Semester 42: First Weeks on Campus!

Written by: Kenya, Charlotte, Fran, Sophie
February 22, 2019

This week Luis Guillermo Benites visited HMI to give a talk to the students about the extreme mountaineering adventures he has been on in his life and how these have had an effect choices, challenges, and change with ourselves. He explained the immense amount of work that it took to accomplish a goal of summiting the famed Seven Peaks, the highest mountains of each of the seven continents. Alongside this accomplishment he also formed a career out of his childhood dream of becoming a professional mountaineering guide. In order to achieve this goal, he had to conquer his extreme allergies and asthma, that for the beginning years of his life, limited his exposure to the outdoors. He inspired the students of HMI to be very conscious of the goals that we create for ourselves and refrain from abandoning them, to keep pushing ourselves and moving toward our ambitions.

After returning from expedition two weeks ago, our academic routine has begun to feel normal as we delve into many different interesting subjects and assignments in each of our classes. We are learning about different forms of education and the writing American History in our History class, focusing on the flaws and biases in each of the systems. Our math classes are unique from the courses at our sending schools, but many of us are practicing working together in small groups to solve complex problems relating to our math curriculum at home. In English we are reading Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko, who touches on the Laguna Pueblo culture and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in veterans. We also just finished our analytical essay on the literary devices in a passage from Red by Terry Tempest Williams in our English class. Practice and Principals is focusing on discussing and hearing different viewpoints regarding what humans relationship with nature should be and how we achieve this. Those who take Spanish learned the song “Vivir Mi Vida” by Marc Anthony, covered different grammar tenses, and wrote a short essay about a memorable moment from expedition. In our Natural Science course that focuses on ecology, we learned about why we have winter and different weather patterns. One very interesting thing that we learned and practiced this week took place in science class when we learned the different causes for why it snowed the previous night in Leadville and then we practiced explaining it by acting as meteorologist and presenting to the class.

This weekend was very fun because HMI got to participate in the Leadville Loppet on Saturday! Students and faculty either participated in the Loppet by cross country skiing a 10k (or 22k for some faculty) or helped to run aid stations. The race started off with blizzard-like conditions for the first mile, and many of us found ourselves questioning whether or not we would be able to finish the race. Luckily, it got much better after the first mile; seeing our classmates cheering us on and giving us snacks and Gatorade at the halfway mark definitely boosted our morale. Besides our large numbers of people, we also made sure HMI was strongly represented with our enthusiastic cheers and silly costumes. We all had an amazing time in the race, whether it was our first time skiing, or one hundredth. Once we all crossed the finish line, we went to the CMC gym for awards and lunch. There was lots of laughing and sharing of our race experiences as we ate soups and listened to the award ceremony. We were well represented during the awards ceremony — the top 3 girls in our age range were all from HMI, as well as 2 out of the top 3 for the boys. On Sunday, we had classes in order to make up for the school that we did not have on Saturday. Despite the fact that it made our usual 6 day school week one day longer, people did not complain because we were all so grateful that we got to race on Saturday. The Leadville Loppet was an incredible and bonding experience, one we definitely will not forget!

This week on campus was alive with discussion about our community and how we’ve integrated over the course of the first month of our semester together. On Monday, during flex block, we all met in Stuen Hall to voice our “pluses and deltas,” or positives and areas for improvement, regarding our language, inclusivity, and overall group dynamic. The conversation was student-led, which facilitated a powerful and productive conversation about communicating more often and more effectively with one another. We established group norms like respecting peoples’ identities and backgrounds in an effort to create a more accepting community, as well as being receptive to feedback from peers.

Individual cabins have also been having conversations about group dynamic on a smaller scale. We are dividing up tasks like chopping wood, shoveling the pathways, and keeping the fire going on a nightly basis. In Cabin One, there are three birthdays this week and we’ve been planning festivities and lots of chocolate! The community is also buzzing with excitement about Ski Week, when we all learn how to telemark ski for our second exped, which is rapidly approaching. In the meantime, we have been spending time on the rock wall, doing yoga in Stuen, and catching up on reading for English.

HMI Gap: Life on First Expedition

February 18, 2019

Spring Semester in Patagonia

Written by Selena Lee and Alex Fogel

HMI Gap: Backcountry empanadasOur first expedition went faster than we imagined. We are a group of 6 girls who immediately connected through our shared passions for nature and the environment. We had orientation for the first couple of nights in Chile Chico where we learned more about everyone in the group whom we’ll be staying with for the next 80 days and got a basic idea of Patagonia. We were then split into tent/cook groups who we’d be cooking and sharing a tent with for the first expedition. We organised our expedition ration into two piles, one that would be delivered to us mid-way through the expedition. All the food was wrapped in plastic bags — 1 pound per bag — and based on a bulk ration system that allows for creativity and lots of cooking: flour, quinoa, oats, cookies, hummus powder, soy milk powder, cheese, etc. I (Selena), for one, was nervous about cooking, but once we got the hang of it, we started having some delicious gourmet meals like quesadillas, pizza, cinnamon rolls, empanadas and so much more. Food in the backcountry is so much better than you think and cooking in the backcountry is so much more fun and creative.

HMI Gap: Navigating through Parque PatagoniaOur first expedition took us through Parque Patagonia with absolutely stunning landscapes. Apart from hiking for most of our days, we also had a couple of layover days where we stayed in one campsite for 2 or more nights in a row. We got our re-ration on day 9, when most of our food from the first ration is gone and our backpacks were so much lighter! On an average hiking day, we wake up at 7, take down the tent and pack up, have breakfast, go over the route for the day, and start walking by 9:30. We’d walk in two groups, one starting 15 minutes before the other, which enabled us to move more efficiently and have the best trail conversations. Each group has a Leader of the Day (LOD), who manages navigation, breaks, and keeps everyone motivated. Everyone picks at their packed lunch during packs-off breaks and regularly swigs some Sprim (a fruity drink mix so sugary it hurts our teeth — we love it). We finish our route for the day and find a good place to camp around 3:30, set up, enjoy some personal time before cooking dinner. After dinner, usually around 7:30, we might have a Spanish lesson or a discussion about environmental ethics before the start of evening meeting, during which we share stories, play games, and discuss the plan for the next day. Finally, we all do a plank workout for around two minutes (our record is three!) before heading to bed.

Not every day was a hiking day, though. We had four layover days in total, which means we didn’t move our campsite that day. The first two layover days were the first two days of expedition, during which we learned basic backpacking skills like how to set up a tent, purify water, and cook nutritious meals on a single-burner stove. The third layover day was day 10. We slept in, had a Spanish lesson, and went on a short exploratory day hike before cooking lunch. In the afternoon, we reconvened for a group reading of Aldo Leopold’s “The Land Ethic” and then had personal time (PT) until dinner (my tent group made pizza!), which was followed by evening meeting. Our fourth and final layover day was day 13. We hiked up the valley we were camping in until we reached the end, where there was a stunning, bright blue, glacier-fed lake and a beautiful view. We spent some time swimming and hanging out there before walking back down the valley for PT, dinner, an environmental studies debate, and evening meeting. All-in-all, a wholly educational and enjoyable four layover days.

HMI Gap: Spring Semester in PatagoniaPatagonia is for sure one of the most beautiful places I (Selena) have ever seen – even in pictures. Being with a group of like-minded and inspirational individuals makes the experience much more meaningful. I constantly need to remind myself that I am living other people’s dream life, and I cannot express how appreciative I am of that. Sleeping in tents with no settlement – moving our home every night, not knowing where we’ll end up and what we’ll encounter. Listening to the water run in the river at night as we drift to sleep, literally living in the wilderness out of a backpack – how cool and free is that! I’m surrounded by laughter everyday with no distractions. I can finally feel myself living in the moment. I learned so much from this first expedition and I’ve never been more excited for more to come.

One of my (Alex’s) favorite moments was when all six of us girls were sitting together on the grassy bank of a river, enjoying the warm afternoon sun on our faces and the cool river water on our toes after a relaxed hiking day. We were just chatting, dancing and singing and being silly, eating cake scramble (it’s exactly what it sounds like) with our fingers, while surrounded by beautiful mountains with a view of glaciers in the distance and grazing cows in pastures on the other side of the river. One would think that after 16 days in the backcountry, sans indoor plumbing and modern conveniences like showers and laundry and kitchens and phones, that I’d be ready to come back civilization. But every day was filled with moments like these, and so as we were hiking with very light packs toward our pick up spot, I found myself a little bit sad to leave the backcountry and the simple joys that abound there.

Some highlights from the students:
Elise learned how to make pizza in the backcountry and loved it; Katie sat in a glacial river to ice her hips after a long day of hiking with an amazing view and even better company; Lauren swam in the really cold lake on our last layover day and mastered every game we played each night to conclude evening meeting; Deming climbed to the top of mound somewhere between hill and mountain during PT, saw how far we had come, and was amazed. Ultimately, this expedition has been marked by a wonder that is ever-present in breathtakingly beautiful, wild places like Patagonia.

P.S. major shout-out to our instructors: they make everything fun!

Semester 42: First Expedition

Written by: Nick Firestone, Alana Cotwright, SJ O'Connor, Caroline Ullem, & Harry Corman
February 18, 2019

Group A: Our ten day expedition began with an eight hour bus ride full of introductions, forgetting each others names and Liz’s extensive Beyonce repertoire on iTunes. We all awkwardly played car ride games and asked where each other was from. As the landscape outside our bus windows turned from a whirlwind of snow to red, Mars-like canyons bathed in light, we nervously unpacked our stuff for the first night. Initially bonding over a love of mac and cheese and sharing our favorite places in the first night of Circle, our journey began. The next day, we hiked 6 miles, singing songs, learning about topographic maps, and got to know each other better. By the time the sun was setting on our second night in the canyons, we were sure of two things: that our feet hurt (from new hiking boots), and that we would make incredible friendships during our ten days in the canyons of Utah. As we trudged through mud, plowed through snow, trod into and then out of canyons, we grew to know the incredible people we got the opportunity to be with, each unique and extraordinary in their own ways. Meredith can tell stories that make people double over laughing. Owen has a bottomless reservoir of positivity. Emma is incredibly in tune with the emotions of those around her, achieved all while making me a killer cheesy bagel. Liz has an impressive repertoire of Dixie Chicks songs, which she serenaded to us as we hiked. Every member of our group contributed something special and essential to our team. Regardless of our unique personalities and backgrounds, we could somehow all come together in the back country to sing loudly, watch sunsets arm in arm, or even just put one foot in front of the other on trail. As we hiked toward the bus on the last morning of expedition, we were sure that we have changed for the better, shaped by the mesas and canyons we were surrounded by and the incredible people we were with.

Group B: One evening, our tarp group was cooking our meal near the edge of a canyon pretty late at night and very far away from the rest of the group. As we were cooking the pasta, Porter shined his headlamp over towards our tarp and a coyote was halfway in it, sniffing for food. We immediately freaked out and the coyote ran away as soon as the light hit it. The rest of the night we tried to startle each other by pretending coyotes were behind others and yelling. We told the rest of the group about what we saw during circle and the entire expedition group, excluding all but one of the adults, were on edge even though we all knew coyotes are harmless. We never saw another coyote but for the whole night we were convinced that the rustling of trees and the wind blowing was the sound of a pack of coyotes coming to attack us. Not to mention we had broken the zipper to our tarp so the top of our heads were completely exposed which made it very easy prank each other throughout the night.

Group C: Group C had an amazing trip filled with beautiful hiking days and sunsets. Here’s an anecdote from one member of our group, Alana: “At first I thought I was wrong about my decision to come to HMI. The first half of my trip came with a milieu of challenges that seemed as though they’d be with for the duration of our 11 day trip. I was complaining about just about everything. The cold. My backpack being heavy. Not being able to wash my face. All somewhat mundane, and now looking back annoying, complaints swam in my head. I wasn’t having a good time, up until the most physically and mentally challenging day I’ve had—it was called Mesa day. My group hiked for nine hours with the last two hours being in the dark with snow waist deep. I cried when we reached our destination. I couldn’t feel my legs, my head hurt, and the tears blurred my vision. I couldn’t find it in me to complain, despite the hardships we faced. Mesa Day made me realize that some things are be hard and not fun in the moment but are ultimately worth it. Now, I am so happy that I came to HMI, and now I know the reason why I’m here. I’m here to be a better me. The version of myself that pushes through challenges and maintains moral. The person my mom will be proud of when I tell her about all the things I’ve done.”

Group D: Our group was absolutely incredible, and we all connected with each other very early on. Going into the experience we were all nervous because we had never spent ten whole days in the back country, and we did not know whether or not our group was going to get along. Our fears subsided after the bus ride to Utah. It was a seven hour drive, and no one thought we would talk the whole
time, but we did. Before the expedition had really begun, we found ourselves knowing more
about some of the people we were with than some of our closest friends. The first night, we arrived and made a pretty decent first meal. Then we had circle where we talked about our plan for the next day and then we went around sharing personal answers to a very deep question. Circle happened every night, and most nights it was the same structure, sometimes with a game beforehand, and sometimes with a silly question. Our first hiking day really cemented that the trip was going to be amazing. The sights were incredible, and the group was so positive and upbeat. It was a short hike, and we reached camp in high spirits. We explored a little and set up our mids. (tents with no floor) We had another Circle, and chose our Leaders of the Day (LODs) for the next day. A couple days later was a birthday and a rest day. We ate pancakes, ramen noodles, pizza, and cake. We had some classes and then finished the
day with a Circle. The view at that spot was divine. We were looking out straight to the canyon adjacent to us and all of its intricate rock formations. At this point we were all learning to read the maps which we thought was amazing because nowadays we completely rely on our phones to tell us where to go. We loved every moment of expedition, even the ones where we were soaking and miserable, because the people around us made it enjoyable. We ate amazing food, and saw some of the most incredible sights of our lives.

Group E: Loud, off-key singing to Mr. Brightside by the Killers was our last sign of civilization for 10 days. Our leaders Sadie, Hayden, and apprentice Davis led us in finding our way out of our comfort zone and into the backcountry. On our first day, the group bonded over shared music and first impressions, as well as an assortment of different stove-cooked meals. Hiking 4.5 miles on the first day with filled packs left us all exhausted, but as we arrived at our campsite we were rejuvenated by the beauty of the edge of the canyon that we slept by. By sunrise it was a different story. Waking up to all of our items frosted over was quite the shock, but we got used to the cold temperatures of the desert nights as the days went by. Our group quite seamlessly fit together and bonded quickly. Most of the days were filled with laughter or renditions of songs that we would wake up with stuck in our heads. Every night we played a hilarious game led by our expedition leaders. However, what I think brought us together the most was getting together for Circle at night. By the time circle came around each night, everyone was tired from the day’s hike or academic experience, but we always left energy for more. We pondered each question and listened to the answers, bringing us closer and able to be more vulnerable. I truly feel as though I know my group in a very meaningful way. One of my favorite moments from expedition was when we woke up to our mid almost completely blown over, and realized we had been sleeping in a large puddle of rain for a few hours. At first we didn’t know what to do, but then we realized that besides from fixing the rocks and hunkering down, all we could really do was laugh about it. I feel very proud of my group for 1) completing mesa day (hiking for 12 hours including climbing and descending the mesa)! and 2) opening ourselves up to growth. From expedition I will take away a zest for life, a newfound sense of peace and happiness, deep friendships and memories, and a curiosity for what is to come at HMI.



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