Summer Term 2018: Life on Campus

Written by Brett Zakheim
July 25, 2018

Upon arrival back to HMI, it has been non-stop fun. Reuniting as 28 students again was seamless despite being on our own adventures for ten days. We were all eager to share our experiences and hear stories from other groups.

As students, we dove in into our classes. We developed a strong sense of place by interviewing people in Leadville and volunteering at the community garden during humanities class. In science class, we participated in the biodiversity challenge where teams identified as many as 40 wildlife species around HMI. We explored the Leadville mining museum and old mining sites. Our studies culminated with a group debate where groups of us represented different stakeholders in Leadville and discussed the effects and implications of opening a new mine. Outside of the classroom time was spent running, biking, bouldering, baking, and playing games. We also had the opportunity to rock climb and fly fish; both activities are a great way to enjoy being outdoors. We also enjoyed visits to town where several Melanzana fleeces, ice cream cones, and burgers were purchased. Rafting down the Arkansas River was also a blast. Another highlight was the talent show. Performances consisted of singing in Chinese, group dances, dramatic readings, and other entertaining acts. However, the talent show would not have been complete without caramel popcorn and the dance party that followed.

Before embarking on our second expedition, feelings are bittersweet. We are looking forward to making new bonds in the backcountry and embracing the wilderness, but are sad to leave friends and a place we call home. It will be hard to leave, but everyone is prepared and ready to make the most of the experiences that await. Fourteeners’ are waiting to be climbed, the stars are longing to be gazed at, and memories are dying to be made.


Summer Term 2018: First Expedition

Written by Sebastian Baer, Jordyn Lichtstein, Sidney Derzon, Helen Klaes, Cede McNally, and Hope Vetromile
July 18, 2018

Group A: Angie, Cede, Lauren, Kevin, Shaq, Aiden, Hannah, Hope, Josh, and Sarah

On our first night we refueled with cheesy mac and cheese, ready for our second day of hiking through gorgeous aspen groves. Grace saved the day by teaching (and implementing!) blister treatment and we all began to get in the routine of cooking on our camp stoves, setting up tarps, and sometimes sleeping out under the stars! On day three we hiked in a dry creek-bed until we finally found a spring to give our heads a much-needed dunk. During our layover day at Little Brown’s Creek we worked on creating a geologic timeline of the Rocky Mountains and creating our own naturalist guides. For dinner, we had a backcountry pizza party! We celebrated Kevin’s birthday on day 6 with a mellow hiking day and our first afternoon thunderstorm.

The remainder of our trip included two more layover days. We attempted to summit Mount Antero, ate pancakes for breakfast, debated the difference between nature and wilderness, slept outside, and still made time for humanities class, science class, and study hall. All in all the expedition was a success!

Group B: Claire R, Harper, Helen, Tanja, Lucas, Cesar, Maia, Edgar, Sallie, and Sidney

Throughout the course of our ten day backpacking trip we traveled through the Sawatch Range, cresting the Continental Divide and camping at many different lakes and streams. We were exposed to many new experiences and adventures as we accomplished goals and came together as a group. On the first night we learned how to cook cheesy pesto pasta on a WhisperLite stove and by the third evening we were all crying (out of inspiration, out of vulnerability) in a circle together.

On our fifth day (4th of July!), we tested our limits scrambling up a steep exposed hill with heavy backpacks on. It was exhilarating for some and nerve-wracking for others, but with everyone’s support we came together as a group and were rewarded with a beautiful view from the top of the Continental Divide. The next day we continued of 4th of July celebrations during our layover day with a homemade cake from the instructors, an “alpine pineapple,” and a talent show.

Our backcountry cooking skills tremendously improved throughout the trip—by the end we had all learned how to cook pizza, cinnamon rolls, pancakes, and many other creations.  Even though one cook-group forgot their spice kit and another had a little too much “trail spice,” everyone enjoyed eating delicious food.

On trail, we learned how to read and orient maps, and all took turns being Leader of the Day (LOD)—this  entailed leading the group from point A to point B while setting and finding the route. As far as learning goes we had science, humanities, and Practices and Principles class. We discussed the importance of the wilderness and explored how humans are connected to nature.

After 10 days we were definitely ready for a hot shower (not that the lake showers were not great), but we were also sad that our great expedition was ending and our close-knit group was splitting up. We will forever remember the “alpine pineapple” and hunkering down in hail and thunderstorms,  but most importantly we will remember our fun-loving group. We will never be able to relive this experience with such an amazing group of people! 

Group C: Jordyn, Laisha, Sebastien, Sam, Brett, Claire B, Nick, Henry, Lili

Our first 10-day expedition in the Rocky Mountains was an incredible and rewarding experience for all. After hiking uphill on our first day, we were rewarded by a beautiful, picturesque campsite, without (as we would later appreciate) as many mosquitoes as our other campsites. On day two, we hiked up a steep pass, had lunch on the top, and hiked down through a forest, where we marveled at the many beautiful wildflowers on our path. Day three was one of our more difficult days, but our long hike ended with our arrival at our first layover site. Day five included some classes, some catching up with our trip advisors, and everyone setting up their kitchens close together and making some delicious backcountry pizza. On day six, we hiked up to the Continental Divide Trail, where we spent the next four days hiking.

Another highlight included the 4th of July “fireworks” display (which was a distant lightning storm). The following layover days were spent at a very cool marshy meadow. We took showers in a freezing cold waterfall and spent time having classes in the meadow.

Special Update

May 24, 2018

May 25, 4:25 The wildfire on our property has been completely extinguished and there is no damage to our structures or vehicles. HMI staff and students have been cleared to return to campus and will be doing so later this afternoon. We consider ourselves extremely lucky that this fire was mitigated so skillfully by first responders, and that the weather and conditions were not more favorable to rapid fire spreading. Investigations into the cause of the fire are not yet complete.

We cannot put into words our gratitude for the first responders who successfully contained this great threat to our school. We specifically want to thank Leadville/Lake County Fire Rescue, Lake County Sheriffs Office- Colorado, St. Vincent Hospital Ambulance Service, Lake County Public Works, Summit and Chaffee fire crews, and the U.S. Forest Service. We extend our most sincere thanks to all involved with the emergency response.

We also want to acknowledge and thank the many local organizations and individuals who have supported us in the past 24 hours. Thank you first and foremost to Colorado Mountain College Leadville for taking us in and housing our students in your dorms. Thank you as well to Colorado Outward Bound School for offering us sleeping bags, Solvista Health for making mental health counselors available to our students, and Desert Mountain Medicine for offering us your services. We are honored and humbled by outpouring of support from Leadville and beyond.

We have been inspired by the optimism and resilience of our students, faculty, staff, and community. We look forward to completing this current term on a high note.

May 24, 9:40PM Fire Update: The Lake County Office of Emergency Management is now reporting that the fire on our property grew to a size of 1.3 acres but is at least 90% contained. We have also learned that there was no damage to any structures at HMI. We are overwhelmed with gratitude for the emergency services whose fast response is to thank for these positive outcomes.

We have arranged for the students to spend the night in the dorms at nearby Colorado Mountain College; they are empty for the summer.

As we enter the late evening, our paramount goal is to support all of our students and our staff members. Our community is a strong one. We continue to believe that the last days of the semester hold great promise, and we look forward to them. We will continue to keep you updated on our next steps and our plans for the next few days. Thank you in advance for your patience as we navigate this situation.

May 24, 5:35 PM This is an informational post for the HMI and Lake County communities. At approximately 3pm this afternoon, we were made aware of a fire on the far western edge of the HMI campus. We thank the multiple local agencies that are currently responding to the situation. All HMI students and staff are uninjured and accounted for, have been evacuated to the town of Leadville, and are in good spirits. We will provide updates as they become available.

Outdoor Recreation, Stoke, and the Power of Place

Written by Becca Schild, Co-Director of HMI Gap
May 24, 2018

In Your Stoke Won’t Save Us, published in the March issue of the High Country News, Ethan Linck elegantly distills hundreds of thousands of Instagrams of adventurous people in dramatic landscapes into a single phrase: “Stoke has become an ethos.” Critical of this trend, he goes on to elucidate his claim: “For those of us who identify with modern outdoor recreation culture, stoke has increasingly begun to mediate our relationship with the natural world. [In the past], I have implicitly linked my passion for skiing, climbing, and running with a passion for conservation and environmental stewardship. But after accepting this premise for most of a decade, I am no longer so sure.”

As both an educator and researcher (having written my doctoral dissertation focused on the connection between outdoor recreation and environmental values), I couldn’t help but find Linck’s claim both provocative, compelling, and timely. His criticism of the assumption that outdoor recreationists are inherently conservationists is sharp, if not least for cutting close to home: he even cites an Ed Abbey quote that is a staple evening reading on HMI wilderness expeditions.

It seems intuitive that by recreating outdoors, people come to deeply appreciate and understand it, and somehow want to protect it. We even see the outdoor recreation community rallying around a fight for public lands since the recent Bears Ears controversy. But Linck highlights that our motivations may be misaligned with the principles of conservation biology:

“Should we fight for public lands because they provide us with recreation opportunities, or because they support biodiversity? . . . The field of conservation biology tells us that long-term ecological stability requires the latter. But stoke fundamentally centers on the self and the quality of human experience, and thus has no intrinsic stake in biodiversity or ecosystem stability.”

Don’t tell your #stoked friends that I said this, but Linck is, academically speaking, right on. No, loving to ski or run in places that feel natural doesn’t inherently make us more likely to act in ways that promote ecological integrity. What our love for the outdoors can do, however, is help us develop both a stronger connection to nature and place (what Linck sites as place attachment). As this connection strengthens, we tend to stop thinking of ourselves as visitors—tourists if you will —and start seeing ourselves as inhabitants whose own ability to thrive is intertwined with the health of our surrounding environment. In my own research, I found an individual’s self-serving interest to preserve recreation access may compel them to volunteer with an outdoor recreation organization. Among a host of positive outcomes from volunteering was the development of a deeper understanding and appreciation of nature and place, which ultimately led to stronger environmental values.

As an educator, I’m particularly interested in what this place attachment offers students in terms of learning opportunities. The forces that shape our attitudes about recreation, land use, and broader environmental ethics are the same that shape the jobs we hold, votes we cast, places we live, and communities we participate in. By understanding these forces, and the impacts our actions and values have on places, our students gain a broader perspective on these issues while reflecting on their role as a citizen to address them.

This, then, is the power of stoke. It motivates us to pursue an experience that bonds us to a place. Once we move beyond mere consumer to inhabitant, the intricacies and complexities of that place emerge, as does our desire to engage with it start to transcend the self-serving.

At HMI, we use outdoor adventure as the backdrop to teach about traditional academic subjects, issues of identity and privilege, leadership and community, and current political affairs (such as the Bears Ears Monument controversy). In addition, students learn what it means to become part of a community of place, with shared responsibility for its stewardship. From participating in daily chores and cook crew to volunteering high up on a 14,000 ft. mountain to restore a trail, students learn that life is more than pure stoke – which Linck defines as “unbridled enthusiasm and the uncomplicated pursuit of experience”—to a richer pursuit of joy and purpose that is much harder to distill into one Instragram post.


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.

Diversity at HMI: A Snapshot

Written by Chris Barlow, Co-Director of HMI Gap
May 2, 2018

HMI’s Diversity and Inclusion Statement

The High Mountain Institute believes that both diversity and inclusion are essential to growth and learning. We all achieve our potential when each person in the community feels a true sense of belonging, and has the confidence to express their full self.

At HMI, inclusiveness starts with an intentional and affirming community. Creating such a community is our priority. We connect deeply to each other through classes, wilderness expeditions, and shared responsibilities. We prioritize open communication and honest conflict resolution. These efforts inspire us to build trust, to value diverging perspectives, and to build communities greater than ourselves.

Historically, however, outdoor programs like HMI have attracted largely white and privileged populations. At times, this has made it challenging for all at our school to feel fully part of our community. We seek to address these challenges at HMI by increasing the diversity of our students, faculty, staff, trustees, and advisors; by creating classes and activities that explore and reflect students’ identities; by expanding the cultural competence of faculty and staff; and by continually challenging the assumptions we hold.

We engage with this challenging work because we are committed to building an exceptional learning environment rooted in community—not just for some, but for all who seek to be inspired by the natural world.

We’d like to offer a snapshot of what we’re currently doing to live out the values of our diversity statement. Our efforts fall into three broad categories: recruitment of students and staff, offering financial aid, and building a more inclusive school community.


We are currently pursuing a variety of avenues to increase the number of students and staff from diverse racial, ethnic, and economic backgrounds. This includes:

  • Promoting at over 90 high schools (public and private) and 20 gap fairs across the US.
  • Partnering with several programs and schools to enable access to our programs for students of color and from a range of socio-economic backgrounds.
  • Recruiting more diverse staff through posting open positions on nationally distributed job lists, implementing a master plan to build on-campus housing, and revising our job posting guidelines to attract applicants from a wider range of backgrounds.

Financial Aid

HMI strives to make our programs financially accessible to diverse families through offering need and merit-based financial aid. Across all our programs, 32% of students receive some kind of financial aid.

HMI awards need-based financial aid through a 3rd party system (SSS, offered by the National Association of Independent Schools), which evaluates self-reported information and tax documents submitted by the student and family to generate the family’s “Ability to Pay.” We base our financial aid award on this number. For elective (i.e. non-transcript-bearing) programs, we generally do not offer 100% of demonstrated need while also striving to make the program affordable to the family.

HMI offers multiple merit-based scholarships: the Lake County High School Merit Scholarship and the Civic Adventure Scholarship.


We have also looked inward to understand how we can continue developing our programs so that all students have an equal opportunity to learn and grow during their time at HMI. We currently have two initiatives specifically aimed at inclusion:

Equity and Educators is a reading and discussion group of HMI staff that meets every 1-2 months to discuss pertinent diversity and social justice issues and apply insights and best practices to the programming, curricula, and culture of the school.

The Identity Series is a curriculum of community meetings designed to help students reflect on identity, equity, and inclusion. These 1-hour meetings bring together students and staff and happen every 1-2 weeks during HMI programs. These meetings address various topics, including:

  • Self-identity and the various dimensions of identity (race, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, and privilege, among others) and vocabulary to discuss the dimensions of identity
  • Aggression and power, including overt violence, microaggressions, power dynamics, and their connections to identity
  • Positive learning environment and community, including community norms, debriefs, communication, and conflict resolution
  • Ethics and action, including development of a personal mission statement, core values, goals, and an action plan


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.