Steamboat Springs Standing atop Mount Harvard at 14,420 feet above sea level, Molly Newman and Julia Churchill couldn't believe their eyes.
"You felt like you were on top of the world," Newman said. "I've never hiked that high."
Creating unique moments and lifelong memories for middle school students such as Newman and Churchill were two of Matt Tredway's goals when he started Everything Outdoors Steamboat three years ago.
Tredway, a sixth-grade math and science teacher at Steamboat Springs Middle School, wanted to give students the opportunity to explore Colorado's outdoors with one another and their teachers.
"This is a great way to see kids in a different light, not just in the classroom," Tredway said.
Michaela Frias, Emma Lichtenfels, Jenna Peters, Ben Massey and Jack Massey joined Newman and Churchill on the two-day trip to Mount Harvard near Buena Vista.
"I thought it was pretty fun," Churchill said. "Normally, I go on day hikes with my family. This was a total camping experience."
The students left Sept. 25. They each had backpacks weighing 23 pounds or more, and they hiked 3 1/2 hours to base camp, 11,800 feet above sea level and above timberline.
"We pumped water out of the river using a filter," Newman said. "I had never done that before."
Churchill and Newman remember getting "maybe a couple hours" of sleep that night because it was so windy. But that didn't deter the group from reaching the summit of Harvard on Sept. 26 while many of their classmates sat through another day of school.
To qualify for an EOS trip, students must be in good academic standing.
"We talked about school on the way up," Newman said. "Toward the top, you get winded and have to walk slowly. I had to concentrate on my breathing."
Newman and Churchill, who are skiers and in good shape, said summiting a 14,000-foot mountain was unlike anything they had done before. It took the group 2 1/2 hours to summit and return to base camp. It was another hour back to the vehicles.
The EOS group encountered a few people on Mount Harvard, but they spent most of the trip with only one another's company.
"I definitely want to do another one," Churchill said.
In addition to the two-day mountain climbing trip, EOS activities include mountain biking, fishing and ice climbing. Tredway, an avid outdoorsman, has enlisted the help of teachers and community members to chaperone and instruct the children in various outdoor activities.
Through the middle school's spring tree sale, EOS has raised enough money to create an endowment for outdoor education.
"It's such a unique school," Tredway said. "The academics stand alone. The athletics are good. This is just one other awesome thing we do. I've enjoyed it."
For more information about the EOS program and upcoming trips, visit www.eosteamboat.org
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail email@example.com