High Mountain Institute Gap (HMI Gap) Semesters

Video and Photos

HMI Gap course at Cerro Colorado, outside Chile Chico
HMI Gap course at Cerro Colorado, outside Chile Chico
Taking in the breathtaking artistic remains of the ancestral puebloan ruins in Bears Ears National Monument
Taking in the breathtaking artistic remains of the ancestral puebloan ruins in Bears Ears National Monument
HMI Gap course camped in Indian Creek
HMI Gap course camped in Indian Creek
HMI Students take a festive water break in the Sawatch Range, CO.
HMI Students take a festive water break in the Sawatch Range, CO.
HMI Gap students planning their route for a day of backcountry travel
HMI Gap students planning their route for a day of backcountry travel
HMI Gap student practicing lead falls in Moab, UT
HMI Gap student practicing lead falls in Moab, UT
Taking in the Patagonia Views
Taking in the Patagonia Views
HMI Gap students doing service in Mill Creek, UT
HMI Gap students doing service in Mill Creek, UT

About

The conservation movement began with early explorers. In pursuit of adventure, people traveled to remote regions and extreme landscapes; they left with a strength of character and a deepened sense of their place in the world. HMI Gap reunites adventure with conservation, taking you on an incredible journey to these iconic and wild places. With programs traveling through Patagonia and the American West, you will discover more about the world and yourself, make lasting positive impacts, become independent in your outdoor skills, develop intellectual maturity and effective leadership, and leave more prepared to pursue your life's ambition.

Highlights
  • Rock Climbing, Backpacking, Extended time in the wilderness
  • Stewardship, Community, Leadership
  • Spanish language
  • Environmental studies
  • Cultural exchange

Financial Aid for Fall 2020 and Spring 2021

If you're thinking about applying for need-based financial aid, now is the time!

Questions & Answers

Reviews

96%
based on 35 reviews
  • Housing 9.3
  • Support 9.7
  • Fun 9.3
  • Value 9.5
  • Safety 9.4
Showing 1 - 8 of 35
Default avatar
Ky'Naisha
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

GO AHEAD AND TAKE A GAP SEMESTER ALREADY!

When I arrived at the airport in Denver, Colorado, I could not even guess the order of events that were about to take place. I knew I would be surprised, but I was unsure of how many times this would occur and how much of it I could handle. Over time I began to realize the beauty in surprises, that sometimes they made our trip better and more meaningful. The beauty in the places we were fortunate and privileged enough to hike through was also valuable. With every destination: Colorado, Utah, and Patagonia, I was truly shocked at what my eyes were seeing and smiled at the idea that maybe paradise does exist on earth. What made it more memorable was being surrounded by my new friends. I enjoyed every moment of my gap semester. I am taking away the core values of what it means to live outdoors, which I plan on applying to each aspect of my life once I return home.

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
Hiking through the nonstop rain and wind. I overcame crossing rivers by taking the necessary safety precautions.
Default avatar
Liam
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

HMI Gap and Growth

I loved HMI Gap. I saw unprecedented growth in so many areas I wanted improvement in before going to college. I got that wanted progress and so much more. I helped build a close-knit community with so many hilarious inside jokes only the twelve of us will ever understand. I learned to be a leader and had many thoughtful discussions about environmental studies. The instructors were superb. The supported us in every way we needed but also let us do our own thing when the situation necessitated that. They taught us numerous lessons on a wide variety of topics. All in all, I learned more about myself and the environment by being intentional in the backcountry than I did in all thirteen years of traditional school teaching me grammar and equations. 10/10 would recommend because I am so pleased I took this gap course.

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
We crossed a waist deep, raging river while it was pouring rain. We overcame it by doing a river congo line and taking slow, sure-footed steps and doing it near an eddy to catch us if we fell.
Default avatar
Laria
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing Experience

I was drawn into this program immediately, as climbing is a huge part of my life. I learned so much about the technical skills involved in outdoor climbing, and am leaving the course with the skills I need to be a self sufficient climber in the future. More importantly, though, I learned how to live in a small community for weeks at a time, working closely to cook, sleep, and climb with ten other students. This course taught me so much about leadership, teamwork, and resilience. As a student interested in pursuing environmental studies in college, this program was also the perfect opportunity to prepare for college while still taking a much needed break from the classroom structure. I would absolutely recommend this program - the friendships, skills, and experience I’ve gained are going to stay with me throughout my life.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
I had never seriously backpacked before, so the days of hiking at the beginning of the course were really hard for me. I learned a lot about efficiency and perseverance, and I’m grateful that the course includes some backpacking, despite being centered on rock climbing.
Default avatar
WILLIAM
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

There and Back Again: HMI Gap

Wonderful views, excellent instructors, smelly students: whats not to love? One or two things but not that many things. The hiking, backpacking, and canyoneering aspects were simply splendid. All the locations we traveled to were beautiful and there were diverse outdoor challenges in each of them. The instructors were-- for the most part--respectful, knowledgeable, professional, and intelligent. There was much to learn about living in the back country and we were taught it well. I could've used a little more autonomy. I felt slightly like a small child again, but that was nice considering I was far from my parents loving arms. I also might've enjoyed more town time and/or cultural immersion during the abroad portion of the course. If you are looking for a challenging and fun introduction to backpacking and long back country expeditions with a little bit of sometimes boring learning worked in, this is the program for you.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Don't bother with puff pants they suck. Just get some nice fleece pants and some nice long undies. Bring a packable journal, and don't forget your positive attitude.
Default avatar
Jackson
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Backpacking and Conservation in Patagonia

Before HMI I had never hiked with a full pack, had only car camped a few times with my family, and never had spent more than a day or two in the backcountry. Now I can carry everything I'll need to live comfortably for over a week rain, shine, cold, or warm all in my backpack. The community that we've built over this semester has been one of the strongest and most supportive spaces that I have ever been a part of. I've learned about environmental science and the ethics surrounding it as well as more than I ever thought I would about myself and my own goals. If you are interested in the outdoors, leadership, environmental studies, traveling, and experiencing new things then you should really really really really sign up for the next HMI semester.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
Peanut butter-banana-tuna-jelly tort. I was not good, but gains were had.
Default avatar
Emma
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Climbing & Conservation!

I was one of eleven students on the HMI Climbing & Conservation semester in Colorado, Utah, and Patagonia, and I am so happy I chose to spend my fall travel in and climbing with such an incredible group. HMI allowed students of all levels to learn and grow, while still pushing us and allowing me to try lots of new things.
Some of my favorite things about the course were my incredible instructors who supported and pushed me throughout the course while still having tons of fun together, the world class climbing areas we got to visit such as Indian Creek and towers in Moab, and the environmental studies curriculum that combined with our service work to allow me to truly think critically about conservation and the environment. I learned a lot from HMI Gap, and would highly recommend the climbing semester to those interested in growing as a climber, and environmentalist, and as a person.

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
Near the middle of our trip we had the opportunity to climb and summit a tower — I got to attempt an iconic sandstone tower, Ancient Art, and climb all the way to the top with three other students and two of our instructors. At the top I stood on the small peak of the tower (see photo) and felt like I was on top of the world! Being so high up was definitely a little scary, but I was safe and that ended up being one of my favorite moments from the course.
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Charlie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

DO IT!

Full send! Whatever you are looking to get out of a gap year, HMI can provide. This adventure was super fun, created so many memories, and I had an amazing time in the wilderness. I've never been backpacking or even camping and it was the most fun I've had in a while. I've never cooked anything other than top ramen and pasta, but I got to a point where I felt confident in making things like pizza from scratch. I didn't know anything about conservation or public lands and now I am fascinated by national parks. HMI prepares you for everything in life. I was so nervous to do this and I am so happy I made the right choice to do this. the people are so friendly, I felt 100% safe the entire time, and I have made such deep connections with amazing people around the country and even the world.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
If you can't get out of it, get into it. Things are challenging, but you grow when you are uncomfortable and push your limits.
Default avatar
Maya
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Incredible Semester

My semester with HMI was one of the most fulfilling and empowering experiences of my life. What once seemed so daunting- living in the backcountry for weeks at a time- quickly became comfortable and fun, thanks in large part to the wonderful instructors. I took a gap year to redefine what 'education' means to me, and my experience in this regard at HMI was everything I could have hoped for and more. We learned deeply about places while in them, talked about conservation and wilderness not as some far off concepts but as ideas with real, visible implications for how we lived while in the field. I would highly recommend this course to anyone who wants to learn a lot in some incredible places, with incredible people, and have a great time too.