Semester 41: Final Week

Written by: Edward Cantu, Dante Howard, Sydney Berger, and Alex Madsen
December 11, 2018

The Climbing Hall has invoked a sense of kinship as well as rivalry among our semester. Climbers of all abilities come together to learn from each other and to grow stronger. The Hall has led to incredible physical and mental growth for students, including those who climb every week and who didn’t know how physically taxing rock climbing is before they came to HMI. This physically taxing factor has also made us mentally strong when it comes to persisting through physical hardship. Here, rivals are formed to push each other to new heights, but the Climbing Hall is an all use area. For example, Spike-ball is an incredible sport that is taking HMI by storm. Whether tournament style or just messing around, fun is taken seriously in the Climbing Hall. It is a place open to everyone and within the community at HMI it feels so welcoming.

As we head into our final week on campus, students reflect on the rigor of the past week of academics. With our decaying average, the final week of classes count the most, along with the added work of final projects. Last week, many students submitted their final essay for “Ceremony,” the longest novel we have read this year. This was a relief to many, but only one of the major assignments. In P&P we had our personal environmental ethic project (PEEP). This synthesized our topics from the Semester into a thesis about our own environmental ethic. Projects varied from movies, to podcasts, to songs, storybooks, and a Spike-ball net made out of recycled materials. In science, Coco and Klaus’s class had a graphic essay due on ethnography. Students studied an indigenous tribe from where their home town, and connected it to past and present Leadville. Students taking Spanish had their final project of storytelling due on Saturday. Other assignments include an English response re-write, a lyric essay for English, and a final Science chapter and chapter corrections due Tuesday. Although stress is high, students are persevering through these last academic days, which end tonight! With a packed academic week behind us, and a trip to Ski Cooper to look forward to on Wednesday, the hard work will pay off.

As winter has hit us full on now, students have moved inside to hangout. Less meals on Who’s porch, but more next to the fire place in the lounge. There is still the occasional snow angels and snow sitting. The runs for AMX are getting longer. Recently there was a 5 mile run up to Turquoise lake using the roads instead of the back path, which is covered in snow. Runs are also getting less frequent as the temperatures are not working out for us in the mornings. A popular workout among students which isn’t running is the Gratitude Workout. This workout includes many movements like self-worth lunges, dancing, high five jumps and more. We have all improved strongly as we are moving closer to the fun-run. We are still finding ways to have fun with each other. Playing games like chess and poker, watching TV together in the library, or even going on the infamous frate (friend date). Frates can be with anyone in the HMI community doing anything, a way to get closer to everyone here. We are all working very hard in our free times to make sure that we can get done and hang with friends as the semester is coming to a close. Everyone is getting excited for the fun run and end of academics, but are sad as we are getting ready to leave.

Activities are a large part of what we do here at HMI whether it be labs, Saturday night activities, or activities during Activity Block. Every Tuesday and Thursday we have a 90 minute block period dedicated to activities, giving us a break from academics and allowing us to learn new skills. Some of the activities that have taken place so far this semester include primitive skills (making string, traps, arrowheads etc.), film making, podcast making, jewelry making, Bullet Journal making, Who’s Hall decorating, Pumpkin caring, and much more. Activities have been a large part of our experience here at HMI and we have gained many new skills as a result. With such a strict academic schedule and heavy workload, it is nice to get a break from our normal routine and try something new. We’ve all learned a lot of new skills this semester and plan on building off of these skills in the future. Every week multiple activities take place, giving us the choice on whether we want to expand a certain skill or learn something completely new. We have really enjoyed all the activities we have been a part of this semester and it will definitely be something we will miss when we go back home in a week. I think it is important for us students who spend so much time challenging ourselves academically to get this break and focus on the present.

HMI Gap: An Extended Journey through Patagonia National Park

December 2, 2018

Wilderness Group (F-Trek)

Written by Michael Kao and Graham O’Connor

Imagine waking up in the backcountry, wrapped tight in your warm sleeping bag that has now become your home for almost three months. The birds are chirping, the Austral spring sun is shining, and the pregnant guanacos (wild cousins to the llama) are giving birth. Ah yes. These are the true signs that we are immersed within nature.

That was day one of twenty-one days spent on our first Patagonia expedition through what is in the process of becoming Patagonia National Park, making it the longest expedition ever attempted by an HMI group.

Like all auspicious starts of a successful expedition, something had to go wrong right off the bat. In our case, our stoves went on strike on the first day and refused to burn any fuel. Luckily, the magnificent and friendly neighborhood program director, Chris Barlow, endowed us with new isobutane stoves that worked like a charm.

HMI Gap student getting water from a pristine river in Parque PatagoniaWe spent the following days adjusting to the maps of Chile, which depict larger areas but suffer from a lack of detail (we now have tremendous gratitude for the efforts of the USGS, recognizing that not every country has done such a detailed geographical/topographical survey of their entire landmass). This was the source of much exasperation and angst  experiential learning and a crucial reminder that although we’ve gained a fair bit of experience over the past two months, Patagonia is a new environment filled with new challenges.

Despite the challenging navigation, we enjoyed the many wonders of Patagonia, ranging from condors flying mere feet overhead as we trekked across windy ridges and grassy plains to majestic glacial lakes (which looked suspiciously similar to giant pools of Arctic Freeze Gatorade… but we digress).

HMI Gap group at the glacier lake, Patagonia National ParkWe spent our first week making our way towards the fabled “Glacier Hut” and when we arrived, we were greeted with hospitality, hard work, and most importantly, a malfunctioning outhouse. At Glacier Hut, we slept indoors as a community, underwent gritty trail work, and started our course on Wilderness First Aid. Will and Mike spent their free time exploring the nearby lake formed by glacier water, and climbing as close as they could to the ever-present roaring waterfalls. Graham, Tamir, and Ally spent their free time reading and bonding over sitcoms while the rest of the group played games, shared many laughs, and enjoyed the refuge that the hut provided as the harsh winds of Patagonia raged throughout the night.

On the 22nd of November, we had our own backcountry Thanksgiving celebration, with traditional staples like mashed potatoes and gravy along with some creative substitutes like pear cobbler and quinoa stir-fry. There’s no setting quite like the backcountry that makes you truly grateful for the little things. It feels as though every time we venture into the backcountry it becomes more and more apparent in how we take solace within each other throughout the heavy rain, icy snow, hard hitting hail and whiplike winds. Whether it be in the extreme cold of the canyon waters in Utah or under the searing sun out in Chile, there is one thing that we all are grateful for; how much we have grown. Each and every one of us has matured, become accustomed to the brashness of the wild, and grown as a community of eight teenagers ready to take on the world.

HMI Gap student Lago General CarerraOne of the many highlights of the expedition was the opportunity for a student solo night near the end of the expedition. Students departed from the main camp at 8:30 PM for their own isolated campsites and returned at 6 PM the next day. For each student, the experience was unique and deeply personal; some students opted to fast for a day as they meditated or wrote poetry while others simply basked in the breathtaking landscape of Patagonia. After spending the past two months in 24/7 contact with our small clan of 8 students, it was a strange, yet welcome, experience.

Despite a few difficulties along the way, we managed to rise to the challenge each time things didn’t go quite as we had anticipated, and overall, the trip was a smashing success.

As we write this blog post, the group is already preparing for our final 7-day student planned expedition in the Cerro Castillo region. Although our time together as a group is nearing its close, we’re all looking forward to the promise of adventure next week and the many memories that we will share for years to come.

Until next time,



HMI Gap: Cerro Colorado, “an incredible experience to overcome obstacles together and grow stronger as a result.”

November 28, 2018

Rock Climbing Group (F-Rock)

Written by Aaron Williams

Hola amigos y familias, from Chilean Patagonia. Upon our arrival here two weeks ago, we were welcomed by an amazing view of the sunset setting over the mountain peaks from our ferry during the ride over Lago General Carerra to Chile Chico. This was the last leg of our long journey from Colorado and the beauty inspired awe and excitement despite our tired state of being. When we reached the town, we were greeted warmly by the people here at Nandu Hostel as well as by the many dogs constantly running through the streets. After we had settled in, we spent the next few days preparing for our upcoming 10-day expedition to Cerro Colorado and exploring the local area in our free time. Living here has definitely been a different experience that has made us appreciate how different life is away from home. Even the grocery shopping was an adventure due to the different language, measurements, and currency.

HMI Gap students camped below Cerro Colorado

After finishing packing, food rationing, and gear distribution, we set out on our three days of backpacking to Cerro Colorado. This grueling hike humbled us, as we traveled 17 miles uphill through steep terrain, crumbly mountain faces, icy river crossings, and backcountry bushwhacking with packs stuffed full of all the food, gear, and clothing we would need for the next week and a half. Each night we set up our tents, made dinner, and passed out in our sleeping bags. We quickly realized that backpacking rationing is extremely different from car camping. Many of us underestimated the amount the of food we would eat after a very full day of hiking through Patagonia and went to bed feeling a little unsatisfied. Many of us had heard of the extreme Patagonia weather, but felt its full force when we arrived to Cerro Colorado on our third day, where we were met by a lovely combination of 40 mile per hour winds that flattened our tents, rain that somehow soaked all of our belongings, and occasional snow. After bailing out our tents with dip cups, we stabilized them with shoelaces and built rock walls to block out the wind.

Sunset over Lago General Carerra

HMI Gap students climbing at Cerro ColoradoDespite the challenging conditions, we did what we came here to do: we climbed Cerro Colorado. It was so rad!! We were able to use all the different skills we had acquired and practiced throughout the semester. The climbs were a really fun combination of face, crack, and technical stemming, enabling us to greatly improve specific techniques and achieve many personal goals on these routes. The highlight was a multi-pitch of Cerro Colorado. It was a three pitch climb that had been established previously by Chris, Becca, and Brad, so we got to climb something that very few people have ever climbed before.

We also got to celebrate Thanksgiving and Tim’s birthday together in the backcountry. We had a really nice potluck for Thanksgiving dinner which included mashed potatoes, pot pie, lentil soup, and pumpkin pie (made available by bringing down a couple cans of pumpkins from Colorado). Although we all missed our homes and families, it was a one-of-a-kind experience and we had a lot of fun eating, talking, and playing games.

HMI Gap Semesters arriving in Chile Chico PatagoniaOn our last day, we woke up early and began the 10 mile trek back to Nandu Hostel. Like on the way here, there were no trails except those made by the wild horses and guanacos (a close cousin to the llama, native to Patagonia), both of which made regular appearances throughout our time there. It was a long hike through a lot of challenging terrain but we were motivated by our dreams of the showers, beds, and food waiting for us back at the hostel, so we were able to make it there by dinner time.

All in all, Cerro Colorado challenged us all physically and mentally, but it was an incredible experience to overcome the various obstacles together and grow stronger as a result. We also got to spend a lot of time in one of the most beautiful places in the world. This journey was a once in a lifetime experience that we will look back on and smile about for the rest of our lives.


Semester 41: “These times are special and make Semester 41 what it will forever be: a community.”

Written by: Sam Asher, Paige Indritz, and Tuan Truong
November 14, 2018

Residential life at HMI is in a fun and relaxing environment, especially within the close knit community of our cabins and all of HMI. It’s really fun to walk to the West Building bathrooms and hear music blasting as people dance along outside while they brush their teeth. Some students report that they’ve never had so much fun brushing their teeth! It’s always a great feeling walking into your warm cozy cabin after coming in from the snow and the 10 degree weather outside. Students can’t think of a better environment to laugh off the stress of their busy academic schedule with some of our closest friends at HMI. Every cabin has something unique about themselves which is what makes it so special. In Cabin 6, Courtney sings and plays guitar to some original songs that she wrote, which are amazing!

Last weekend started off with a science lab learning about attitudinal zonation by going to Buena Vista and Granite to study plant life. After a quick math class in the afternoon we had town time and some down time. Dinner was a special meal in preparation for the Halloween dance! We all dressed in costumes and had a costume contest which included a jelly fish, Peter Pan and Wendy, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! We had a dance DJ’d by the apprentices and then all went to bed very worn out. Sunday morning we woke up early and got on the buses for a three hour ride to Great Sand Dunes National Park. Once we got there we all scattered around and began the long climb up to the top of a dune. Even though we didn’t go too far, it was still hard to walk in the sand. Even though it was difficult, it was so much fun getting down in-between the dunes, that we’d roll down or run as fast as we could. We all regrouped at the top of the dune and spent the afternoon hanging out with a beautiful view of the snowy mountains. After a spike ball tournament organized by Wyatt and some Frisbee games, we got back on the bus and drove to Salida to walk around and get pizza. We continued the journey back to campus for a snowy evening of study hall concluded with a birthday celebration for Cole! Usually our weekends aren’t so packed but this was such a great time and so amazing to see such a cool place! I’m looking forward to next weekend for a night at the film festival and then a great family weekend!

Dinner is one of HMI’s most sacred traditions. Before dinner, attendance is taken for all of the students. This is to ensure that all students are present for the festivities ahead. For most students, dinner is more than just a time for meals. It’s a time to socialize, chill, or even do some work. This is crucial as most students are busy most of the day with school work and classes. Dinner is often the only time where we all meet at one place just to get to know one another. Dinner is where we form irreplaceable memories and bond. Dinner is the only time where us as people become a community. A community that strengthens our bonds and friendships with each other as the days dwindle down. These times are special and make Semester 41 what it will forever be: a community.


HMI Gap: Goodbye Utah

November 10, 2018

Rock Climbing Group (F-Rock)

Written by Olivia Hunt

Coming to you from Big Bend Utah, F-Rock has had an amazing last few weeks. We have focused on more advanced rock climbing skills, such as multi-pitching, and we have really bonded as a group. Many people have had firsts in the last two weeks such as first multi pitch, first time voting, first time sleeping in a hammock, and first time riding on a five-foot tall bicycle.

One group bonding day was when we decided to multi pitch as an entire group. The entire group set off together to hike to the base of a cliff in the canyons near our campsite. On the way to the cliff we were asked to grab a rock that would symbolize something that was holding us back, and that we wanted to leave behind. One by one, we all climbed up this cliff to reach the rim of the canyon.  About half way up the wall, a small group of us were waiting on a small ledge, stuck way too close together, where we laughed and told stories. At the top of the climb we all sat and shared what we thought was holding us back on the trip. We built our rocks that we collected into a cairn and left them there. After this, as we were preparing to descend, the group all got together and played the best game of “Big Booty” ever to be played. We formed a circle and sang the “Big Booty” song while some of us danced in the middle. We all died of laughter, and it was a perfect way to end this amazing group adventure.    

Another part of this trip has been learning about the history of the places we are in. During this section we traveled to Bears Ears National Monument and hiked around, exploring where the ancient Puebloans lived and learned some about their ways of life. We even got to see ancestral hand prints!

The last night of Big Bend we all decided to have a group sleepover under the stars. We all lined up our sleeping bags and sleeping pads (In Aaron’s case, his sleeping crash pad) and fell asleep while looking at the stars. It’s a good thing we wore so many layers because when we woke up the tops of our sleeping bags and our water bottles were frozen.

Utah has been great and we will miss it, but we are all ready to get to take our skills to a new and remote location down in Patagonia. So it’s time for a van ride, 3 plane rides, another bus ride, and a boat ride; in other words 36 hours of travel to get to Chile!

Semester 41: 2nd Expedition

Written by: Jack Horowitz, Stuart Sopko, Eunice Gao, and Zane Harkin
November 6, 2018

 Group A

We just returned from Second Expedition in the canyons of Utah. It was a 17 day excursion into the depths of the canyons of Cedar Mesa and the vast mesas Jacob’s Chair. We went to Cedar Mesa first, it was the most expansive and incredible landscape we had ever been to in our lives. Massive canyons cut into the landscape in the flat, seemingly endless mesa. We began by descending into these canyons and seeing Native American ruins dating back over thousands of years ago. The Citadel is one of these ruins, perched atop a massive rock and sandstone structure at the confluence of three canyons. The site is incredibly beautiful, sitting around six hundred feet above the canyon floor with the Abajo Mountains lying straight ahead. In the canyons, there are many elements that require ingenuity, problem solving, and a willingness to get dirty. Reading topographic maps to navigate through these deep canyons is a crucial task for getting around. During hiking days, one can expect to run into quicksand, waist deep water, and tall sandstone shelves. Once we emerged out of the depths of the Cedar Mesa canyons, we made our way to the incredible Jacob’s Chair. Jacob’s Chair is a large rock shelf atop a mountain just Northwest of Cedar Mesa. In this area, we went across vast mesas, dove back into canyons and climbed down into very narrow slot canyons. One day, we even found ourselves walking through waist deep, muddy water in a slot canyon! Upon our return, we were happy to be back, but our experience in Utah was an incredible one and one that we all here will never forget.

Group B

We spent the first ration, nine days, in Jacob’s Chair where went in and out of canyons and learning how to navigate our way through the tricky canyon terrain. We waded through slot canyons, worked our way through massive boulder sections in the bottom of canyons, and spent time outside of the canyons enjoying the vast views that the landscape had to offer. The second part of our expedition was spent in the San Rafael Swell, a much different area than Jacob’s Chair. The Swell has the San Rafael River flowing through it making it a wider and deeper canyon. For this reason, we spent most of our time in the canyon, not getting out of the canyon often. While we were in the Swell, the Cottonwood trees were changing color into a vibrant yellow that made the landscape even more beautiful. Overall, the trip was a great experience and way to experience the canyons of Utah.

Group C

For first ration, we went around Jacob’s Chair and dropped into a few slot canyons. Stemming and climbing on day hikes in the slot canyons was a highlight of the expedition. We experienced some strong wind and rain one night, which almost blew our tarps and tarpmates away. The rain water in potholes was delicious, but made wading through canyons more difficult. On second ration, we drove three hours to San Rafael Swell and began new adventures through slippery mud and bushwhacking. We had about four days of Independent Student Travel (IST) on a shortened route, although we managed to rack up quite a bit of mileage by getting lost every day. On our first day of IST, we had no watches or perception of time (we had taken our watches off the night before), ended up deliberating about navigation for two-and-a-half hours, and arrived to camp by crawling (sometimes on hands and knees) through mud and trees in the dark and singing songs. We slipped, struggled, and joyfully persevered through it all. On a layover day, we took a short walk to see some amazing Anasazi petroglyphs of perfect circles and many sheep. We had a strong finish on IST getting very lost and seeing Howie’s red umbrella very. far. away. Oops! We ended our last day walking together as a whole group on a dirt road toward the van that would take us home to our family at HMI. All in all we had fun building a whole lot of character (We say that in Group C, C is for character!) and learned to thrive in the canyons.

Group D

On the second expedition of Semester 41, we started our Utah expedition hiking around Jacob’s Chair and tiptoeing around all of the cryptobiotic soil as we made our way up and over the mesa. During our first half, we woke up one morning to a delicious pumpkin pie that Dante crafted for the majority of the night, and we, along with all of our gear, got soaked by torrential downpour before re-ration. On the second half of our trip we moved about an hour away from where we started and hiked through Lime and Road Canyon. Starting our trip in Lime Canyon we saw our first Anasazi ruins and then began our Independent Student Travel portion of the trip. After electing Xander as our Student Expedition Leader, we started our first IST-training day by going around the mesa we were on and giving ourselves a better view at Valley of the Gods. Our destination for that day was Road Canyon and then in the days to follow we explored The Citadel, a well known site of Anasazi ruins. We expanded our culinary skills by making cinnamon rolls, baked mac-n-cheese, and fried dough on the last night. Also, we had our fastest hiking day of the trip when we hiked six miles in only three hours. We were motivated by something that pushed us to go two miles an hour: it’s possible that we were ready to feel the warmth of our bus…or we were just super psyched to go hiking for one last day. Even though we were familiar with one another before the expedition, we all got to know each other in a different way and through that we shared awesome memories about the canyons of southeastern Utah.

HMI Gap: Enchanted by the Canyons

November 3, 2018

Wilderness Group (F-Trek)

Written by Miranda Mix and Coleman Walsh

Salutations from the slot canyons of Southern Utah! Our group has been through thick and thin during the past two weeks. Whether through surveying the riparian zone in Bullet Canyon, or swimming through the murky, intimidating waters of Gravel Canyon, our group has bonded over the shared adversity and adventure of life in the desert.

HMI Gap student in Gravel CanyonEven though the expedition was challenging, both physically and inter-personally, we have come out on the other side stronger and with many great memories to share. Ally offered one of her favorite moments with us, which was stemming through the narrows in Upper Gravel Canyon. Stemming was a process that involved smearing and using friction to avoid swimming certain parts of the narrows. The day Ally referenced was one that included a myriad of technical obstacles, such as rappelling, going through third and fourth class terrain, and swimming with the assistance of a hand line. On that same day, Will experienced the height of his expedition, too. After stemming for 150 feet through the narrows, Will was the first to attempt a technical jump from a 15-foot ledge that opened up climatically to the end of the canyon. This dauntless move started a trend among the group: five other students tried it HMI Gap students in Gravel Canyonafter him!

Graham, on the other hand, enjoyed the time we spent together after a long day’s work. He specifically mentioned the time the whole group played a game of “Werewolf”, also known as “Mafia”. Graham, for one, played the role of narrator, who instructs the townspeople to perform their tasks. Everyone in the group will always remember the statistically anomalous turn of events in which the townspeople witnessed Mike deftly escaping Werewolf accusations several times, which led Brad and Sofie to their sudden demises as the true Werewolves of the game!

HMI Gap instructor admiring petroglyphsAnother significant aspect of this expedition in Southern Utah has been learning about the fascinating history of the surrounding area. Sheiks canyon gave us great insight into the lives of the indigenous peoples who lived there over 700 years ago—the Ancestral Puebloans. During our exploration of ruins, we encountered petroglyphs, pictographs, fossilized corn cobs, shards of pottery, and fully intact structures that have survived the wear and tear of centuries. Tamir shared his disbelief that an entire civilization could survive in this inhospitable region—he also was the only who could pronounce the name of the canyon right, thanks to his background in Arabic!

HMI Gap students admiring ancient petroglyphsEvery night, many of of us opted to sleep outside the tent under the stars. Due to our remoteness, light pollution was virtually nonexistent, so the beauty of the Milky Way could cut across the sky almost every night. There were a few nights where the whole group decided to sleep outside, and our collective appreciation for the stars brought us closer together.

We had a great experience in the canyons, but we are already looking forward to going to Patagonia and experiencing a new culture. We will miss the warm weather, sun, and red rock, but now it is time to head off to Chile!

Signing off,

Miranda and Coleman

HMI Gap – Climbing and Stewardship in Utah

October 31, 2018

Rock Climbing Group (F-Rock)

By Jill Pollard, Forrest Peck, and Nick Jones

We received a cold, wet welcoming to Ken’s Lake, a campground a few miles south of the town of Moab, Utah. After a six hour drive from Leadville, we set up our basecamp, finding it difficult to avoid the seemingly endless groups of puddles and scavenge for hefty rocks to hold down our tents. The following few days looked a lot like day 1: cold, windy, and wet. This is not what we had expected from the desert, but came to realize the power and extent of Hurricane Michael’s reach. Though the weather prevented us from climbing the next few days, getting to watch the desert soak up the rain, after months without a drop, was incredibly refreshing.

HMI Gap students at Brumley Crags in the La Sals, UtahDespite the persistent rainfall, we made good use of our time. With what appeared to be some clearing, we headed to Lower Brumley to learn how to rappel.  Right as we began rappelling, light rainfall turned into a spontaneous hail storm. Before we knew it, we were starring in our own action movies. Our next noteworthy adventure was an hour long hike in which our strength of mind was tested. We trudged along, slipping and sliding all over the muddy, snow covered path. At the end of the day, the rad climbs and beautiful views made up for the grueling hike. After warming up our numb toes, we strapped on our climbing shoes and hit the crags. As the weather cleared, our days were finally filled with sunshine and sick sends – “we got really sendy with it.” Our stoke was high as we packed to go down to Indian Creek, a place of mystical splitter cracks.

As we descended into the Creek it felt as if we were entering a distant world, but we are now fortunately able to call this incredible environment home. We’d never seen anything like this place, it is truly unique. There is no other place on Earth that obtains such magnificent splitter cracks. Before entering, a common thought about the desert was that it was barren, with little life and water, and full of sand dunes. To our surprise, none of that is true. This landscape is full of incredible organisms all working in harmony to support each other and thrive together. One collection of organisms is called Cryptobiotic Soil. It is fundamental to the survival of many other species and plays a huge role in environments hundreds of miles away. It acts like a topsoil, allowing plants to stay rooted in the otherwise loose sand. This “soil” is what holds the high desert together.

HMI Gap students climbing at the Scarface Wall, Indian CreekThe cracks in Indian Creek are found nowhere else on this planet. The cracks are formed in the Windgate sandstone layer. The Colorado Plateau was once underneath an ancient ocean. Over millions of years, the landscape has drastically changed from being a swampy marsh to being a desert with massive sand dunes. Layer after layer became compacted from the new layers forming on top. Millions of years later, after the uprising of the plateau, the layers started to erode away allowing the Windgate to emerge once again. With the weight of the top layers gone, the Windgate decompressed causing the sandstone to fracture, creating its magnificent, parallel cracks.

Trail work on the Scarface Approach trail with FRCSA major part of our time here has been spent on conservation work. We spent 8 days creating stairs, with the help of the Front Range Climbing Stewards (FRCS), in the washed out trail up to Scarface wall. Thank you FRCS! Without your help and knowledge, the trail would not be as spectacular as it turned out. Every stair took tremendous effort and collaboration from our small groups of 3-4 people. We also obtained help from various volunteers, a large part from the Montrose High School outdoor program. Seeing the finished result of all our hard work was truly inspiring. It amazes us that this contribution will last longer than we will live. You can read a local news article about it in the Moab Times. Our time spent trail building was a “double duo,” as Nick likes to say, because our time also allowed us to bond with each other even more. Working in some harsh conditions made us appreciate everyone’s hard work and determination, as well as encourage one another when they were beat.  And after a day of hard work building stairs, we would hike up to the cliff to get a few pitches in, not letting our exhaustion overpower our enthusiasm to learn the crazy crack climbing technique. And who can argue? Climbing a classic route like Scarface, overlooking the vast expanse of canyons and Six Shooter towers, makes this magnificent place one that will forever be cemented in our memory.

Our community. Conquers rocks for enjoyment. We will never stop.

P.S. Shoutout to Jill’s mom and dad: “hi mom and dad”-Jill



HMI Gap – The Mystical Midcountry

October 20, 2018

Wilderness Group (F-Trek)

Written by Ally Pyne

HMI Gap Wilderness Semester basecamp in MoabGreetings from the midcountry – a mystical land that is not quite the isolated escape of the backcountry yet does not offer the wholehearted interconnectedness of the frontcountry. In our past week living in the midcountry, base-camped along the Colorado River near Moab, Utah, we’ve found ourselves with more time and more to think about than how to simply survive and get from point A to point B. We’ve had time in the peaceful respite of the our campground nestled in the Moonflower Canyon to have conversations that extend beyond the getting-to-know-you stage; we’ve had time for impromptu (and rather long) dance parties to Earth, Wind, and Fire, recounting of stories about childhood pets, and many gourmet meals – including hockey carrot curry, pasta primavera, peach rice pudding, and cinnamon buns.

HMI Gap Trail Work with Trail MixAfter arriving and getting settled in, we met Maddie of the Grand County Trail Mix, a group that works with land managers to steward public land around Moab, for a briefing on the trail work we would complete. The work we did on the Hidden Valley trail was quite well-received by our group and the many hikers that passed us by. “It was so rewarding to see the direct benefits of our efforts as we were working,” remarked Coleman. Graham agreed, adding, “Trail Mix also made it clear that our service was really going to help out the fragile desert ecosystems surrounding the trail.”

Our productive days of trail work were interspersed with days of rock climbing and learning technical skills in preparation for our canyons expedition, led by the fabulous new addition to our instructor team, Brad. Many new climbers in our group tried out crack climbing for the first time and did an incredible job. We practiced rappelling at a crag in the La Sal mountains, which were recently dusted in snow, overlooking the vast canyon country below. The next day, we basked in the warm sun at the Ice Cream Parlor, a popular local climbing spot.

HMI Gap Wilderness and Conservation SemesterWhile our days were filled with trail work, rock climbing, and exploring downtown Moab, many folks in the group described our base camping experience as “rejuvenating” and “relaxing.” The highlights of our week certainly included informal, organic group bonding and small, yet unforgettable moments that will etch themselves into our memories of this incredible experience. Gabe remarked that the group was beginning to feel like a family, and “this was an experience [he] could imagine recreating with friends and family from back home.” Many agreed that the land of the mystical midcountry is something special that we would love to share with the other people in our lives (like those of you reading this post!)

We hope you’ve been enjoying your Octobers, wherever you are, and we cannot wait to reconnect with you all after our 14-day canyons expedition in Bears Ears.   

Sending love,

Ally and the rest of F-Trek


HMI Gap: The Power of Unplugging

October 13, 2018

Wilderness Group (F-Trek)

By Sofie Pedemonti

When you think of disconnecting, what do you think of? Putting your phone on airplane mode? Leaving your phone in your room while you eat dinner with your family? Though these actions may provide temporary relief from our perpetually plugged-in society, true disconnection can only be achieved in certain circumstances. While exploring the Sawatch Mountain Range, HMI’s F-Trek was able to learn the ins-and-outs of a true backcountry lifestyle, dabble in rock climbing, and bond as a community, all while experiencing the profound effects of grade A disconnection.

HMI Gap Summit Mt. Massive Day one: we hike out to our first campsite, get a cheesy-mac cooking lesson, and settle into our mids (mega mid tents that have now become our homes for these next three months). At this point, we are practically strangers to each other out in the middle of nowhere. One thing we can all bond over is the excitement for what the next 14 days will offer. As days progressed, our bonds grew stronger and so did our bodies. Summiting Mt. Massive, the third tallest peak in the lower forty-eight (14,429 ft), was a true testament to our team’s rapid growth. While navigating off-trail, cautiously negotiating loose boulder fields, and facing harsh winds may have been difficult, reaching the summit proved that any adversity was simply temporary.

HMI Gap Backcountry CookingA few days and miles after our Mt. Massive peak ascent, we found ourselves in the old mining town of Douglass City. As we approached our new campsite, it was impossible to ignore the cascading boulders and walls of rock surrounding us. Once we found out that we would be climbing these rocks, some people’s temperament became very excited, while others turned quite frightful. At this moment, another opportunity for growth arose within our community. Our climbing day consisted of everyone helping each other, whether it was in the form of belaying for each other, giving pointers on certain routes, or cheering each other on.

HMI Gap Sawatch ExpeditionLooking back on our first two weeks as a group, it is quite evident that the lack of technology really helped contribute to our fast and strong bonds. It’s amazing how close you can get to other people in just the first 7 days on an expedition – bonds that may take years in other situations. Going forward, traveling to Utah and Patagonia, we will be presented with so many more opportunities for growth and challenges to work through as a team. While we will be re-introduced to technology at certain times throughout the program, the common theme of disconnection will remain prevalent throughout the course.