Royals and trojans take the rockies

Students and teachers reflect on Summer Field Studies, a two-week trip out west.


Last summer, 144 students from Roncalli and Bishop Chatard High School packed into vans for a two-week trip out west.

On this trip, the students, as well as supervisors and sherpas (college students, often who went on this trip themselves) climbed mountains, explored national parks, and visited a record number of gas stations on the trip famously known as Summer Field Studies.

Summer Field Studies made its comeback after its cancellation in 2020 and provided a change of scenery for students and staff alike.

On the trip, students spent their first week in Durango, Colo., and camped out on the Chris Park campground.

Here, the group spent a week doing hikes like Castle Rock, Purgatory, Spud Lake, Engineer Mountain, and the Colorado Trail, ranging anywhere from 2-12 miles.

One of the students who attended the trip was senior Sam Sering.

“A lot of the hikes weren’t what I expected,” Sering said.

“I remember my first hike was called Hematite Creek. It was supposed to be really short, just a few miles, but it was really steep, and the switchbacks made it hard to turn. But through all the terrible weather we finally reached the creek. We all got to swim in it and the reward was a really good feeling,” Sering said.

The second week of the trip, students split up into groups, some going on their respective “Auxiliary Adventures” and some mountaineering.

The auxiliary adventures were brief trips from Durango to Capitol Reef, Zion, Arches, and Canyonlands national parks in Utah.

Mountaineering was a physically rigorous task, where students were challenged to climb three of the tallest mountains in Colorado.

The mountaineers climbed Mount Elbert, the tallest mountain in Colorado. It took five hours to get to the top and it was nine hour round trip.

The mountain was known to be steep, and the mountaineers had to learn breathing techniques and how to stay connected to many different ropes.

“The whole climb was really rewarding, minus Mr. Crissman’s beef stew,” which they had at the end of one of their hikes. “That was terrible,” Sering said.

Although all these tasks and hikes were “difficult” for Sering, he said “it felt like a family trip.”

“It’s a chance to actually bond with students rather than just going to football games or regular school activities. It’s about taking the opportunity to get even closer with people. Hiking with your friends, playing cards, going to mass and singing lean on me, and even teaching the Chatard kids how to do it too.”

Along with the group of kids who attended the trip, there is a large group of sherpas, and adult staff who attend, and come back on the trip each year.

One of these returning staff members is the vice president for facilities at Roncalli, Mr. Dave Gervasio, who has been going on SFS on and off for 30 years.

“I went for the first time as a student, and I thought it was an extraordinary gift to appreciate the outdoors and connect with God through nature, and I wanted to be able to pass that along.”

Gervasio’s love for the outdoors started when he went on Summer Field Studies both his junior and senior year, where he met his wife, and had what he calls his “introduction to mountains.”

“After Summer Field Studies, my wife and I started taking out kids on adventure trips like this. My two boys caught the bug and ended up going on Summer Field Studies and coming back as staff members.”

He says the best thing about the trip is “getting to see the look in a student’s eye when they go out there for the first time, just like I had when I first went 30 years ago” and he tells any students on the fence about the trip that “opportunities like this don’t come along too often. It’s one of the best trips I have ever experienced, and passing it up would be a tragedy. It’s such a great experience with God and nature, to enjoy camping, hiking, rock climbing, mountaineering, and all the adventures that await. I can’t encourage it enough.”

Information for the 2022 SFS trip is available now, and includes a trip back to Durango, ventures to national parks, canyoneering, overnight canoing, and more.

Registration for Summer Field Studies was due November 21st, and information can be found on or contact Mr. Crissman if with any questions.