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Groups

Once you’ve gone through all this preparation and have actually arrived in Lander (hopefully on time), there’s a rowdy meeting of your class and the upperclassmen (and some sophomores) who’ll be leading you. Don’t be too surprised to see a few upperclassmen there who are taking the trip with you. Most of the time they’re not spies for the school administration, though some do suspect Seagahan Nolan was one last year, they’re just people who for some reason couldn’t do the trip in their freshman year. And for some, they didn’t do it during their sophomore year either. Apparently, there are some upperclassmen, and its rumored, some seniors even, who haven’t done the Winter Trip or COR. Either they’ve had incredibly bad luck, or they’ve been very skillful at avoiding it up until now, but they’re there now, so just expect to see some of them around.

At this meeting, you’ll also discover all the intricacies of groups, squadrons, battalions, and the like into which you’ll be divided for the trip. It’s all confusing, but the reason for it is actually to create a sense of unity for your class as you begin to progress through the curriculum. Even if it doesn’t seem possible, at first, that’s at least the goal, and you’ll see what if feels like more and more as you progress through your time here. Through a common experience throughout the week, you’ll begin with some of the people you’ve associated yourself with the least so far, as develop a new sort of unity that transcends past cliches and friend groups that may have developed through your first semester and focus on your class as a whole.

Thus at this first meeting, which turned rowdy for us as we welcomed back one whom everyone, literally everyone, thought was not coming back. We hear that even he didn’t think he was coming back until he showed up at this meeting for, as he tells us, “not really any reason in particular like my favorite Bible verse.” Which reads: “And most of them did not know why they had come together.” (Acts 19:32) I bring up this verse only because it seems the goal of the college through the trip is more broadly to switch people from thinking Acts 19:32 to instead become an Acts 2:44 crowd: “And all who believed were together and had all things in common.”

That’s one thing that makes this trip quite different from COR. For all of you will be in one place together, hopefully coming to some understanding of why you’re together for the trip other than merely cliche answers like, “the van” or “they put us here”. Here you are supposed to find some unifying principle for your class, something like the soul which you’ll investigate in philosophy next year.

But after this meeting, things are jam-packed, even before the trip itself. Trip leaders check over your gear, you sleep a little, wake up and take the test I mentioned, rent gear, watch a lot of demonstrations from leaders, practice skiing in the Lander Golf Course, hopefully not breaking your foot in the process…, go through a bunch of lessons, sleep a little, and prepare to depart Sunday morning.

And your groups, again. Supposedly who is in each of them is secret until you get to Lander for the meeting, but many, I’ve heard, have leaked out already. You can be sure that they’ve only leaked out because the OLP let them be so for some reasons of its own. We just have to trust that they’re not trying some weird mass social experiment through them. Or at least we can hope, because we may not be able to just trust anymore after the weird things that happened to WCCLE 5 last year.

Nearing the Trip Itself

That brings us to actual details of the trip itself, which so as not to spoil things too much, we’ll keep more vague than in the way we did for our guide to COR. Basically, the Winter Trip is for the majority of the time a nice heated week running around church halls and driving between them while watching WCC alumni sweat attempting to make a game out of how many layers they can wear at once. This is where you prepare for the brief time you will actually spend in the cold and wild, the culmination of the trip, where if you haven’t yet heard, you spend two nights sleeping in a quinzee, a hollowed space in the snow you constructed yourself.

Don’t worry about the details of the week, as you get a lot of instructions all the time from a lot of people and our saying them now might only serve to confuse you more, The basic plan is recorded in your copy of the Official Guide, though, so you are expected to read about it and know it. Just remember in particular who’s in your group, as tasks are assigned by group and pack as much food as possible on the night when you choose what to bring for your time outside.

Here’s a brief summary of what’s involved taken from last year’s guide:

That’s right, you’re about to actually go out into the wild outdoors. While in your intense reading of the guidebook and the gear list you’ve packed a lot of clothes and again, COR can feel colder than the winter trip, it’s only not a disaster if you plan very well and bring even more than the mountain of clothes they suggest. That means making doubly sure that you actually have all the things you paid big money for, and not stealing or letting someone else steal your sleeping bag. It’s not fun in a church basement to be without a sleeping bag, and it would be even less fun in a snow cave.

Clothing

Further on the matter of clothing, by the way, we suggest wearing a sleeping bag, or a few of them at once, at all times to stay as warm as possible. You do get a list of required gear that includes careful prescriptions for clothing, but, its important to note, as it may be a question on the pre-test, that what is prescribed is only enough to keep you alive. Winter Trip during WCC’s first year stayed in place even as neighboring Marines in training gave up under a temperature of forty degrees below zero and a forty mile an hour wind to top that. Conditions could be similar this year, so comfort, let alone any survival beyond having to be medically defrosted means bundling up. Some of the more intense students last year wore skins from bears they had hunted and skinned over Christmas break. While this is an option for wearing more layers, we suggest for time’s sake doing something rather more modern. Wearing a sleeping bag at all times and bundling up into three at once for sleeping is one such suggestion we found also works. One freshman already has another innovative solution this year which we’ve found interesting, repurposing surplus spacecraft heat shielding to the outside of her jacket. There may not be enough of this from her source for everyone, but we do like the “far-transfer” symbolized by this solution. Or just wear as much as possible, ten layers at a time to eliminate as much heat flow as possible.

And to make sure it’s as clear as possible, especially if you’re considering extreme choices for warmth. Be ready to take them off if they work too well. For it seems that sweating was almost as bad as wearing cotton in the minds of our instructors last year, for it somehow could end up making us colder. We don’t know how it works, but this was a command that was a bit hard to follow as they asked us to do the almost impossible of staying warm, exercising to create more heat, and then somehow, not sweating at all in the practice. Their solution was to get a little cold at times so that you don’t become even colder. So bring lots of layers whereby taking them on and off you have micro-control over your temperature. Or you could bring a portable air conditioner and a fan to cool yourself down, but only 10% of people did such last year along with portable electric heaters. And from their experience, they told us it just wasn’t worth the cost and the weight of carrying it around. Just think about that before you decide.

And by the way, cotton kills, don’t wear or bring cotton on the trip. I don’t know why it’s safe in the frontcountry, but that’s just what they say for Outdoor Trips. Don’t wear it!