History

The High Mountain Institute was founded in 1995 by Christopher and Molly Barnes. Prior to starting HMI, Christopher and Molly each worked in traditional school settings and led backcountry expeditions for Deer Hill Expeditions and the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). With some guidance and a lot of encouragement from Peter Neill, who was to become the founding Board Chair, Christopher and Molly set out to start a semester school where nature and minds meet. After leading HMI through its first 18 years – 30 semesters – Christopher and Molly are exploring the world with their sons, Porter and Jack.

Today, each HMI Semester is filled with 40+ vibrant teenagers from across the country; each summer 20+ rising sophomores, juniors and seniors join us for the HMI Summer Term; 10-12 middle school students participate annually in a 2-week High Peaks Adventure course; over a dozen Leadville youth get their first taste of the wilderness on the annual Lake County Backpacking Trip; and numerous individuals attend our wilderness medicine and avalanche awareness courses each season. Today, HMI has over 1,000 alumni across the country and is recognized nationally as a leader in progressive education. 

In July of 2013, Christopher and Molly retired as HMI’s leaders to travel the country by sailboat with their two boys. You can follow the Barnes Family Adventures on their blog.