Wilderness expeditions are the backbone of the HMI Semester

At HMI, wilderness expeditions are our medium for effecting personal growth in students. We spend a total of five weeks in the mountains of Colorado and canyons of Utah over the course of the semester on two or three wilderness expeditions. Early expeditions focus on building a foundation of wilderness, risk management, and leadership skills. As the semester progresses, students are given more autonomy, working up to the point where they are able to travel and make decisions independently of instructors. Small expedition groups of 8-10 students and 3-4 instructors guarantee a powerful community and team dynamic. And the wilderness offers a chance for our students to unplug from technology and the typical stresses of high school life while connecting with their peers and instructors and reflecting on their home that they have–for now–left behind.

No previous outdoor experience is required to participate in HMI. We welcome students of all skill levels, from the expert outdoorsperson to the novice who has never spent a night in the woods. Most important is a willingness to try new things and an excitement about stepping outside of one’s comfort zone.

Academics on Expedition

Academics at HMI do not come to a halt when we leave campus on expedition. Instead they are an integral part of our the wilderness experience. All of our classes are placed-based in nature; students participate in discussions and complete assignments that connect them to Colorado, Utah, and the American West.

Furthermore, our faculty not only teach classes on campus, but lead our wilderness expeditions. As a result, our teachers have the chance to mentor our students in myriad settings–in the classroom, in the residential setting on our campus, and in the backcountry.


Fall Semester:

1st Expedition (18-days): In the Colorado Rockies surrounding the Leadville campus, learn the basics of backpacking from setting up a tarp to cooking calzones on a one-burner stove to reading a topographic map.

2rd Expedition (18-days): In the canyons of Utah, navigate through slot canyons, find water sources, and investigate an entirely different ecosystem.

Spring Semester:

1st Expedition (12-days): In the canyons of Utah, learn the basics of backpacking in the canyons from navigational skills to cooking cinnamon rolls on a one-burner stove.

2nd Expedition (12-days): On telemark skis in the snowy Colorado Rockies, build a comfortable quigloo (snow shelter), ski through fresh powder, and study the science of snow.

3rd Expedition (12-days): Back in the canyons of Utah, choose between a technical route that rappels into steeper sections of the canyons or a mellower route with more Independent Student Travel.

Special thanks to HMI Semester 40 student Michael Flynn for his talented videography work.