the adventure, a weekend filled with 20 miles of strenuous travel through all kinds of terrain.
“I swore I would never go back,” said Senior Coli Haack. “It was such an accomplishment to tackle it with new skills, having learned from past mistakes, and come out smiling.”
“Being ‘outdoorsy’ is not something I ever wanted or expected to find. It is something that found me and transformed my entire way of life,” said Haack. “It provides life lessons through instant results, pushes you beyond what you ever thought yourself capable of, and it consumes your soul.”
The expedition balanced challenge with reward. Carrying shoulder crushing backpacks for hours on end was rewarded with astonishing views and delicious meals inthe wilderness.
“There’s no point in studying something you’re not passionate about, and I find it hard not to be passionate on these trips,” said Alex Edwards. “We all share the passion for the outdoors and I would say that makes us a goofy, ambitious, and unique group.”
While traveling and living as a tight knit community of 11 students and two instructors, each student experienced their own personal lessons and favorite moments.
“Sitting on top of Lost Corner Mountain for about an hour was the best hour I’ve had in a while,” said Junior Chuck Roesch.
“The last day was definitely a highlight of the trip. Getting to navigate, hike, and lead our way out of the backcountry without help from instructors was a confidence building experience.” said Freshman Casey Gordon.
For the past three years about 60 students have been to the Ludlow Hut between Outdoor Skills and Outdoor Leadership.
“We love the Ludlow Hut for its remoteness and solitude… there is less human traffic,” said ODAL Director Rosie Hackett, who led the trip along with ODAL instructor Daryl Teittinen.
Before leaving the Ludlow Hut on Sunday morning, Hackett read a quote from Edward Abbey to remind the group to enjoy the day and consider the many reasons to appreciate a partially arduous journey.