High Mountain Institute Gap (HMI Gap) Semesters

Video and Photos

Exploring Gravel Canyon in Bears Ears National Monument
Exploring Gravel Canyon in Bears Ears National Monument
HMI Gap course camped in Indian Creek
HMI Gap course camped in Indian Creek
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 students planning their route for a day of backcountry travel
HMI Gap students planning their route for a day of backcountry travel
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 student practicing lead falls in Moab, UT
HMI Gap student practicing lead falls in Moab, UT
HMI Gap students doing service in Mill Creek, UT
HMI Gap students doing service in Mill Creek, UT
Taking in the Patagonia Views
Taking in the Patagonia Views

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

Applications Are Filling Up For Fall 2019

If you're thinking about applying--now is the time! Courses are filling up faster than usual and we anticipate having full courses by mid-May.

Questions & Answers

Reviews

96%
based on 15 reviews
  • Housing 9.3
  • Support 9.5
  • Fun 9.4
  • Value 9.6
  • Safety 9.4
Showing 1 - 15 of 15
Selena
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

An Unforgettable Experience

I had the most incredible experience in Patagonia. I learnt to backpack in style, deal with challenging situations and work with peers; I learnt about leadership, environmental ethics and so much about myself. Having to share this unique journey with 8 other inspiring people is so rewarding - we shared laughters and tears. The space we created was super meaningful, and I learnt the importance of having an intimate community like we had. The natural scenery was awe-inspiring - the most beautiful place I've ever been, and I could not have gone to the places we went without coming with HMI. The time spent exploring culturally, building the community and out in the wilderness was well-balanced. The best part was gaining so many useful skills while having so much fun. Definitely recommend!

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Deming
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing Semester Backpacking!

I went on the Spring Semester in Patagonia and it could not have changed my life more. I started the semester never having backpacked before, only to leave with strong wilderness travel skills, improved Spanish and environmental ethics, and a community of friends and instructors I knew would follow me into my life beyond gap. The environmental studies curriculum and cultural exploration in the front country allowed me to connect with the spirit of Patagonia, while the leadership and community courses taught me how to be a better leader and team member, in and out of the wilderness. I cannot speak highly enough of the instructor team, some of the most wonderful people I know, and the logistics and risk management that left me feeling safe and happy at all points during the trip. Overall, I am leaving more confident in myself as a leader and prepared to take on college and life beyond.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Don't be afraid to embrace the adventure! You get out of this what you put in.
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Katie
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Life changing semester!

The spring semester in Patagonia was absolutely incredible! HMI had awesome connections in the area that allowed us to really connect and interaction with the culture. The instructors were well qualified, fun, and very supportive. For it being the first full semester in Patagonia, the logistics were well refined. HMI provided awesome support to help us continue interacting and thriving in the outdoors after the program was complete. I left with improved Spanish skills, a strong environmental ethic, and lifelong friends. The first aid curriculum was also very useful. I would recommend the trip to anyone who is up for a challenge, wanting to fully submerse themselves in a different culture, willing to ask hard questions, and have a life’s changing 80 days.

What would you improve about this program?
Give students a few more days to independently explore the front country
Lauren
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing Semester!

I did the Spring Semester in Patagonia and I could not be more thankful that I did it. I learned how to live well in the backcountry, had really meaningful conversations about environmental ethics, improved my Spanish a ton, and made incredible friends. We also got to explore the town our base camp was in and did some really cool cultural activities, like harvesting fruit and making jam, learning to make traditional Chilean dishes, and watching traditional dances. I could not speak more highly of the instructors who were overall incredible human beings. The places we were able to explore were incredibly beautiful and super off the grid which I really appreciated. I don't think I would have been able to figure out for myself how to gain access to all the cool spots we were able to go to. I would highly recommend the program to anyone considering it.

What would you improve about this program?
I would have liked the Spanish curriculum to be more incorporated towards the end of the semester.
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Forrest
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Learning through HMI

I learned a lot through HMI gap, both physical skills and perhaps more importantly things about myself and what I want out of life. I gained countless skills in climbing, such as setting anchors, multi pitching, placing trad gear, and much more. I also learned valuable things not related to climbing, like how to food plan and shop, how to cook creative meals, and stay happy in uncomfortable situations. Throughout the program I learned a lot about myself and what makes me happy. HMI made me question my current ideas about my future and helped to shape an image of the kind of life that I want. The instructors of the program were amazing, and kept everyone safe and provided support in any way that they could. All in all, it was quite the experience for me, and I took away a lot of valuable lessons.

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Olivia
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Grow Through HMI Gap!

HMI gap was an awesome program. I participated in the Rock climbing and conservation semester. We started off by backpacking for 11 days in Colorado and doing a little bit of climbing as well. Then we went to Moab for a month and really focused on learning climbing skills and everyone advanced to lead and multi-pitch climbing. Finally, we went down to Chilean Patagonia and went backpacking for a few days and then spent the rest of the time climbing. I came in to HMI gap expecting learn how to backpack, develop my outdoor climbing skills, and learn about conservation, and while I did learn all of those things I also learned so much more than I ever imagined I would. I learned a lot about building community and conflict resolution, you kind of have to because you're spending 80 days with the same people in an intense environment. But most importantly I learned a lot about myself. I learned how to rely on myself, and how to let myself rely on others. I learned when to push myself, and when to step back. HMI gap truly was a life changing experience, I have made great friendships with the people on my course and will always look back on the time I spent with HMI as a great experience.

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Olivia
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Grow Through HMI Gap!

HMI gap was an awesome program. I participated in the Rock climbing and conservation semester. We started off by backpacking for 11 days in Colorado and doing a little bit of climbing as well. Then we went to Moab for a month and really focused on learning climbing skills and everyone advanced to lead and multi-pitch climbing. Finally, we went down to Chilean Patagonia and went backpacking for a few days and then spent the rest of the time climbing. I came in to HMI gap expecting learn how to backpack, develop my outdoor climbing skills, and learn about conservation, and while I did learn all of those things I also learned so much more than I ever imagined I would. I learned a lot about building community and conflict resolution, you kind of have to because you're spending 80 days with the same people in an intense environment. But most importantly I learned a lot about myself. I learned how to rely on myself, and how to let myself rely on others. I learned when to push myself, and when to step back. HMI gap truly was a life changing experience, I have made great friendships with the people on my course and will always look back on the time I spent with HMI as a great experience.

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Coleman
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Challenge Yourself with HMI Gap

The High Mountain Institute, as offered by its name, is foremost an establishment of learning. At HMI, I learned how to to navigate through mountains and canyons, to cook an array of backcountry meals, and to set up the perfect tent. However, the little nuggets of knowledge I acquired are both harder to pin down and perhaps more universally applicable: learning how to share cramped spaces with (potentially smelly) people; counting down from three before doing something that absolutely terrifies you (e.g., crossing a slippery log over a raging Patagonian rapid or diving headfirst with your best friends into a glacial lake); screaming at the top of your lungs when your whole group is frustrated, tired, and confused. HMI really is “where nature and minds meet” because, with each daily skill or challenge, your instructors and your peers encourage you to thrive and test your limits. In the same vein, HMI combines the best of backcountry hard skills (e.g., navigation) and intellectual stimulation (e.g., conservation curriculum) to provide you with an experience that leaves you stronger, both physically and mentally, than you were before.

HMI Gap changed my life. While I remain mostly the same person I was before, I experience more intensely my passions, my family and friends, and the world at large. I chose HMI Gap in search of challenge and wonder; I was delighted to find myself face to face with both of those things virtually every day with HMI.

What would you improve about this program?
HMI Gap is a relatively young program, so the few flaws it possesses mostly revolve around logistical difficulties that tend to resolve over time. That said, in my experience, HMI Gap's "youth" did not in any way noticeably detract from the overall experiential quality of the program.
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Ally
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A Fun & Challening Experience in Personal Growth!

Spending 80 days, most of which are entirely in the backcountry, with a small community of strangers is remarkably challenging and rewarding. I came out of this trip with backcountry and wilderness skills I had not even known existed, lifelong memories, crazy stories, and seven very close friends. Some highlights of the trip for me include canyon running in southern Utah, learning about environmental studies through a very well-developed curriculum, and spending 21 days in the Patagonian wilderness. On my trip, the group was very heavily extroverted, and our instructors were rotated throughout the three different locations we travelled to (Colorado, Utah, Patagonia). I was not experienced in backpacking prior to this trip, and I still enjoyed it and would now consider myself a relatively experienced backpacker. Most nights (~80%) were spent in a tent and sleeping bag, and we cooked nearly all (~99%) of our meals for ourselves. If you are looking to be challenged physically and mentally and want to reap the benefits of both Type 1 and Type 2 fun, then I would really encourage you to look more deeply into this program.

What would you improve about this program?
As a somewhat young program (I went in its 4th year), HMI Gap can improve on smoothing out the logistics of the trip (i.e. organizing food and gear, providing good maps and compasses, etc.). I believe that the program has the potential to improve in this area quite quickly, as the staff becomes more experienced.
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Alexandra
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Engaging, Enriching, and Totally Epic

I came to HMI Gap with absolutely no backpacking experience and left feeling confident I could backpack by myself for weeks and love it. The community we created through the curriculum and the instructors left me laughing endlessly, even in times of struggle. It is probably the most special community I've ever been a part of. My instructors were there to push me, but also to support me whenever as well as being great friends. The expeditions were not easy--but completely rewarding and the places I hiked are some of the most beautiful places I've ever been. I really liked that an environmental studies course was also incorporated because it brought us awareness about what was going on and being said about the places we were backpacking through. In the end, this program pushed me more than I've ever been pushed, which let me leave the most confident I have ever been in myself. It might not always be Type 1 fun, but you'll look back on it as an experience of a lifetime.

What would you improve about this program?
It's a relatively new program (4th year) so they are still working out the kinks (i.e. expedition routes, camping site selection) but those things were also part of the adventure for me.
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Celia
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

HMI Gap

This is a great program. Each location is amazing, the instructors are great, and I learned so much about rock climbing that I'll be able to use in the future. In Patagonia, we stayed and hiked through some beautiful places. There was also time in Moab and Chile Chico for some free time in town. Having done NOLS in the past, I would rate this program above that. I had an amazing experience with a bunch of great people.

What would you improve about this program?
I know it's hard with permits and all, but I would've loved to visit the national parks we were near in Utah.
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Harrison
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Absolutely fantastic

I think that taking a gap year was one of the best decisions I've made in my life so far. HMI is such a good program and they're doing great things. I won't bore you with all the details of my experience, but in all the places you go, it's in the peak season and the best time of year to be there. This is so much more than a climbing or backpacking trip or whatever other perceptions you might have: it's all of those. Thanks for reading my review.

What would you improve about this program?
I can't think of many things to improve upon, but the one that comes to mind is giving students more time to experience the culture (this is just in Patagonia). I know it'd be hard to work out with limited time and all that, but I think it'd be awesome to say, go to a restaurant in Chile or something. Other than that it was great!
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Caitlin
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The most amazing and challenging experience

Hmi gap was truely a one of a kind experience! It was by far the most challenging thing I have ever done both physically and mentally but it could not have been more worth it! Because of HMI gap I ran my first half marathon (something I would not have done if not for the opportunity from this program). I also pushed my body in ways I did think we're possible and discovered a new love for rock climbing, a sport I had never done before. I made amazing friendships with the people on my trip and was laughing so hard I was crying most days just joking around with everyone. The instructors are more your friends than anything else and you really get to know your body and its capabilities in a way I didn't think was possible. I have never seen anything more beautiful than patagonia and I honestly don't know if there is anything more beautiful that exists!

What would you improve about this program?
Only thing I would change would be more flexibility with day to day schedule with more input from the students!
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Owen
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

HMI Gap

Climbing in Chile and Argentina was definitely a highlight, however one of the most special experiences for me was working on the approach trail to Castleton Tower with the Front Range Climbing Stewards. Everyday while working I got the chance to talk with and hang out with really cool guys who pretty much have dedicated their lives to climbing, all the while in a spectacular place high up above Castle Valley in Utah. After working on the trail for 10 days or so it was really remarkable to see how much of a difference we really made and it made climbing Castleton afterwards feel that much cooler!

What would you improve about this program?
These program really was incredible and the staff who worked with us are all super awesome and just in general great people. If I could've changed one thing about this program though it would have been to have a bigger emphasis on traditional climbing/leading and also delved into aid climbing a bit more.
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Olivia
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Perseverance and experience make for a great story and lots of personal growth

As the popularity of gap programs continues to grow, the qualities that each program provides seem to become more similar. The HMI Gap Semester, however, enables experiences for growth that you will not find in any other program. I joined this program, not only to learn about myself, and outdoor ventures, but also to reap in the benefit that the structure of the program provides. This program is mostly self-directed. The group goals arise out of the group needs and your personal goals have a lot of weight when decisions are made. The group size is small enough that your voice is heard and that you can really create the gap semester that you want to. There is the added benefit that the logistics of the semester are put together for you as well. You don't have to worry about being in unsafe places or learning how to travel when you don't know the language. You can learn how to deal with all of these factors without having a high consequence. One of the most important parts of this semester program is the personal growth. The group is small enough that you really get to know each other and about yourself. It's inevitable. But it also prepares you for school or any other adventure that you're about to embark on. It's challenging, and exciting. You learn so much and have a lot of fun doing it. I can't say enough good things about this program. It truly changed who I am and what I want out of my life. I feel more confident and feel ready to take more chances. By participating in this program, you agree to be vulnerable and scared, but also agree to create great friendships, and have an enormous amount of fun.

Interviews

Alumni Interviews

About High Mountain Institute

The High Mountain Institute's (HMI) programs lie at the intersection of where nature and minds meet. With courses traveling through Patagonia and the American West, students embark on an incredible three-month journey to some of the world's wildest...