Semester 40: “Enjoying Leadville’s beauty”

Written by Ernesto Bosi, Olivia Garg, Philip Kaplan, and Matt Semel
May 15, 2018

The semester has become increasingly filled with intense activity and excitement for what lies ahead of us. This past week has been a flurry of emotions found through our daily interactions with people we have come to love: joy in watching Danny’s kids stumble around their playground, sorrow as our apprentice Hannah gave her final goodbyes before leaving for grad school, determination in the grueling sun of the Fun Run, poignancy as we witness the inescapable passage of time leads our semester to a close. We are conflicted by both our hopes that we will never leave this place and our anticipation of arriving home. The community is bittersweet as we approach the final days of being here together.

Academics are different for everyone, but in most classes the apprentices have taken over. Noah is now in charge of science class, and he has led his classes through the history of the world. Every step we took on the mile loop was 2 million years until we reached the present day. Tori is now teaching Spanish, specifically about the border between America and Mexico. People in (formally known as) Emily’s math class now are experiencing having Garrett teach them the wonders of numbers. Howie’s English class is now honored with the presence of Claire, who helped us explore gender in the west through Brokeback Mountain. On Saturday we had our first lab run by Noah. We went out and either hiked or drove to look at rocks and make written observations. If you were in Liz’s history class, Tori taught her unit on activism and we watched the documentary “How to Survive a Plague,” which started her uncle (who we got to interview!). We were all saddened when we had out final P&P class before presenting our final projects. We were given the names of authors, and had to match them up to quotes from their writing—which was a lot harder than expected. The final thing on everyone’s minds academically is that our capstone projects (finals) are being assigned. As of right now, when you parents are reading this, your kids are most likely thinking about what their P&P final will be, and how they will present their science research.

As we enter into the last week of classes here, many students are starting to think of summer and the hard goodbyes they will have to say in two weeks’ time. But their classmates will be quick to let them know that rather than thinking about the sad prospect of heading home, we should all focus on enjoying the time we have left with our friends. Why not put our energy into enjoying Leadville’s beauty to the fullest for a little while longer? After months of cold and snow, the HMI campus is officially on its way to summer. Fires aren’t being built in cabins any longer, and there isn’t any more snow to shovel. The preferred recreation of most HMI students is a walk on the mile loop or a quick game of table tennis on the Barnes Building porch. There is also a new craze sweeping the campus population: the “Frate,” or friend-date, as coined by our very own Danny, is letting us make new friends or catch up with our old ones. It’s late in the semester, but that doesn’t mean new friendships can’t be created.

This past weekend was the most largely anticipated weekend of any HMI weekend before. Forty-eight students were forced to put their three and a half months of running to the test in a 10 mile race. The Fun Run (as it is commonly referred) is an end of the year run where students dress up, put face paint on, and focus themselves on running 10 miles back to the HMI campus. The faculty drive us out towards the local ski mountain to run a course that is exactly 10 miles long. After motivational speeches and an extensive overview of the course, all the students embark on one last running hurrah. The route encompasses several of the runs we’ve been doing the entire semester including six mile loop, the fish hatchery, and both sets of train tracks. After pushing ourselves to the fullest extent and reaching the HMI campus, we had the opportunity to go back out and run an extra three miles to complete a half marathon. A large of the students chose this option which is one of the hardest mental barriers to overcome. Overall we all had a great time and sit proudly with how hard we pushed ourselves. We would stand proud, however, I would like to see anyone try and stand after running a half marathon.




Semester 40: “The typical HMI magic”

Written by Jason Bernard, Kai Carse, Abi Reigel, and Roya Touran
May 7, 2018

Today marks the third day of “Magic May” and as each student is getting reacquainted with residential life here at HMI after time in the canyons, classes are beginning to pick up as well. The science curriculum has turned away from studying the snowpack in Leadville and has begun to focus on the diverse water history surrounding this area of Colorado. Last Saturday the science classes did a lab analyzing the water from the Arkansas River watershed that begins right here in Leadville. In English, some classes have been studying Terry Tempest Williams’ work Refuge, which is the compelling story of a mother and daughter’s relationship through the tribulations of cancer. The other classes have been reading Siddhartha written by Hermann Hesse, which focuses on the spiritual journey of a man who is looking to find himself. History classes have been focusing on the post-World War II time period, specifically the relations of the government to the American citizens, and have recently read texts from the likes of Ta Nehisi Coates, Herbert Marcuse, James Baldwin, and others. Practice and Principles has been centered on land ethics in the Bears Ears national monument, which we spent third expedition in. As we work into “Magic May” students are excited to dive deeper into readings and ideas that have been presented to us throughout the semester.

This past Saturday the HMI students spent the beginning of the day in classes before traveling south to the town of Salida. While in Salida we had a picnic next to the Arkansas River and explored town, where many students discovered a vibrant area with different niches for all interests such as a popular diner, a thrift shop, a guitar store, and more. After picnicking we traveled just out of town to a local bowling alley, where students competed avidly for the rest of the night. After a rowdy night out of town the group spent Sunday relaxing and recharging on campus. Students completed work and spent two hours of the day in our “Solo Spots,” independent spaces dedicated to each student where we spend alone time without any technology in order to reset for the coming week.

Although we have been getting back into the routine of academics, we still are finding ways to get outside: for example, running 6 miles for AMX and playing ping-pong ball on the back porch. The business of this weekend is making people excited to prepare for Neewalloh (Half birthday of Halloween) and the square dance that is happening after SAT on Saturday. Students have been working hard studying, and Anna is running an SAT study group before study hall. The news of “promposal” week coming up has made people antsy and trying to think of creative ways to ask their peers to this amazing event!

The end of the semester seems to be approaching faster and faster, and the idea that our days are so numbered seem to be settling into all our minds. Our first full week back on campus since expedition was unsurprisingly filled with work, fun, and the typical HMI magic. Students have been debating over the best reusable energy sources for science, cranking out history papers, and watching the film Into the Wild. It wasn’t all work, however: fun trips to the community field and the aquatic center were a blast for all the students. Here’s to a great last three weeks of HMI!

HMI Gap: Alumni Profiles

May 3, 2018

Who are the students that choose to do an HMI Gap Semester? Becca Schild, Co-Director of HMI Gap, sat down with two of our fall 2017 alumni to hear about their interests, college plans, and gap year experiences.

Nora Fried, Alumni of the Climbing and Conservation Semester 

Why did you take a gap year?

My senior year of high school left me feeling burned out and unsatisfied. I decided to take a gap year in an attempt to find a renewed sense of self-direction before heading off to college. My gap year has given me the opportunity to embrace a more worldly perspective and has encouraged me to challenge myself physically and emotionally. This experience has allowed me to explore the areas I hope to study as I’ve been able to set aside time to think about what I would like to gain from my academic experience and how I can make this happen. This year has given me practice adapting to new environments and respecting cultures very different from me. I have made lifelong friends, visited amazing places, and grown into myself as a person.

Why did you choose to do HMI Gap?

I chose HMI Gap because I had a previous connection to the school. As a junior in high school, I attended the HMI Semester Program and had a life changing experience. When deciding on a gap year program, I already knew that the fundamental core values of HMI resonated very strongly with my personal values, so making the choice to enroll in HMI Gap was an easy one.

What was the most memorable experience during HMI Gap?

There were many memorable experiences over the course of the semester – laughing together during break out dance parties, trudging through deep Colorado snows, arriving in Chile after many plane, boat, and bus rides. But the most significant experience for me was one of the final days of the semester, in Piedra Parada, Argentina. Students had been working on climbing skills for almost three months and it was here that I could see all of the work had paid off. It was amazing to watch my friends push themselves on the walls and rock climb like pros. I will never forget leading my first few climbs with my best friends doing the same all around me.

What would you say to a prospective student considering HMI Gap?

You should do it! I know that as a prospective student you must have reservations but taking a gap year has changed my life in so many valuable ways. My experiences taking a gap year and my semester with HMI have encouraged me to become the person I have always hoped to be and have prepared me for success in college and beyond.

What are you doing for the rest of your gap year? 

I spent the winter Maple Sugaring at Journey’s End, a small organic farm in Sterling Pennsylvania, and spent 6 weeks of the Spring working “lambing season” on an Icelandic Sheep farm in northern Iceland.

What are your personal interests?

I am very interested in environmental reform and sustainability – I hope to study environmental science in college. Additionally, I love to spend time outside, backpacking, rock climbing, and exploring the natural world. More recently I have become increasingly aware and committed to the local and sustainable food movements and am interested in continuing to work on farms building a stronger connection to the food that we consume.

What are your career goals and ambitions?

I will be attending Macalester College in the fall of 2018. I plan to study Environmental Science and Geology  and hope to pursue a career in sustainability. I can imagine myself sharing my love of the natural world with those around me as I continue to grow more knowledgeable and strengthen my connection to natural spaces.

Leo Polk, Alumni of the Wilderness and Conservation Semester

Why did you take a gap year?

I took a gap year for a lot of reasons. The primary reason was that I wasn’t happy with the colleges I’d gotten into, so a gap year was a logical step to give me the time to apply or reapply to more schools. What pushed me to go through with my gap year was the prospect of spending a year doing only things that I wanted to. All throughout high school, I was faced with high expectations and a clearly predetermined path. A gap year would allow me to step back, take a breath, and do only things I truly wanted to do. This plan worked out, and I found out that I was accepted to Whitman College, my first choice, the last day of the HMI Gap Semester!

Why did you choose to do HMI Gap?

I had always wanted to do an outdoor-oriented course during high school, but something would always get in the way. Originally, I was enrolled in the NOLS Patagonia course. I was having doubts about this course because the average age of the group was 26 and my outdoor experience was quite limited. In late spring I got an email from my Aunt, whose son was enrolled in the HMI fall semester; she sent me a link to HMI Gap. I liked that HMI spent time in the American West as well as Patagonia because I could see even more of the world. I also had heard great things from the family and friends that had participated in the HMI Semester. So I un-enrolled from NOLS and applied to Gap.

What was the most memorable experience during HMI Gap?

I think the most memorable part of GAP for me was my birthday. My birthday happened to fall on the last night of our Colorado expedition. Alex and Emily, our instructors, spent 3 hours preparing a cake out of our limited resources. Alex also prepared an LNT fire. I don’t remember exactly the circle question we had that evening, but I remember Alex telling a story about the stars, which were insanely bright that night. The cake was red velvet, which happened to be my favorite. It was by far the best birthday I’ve ever had.

What would you say to a prospective student considering HMI Gap?

I would tell them to keep an open mind. My expectations were so different from my experiences. However, I really am happy that things weren’t as I expected because every day was a surprise and more of an adventure than I ever could have dreamed.

What are you doing for the rest of your gap year? 

I am working at a rock gym back in Boston. I broke up the spring with little climbing trips, cross-country road trips, and traveling. HMI really taught me how to seek out new experiences and adventures.

What are your personal interests?

I love being outside, ultimate frisbee, beatboxing, music in general, and climbing

What are your career goals and ambitions?

I’m planning to attend Whitman College in the fall of 2018. I would love to find something where I could be outside as much as possible. Whether that’s in outdoor education or geology, I hope to find that career in my time in college.

Semester 40: Third Expedition

Written by Sam Cooper, Cheney Ramos , Lily Abell, Ruby Bertron, and Raffi Najarian
April 27, 2018

Group A

Driving into the canyon lands of southeastern Utah, each person on our expedition was unprepared for what was to come; the ocher biome filled our eyes and souls with a known peace. With packs on our backs, we hobbled into the canyon, thinking the next two weeks would pass slowly—except, like a cottonwood leaf in the wind, they drifted by with uncanny haste. That first night in Lime Creek we sat, cooking dinner, when, from the comfort of his sleeping bag, Matt shouted “I felt a raindrop!” In the coming twenty minutes, there was rain, hail, and snow. Each element came and went, but from their transience came our first bonding experience. 40 MPH winds rattled our bones for the next two days yet as the trip went on, our group’s strength made us unassailable. We drank from rivulets, climbed to the top of Nevill’s Arch, and became truly self-sufficient hikers on Independent Student Travel. One sunny morning we waded in a beautiful, iridescent pool. As the trip wound to a close, we could not help but think: “We enter the canyons at the mouth and leave at the toes. Never once to we question where we stand between the two; we are lost in the beautiful stasis of the canyon lands.”

Group B

“Ladies leave your man at home.” You could hear Beyonce’s song echoing off the canyon walls. Intertwined in the trails lay our excitement for Terry Tempest Williams, an author we are reading in English class, and Queen B. Every day, we woke up to the canyons inviting us, waiting to be explored. As we continued our trek we encountered cliff dwelling of native tribes, and they were beautiful. Although we were met with challenges including difficulty finding campsites and water resembling milk in thickness, our love for Road Canyon didn’t falter. With steep inclines, rocky declines, and mounted cairns, we marched into Fish Canyon halfway through our journey. Immediately, we were greeted with an abundant amount of slickrock and pools. We dreamed of jumping into the cool and clear water on hot days. It was empowering to be in the canyons for two weeks with intelligent, hilarious, and beautiful women. We built each other up with constant reminders that we are women of the outdoors—carrying 50 pounds on our backs, treading many miles each day, navigating with nothing but our maps and hearts. We’ll never forget the moment we climbed 800 feet onto Nevill’s Arch or when we climbed out of Fish Canyon. We left our memories and laughter there, knowing that the 14 days we spent together will always be ours. First expedition introduced many of us to hiking and backpacking for the first time. Third expedition reinforced our love for it.

Group C

We knew our expedition would be wild even before it began. On our first day, we hiked five miles on the road to a very windy, snowy mesa and played an intense game of “Ichi Meenie Hoy.” Then, following a hiking day of approximately 2 miles, we arrived at our first layover spot: Nevill’s Arch. That night, we camped at its base, overcooked a batch of hot chocolate mix mistaken for brownie scramble, had a wilderness first aid class, and did a photo shoot atop the arch.  After hiking in our advisory groups, we gained Independent Student Travel. Every night thereon, travelling through Lime and Road Canyons, we had sleepovers (where we stargazed every night) and group kitchens (we ate all of our collective 174 pounds of food, of course). We spent our second layover day exploring the Citadel, ruins that left each of us in awe, and we camped beneath its land bridge. On our final night, we met up with Avery’s and Jacob’s groups, played a game of Little Sally Walker, reminisced, and talked of how much we will miss our time in the canyons.

Group D

I cannot put to words the joy I had on this trip. I had expectations coming in to this (and every) expedition that I would “find myself”, or become a more thoughtful person, or somehow change. That did not happen. Instead, I found joy in the amazing place I got to spend 2 school weeks in, and I didn’t think about who I needed to be, or how I should change. I walked, and I had fun in the moment. We had beach days in Hawaii, with a blow up palm tree on the San Rafael river. We hiked, and got lost, and hiked some more, laughing and singing the whole time. We gained independence on IST (Independent Student Travel), and survived with only minor damages. I made friends. I made a family. I had my low points on expedition, certainly. It is easy to doubt yourself when you know the difficulty of the task in front of you. But the family I made picked me back up every time, and when needed, a Snickers bar can perform miracles. I didn’t find the college I want to go to. I didn’t find the person I want to be. I didn’t find any life changing realization, and that caused a lot of low points in the trip, for a while. But I realized eventually that you do not search for these things, and you do not expect them. Instead you find happiness for yourself as it comes, and discover the future when it comes to you. You do not learn by hoping and asking for knowledge to come to you when you want it; you learn by looking for it, whenever and wherever it comes. And in the meantime, spend a day at the beach, with close friends and a broken camp stove.

Group E

We were ecstatic when we found out that we were travelling to the San Rafael Swell region, a place only visited once before by HMI. Preparations were defined by dramatic readings and plenty of pop-culture references, only adding to the excitement of our group. Soon enough, we made the six-and-a-half hour journey down I-70 to our trailhead; upon arrival, we very quickly realized the Swell was going to test us in every way imaginable. On the very first night, we battled it out in a violent sandstorm—no matter though, because the tarp groups persevered, holding a fashion show at the bottom of Cane Wash with some creative outfits from the boys. We earned Independent Student Travel (IST) on day four, where we first encountered the San Rafael River and some delicious water. For the next few days, we made our way up the river, through thick brush and impossibly strong winds. Meeting up with another HMI group was a highlight of the trip, and they gave us insight about the second half of the route during a fun “beach day” in the canyons. The second half of the trip had fantastic weather for our longest days, and for the last few nights, the sky was so clear that we could see the Milky Way clearly among the stars. On the last night, we celebrated the trip with a final Circle and skits to commemorate our thirteen days in the canyons. Realizing we wouldn’t be going back to Utah with an HMI group again was tough, but showers and real toilets back on campus made the transition much easier.



Explore Wild Patagonia

April 24, 2018

Join us for an HMI Friends and Family Expedition to Patagonia next winter!

Central Patagonia is one of the few remaining wild regions in the world. Experience the magic of HMI in an awe-inspiring setting. Join fellow HMI alumni, friends, and family on an extended wilderness trek through the future Patagonia National park while exploring the many wonders of the Aysen region.

HMI has been running courses in this area since 2015 for our Gap Semesters. We are excited to introduce our extended family to this beautiful and rich area.


  • Backpack through the breathtaking glacial valleys of the future Patagonia National Park
  • Witness and learn about conservation in action to protect this unique and irreplaceable landscape
  • Explore and experience the distinct culture of Patagonia
  • Become part of a community of shared responsibility committed to personal growth, exploration, and adventure


Hostel in Chile Chico (4 nights), backcountry camping (4 nights), backcountry hut (1 night)

Itinerary: January 2 – 10, 2019

  • January 2: Arrive in Chile Chico; welcome and introductions
  • January 3: Local town exploration; day hike in Valle de la Luna and Cuevo de los Manos; expedition prep; dinner in town
  • January 4: Drive to Parque Patagonia headquarters; explore the headquarters and history of Conservacion Patagonica; camp at trail head to Valle Aviles
  • January 5: Hike up Valle Aviles; 5-6 miles and 1500 feet of elevation; set-up camp; evening discussion and Circle
  • January 6: Hike up Valle Aviles into Valle Hermosa, 5-6 miles and 1500 feet of elevation; evening discussion and Circle
  • January 7: Hike down Valle Hermosa 3-4 miles; afternoon of exploration and/or relaxation
  • January 8: Hike to backcountry hut; learn about eco-tourism efforts in the park
  • January 9: Hike to Lago Verde; get picked up at 4 pm and return to Chile Chico
  • January 10: Deissue; Asado celebration; final Circle
  • January 11: Evaluations and departure

What’s Included:

Cost: $4,150

Price includes all meals from mid-day January 2nd to breakfast January 11th; all accommodations; airport transportation (if desired); transportation to and from Parque Patagonia; and group gear.

If you are interested, please email Becca Schild, Co-Director of HMI Gap, at to receive additional information.

Semester 40: Second Expedition

March 28, 2018

Group A
For our winter expedition, groups went to separate areas in the Mosquito and Sawatch mountain ranges which are to the east and west of the town of Leadville. Group A went to the Sawatch range, near Homestake Mountain. As a means of transportation, each person was equipped with a pair of telemark skis and poles. The snow gets to be around 4-6 feet deep in open areas at the time during the expedition, and our skis kept us from sinking down. For the first two nights, we slept in snow pits over which we erected tarps to shelter us from wind and snow. Cooking in the backcountry is a blast; in the winter, however, it’s a bit more difficult because of the cold. On winter expedition we also got more food than we did in the desert. For the next eight days, we slept in quigloos. Quigloos are made by mounding snow, letting it sit overnight, then hollowing out the mound the next day. Each expedition group was split into four smaller groups including the instructor team and each smaller group was responsible for excavating a quigloo. The inside of each quigloo was surprisingly warm and usually stayed in the neighborhood of around zero degrees Celsius.

Although our winter expedition was difficult at some points, we’re glad that we got to partake. There certainly aren’t many opportunities to go and live in the snow for ten nights. Not only that, but you really gain an appreciation for the smaller thing in everyday life that you typically take for granted.

Group B
Winter expedition was chill(y). With sleds packed behind us and backpacks on, we skied our way up a mountain in the Sawatch Range to our first camp spot where we spent two days sleeping in tents with snow walls. The second camping spot was nestled next to Mt. Zion and had an amazing 360 view of the surrounding mountains. There, we built our first quigloos by mounding up piles of snow and then hallowing them out. The next four days were full of backcountry skiing (which is much more strenuous without a chairlift), decorating our quigloos with snow statues, and fires in a wooden tipi we had found. After getting used to sleeping in our first quigloos, which were nice and roasty toasty, we skied to our third and final camp spot where we made another set of quigloos. Here we briefly met the other expedition group for some hellos and then goodbyes as they left for their last camping spot. We had a fantastic slope nearby where we spent a lot of our time skiing in the last four days. We also summited Buckeye Peak which brought us all together for some bonding. All in all, we had a great time romping around in the snow.

Group C
We ventured out to the Sawatch Mountain Range for our second expedition. The first 100 yards of the trip were tough, due to the lack of snow and the ice, but from that point on everything went uphill, literally. We shared a massive kitchen the first two nights of the trip, which offered us much time to hang out and bond. Mounding the quigloos required a lot of shoveling, but we all participated and had a lot of fun. The views were incredible, the stars were bright, and the fried pickles were tasty. We had some amazing days of ski touring, in which our resident videographers, Ollie and Mickey, took cool videos of everyone making nice tele turns. At one point we were able to look out over the town of Leadville, and we could almost see HMI. We had a fox visitor one night, which was exciting to see, but sad as we did not want it to become dependent on human food. We powered through our hardest day, pulling the very heavy sleds, mounding our second quigloos, and digging out mid shelters with no complaining and an amazing sense of comradery and teamwork. It was really amazing to see how we were all looking out for each other and offering help to anyone who needed it at any point in the day. Our kindness and patience made that hard day much better than it could have been. After that day, it was smooth sailing. We had a beautiful, powdery ski hill right under our campsite, and the sunsets were vibrant and colorful over the distant mountains. The girls’ tarp group and one of the boys tarp groups built a joint kitchen and shared many unique, but delicious meals together. One snowy morning the boys even made the girls cheesy bagels for breakfast. While there were certainly challenges along the way, we made it through and had an unforgettable experience.

Group D
Group D had an amazing expedition in the Mosquito mountain range. Our days were filled with skiing, shoveling, and laughing. For the first two nights, we set up a snow tarp camp in a meadow. Even though it was cold, our large group kitchen was a highlight of the trip. For the next four nights, we camped at a beautiful area that overlooked Leadville. Here is where we built our quigloos. After a lot of difficult shoveling, our winter homes were finished and kept us warm at night. On the fifth day we celebrated a birthday with a special cookie brownie dessert made by Dylan. There is something extra special about celebrating in the backcountry! The next leg of the trip involved trekking to the tundra above tree line. The tundra was packed with snow so we built snow caves instead of quigloos. Overall, it was a great trip!

HMI Gap Announces our Civic Adventure Scholarship

by Becca Schild, Co-Director of HMI Gap
March 21, 2018

Through HMI Gap’s Civic Adventure Scholarship program, we hope to support students who have demonstrated a commitment to civic engagement and outdoor adventure to become part of HMI Gap. This year, we will award three merit scholarships to students who wish to take one of our HMI Gap semesters.

Why Civic Adventure?

The American conservation movement started with early outdoor explorers who drew their inspiration from the land. In pursuit of adventure, people journeyed to, as Terry Tempest Williams puts it, “extreme landscapes.” Through their journeys, they developed strength of character and a deepened sense of their place in the world. This spirit of adventure is central to the American frontier narrative, with its legacy etched across our vast public land system.

In recent years, we’ve seen outdoor recreation, especially adventure pursuits, explode in popularity. The Outdoor Industry Association estimates that outdoor recreation contributes $646 billion annually to the US economy and has seen consistent 5% growth per year since 2005. While this rise indicates more people are getting outdoors, it is not necessarily accompanied with responsible use and may lead to a host of environmental, management, social, and safety problems.

Rather than to merely take from these places, to consume an experience that can be conveniently curated on Instagram, HMI Gap invites students to engage with these landscapes, to consider themselves part of their communities, both human and natural. They do so through hands-on and community-based environmental stewardship efforts while also gaining the skills and experience to be competent outdoor adventurers. By exploring some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes in the world while also working to protect them, students develop a deep connection with place and become part of a community of shared responsibility. Through this “civic adventure” model, students not only cultivate an enduring appreciation of the natural world; they can learn to act as citizens and to work toward positive social and environmental outcomes.

We are not alone in seeing this important and timely connection. Organizations such as the Access FundAmerican Whitewater, and the International Mountain Biking Association, to name a few, are national conservation groups that emphasize initiatives to engage adventurers as caretakers and advocates of wild spaces. Even the National Outdoor Leadership School has recognized the importance of involving their students in more direct stewardship through their new Service Expeditions.

Just as we have the power to transform the landscape, the landscape has the power to transform us. Throughout history, many different cultures have looked to the mountains as sources of meaning and inspiration. From Moses’s ascent of Mount Sinai, ancient philosophers’ reverence for mountains, to indigenous cultures’ vision quests to sacred summits, these “extreme landscapes” have become the mythological stage for some of humanity’s most profound quests. There is something instinctual in outdoor adventure, shared across time and place, in which mountains become, as Edwin Bernbaum claims, “places of inner experience that have the power to transform our views of ourselves and the world around us.”

To learn more about the Civic Adventure Scholarship and HMI Gap programs, visit Deadline to apply is April 30, 2018.

Semester 40: Creating new traditions and slowing down

Written by Charlie McKenzie, Maya Gabor, and Oliver Johnston
March 14, 2018

This week we wrapped up our first two major essays in English and history, and we had a debate on animal rights in Practices & Principles, our ethics class. For one of our essays we analyzed Terry Tempest Williams’s use of literary devices in Red, a collection of short stories which paid homage to the deserts of Utah. It brought so much depth to our first expedition in the canyons to read about someone else’s appreciation for the same landscape we were exploring. In one of the essays, Ode to Slowness, Williams tells the story of how she and her husband moved from Salt Lake City to the remote desert, and how it taught her to appreciate a slow life: unscheduled days, breathing, simply watching nature, and a disregard for time. Many of us here are from urban areas, and we were able to connect to Williams’s experience of feeling overwhelmed by a city. Now that we’re in picturesque Leadville, some of us have been trying to implement her practice of taking moments to slow down despite our very scheduled lives here at HMI.

Our history essay was a response to the prompt “Americans love to talk about freedom, but what does it actually mean to be free?” America is supposedly the “land of the free,” so it is important to think about what we mean when we say that, and what we want to achieve when we strive for freedom.  It is also impossible to define freedom precisely, so we looked to what the historians we have read think about freedom. For example, in analyzing Howard Zinn’s and Paulo Freire’s arguments about freedom, some students came to the conclusion that both argued that people are free when they are encouraged to think freely: to analyze the many biased narratives given to them and formulate their own opinions. Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed was actually one of the first things we read here, and it was refreshing to be handed an argument that fosters a culture of challenging our history teacher, each other, and ourselves.

We have been reading about animal rights and land ethics for two weeks in P&P, and we recently had a mock-debate about whether the U.S. should ban animal husbandry by 2030. We had a heated debate surrounding the ethics of killing animals, the economic impacts of America’s going vegetarian, and the environmental implications. Many students were surprised to learn that, although cows produce methane and use up a lot of land, if the world went vegetarian it could possibly be worse for the environment for a number of reasons. In the end, we argued our points so well that some students considered going vegetarian, and some felt convinced they should remain omnivores.  As always, it was a rigorous but productive academic week at HMI.

As a community, we have been creating new traditions, unique to Semester 40, and adopting old ones, established semesters before us. After every study hall, all the students have a big dance party in Who’s Hall, until we have to go to bed. Whether we are screaming the words to Mama Mia, or jumping up and down to Hey Ya!, it is always a great way de-stress and connect with the community after a long day. Back in Cabin Two, all of us love to sit around the fire at night, telling stories about our lives back at home, and answering Circle questions we think of earlier that day. We can always go to our cabin when we need advice. Every time it snows, which is pretty often, the HMI “swim team” has practice on Who’s Hall porch. Practice consists of students diving into powder to swim a few strokes, although the main point is simply to have fun outside. During lunch, sometimes clubs hold meetings: Queer Affinity, a safe space for students to talk about sexual identity, and Avatar the Last Airbender club, where students passionately discuss how the show is ahead of its time. The whiteboards in Who’s hall are always littered with surveys, such as “is cereal a soup?” or is it “a pack of gum” or a “packet of gum”? These always lead to heated debates during meals or free time. Even with a big essay or lab report due the next morning, at HMI the community is always high energy, squeezing in time to be kids whenever possible.

Last week was ski week, so on Friday, Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday everyone went to the local ski slope, Ski Cooper, for a few hours in the morning. Our goal: learn to telemark ski by the end of ski week. After all, on Wednesday we’ll be backcountry skiing in the Sawatch and Mosquito Mountains for our second expedition. Friday, our first day of ski week, was all about getting skis attached to boots and feeling the difference between what most of us were used to: standard alpine skis, and what we were trying: telemark skis. The thing about tele skis is that the heel of the boot isn’t attached to the bottom of ski, which adds an extra element of difficulty. Proper tele skiing technique involves “freeing the heel” and getting into a lunge stance with one knee forward, alternating legs. Sunday, we learned about tele turns and attempted a few. On Tuesday, depending on the group, we did anywhere from ten tele turns to a hundred tele turns. There was a lot of falling. Thursday, the last day of ski week at Ski Cooper, was a blast. The first half of the day we stayed with our groups, but the second half we were free to ski in pairs or trios of our choice. It was a great week.

Semester 40: “These types of experiences we can only get at HMI”

Written by Anna Mackey, Z Stowe, Brittney Randle, and Claire Greenberger
February 28, 2018

This past weekend was packed with activity and entertainment. On Friday night, HMI hosted its first coffee house; a chance for students and faculty to display their talents to the community. The variety in the show surprised us; there was everything from beautiful singing performances to magic shows to Chicago fun-fact presentations. The apprentices also surprised us with a beautifully executed lip sync performance of “Stick to the Status Quo” from High School Musical.  The support from the entire community was overwhelming, and applause lasted minutes rather than seconds. Of course with all of the energy from the coffee house, we hosted a dance party afterwards and danced and screamed lyrics until we collapsed into bed, obviously all before 10:30pm. The next day, we had the opportunity to participate in the Leadville Loppet, an annual Nordic ski race. HMI students donned their usual crazy costumes including vintage ski coats, animal onesies and silly head wear. While some chose to try skate skiing, most stuck with classic. We all loaded into the buses and walked to the starting line of the 10K race. With many whoops and cheers, the HMI community started off on the 5K uphill to the halfway point. We talked and huffed and puffed and sang until we reached the aid station, greeted by familiar HMI faces with a cold drink and many cheers. The way down was a breeze for many and as we crossed (or fell!) across the finish line we felt triumphant in our success. After some complimentary blueberry soup, we headed to the awards ceremony for some more fantastic soup made by the community. We clapped as fellow students won awards, and slept on the way home from the race. The rest of the weekend was filled with well-deserved naps, a tremendously engaging science lab (in which we played in the snow and took samples for an experiment), and the usual good times.

This week at HMI is Ski Week! This means we are all heading to the local ski mountain, Ski Cooper, to learn how to telemark ski. Before the week started everyone was buzzing with excitement for the days to come, and feeling the anticipation in everyone was wonderful. On the first day we woke up earlier than usual for breakfast and packed our paper bag lunches. Hopping on the bus with friends was so exciting, thinking about how this was our school. This was a school day. Wow! We have never been skiing on a mountain and then been back in a classroom presenting about current events within the same hour! Everyone joining together in something new (our telemarking experience) is such an amazing bonding experience. Getting to learn with friends with friends made the falling even better! One of the things that I find so cool about our community is that we have classmates who have never skied before, and then we have an expert telemarker or two. To think that soon we’ll be using our skills out in the backcountry on winter expedition is amazing. Recently we have been doing a lot of work with snow in science, and we were able to do a lab on snowpack and went out into the field to collect data. it all came full circle today while at Ski Cooper: some of us started thinking about what types of metamorphosis the snow we were skiing on had undergone. How cool is it was that we were thinking that? These types of experiences we can only get at HMI.

This week cabins chose who would be their cabin representatives. Amelia, Olivia, Raffi, Luke and Kai are representatives. Each week they will be present at staff meetings and weekend meetings with Hayden. It is important for students to know that their voices matter, and the representatives represent the student’s interest. Also this week student activities changed so we are having fun rock climbing, card making, poetry writing, playing snow volleyball,  broomball, and practicing cross country skiing! Many student-led clubs and activities also started this week including Step Club, Avatar: the Last Airbender Club, and the Queer Alliance group. We also had a new and exciting morning exercise routine with the Science faculty Coco doing a dance routine. As second expedition approaches, we’re all excited because we can’t wait for living in a quigloo (snow shelter) and getting to know each other even better.

We have only been taking classes at HMI for two weeks, but classes are already in full swing. In science class, we have been studying snow in preparation for Winter Expedition. Last Saturday, we went to the Mt. Evans basin to study the density of snow. It turns out that this year Colorado has had much less snowfall in comparison to past years! We begin math class each day with an engaging, thought-provoking problem that we work through as a class. It is a great way to get our brains working and practice our collaboration skills. In English class, we have begun a novel called Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko, which is a story about an American Indian war veteran. In History class, we have spent a lot of time discussing the ways in which we use and view education. We are all working on being more conscious and critical learners! In Practice and Principles: Ethics of the Natural World, we have been discussing the concept of morality. This week in class, we discussed animal rights and if equality should be extended to animals . Everybody had very different opinions on this topic, which makes for really interesting conversation. Overall, classes have been very student-led and placed-based!