Coming Home

Written by Danny O'Brien, Head of School
November 22, 2017

One year ago, I moved into the new Head of School home on the HMI campus with my family. It was a wild time. Within ten days, we unpacked a home’s worth of boxes, treated Vivie for a severe case of bronchitis, hosted Semester 37 families over Family Weekend, and welcomed our son, Henry, into the world.

Looking back on that week now, my gut reaction is almost always the same: “What were we thinking?”

We survived the week, of course, and have almost recovered from it. And the effort was clearly worth the temporary toll. Living on campus feels like a natural extension of everything for which HMI stands. The Head of School house is a peaceful and comfortable place for us to live. It has also become another gathering place for our community, where relationships develop and people come together to connect with one another and the natural world.

The completion of the Head of School home marked the end of the first phase of our current $4.5 million capital campaign to build on-campus housing for a majority of our faculty and staff. One reason to undertake this effort, which will fulfill the original vision for HMI, is that it will create new ways we can connect with students and each other, building important relationships along the way.

Sometimes these ways are silly: Last spring, we hosted 48 students in my living room at 7:30 in the morning when they “disappeared” during AMX to prank the faculty member on duty. Rather this this being a burden, I found I had 48 friends for my kids. And sometimes these ways are more serious. I have gotten to know students over the meals we have shared together when was, frankly, easier to bring our family to dinner in Who’s Hall than cook ourselves. I notice little things I’d never see otherwise. I recently received an email from a student who attended HMI last spring. He asked me to write him a recommendation for college, saying he believed I knew him deeply and well. He gave two examples, one of a time when I pulled him aside to congratulate him for thriving academically in a tough class, and the other when I pointed out how he could set higher standards for himself during cook crew. Each conversation had a lasting impact on this student, and each happened because I was present on campus. Being here gave me the chance to turn little moments into big learning opportunities.

Living here has been great in other ways too. Recently, I had to meet with a student during study hall. When I lived off-campus, it was impractical to return home before coming back to HMI. This time, however, my family joined me for dinner and I helped Ellie read nighttime stories before my meeting. I am able to be a better father and husband because we live on campus, something for which I am grateful.

As I look back upon our first year in the on-campus Head of School home, it was my two-year old who provided me with the most clarity. Last weekend, Vivie and I were walking back from dinner in Who’s Hall. I was explaining to her that we were going to a party the next night; the hosts, coincidently, were the folks who moved into our old home when we moved to campus. “They live in my old house,” said Vivie, filling in blanks for me. “We live in my home now.”

Thank you, Vivie, for reminding me—in a way better than I ever could—that the crazy week last October was worth it many times over, both for our family and our school, in order to have a place we can call home.

With the Phase I of our Campaign for Community complete, we are now turning our attention toward Phase II: the construction of homes for faculty and staff. We intend to break ground in the summer of 2018 and will continue to fundraise for a second round of homes in Phase III. This project will honor faculty members by providing quality housing and allowing them more time at home with families. It will strengthen our program by providing more varied and meaningful ways for students and faculty to build relationships. Finally, it will ensure our fiscal sustainability by capitalizing a portion of benefits, allowing HMI to improve compensation without adding to the operating budget.

For more information on the campaign, please contact Reed Holden, Director of Development, or visit our campaign page.

HMI Gap: Settling into a new normal in Utah

November 17, 2017

Rock Climbing Group

Written by Heath Lawrence, Christina Klyce, and Becca Schild

In the American Southwest, I began a lifelong love affair with a pile of rock.” –Edward Abbey

During the last section of Utah, it feels that we’ve entered into a rhythm with the sun, rock, and community that feels like our new normal. We’ve developed a routine around camp, taking turns with various chores and cooking meals within our tent groups. We’ve also taken on more leadership and decision making for planning each day. Each LODizzle (Leader of the Day) solicits input from the group on what they want to focus on for the day and then makes a decision of where to go and how to use our time for the best learning. At dark, we’d come back to camp to play a game, have a class about environmental studies, or even walk to the Big Bend boulders for an evening bouldering session.

We also have spent the last two weeks to apply the climbing skills we’ve been learning and practicing to summit some of the most classic desert towers. In pairs, accompanied by one instructor, we woke up early for our big adventure. Hiking to the base of the climb was both exciting and intimidating – how would it feel to have so much more exposure while climbing 300 feet, one pitch after the other? Did we feel confident in our movement necessary to climb long desert cracks? These questions resolved, however, once we tied into the rope. Over the course of two weeks, all of us were able to summit Castleton Tower, Ancient Art, or climb to the rim overlooking our campground.

As we prepare for our departure to Patagonia, we are excited about the many novel adventures before us. This next leg feels so unfamiliar, we actually are going with little to no expectation.  However, we’re sad to leave this life we have settled into, watching the stars late at night, enjoying laughter and stories around the campfire, and connecting to a landscape that felt so foreign when we arrived. There is something so vast about the desert, creating a feeling of emptiness at times. Even the cracks that we climb; you are literally climbing the void between two sandstone faces, using your body to fill the space that isn’t there and create a hold. However, over time, this void becomes a part of you, leaving a deep imprint on your spirit and your body. As we travel to Patagonia, we will bring the desert varnish and sand with us, literally etched into our clothing, gear, and our suntanned faces.

Semester 39: Second Expedition

Written by Sonali Butensky, Matthew Justh, Sabine Blumenthal, Otis Milliken, and Sydnie Miller
November 16, 2017

Group A

Over the course of second expedition, we were given the opportunity to rejuvenate from our busy lives at HMI, which typically took the form of afternoon naps after a long, strenuous hiking day. The sun’s shadows danced upon the faces of the canyons, as the strong rays warmed the air. We sought out the few shady spots we could find to provide us with a refuge from the sun, a safe place to rest our tired bodies. Though we did more than just sleep for 16 days! Our group hiked in and out of canyons, covering about 80 miles of land (so our naps were well deserved)! The temperature in the canyons was heavily dependent on the sun. As the sun rose over the horizon, we began to strip off our puffy jacket and pants and change into shorts for the sweltering day we knew was ahead. Though each evening around five, the sun dove behind the canyon walls, a great relief from the heat, but leaving us with a significant drop in the temperature. Luckily, we were able to cuddle up in our sleeping bags with a warm hot drink, and drift off to sleep under a blanket of stars.

Each evening during Circle, stars lit up the clear night sky, so bright due to the lack of light pollution and clouds in Bears Ears. We had never seen the stars so bright and visible, we could see each constellation from the Seven Sisters and the Big Dipper One to Orion’s Belt–three stars boldly lighting up the night sky. One night, we hiked up to a natural arch on the top of one of the canyons. We sat directly under the arch for an hour and a half using the light of the full moon to see. In that moment, we felt so grounded in nature and connected with the surrounding landscape.

Group B

It is not easy to describe the canyons. Before second expedition, we all had our individual expectations and impressions of what we were diving into, though, none of us fully knew what we were going to experience. The most accurate description we were told was that it will look like Mars, and it was easy to feel as if we were in an alien landscape. The whole landscape colored an incredible red, always changing as the sun went up and down, strange microorganisms coating the landscape, incredibly beautiful plants emerging from impossible cracks in the rock. This might be an explanation for why, on our first hike, we walked about a quarter of a mile per hour. We could not help but be distracted by our incredible environment.

Our first night we slept under a gigantic arch, like nothing any of us had seen before. It was so beautiful, it softened the blow of being unable to easily find water at our campsite, something we never had an issue with in the mountains. Our next hike we continued down the canyon, which seemed to snake on forever. We saw Anasazi ruins for the first time. We also got to know each other, playing games all 6 miles. The first two days were not the only highlights: we had an 11 hour hiking day due to our inability to find a way down from a cliff. We hiked nearly 14 miles in one day, though no one would complain about it because the incredible views distracted us from our screaming feet and aching backs. Every night we had Circle, where we learned a little bit more about each other under a moon so big, it felt like you could jump up and grab it. The days were filled with singing, games and a whole lot of accents. It was an amazing 17 days and went incredibly smoothly. Now back to snow and morning AMX!

Group C

Our group took on a rather challenging route, exploring a new canyon that HMI students had never been to before, hiking over 50 miles in the second half of our trip. We started hiking in Little Grand Canyon. We spent the first half of the trip hiking across fields orange dust, junipers, prickly pear, and sage brush. Everyday felt like a push, but that’s what made it exciting! We slept under the stars with our tarp mates and cooked on the edges of cliffs overlooking massive canyons. We held nature nugget festivals with ours truly, Hayden Shea, and explored the slot canyons (taking many selfies along the way).

On the last day of hiking before re-ration, we went a little crazy in the canyon. Spontaneous breaks to paint our faces with mud and ponder how we were to find a way out. That night we found out that Grace was to be leaving our expedition group due to an injury. The next day at re-ration, we also lost Sanjana and Katie to illnesses, and found out that Bianca’s injuries had prevented her from joining us for the second half. Our group quickly became two tarp groups, a total of seven students and two instructors. We named constellations after our expedition buddies. Their presence was missed terribly.

However, our group was resilient and we pushed forward to conquer the next leg of our trip. The second half of expedition was almost entirely off trail. We elected Lily as our student expedition leader (SEL), and we started Independent Student Travel. Hiking in silence, our days consisted of 8-11 miles off trail. We spent our days wandering upon mesas and through canyons. Clara and Andrew met up with us for Halloween and sprinkled our campsite with candy! (Shout out to our awesome I-TEAM!) We hit some spectacular campsites on slick rock, and worked to finish up all our remaining school work. Nights consisted of group kitchens (Gritchens) and being together under the stars. The last day of our trip, we shared what we wanted to take back with us to campus. It was a perfect way to end our last expedition with HMI. The canyons will be missed.

Group D

We wake up to the harsh sound of our wristwatch alarms going off in unison. Frost covers our sleeping bags. This is not the first time we have woken up this morning, but the fourth. We have all set six alarms, ten minutes apart just for these situations. We realize that we just barely have enough time to make breakfast. “Ahhh, we’ll just make cereal” Jared says through a yawn. We agree and roll over to snooze a bit longer. Like every other day, our tarp manages to be a fashionable five minutes late (earning us a “delta” on timeliness; we definitely have to work on this). Still, a great way to start the day. We start to hike.

There are three types of hiking groups. The first one charges forward with the goal to get to the next campsite as fast as possible. Rather than talking, huffs and puffs dominate the sound of this group. I reluctantly admit that every functioning expedition needs one of these. The second type is more imaginary. This hiking group is characterized by not going too slow or too fast, is purely efficient and never gets lost. If it was not for the few days that the instructors led, I would not have even know this type existed. The third type, my favorite, takes its time. A pack-off break is taken every 25 minutes and a suggested 10 minute break can turn into 30 minutes. You never really know what to expect. Warning: this should only be tried on short, easy days. During first expedition when we walked 6 miles in 12 hours, we learned this approach is was not ideal in all situations.

Today, we hiked Type Three. Chants, laughs and jokes filled the day. Jared rapped in the background; Ochan led cheers and Isabelle carefully looked after us to make sure nobody did anything stupid, in her role as Student Expedition Leader. We continued the lightheartedness of the day throughout dinner. Cooking is always a mess, but brings out the best laughs. The night continues and we finally come to the decision that we should go to sleep. Of course, we stay up 2 hours longer. Sleep tight.

Group E

Our first day of IST (Independent Student Travel), we decided to implement an hour of silence each day on trail to think about where we are and become more aware of our surroundings. This allowed everyone to breathe in nature and have our eyes wander and scope out beauty. Towards the end of this hour, we stumbled upon the most magnificent sight we have seen in our lives. We had to bushwhack for 15 minutes in this grove of shrubbery and as we emerged, this patch of 20 cottonwoods laid ahead. The wind started to blow large gusts in their direction. As the wind howled, the leaves fell. We stood in silence, looking as the leaves made their way towards the ground and into our hands. The sky was a light shade of blue, with no fluffy white clouds to accompany it. The yellow and green leaves seem to float, contrasting the blue sky. It was the most satisfying moment in the entire trip. We could have extended our last break by a short single minute and have missed this scene. We were so lucky enough to have been in the right place at the right time. It was a magical moment, one that we will remember for the rest of our lives. That image is ingrained in our minds, and will be forever.



Prospective Students & Families: Join us for an Online Information Session!

November 16, 2017

Join HMI Admissions Team and The Norfleets, a Semester 38 alumni family to learn more about the HMI Semester & Summer Term. Our first webinar of the season is this upcoming Monday, November 20th at 8:00 PM EST / 5:00 PM PST.

This webinar is designed to help prospective students and their parents gain a better understanding of the academics, wilderness, and community components of the HMI Semester and Summer Term. There will be an opportunity for Q&A via the chat feature with the hosts. RSVP here!

HMI Gap: “Adios Estados Unidos! Nos vemos pronto!”

November 10, 2017

Backpacking Group

Written by Ally Edwards and Caitlin Murphy

These past few weeks we’ve been enjoying perfect weather and new adventures in southern Utah. We began our time base camping (glamping), spending our days either climbing or doing service work with Trail Mix, a local nonprofit that provides volunteer stewardship for public lands. While climbing, we learned the necessary technical skills we would need for our canyoneering trip, which we eagerly anticipated.

After a three hour drive from Moab, leaving our glamping life behind, we arrived at Soldier’s Crossing trailhead, just south of Jacob’s Chair. Saying goodbye to our trustworthy passenger van, Lil’ Sendy, we descended into the first of many canyons. The first few days, we hiked through White Canyon, camped on the mesa, and profusely searched for pothole water that wasn’t brown. The lack of winter and the wide open skies of the canyonlands drew many of us to sleep under the stars each night.

Our first test came on day three: Fry Canyon. As Leaders of the Day, Caitlin and Ally fearlessly led the group to run our first canyon. Within the first hundred meters, a pothole filled with water greeted us. After the first person jumped in, shouts of “it’s deep, it’s cold!” echoed through the canyon. Not long after, everyone else followed, doggy paddling to the other side of the pothole while others who had finished cheered them on. After a few hours of hiking and taking some group selfies in the canyon, we came to our first rappel. With Emily leading the way, we dropped into our first slot canyon (a narrower part of the canyon) and soon encountered the second swim. What the guidebook referred to as a 20 foot swim with some wading was actually a sharp drop off into a pool with no end in sight. Braving it in groups or solo, we all made it safely to the end of what turned out to be a 200 foot swim to the end of the slot. The sun was filtering through the sand-colored slots, giving us one of the most breathtaking views of the canyons we would have.

The second canyon we ran on day four proved even more adventurous than the first! We were the first HMI group to ever run Hideout Canyon, which meant it was full of new challenges at every turn. Walking for miles along the mesa to the start of the canyon, we finally started in the late afternoon. As we made our way through the canyon, we came to our first rappel. Nightfall slowly crept up on us, and we were soon using our headlamps to navigate the last two rappels and the rest of the canyon. One of the most breathtaking moments was our last rappel where we lowered ourselves into a pool of water as the moon was rising.

On day 6, half of the group remained at camp for a layover day where we woke up to the sun shining on us for the first time during the expedition, since we usually woke up before sunrise. We spent the day journaling, taking photos, and having sing-alongs to Hamilton and Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. The rest of the group was out of camp by 6 am in the dark to hike the 5 miles to the top of Cheesebox Canyon. Our first challenge came as we tried to figure out how to actually get into the canyon and ended up rappelling through a hole! It only got more exciting after that. The next few hours and miles presented us with seven rappels and way too many potholes in the slot canyons filled with water. When we finally got to the “swimming pools” as they were labeled on the map, we were truly tested. The swims were not only through freezing cold water, but without an end in sight. Some of the swims had sharp drop offs into water that we did not know the depth of. Alternating between brave leaders, one person led the way, yelling information on the depth and length, and giving advice for the swims. After coming around the corner to the end of a particularly long swim, we truly learned the benefits of teamwork as Nick, who had led the way on that swim, threw each of us a rope to pull us the last 20 feet onto dry land. Once again, as night fell upon us, we donned our headlamps to finish the canyon. Hiking through our last slot, we came across another pool of water to be presented simultaneously with the most foul smell ever smelled. With no other way out but through, we fell into a dead quiet just trying to make it to the other end. We finally made it back to our campsite at 10 pm, greeted by the rest of our group who quickly made us hot dinners and helped us to get warm. Falling asleep under the stars that night (and smelling slightly better), we went to bed quickly, still in awe of what we had just done.

Following the canyons expedition, we set up our final basecamp at a place called Moonflower Canyon and much to our delight, finally found fall in Utah! The towering trees around our campsite showered us in yellow and orange leaves throughout our stay. Halloween quickly came upon us, and we all celebrated in style. Some of us got creative with our costumes, dressing up as devils, Scooby Doo and Shaggy, and even each other. During the day, we climbed at a crag called the Ice Cream Parlor. As they were setting up the top ropes, our instructors hid candy along various holds and so while climbing, we were able to “trick-or-treat.” That evening, our group went bowling and had a blast competing against Chris and Becca.

During the first few days of November, we finished our work with Trail Mix completing a climbers’ approach trail to Maverick Buttress in Longs Canyon. It was so satisfying to see the completion of this trail from start to finish after the many big rocks moved, stairs built, and new skills learned.

The morning of Nov. 5, we woke up (some forgetting about Daylights Savings) ready for Race Day! Seven of us competed in the Moab Trail Half Marathon covering 13 miles of 4×4 road, single track, canyon rim runs, and stream crossings. Everyone finished in under 3 1/2 hours. Caitlin finished fifth in her age group, crossing the finish line with Emily. Minnie and Janet finished hand-in-hand, and Leo and Nick battled it out finishing within minutes of each other. Isabel impressed us all by sprinting the last few yards across the finish line. After dropping the marathon runners at the start, Ally, Christina, and Brad headed up to Looking Glass Rock in Monticello to learn how to multi-pitch rock climb. After successfully climbing all three pitches, they reached the top, which had a 100 foot free rappel to descend. They rappelled down through a small hole looking out onto the beautiful landscape. The highlight of the climb was a rope swing through an arch!

As our time in Moab comes to an end, we are all sad to leave the wide open skies and warm weather of the desert. With new Patagonia adventures on the horizon, however, we are all excited for new challenges and a new environment. Adios Estados Unidos! Nos vemos pronto!

HMI Gap: “Like Mars, but with more atmosphere”

October 28, 2017

Rock climbing group

Written by Ally Bartels and Robert Rolfsen

Over three days, the landscape changed from white to green to beautiful yellows and oranges of the fall leaves and red sandstone of Utah. The unofficial slogan for this sandy desert was, “Like Mars, but with more atmosphere.” As we stared out at the stars that first night camped at Ken’s Lake outside of Moab, gazing at the Milky Way in our camp chairs, we truly felt like we were on a different planet.

We spent our first few days climbing in the La Sal mountains set within quaking aspen groves and sheer-faced cliffs. Some of the highlights during this time included working toward lead climbing, confronting fear with whipper therapy, bouldering, and shopping for our own food. (Who knew Nutella was so expensive?) Each tent group came together our last night at Ken’s Lake for the first, of hopefully many, potlucks. Dinner consisted of pancakes courtesy of chef Robert and sous chef Steven, homemade pizza topped with arugula, made by Ally and Jake, and penne and bowties made by Nora and Heath. Not surprisingly, the I-Team outdid us all with homemade tortillas and personal taco toppings.

The following day we traveled to Indian Creek, an hour south of Moab. It was here we began to see the international climbing community drawn to this landscape for the perfectly splitter sandstone cracks, simple living, and impeccable desert weather that we hoped to become a part of. We worked to repair and construct the trail up to Donnelly Canyon, one of the more popular crags. We were split into three groups led by the Front Range Climbing Stewards. At the bottom of the trail, Ally, Heath, and Jake constructed a new set of stairs, as the previous ones had completely deteriorated from weather and use. Mid-way up to the cliff, Robert, Eric, and Andrew worked to better define a switchback with an elaborate spiral staircase to minimize erosion. At the top, Ben, Christina, Jedi, Katie, Steven, and Nora led the effort to create a more stable and clearly defined trail at the base of the crag and a gigantic structurally stable retaining wall stretching over 75 square feet.

Over the long days of 6:30 am wake ups, moving heavy rocks in the sun, and trying to get a few pitches in at the end of the day, we ended up accomplishing more than expected. Even though we all come from different climbing experiences and backgrounds, we all came together not just to climb, but to be stewards of an area and a community that has begun to give so much to each of us.

Semester 39: Sand Dunes, Project Day, and Expedition Prep!

Written by Cricket Barnes, Grace Vojta, and Sam Gartrell
October 20, 2017

This past weekend was jam packed. On Saturday night we gathered in Who’s Hall to watch Inception. Hayden provided a generous amount of popcorn that was gladly consumed, and the controversial ending of the movie spawned many debates. Early Sunday morning we jumped into the buses on our way to Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. The stream near the base of the dunes prompted many to take off shoes which were not put on again until the end of the day. Students broke off making different routes to the top of the dunes. We took many pictures along the way, admiring the dramatic landscape. People chose various ways to venture down the sand such as rolling, sprinting, leaping, and some falling. The bus ride back was great for napping and reflecting after an exciting day!

This week everyone in our community has had expedition on our minds while we try to complete our last assignments. Continuing to study geology, we tested soil characteristics in three different environments around Leadville during our Monday lab. Calc AB continued its study of derivatives and participated in International Math Week. In English, all of us frantically attempted to get our Ceremony essays in on time. In Spanish, we continued to explore the topic of immigration through Spanish discussion of texts in both English and Spanish. Jacob’s history classes also prepared for an impassioned debate about the goals of early America. By the end of the week, the student body was exhausted and relieved to have all of our work complete so that we can have a clear mind for expedition.

As we prepare to leave on our second expedition (this time to the canyons of Utah), there’s a feeling in the air—the general collecting and preparing of rations and gear; writing of last letters and savoring of last meals. Lots of hugs are going around, and we’re all bracing for the trip. Academic classes ended Tuesday, and we have since given the campus a makeover during Project Day: we painted, repaired, and built the grounds to HMI’s sky high standards. When we return to campus we’ll be able to admire our work, although it might be covered in snow by then! Overall, we’ve been working hard and playing hard—and looking forward to moments filled with quiet, friendship, and adventure in the canyons.


HMI Gap: “Walking in a winter wonderland”

October 15, 2017

Backpacking group

Written by Isabel Emsfeld and Nick Van Besien

A white Short bus pulls down a dirt road, signifying the end of our first expedition, 12 days backpacking in the Sawatch Mountains of Colorado. All 8 students and 2 leaders excited for the entry to the front country (aka, opposite of back country). The drive down dirt roads all too similar to the same ride that dropped off 10 strangers at the South Elbert trailhead that felt like forever ago.

The first three days consisted of climbing up in elevation with unfamiliar packs filled to the brim and learning new skills from campsite to campsite. Emily and Alex, our instructors, taught us everything from what a topographic map looked like to how to cook on a whisper lite stove. Our hiking time was spent getting to know each other, all while trying to breath the thin air. On the 4th day day, we woke to a thick coating of snow. With 8 inches, by our guess, of a fine white powder coating everything, our kitchens were hard to find. We finally got our camps broken down and headed off on a day that would later be referred to as “The epic day.” We travel in small groups of 4 students and an Instructor. I, personally, was in the second and the only thing that resembled the Colorado trail were the footsteps of the group before pushing their way through an endless field of snow capped evergreens. Entranced by the forest, we quickly lost our bearing. With our unpracticed navigation skills, we finally found a trail blaze and headed towards an “X” marked on the map labeled Mount Massive. The day only got harder as we got to the Highline Trail as snow kept falling and the depth climbing over a foot. Fresh fallen trees made the hike feel like we were exploring untraveled land. Five o’clock rolled around and my group was losing steam, as thoughts of camping without the other half of the group creeped into the back of our brains. By a miracle we found the camp site with our group awaiting us with hot water. Relieved to finally be at camp, we crashed early and slept in. Day five was the opposite in every way. We sat around the beautiful still ponds at the bottom of Mount  Massive, with our gear sprawled out to dry out in the warm sun and perfectly clear blue skies. The heat from the sun made it felt like a beach day, only with snow instead of sand; it was the day we needed. Day six, we packed camp, strengthened by our “epic day,” hiked away from Mount Massive and reached our camp site on a saddle overlooking Leadville. With civilization so close, we longed for the comforts of home. Any homesickness was blown away the beauty of the sun rising over the Mosquito Mountains. Entranced by the view, we almost missed our packs on time to hike to a trailhead to replenish supplies.

Strolling down the mountain covered in snow, we arrive to the glorious sight of fresh food, Chris, and MUFFINS! Aftera mad dash to the treats, we sorted through our stinky trash and group gear. We then followed Chris to go rock climbing in the great “Douglass City”- a not so thriving metropolis. Remains of the once-was mining village were strewn about the snow, but still we trudged on to set up camp, and finally, on to the rocks! We climbed, learned, and laughed. Two of our own made it up a particularly treacherous, slippery climb- but we all had a blast climbing up to see a breathtaking view of Mount Massive. After a long day, complete with fresh food for dinner, we all went to bed happy.

The next day was an exciting whirlwind of hiking along snow-covered roads, up steep boulder fields, and alongside creeks off the trail. It looked like we were walking in a winter wonderland- a beautiful forest covered in a layer of fresh powder. In high spirits, we sang “Frosty the Snowman” and “Walking in a Winter Wonderland”. Once again, we found ourselves moving camp. But along the way, we got to climb Galena mountain. We dumped our packs, and had a pleasant 1,000 ft. jaunt up to the peak, finally getting about 13,000 ft.. We all slept well that night…

We then had our last “full” hiking day- the day started and ended with some tricky navigation,but each group rose to the occasion and found our campsite. Turns out the Colorado Trail has changed quite a bit in the past 20 years. It was also Leo’s birthday!! We enjoyed a beautiful red velvet and candy corn cake made by Emily and Alex. We sat in a circle under the starry sky, eating and enjoying the lovely views.

The next day was our rest day, and we woke up to the nice surprise of- you guessed it- more snow! But we weren’t deterred. We had an intense discussion about land ethics and wilderness. Then, we had a pizza party! Cheesy, gooey pizza hit the spot. We woke early the next morning and hiked to meet Chris. Once again, the white van rolled up, this time signaling the end of our amazing journey.

After de-issue, and debriefing our trip, we drove to a lodge- our home for the 3 days. We were greeted with steaming High Mountain Pies (one can never eat too much pizza!). We called our families and friends, were stunned by the TV, and slept blissfully in a bed that wasn’t covered in snow or dirt!

Semester 39: “Everyone in the community is so passionate about this place”

Written by Ben Thomson, Xavier Khera, Lia Trebilcock, and June Thoren
October 13, 2017

What an awesome week! In Science, we went searching for glacier-made formations in the mountains and valleys nearby Leadville. We got to appreciate a last glimpse of fall as we saw the yellow aspens merge between the white mountain tops. We learned that the lakes we were observing were created by massive ice sheets carving into the earth thousands of years ago. In Spanish class, we investigated the causes and conditions of South American immigration, as well as the effects of it on both the sending country and the US. Reading the vignette La Casa En Mango Street we were given insight into the harsh realities second and third generation immigrants to the US face. In History, we discussed societal discrimination and the case for reparations, as presented by Ta-Nehisi Coates. It has been a busy week, but everything we do is so engaging that it hardly even feels like it!

During AMX we continue to increase our mileage in preparation for the Fun Run. However, we were thrown for a loop when we were greeted by six inches of fresh snow on Monday morning. We ran two miles around the campus trails, dodging snow balls thrown by fellow students the entire way. Smoke from warm fires billowed from the chimneys of every cabin that night. On Wednesday, our running route took us along the colorful banks of Turquoise Lake. All the leaves from the Aspens have already fallen, but the color change from green to brown is still in process. Many cabins have organized their “Night of Fun,” a time dedicated for each cabin to plan an activity where they can bond and have fun together. Though we love being on campus together as a community, the anticipation level for second expedition is rising quickly, as we welcome the chance make the canyons our classroom.

This past weekend started out with a two-mile run on Saturday morning, followed by breakfast and chores and our regular half-day of classes. Once classes ended for the day, we broke into groups for Saturday activities! We enjoyed spending time in town eating ice cream and pizza, and exploring the local thrift stores. After arriving back to campus, we split our time between wood chopping and spending time with friends. Later that night we all loaded up in the buses, adorning our wackiest outfits, and drove to the nearby bowling alley! After an exciting night of bowling, laughing, and eating some tasty treats, we headed back to campus and spent time with our cabin mates before bed. On Sunday morning, we had the luxury of sleeping in and woke up to an amazing brunch, prepared by cook crew, filled with smoothies, banana bread, pancakes, fruit, and of course lucky charms (a Semester 39 favorite). This Sunday was a “Sacred Sunday” so we spent two hours at our solo spots reflecting, reading, journaling, and building forts. This gave us time to rest and rejuvenate after a very hectic week and reflect on our time at HMI thus far. Afterwards we had the rest of the day to hang out, do homework, bike, and play games!

As you may have already guessed, life at HMI is really full—and recently we have all been balancing schoolwork, participating in fun activities and taking time for ourselves. With the upcoming student teacher conferences and PSAT, we needed a chance to destress. After dinner one evening, music magically began to blast from Who’s Hall, so of course, we had an impromptu dance party before study hall. It felt so good to just be silly, get out some energy and sing along to Miley Cyrus and Chance the Rapper. That short moment put a huge grin on all of our faces and gave us a chance to come together. Our community wants to make the best of the time we have here and embrace every moment where we can be weird and have fun together. These moments when we all come together to just dance and let it all out, are some of our favorites here at HMI (luckily it happens quite a lot).    and it really shows. The overflowing love for each other and this place manifest in some of the most memorable moments.




HMI Gap: “Today I learned to appreciate the simple things.”

October 9, 2017

Rock climbing group

Written by Katie Moody and Andrew Vincent

As we unzipped the tent, the snow that lay crusted on the synthetic exterior, accumulated during the frigid night, tumbled onto our heads. While we were boiling some water for breakfast, an instructor trudged through the wet snow to our makeshift kitchen to announce that we would stay put for the day, and wait for a break in the weather to continue on our path through the Sawatch Range. The morning passed with interactive lessons on communication styles and leadership philosophy. Katie perched on her backpack, clutching her hot drink or doing jumping jacks to stay warm. David and Shaw, two of the instructors, introduced an alternative means of warming up called the “boot dance,” which became quite popular. After lunch, the sun finally broke through, and we set off on a walk in the hills above our camp. Thanks to the sun and exercise, the icy feet finally started to thaw. A frozen wonderland stretched before us: white capped pines, a sparkling lake, a mountain ridge, and clear blue sky. After all the miles backpacked burdened by heavy gear, and struggling through the cold and high altitude, the view felt worth the hardships.

If we had to describe our first expedition in one word, it would be ‘humbling.’ During our nine days in the mountains around Leadville, we became comfortable in the backcountry. Our stellar instructors–Hannah, David, and Shaw–taught us to set-up sturdy tents, cook mouthwatering pizzas, navigate through Colorado’s challenging terrain, identifies aspects of the mountain ecosystem, and laid the groundwork for a blossoming community.

Most days we spent backpacking; a designated leader of the day (LOD) helped guide three peers between ‘X’s on the map. Along the way we got to know each other by trading stories, laughs, and goggling over animal footprints. In the evenings we made camp, taking turns setting up tents, cooking dinner, and filling dromedaries in our small tent groups. Our instructors led us in discussions about the value of wilderness, or the benefits of living without our phones.

Scribbled in our journals are the moments that defined this expedition. Driving into Leadville on the first day, our bus filled with exclamations at the massive mountains around us (including aptly named Mt. Massive). There was the night at 11,000 feet, where the pink sunset and full moon awed us into silence. Or the many ‘climbing words of the day’, such as ‘chuffer,’ ‘beta,’ or ‘on sight,’ delivered by the experienced (read: jargon heavy) climbers in our group. Or learning to dig ventilation tunnels into our tents in the middle of the night to prevent asphyxiation by snow.

On our last day, we visited a local climbing site, Monitor Rock, located a few miles outside of Leadville. A variety of routes accommodated both the more hardcore climbers and those who were climbing outside for the first time. In the midst of our excitement to finally climb, Colorado in October, of course being itself, decided to snow on us one last time. As gray clouds and snow began to rush across the valley, our climbing session sadly came to an end. Despite the storm, HMI Gap Director, Becca brought a birthday cake to celebrate the up- and-coming climber, Andrew Vincent’s nineteenth birthday, keeping spirits high.

During our first expedition, we learned to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. After the night of the surprise snowstorm, I wrote in my journal: “Today I learned to appreciate the simple things, like dry socks, and oxygen.” HMI has already exposed us to breathtaking natural environments, challenged us as leaders, climbers, and community members, and created a lot of psyche for what is to come.