Peak Perspectives: School between a hundred mountains


Photo by Gemma Fink

Students clim Mount Massive in Colorado on their first expedition in early September at HMI.

Gemma Fink, Staff Writer

Back to school, and it’s junior year. Yet, this fall, instead of staying home and following the same everyday routine, I’m at school in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, in the highest incorporated town in the United States. It’s definitely different, and it’s definitely hard, but each day presents a unique challenge that pushes me to think in ways I didn’t know existed.

Picture this–it’s night one of sixteen, you’re in a valley, watching the fiery sun exchange places with the moon in the sky. Days fly by, and before you know it, it’s night fifteen and there’s the moon, the same one as on night one, yet this time, it’s nearly full, bright, and glowing. Night sixteen is spent under the stars, a valley filled with laughter and lit up by a full moon unlike any other, aided by something I never thought I’d feel– sadness to leave the backcountry.

The trip started out rocky, it’s the Rockies after all. I’d never carried that much weight before, and every second felt like an hour, every day akin to a week. The physical demand was at an all-time high, and as a person who doesn’t even like backpacking, I truly saw no point to the trip at all.

Yet, soon I felt a shift in my mindset, and before I knew it, I didn’t even want to leave. The routine, which included waking up at nearly six in the morning, every day, felt almost natural. Maybe our packs got lighter, or maybe we got stronger, but suddenly, everything seemed within the realm of possibility.

I summited the third and fourth highest mountains in the country, Elbert and Massive, respectively. I spent sixteen days with the same thirteen people. I had classes in a valley, between two mountains under a sunset. My teachers became my friends in a school setting unlike any other. I came out of the backcountry a different person, with a new world ahead of me, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Now, I’m headed off to the Cedar Mesa in Utah for the next twelve days. I’m going from ten thousand feet to somewhere in the six thousands, and I’m insanely excited.

So, peace out for now,