Semester 39: “the most welcoming community”

Written by Kayla Wolins, AJ Rossbach, Furman Jones, and Cali Johnston
September 20, 2017

Last Sunday night, a delicate dusting of snow settled on top of Mt. Massive and Mt. Elbert, powdering the mountains in some of the first tentative snows of the year. We all shuffled along the wooden boardwalk in the crisp morning air on our way to morning workout on Monday, paying close attention to our feet, trying not to slip on the layer of frost that had branched out over the ground at night. As we all took our eyes off of our feet, we looked up to see the lightly dusted mountains that rose up in the distance and for a minute, forgot about our feet entirely. The mountains commanded our respect and there wasn’t much space in the moment for feelings other than awe. A fierce red morning glow barely caressed the jagged peaks and edges that some of us just recently navigated on expedition, highlighting snow covered ridges and cradling deep crevasses in shadow. That morning we witnessed the Colorado mountains teetering on the brink of seasons, slowly being pulled closer and closer to winter. There is a feeling of anticipation on campus, of excitement and also slight apprehensiveness towards the dropping temperatures and incoming snow. Seeing nature settle from fall into winter is helping us all transition from expedition life into school year habits and frames of mind. We are all ready to settle into campus life together, and to be a part of the winter landscape that is slowly forming around us.

This week during AMX (morning exercise), we began our training that will prepare us for the Fun Run at the culmination of the semester in December. So far we’ve gone on three runs, each about two miles long. As we ran a mile down County Road 5A to the beaver ponds on Monday morning, the sun began to rise and snow-covered Mt. Elbert looked over us. We were welcomed back to campus with warm French toast for breakfast made by the morning cook crew. Each student is assigned a cook crew in the rotation, so everyone has the opportunity to cook two meals each week. Breakfast ends and is followed by chores in our designated locations throughout campus. Singing along to the playlist of the day (normally including at least one Disney song), we clean tables, mop floors and scrub showers.  In the afternoon, we take a break from our classes to meet for the first session of our chosen “Electivity” (elective-activity). This activity meets each Monday for three weeks, with each session building on the last one. There are three different electivity periods throughout the semester, so we get the opportunity to try something new from combining math with food and fun (which resulted in an exploded watermelon) to crafts and climbing and even mentoring students at the Lake County Middle School. They give us an opportunity to take a break from our busy day of classes and try something new!

At some point in all of our classes, we have had a moment that we rarely experience. This moment consists of acknowledging the beautiful world around us and being so thankful that we are learning in such an experiential and tangible way. These moments happen while English class looks at the snow on Mount Massive and Mount Elbert for examples of imagery, during Science lab while searching the floor of the Arkansas River for Benthic Invertebrates, and even this morning while in the downward-dog position of “Spanish yoga.” Although we have enjoyed all of these classes, one of our favorite things about the academic experience here at HMI are the teachers. Yesterday after lunch, for example, one of us continued a conversation from class with a teacher, which was followed by nice game of hacky-sack. It’s amazing to have teachers that we consider friends and it makes us feel so much more welcomed into the community. For many of us, this is the first time in our lives where we look forward to the next class, where we can learn in a hands-on environment, with the most welcoming community we have ever been a part of.

The HMI community had our first weekend back on campus after returning from expedition. On Saturday morning, we all had the opportunity to go rock climbing! With the help of instructors, we learned how to boulder as well as climb on belay, all the while taking in the breathtaking view of Bald Eagle Mountain. On Saturday afternoon, we all took our first trip into Leadville. For many, this was their first time experiencing the town. Naturally, the line at the pizza restaurant as well as the ice cream shop was quite long, consisting mostly of HMI students. Saturday night we all loaded into buses and took a trip to the local Turquoise Lake, where we all had a cookout. As our apprentices graciously cooked food for us on the grill, we all sat by the water listening to music and basking in the joy of simply being together. We ended our cookout by roasting s’mores, and watching the sun dip below the trees. When we returned to campus, we did what is essential to any successful Saturday night: had a dance party. We all put on the most absurd outfits we could come up with, and danced and sang and had an absolute blast. On Sunday, we all tried our hand at fly fishing, since the novella we recently read in English class revolves around the art. While it took some time for us to get a hang of it, we all had a fantastic time giving the sport a shot while also engaging in English discussions pertaining to the novella. We were also introduced to our “solo spots” for the first time on Sunday. Each student has a spot around campus, out of sight of anyone else, that becomes their personal haven for the semester. On “Sacred Sundays” we have an allotted amount of time to spend at our sacred spot, during which students are encouraged to engage in personal reflection. Overall, the HMI campus saw a fun-filled weekend, leaving us all looking forward to the good times to come.

Semester 39: 1st Expedition

Written by Lily Thebault, Isabella Whelan, Wyatt Shattuck, Hannah Constable, and Carter Myers-Brown
September 15, 2017

Group A

Our very first expedition began with nine of us and our three instructors climbing into a van towing a trailer full of heavy packs. We took a short drive through Leadville and got dropped off on the side of the highway. As soon as we stepped out of the van, we all took a moment to look around at the towering mountains surrounding us. After a few short classes such as sun protection and how to put on our packs, we were off! The group energy was high; everyone was excited, curious, but also a bit anxious about the eighteen days of backpacking that stood before us all. The mountains welcomed us into our expedition with a thunderstorm, which soon changed to hail, so we had to take shelter in a comforting patch of spruce trees.

Thankfully, the weather cleared up within an hour and we continued on to our first campsite. The next day, we had a steep hike up to the top of a ridge, and the views from the top were completely worth the challenging trek. From there we followed the ridgeline and were able to summit Buckeye Peak, where we could see many of the other mountains we were headed to in the following days. We settled down near the beautiful clear, blue waters of Buckeye Lake for the following two nights. We had a few more fun days hiking off trail, then continued to follow the winding Colorado Trail through valleys, over creeks, and switch-backing up and down peaks. Although hiking off trail was an amazing adventure, it was also fun to have short conversations with through hikers of the CO trail about what their experience had been like.

Halfway through our trip, the instructors surprised us with a layover day on the top of Bald Eagle Mountain which was very exciting both because we were tired from carrying all the new food from our re-ration, and the outlook onto Mount Massive and the mountains surrounding it were breathtaking. Two days later, we awoke in the dark, early hours of the morning, put on our headlamps, purified our water bottles, and began the climb under the stars up to the summit of Mount Massive. To our surprise, another HMI expedition group was at the top! After sharing stories with them and all having a celebratory Milky Way, we made our way down feeling very happy and accomplished.

Towards the end of the trip, we drove forty-five minutes to Pine Creek to begin trail work. We hiked along the creek for five miles until we reached our basecamp where we would stay for the rest of the expedition doing some trail work. After we accomplished rerouting part of the trail, clearing the trail, and making it wider for horses, we were able to use our three remaining days to take amazing day hikes through vibrantly colored aspen groves to the still waters of Rainbow Lake and the summit of Waverly Mountain where we finished up our academics for the expedition. Our group learned many beneficial skills, created great friendships, and experienced unforgettable hikes during our 18 days in the backcountry.

Group B

We began our 18-day expedition at the trailhead, Angel of Shavano, which is along the Colorado Trail. Our group consisted of ten students and three instructors, and we all made it back in one piece! Within a couple days, our group became super close and we were all able open up to each other, laugh together, cry together, and learn from each other. When you go days at a time without seeing any other people besides the occasional hunter, 4-wheel drivers, or groups of hikers, I guess that’s what happens.

We learned how to cook several meals the backcountry way with a tiny stove, pot, and fry bake. Some of the food included oatmeal, cheesy bagels, beans and rice, mac and cheese, quesadillas, burritos, hash browns, pizza, orzo, couscous, brownies, and hummus. One night we even had a group talent show! From baton twirling and singing to a Crazy Creek performance it provided much entertainment; we also spent several evenings playing intense games. Each night as a group we would lay under the sky and enjoy the stars and constellations. One night we slept underneath the beautiful stars and a record of six shooting stars were seen that night!

In these 18 days together, we hiked multiple 12-13,000-foot ridges, covered about 75 miles of land, gained nearly 27,000 feet of altitude, summited the 14,000-foot Mount Yale, hiked through many forests filled with pines, aspens, and spruces, walked past stunning lakes, and through many rivers and streams, all with everything we needed for 18 days on our backs. On day 11 when we reached the summit of Yale, we were amazed to see all the land we had covered on our own feet. No cars, buses, trains, or bikes, just ourselves. The elevation, as well as the steepness of many climbs, was enough for anyone to doubt their strength physically and mentally. Summiting Yale was one of the hardest things many of us had ever done, and that made it all the much better once we reached the cairn at the summit. There were a few other long days, during which we hiked many miles, gained several thousand feet of elevation, and were weighed down by our backpacks that challenged each of us.

We completed readings, discussions, and written reflections for the majority of our classes. Some days our entire day would be dedicated to school work. These days we’d stay at the same campsite for two nights. We also did trail work on the Collegiate Peaks Trail that goes up to Columbia. We cut back bushes, cut down trees, closed down social trails, and spent five hours dismantling 35 campfires within a two-mile radius. For trail work we worked six hours for two days and carried tools up and back down four miles of the trail.

Despite the challenges we overcame, we all made it to the final day and enjoyed our time hiking the scenic trails of Colorado. On the last day, we struggled to say goodbye to the mountains and re-enter civilization, but once on campus we were all happy for showers, different meals, and more friends. We walked away with lessons learned, new recipes, new friendships, a successful first expedition under our belts, and many amazing memories from our trip.

 Group C

Excitement, trepidation, and exhilaration were just a few of the many emotions the ten of us were feeling before leaving the HMI campus, in which we were just starting to feel comfortable. However, after only a few days into the trip the entire group began feeling extremely content and grateful that we were able to spend such a protracted amount of time in the magnificent mountains of Colorado. We were all astonished by the beauty the peaks, passes, valleys, and massifs that we were climbing had to offer. Through all the ups and downs, deep nightly Circles, and constant conversation, we soon realized we had formed a special bond within our group.

About a week into our trip, we set up base camp, where we would spend four days doing trail work on the gargantuan mountain, La Plata. It was an enjoyable break from carrying our backpacks and allowed us to rest our sore backs, legs, and hips. On our final day at base camp, we arose at 3:20 AM to finally climb the mountain we have put our blood, sweat, and tears into the last three days. A wrong turn misled the group off the trail and up a treacherous path, where we only had the light of our headlamps and the multitude of stars to guide us. We finally reached our first false summit just in time to watch the sun rise over the mountains across the bowl (also a perfect opportunity for a photoshoot). After passing false summit after false summit, we finally reached the top! The views were out of this world and the entire experience was incredible.

Our trip continued along the Colorado trail and the highline trail, alongside both Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive. We occasionally came across abandoned mining cabins that dated back to the 1800’s-1900’s. These fascinating historical structures appeared as if they were just recently deserted with tin cans scattered along the property and even decrepit mining tools. On one of our last days, we stopped in a ghost town called Douglas City which we learned used to house miners that worked on the notorious Hagerman Tunnel in the late 1800’s. We were able to appreciate the brilliance of this tunnel during our evening Circle while watching the sun set over the mountains. We had a challenging last day of hiking across the Continental Divide, but the thoughts of a layover day and tasty food kept us pushing forward. Overall, this expedition was a marvelous experience; we all learned so much about ourselves and our potential. We are thrilled to travel to the canyons in a month to do it all over again.

 Group D

We just arrived back on campus after an unbelievable 18 days in the backcountry, living off of only what we could carry on our backs. Several days into the expedition, we did our first alpine start, meaning that we began hiking under the stars to summit Mt. Huron and watch the sunrise from 14,003 feet above sea level. For the majority of us, this was our first alpine start, along with our first time summiting a fourteener! The view from above was without a doubt worth the 2:30am wake up. As the sun rose above the mountains, we gathered in a circle, had hot chocolate which was then followed by a Snickers bar. It was truly one of the most stunning moments.

As our expedition went on, we learned more and more about each other and became closer every day. We also got to hike over Hope Pass which was a part of the route of the Leadville 100, an endurance race that took place just a couple weeks prior. We could not believe that the participants would run all the way up and over the difficult pass, not once, but twice! We were able to witness the beautiful view from the top, and bump into another expedition group on our way down! Overall, our expedition was filled with incredible views, laughter, and great people.

Group E

One morning, our expedition group decided we wanted to wake up at 3:30 a.m. to summit Mt. Massive, the second highest mountain in Colorado (many people reluctantly did so). At 4am, we started our trek up the mountain by trying to navigate our way through the solemn darkness to the Mt. Massive Trail. We hiked for about 45 minutes still below tree line, everything draped in the darkness of the night, where only the faint figures of the trees could be seen.  As we exited the forest and we could see stars embellish the sky. We turned off our headlamps so we could see the stars better and we kept tripping every other step because our attention was on search for a shooting star. As we continued on, we could see the lights of the booming metropolis of Leadville.

The trek continued lethargically inspired and then at about 6:30am, we took a moment to watch the sun rise over the mountains in the background. The hike itself was fulfilling indeed, as we later reached the peak, yet it is surpassed in my memory to hiking under the stars.

My favorite meal on expedition was couscous with chocolate chips (although that received a lot of adversity among my tarp mates). A note of advice: couscous with chocolate chips is very tasty, but do not melt a few Snickers bars and put it in the couscous, that is too far. Often, after a long hike or an arduous day our group would play some games, and I found that those were not only entertaining, but also reflective and calming as it definitely eased the mood. When I wanted to be more contemplative in solitude, I would find a place to sit with my thoughts and read or write, preferably with a view of the mountains or amidst the changing Aspens. I found that I missed mostly the little things like music, watching movies, Goldfish and Pretzels, etc.

I also really appreciated doing trail work for four days, as that was something I had never done. On the first day, I thought nothing of it I was just stacking some rocks, but as hikers passed us on their way up or down many of them incessantly thanked us for our work; it was very rewarding. The entire experience of backpacking for 18 days was rather bizarre and I did not think I would enjoy it as much as I did. I became much more in tune with myself and my thoughts, my expedition group, and other forms of life as well.

Summer Term 2017: Second Expedition

Written by Claire Harpel, Chloe Robinson, Lily Ezrow, Ella Hort, and Francisco Murillo
August 7, 2017

Group A

Second expedition was truly extraordinary. After an easy first day we hiked to our second (even more beautiful) location on day two. The trail leading up to our campsite was covered with overgrown wildflowers and the spot itself was awesome. On day three we spent the day hanging out by Hagerman Lake either climbing or fishing. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to fish without hooks, and they had been left at our last camp. Dylan super speedily ran 6 miles back to get them and found 27 Starbucks Via packets on the way. The next day we summited a beautiful mountain which overlooked Leadville to get to our campsite. Spirits were high and so were we, in elevation. We camped in a stunning saddle overlooking Leadville and the mountains around us. The sun set, and all was good. On day four we ran into another HMI group and spent a lovely hour conversing. Afterwards, we hiked in groups to our next location—a picturesque lake. Upon arrival, we all waded in the lake and hung out on a big rock in the center. That night we went to bed early and woke up at five a.m. to summit Mt. Massive. The stars were out and we made hot drinks before starting out on our hike and watching the sun rise from the top of a ridge. When we returned to camp, it rained and we napped. We saw a double rainbow as well as a great sunset. On the seventh day, everything was wet. We hiked to our next camp spot, next to South Willow Lake. Originally, we were planning on hiking over ten miles but were told that the campsite had water the sizzled when it touched salt, so we smashed that plan. At camp, we wrote our “This I Believe” essays and had a wonderful time hanging out together. The next morning we woke up bright and early, packed up camp, and began our hike out. We monitored pikas on a lovely talus field before hiking back to the parking lot and getting picked up. All in all, group A had an amazing journey.

Group B

From hiking, rock climbing, and fishing, Group B had a great second expedition. On the first day we camped on an open meadow and slept under the stars. The second day we hiked off trail in order to reach the campsite for our first layover day. That day we were hiking by 5:00 a.m. to summit Mount Massive—the second tallest mountain in Colorado. Every member of our group summited and we were surprised to run into our friends on the way down! We continued on to Hagerman Pass where we went rock climbing and fly fishing. The next day we hiked over the Continental Divide to Virginia Lake where we ended up taking another layover day due to bad weather. We ended our trip with a quiet hike in order to reflect on the expedition as a whole. The end of this expedition was bittersweet. We will miss being immersed in the backcountry but we are excited to be back on campus for our solo experiences and Full Circle.


Group C

Second expedition was full of highlights! On our first night we spotted a beaver—a first for many of us. On July 24th we celebrated Kayla’s sweet sixteen with a backcountry birthday cake. Although there were many fun times our group also faced some challenges. Never the less we pushed through and had many more fun and exciting moments such as summiting Mt. Massive and running into expedition Group B near the top! Second expedition was action packed and a fantastic way to end our time at HMI.


Summer Term 2017: Life on Campus

Written by Claire Harpel
July 24, 2017

This week at HMI started off strong with projects in our science and humanities classes. The humanities classes went to downtown Leadville in groups to interview   residents about their perspectives on the town. The project was called “Humans of Leadville,” based off the “Humans of New York” series by Brandon Stanton. After, we organized the data and created presentations discussing the themes we discovered and presented them to the class. We shared the different stories we heard and conversations we had with the Leadvillans that we interviewed. It gave us a new perspective on the town and its relationship with its history.

In science, we went into San Isabel National Forest and partook in a lab where we observed conifer and aspen forests to see the toll that climate change has had on them. We specifically learned about pine beetles and how the winters are no longer cold enough to kill them, so the beetles have been feeding on trees and killing them. Then, we went back to class and worked on our final projects. Our final assignment was to write a grant proposal which allowed us to combine everything we learned about climate change and mining in Leadville.

In P&P, we learned about our MBTI personality type and wrote a reflection about what we learned about ourselves and how we can apply that to becoming better leaders. This activity was interesting in its applicability to everything we do at HMI as students and leaders.

On Wednesday and Friday the activity groups went to go rock climbing and fly fishing again. The climbing group hiked up to natural rock walls and practiced climbing, with a beautiful view of Turquoise Lake. We were accompanied by our experienced instructors and their majestic dogs, who taught us the basics of climbing safely. There were different climbing options of varying difficulty where we were climbing. While there, we practiced tying knots, belaying each other, and applying different climbing techniques depending on the different rocks. The fly fishing group learned the basics of fly fishing and caught many fish on Wednesday. We fished in crystal clear waters, and the weather was perfect. On Friday, however, we got caught in the rain! Because of the rain we wrapped up fishing early and walked to the fish hatchery and learned about the trout that we were fishing for.

On Wednesday night, HMI welcomed Randy to campus, who led us in a square dance! Students dressed up in Western gear to participate in the event, which featured mind-blowing, gluten-free brownies by Gavin. Everyone had a blast!

Friday night, the student reps organized an awesome “coffee house” talent show. We snacked on popcorn and hot chocolate and watched the students and faculty perform. Highlights included some awesome musical performances, Pablo’s rapping, cabin performances, a dramatic reading of Dr. Seuss, hula hooping with Libbey, and Scotty and Joe’s wonderful poetry. The night finished off with a high-energy dance party!

Finally, on Saturday we began to prepare for our second expedition! In the morning we learned our expedition groups, sorted food rations, discussed the routes that we would be hiking and packed our packs. All of the expedition groups are going to be able to incorporate their new climbing and fishing skills on a layover day, as well as attempt to summit a 14,000 foot mountain. Overall, we are all so excited for second expedition and the adventures that lie ahead!

Summer Term 2017: “Another amazing week at HMI”

Written by by Claire Harpel, Emma Cavage, and Aliénor Manteau
July 18, 2017

This week at HMI we studied Leadville’s comprehensive mining history and the effects that this had on the the town’s culture. For humanities we visited the mining museum and an abandoned mine in preparation for a debate surrounding Leadville’s mining future. For the peer-run debate we were split into four groups: miners, farmers, consumers, and environmentalists. This conversation continued in science class where we traveled to a variety of different water sources to compare water upstream and downstream from mine drainage sites. We examined macro invertebrates, oxygen content, conductivity, and pH levels. We then split into groups to present on our data.

Throughout the week we participated in either fly fishing or rock climbing during activity periods. The rock climbers scaled vertical rock faces, learning to belay each other and ascend to new heights both literally and figuratively using the five steps of leadership we learned in P&P. The fly fishing group was given an amazing lesson by Grace who taught them the basics of pole set-up and casting. We hiked to Timberline Lake and on the Outward Bound campus where both fish and trees were caught as we practiced.

On Friday night we held a carnival competition on campus. There were rubber ducky races, gaga ball games, wheelbarrow races, whipped cream and cookie challenges, and improvisational competitions. As a prize, we chose three faculty members, Libbey, Gavin, and Dave, to get pied in the face.

On Saturday we all piled on buses and headed to the Arkansas River to go whitewater rafting. The students and instructors split into raft groups and were taught the commands and techniques of paddling in whitewater. Throughout the trip we passed beautiful rock formations and scenery. Many students and faculty went swimming in the rapids—most of them on purpose. The groups stopped together for a great lunch on edge of the water and a bunch of us had fun wading in the river. After lunch the raft groups tackled even more intense rapids. We even had to pull over to scout forthcoming rough water. The day was topped off with some prime sea shanties sung by Ian and watermelon at the end of the journey.

Upon returning from whitewater rafting, many students played a game of football, utilizing a very impressive playbook organized by Emma. The evening activity was a bonfire that featured the musical talent of HMI students and Joe’s bow-drill fire making skills. The night continued with more pickup football, singing, tight-rope walking, and tug of war.

On Sunday we were given the choice between summiting Mt. Sherman, a local fourteener, or taking a trip to the farmers’ market in Vail. The hikers were led by Dylan and Gavin and enjoyed sparkling cider and donuts on the top of the mountain. The hike took about four hours and the group hung out in the town of Leadville afterwards. According to Chloe, it was a beautiful day “filled with a lot of laughs and good conversation.” The farmers’ market group also had a blast exploring the shops and stands in downtown Vail. They enjoyed amazing food and pet lots of adorable dogs, none of which were as cute as Noah’s dog Ralph.

All in all, this was another amazing week at HMI.

Three Lake County High School Sophomores Receive Full Scholarships to HMI

May 26, 2017

Benney, Gonzales, & Reigel Receive HMI Merit Scholarships

Lake County High School sophomores Ariel Benney and Bianca Gonzalez, and Abigail Reigel are the recipients of this year’s High Mountain Institute (HMI) merit scholarships.

Benney, daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Charles & Suzi Benney, will attend HMI this summer, Gonzales, daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Alberto & Vianca Gonzales, will attend HMI for the fall semester; Reigel, daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Michael & Allison Reigel will attend HMI in the spring.

With an extremely competitive admissions year at HMI, these LCHS scholarship recipients were selected for their commitment to academics, leadership, and involvement in their greater communities.

The merit scholarships cover the full cost of tuition for each recipient, a $29,263 value for the HMI Semester, and a $8,650 value for the HMI Summer Term.

Since inception in 1998, 31 other LCHS students have attended HMI on full merit scholarships. Past LCHS HMI Alumni have attended colleges such as University of Denver, University of Colorado Boulder, and Colorado State University.

The High Mountain Institute is a semester-long boarding school for high school juniors. Each semester a new cohort of 48 students travel to Leadville from all over the country to partake in the school’s rigorous academic curriculum, extended backpacking expeditions, and a small, intentional community.

 In addition to the semester program, HMI offers a 5-week Summer Term for high schoolers, a two week backpacking trip for middle schoolers, and a variety of adult programs including wilderness medicine and avalanche awareness training. HMI also partners with the local non-profit Full Circle of Lake County each summer to offer a free, week-long backpacking program for LCHS 7th and 8th graders.

Today is Gap Year Decision Day

By Becca Schild, Co-Director of HMI Gap
May 25, 2017

In celebration of the inaugural Gap Year Decision Day, HMI is excited to welcome an incredible group of students for our 2017 and 2018 gap semesters. Gap Year Decision Day is a nation-wide initiative to encourage students to declare their gap year plans through social media outlets. The National College Signing Day, a movement started by Michelle Obama to celebrate students going to college, inspired the concept of Gap Year Decision Day. As gap years are increasingly popular, leading to numerous reported positive benefits, leaders within the Gap Year Industry, including USA Gap Year FairsAmerican Gap AssociationGo Overseas, and EnRoute Consulting, are spearheading the opportunity to provide students taking a gap year their time to shine and come together as a cohesive group.

Alia Paltos, Director of USA Gap Year Fairs, explains: “We hope that Gap Year Decision Day will empower students by allowing them to feel like a connected community … The possibilities for a gap year are endless, so this initiative will demonstrate to the public just how many students are taking gap time and exactly what students are planning to do.”

Now in our third year, HMI has expanded our program offerings to include a wilderness-focused gap semester through the American West and Patagonia in the fall, and a semester in Patagonia in the spring. Our students come from all over the country and with diverse backgrounds, yet they express the same desire to step into the world to learn more about themselves and broaden their perspective so they can pursue their ambitions in life with purpose, passion, and preparedness.

Semester 38: Prom, Project Day, and What Lies Ahead

Written by Isabelle Ross, Ben Glass, Renny Acheson, and Simon Kearns
May 25, 2017

This Saturday was prom.  The week began with students being randomly assigned dates, one being the “asker” and the other the “askee.” Each asker was tasked with creating a fun prom-posal to ask their dates to the dance. Prom’s theme this semester was the “Glory Days of Leadville,” and people dressed in all varieties of outfits. Some dressed formal while others wore their craziest flare, including helmets and wolf shirts. The night was a lot of fun. Students helped cook a delicious Thanksgiving feast for dinner with pumpkin pies and snickerdoodles for dessert. Students then finished getting ready for the dance and made the finishing touches to transform Who’s Hall from our dining room to a mine-themed dance floor. After a photoshoot in front of Mount Elbert, students and their dates hurried into Who’s Hall to begin dancing. Who’s Hall was decorated with lanterns, old photographs, and buckets of fake gold. The highlight of the night was playing a game called snowball.  Every time the word “snowball” was called, students had to switch dates and dance with somebody else. It was a great way to interact and have fun with all of the people in the semester. Just as everyone helped set up for prom on Saturday night, the whole community pitched in to help clean up on Sunday morning by unstacking tables and chairs and sweeping the floors. Overall, it was a great event!

Monday was project day! Everyone worked together on tasks all around campus and Leadville to either do some community service or work to make the campus look even more beautiful. From staining decks, to building greenhouses on a local farm, everybody was pitching in. Some of the jobs included: building fences, staining the new cabins, staining the decks, doing landscaping work around campus, fixing up the Frisbee golf course, making soccer goals, working at a local farm, and tons of others.

Over the course of this week, we’ve started having conversations about the difficult truth that seems to be hanging over all of our heads; we’re leaving in a week. With the start of the Going Home series, we’ve began the emotional transition from life at HMI back to life at home. On Tuesday, we held cabin meetings to discuss the months following HMI. Cabins discussed increased independence at home, summer jobs and volunteer opportunities, and our plans for staying in touch once we go our separate ways. The next day, during advisory meetings, we talked about applying what we’ve learned at HMI to our last year of school at home. Topics covered included having good expedition behavior (despite not being on an actual expedition), practicing good communication, and being considerate of the world around us. We then wrote letters reminding our future selves what we want to get out of senior year, and our advisors will mail them to us in September. On Friday, Jess addressed the entire semester during lunch about the inevitability of the fact that the semester is coming to a close. She encouraged us to, even though we have 8 days left together, to deepen friendships, try new things, and to continue building the strong community that we have developed over the last four months. Finally, on Sunday during the afternoon, we began packing up our belongings into boxes and duffels to be shipped home. The semester may be coming to a close, but we are still enjoying the beautiful Leadville spring and each other’s vibrant company.

Semester 38: Square Dance, Fun Run, and Final Projects!

Written by Nora Greeley, Liz Jones, Lucy Wasserstein, and Luke Robins
May 16, 2017

As the academic year comes closer, our final projects for our classes have been introduced. In Natural Science we performed two water quality experiments in Leadville’s local watershed, which really brought it closer to home. Our project combines two essential aspects of science: thorough research and engaging presentation. First, we must find and read scientific papers about the watersheds that affect our hometowns. Next, we must use our creativity to decide on a non-traditional presentation method. In past projects we have used classical methods, much like the scientists who present their findings in reports and posters. For this project, however, we will instead use methods including creative writing, board games, or movies to express our message. Once we have created these projects, we will present them to our classes.

In our Practices and Principles class, we have been presented with a similar project. After reading, discussing, and writing about diverse environmental ethics, we have an opportunity to create our own statement. Again, this project will be a presentation in the form of creative visuals, such as songs, movies, or artwork. One group is interviewing restaurants in Leadville about their food ethics and the manner in which this influences their food orders. Informed by their interviews, they plan to create a movie in which they discuss how ideas of food locality and animal treatment are prevalent in Leadville’s food industries. In both classes, these culminating projects allow us to explore the intersections of our lives with the information we’ve learned!

This Saturday afternoon we had an HMI community square dance. We brought in professional callers from Leadville who set up big speakers and turned the parking into a square-dance dance floor. Everyone dressed up in their best square dance costumes including flannels, jeans, and even cowboy boots. The callers taught us a lot of new dances that seemed complicated at first but everyone learned really quickly. We did dances as a whole group in a big circle and then we also did a couple other dances with smaller groups or partners. Along with the students, some apprentices and faculty joined in the fun as well. Everyone’s shoes got a little dusty, but the new experience was worth it.

On Saturday after dinner, we played a few school-wide games, some of which got pretty heated! After a while of friendly but intense competition, we switched to an activity led by Sofia called Warm and Fuzzies. We each got a piece of paper, and, in groups of ten, we rotated the papers around the table and wrote little notes to each other, like you would in a yearbook. Everyone got a little teary-eyed after reading all the sentimental notes on their papers, and Noah certainly did not help the situation when he started a playlist of slow, emotional folk songs.

This Sunday, everybody woke up early and got ready for the ten-mile Fun Run, an HMI tradition since Semester 12. Starting in the beginning of February, we have run three mornings a week for AMX in preparation for the Fun Run. At first, some were anxious about the race; however when Ben led us in an inspirational chant, all of our nerves disappeared. We began the race on a flat road about four miles away from campus, which led us to the six-mile loop that many of us have run on the past few months. The Fun Run then finished in the HMI driveway, with lots of cheering, snacks, and celebration! The weather was perfect for running, and the entire race we were surrounded by beautiful snow-capped mountains and blue skies. Throughout the course, there were three aid stations run by staff members. Each aid station was stocked with water, gatorade, and pretzels for anyone who needed a boost of energy. Everyone did an amazing job during the race, and Simon Kearns beat the all-time Fun Run record by fifteen seconds, making HMIhistory!

Semester 38: Life on Campus

Written by Julia Harrison, Sofia Sacerdote, Nina Goodkin, and Lia Coyle
May 9, 2017

In our second week back after third expedition we have gotten back into the swing of academics on campus. In lab on Monday we were in the Arkansas River catching, sorting, and analyzing morphotypes of benthic macroinvertebrates (think small to medium size bugs that live in the riverbed) as indicators of pollution from California Gulch. Leadville’s mining history puts us in an amazing location to study acid mine drainage in our local waterways and access how it affects the ecosystem! Standing in the running water was chilly and brought some of us back to the icy water in the canyons during first expedition. Instead of writing a usual lab report, we made posters to display the results of our studies, a method we will all likely use in college and in the future if we choose to pursue a career in science.

In Josh’s English class, we finished reading Leslie Marmon Silko’s CeremonyCeremony is a novel about Tayo, a WWII vet and member of the Laguna Native American Tribe struggling to understand how his culture’s stories and ceremonies fit into the modern world as well as his own life. It is certainly a complicated text with many nuanced themes and patterns and has lead to many great discussions. On Friday we went on a mindful walk to brainstorm ideas for what we want to write our Ceremony essays about. Many of us have chosen to analyze a pattern or motif while others wrote theses about the traditional stories and Native American agency.

This Saturday, some of the HMI students got to take the SAT! After everyone was done, we rotated between going into town and chopping wood. Students who didn’t take the SAT headed into town in the morning for some brunch or hung out on the back porch in the sun, sitting in the hammocks and playing guitar. For Saturday night activity, we hosted our second open mic of the semester. Along with cookies, chai tea and a halftime show, we watched and listened to some pretty incredible acts. There were a variety of hilarious duets, some cabin sing alongs, magic shows, guitar solos, dances, and a skit. Everything was either very funny or showcased an amazing talent. All of this was followed by a quick dance party  before we headed to our cabins.

 On Sunday, we visited Colorado College (CC). In the morning when we left, it was cold and threatening rain. Nonetheless people wore shorts, anticipating beautiful weather in Colorado Springs. When we arrived and got out of the buses, it was springtime! People plucked dandelions from the side of the road, blowing them at each other. We ate lunch first, choosing from a variety of options in the CC dining hall, soft serve ice cream and cheesecake being among them. Then we had the info session. We learned all about the programs CC has, and the opportunities their block plan gives us to explore different places within the country and the world. We learned about how students at CC have access to Colorado skiing and backpacking, including in Southern Utah, which we’ve done at HMI. We then had a tour of the facilities, which were beautiful. We saw Pike’s Peak, and the Barr trail, and the soccer fields. Altogether, CC was a different experience from most college tours, and it appealed to a lot of us because of our experiences at HMI.

Monday afternoon electivities at High Mountain Institute provides students with the opportunity to put their athletic and artistic capabilities into high gear. Electivity is a block that takes place directly after lunch on Mondays, and allows students to pursue interests that they would not normally get the opportunity to practice during a normal school day. For example, some students partake in competitive games of Frisbee or soccer on Leadville’s local turf field. After a quick warm up on the jungle gym and some time mentally preparing for the big game on the swing set, they usually have about forty-five minutes to sweat, scream, and sprint on the turf. Yesterday, we had a particularly intense game of soccer and each player left with a fair share of turf burn. While we were at the field, other HMI students got to participate in making metal jewlery with Aimee, “Waste Warriors” (a recycling program for kids) at a local school, an introduction to bouldering, linoleum block painting, a dance class, or an introduction to film. With only two electivity sessions left, it seems certain that every student will be sad to see these fun opportunities start to wrap up.