Gap: Rock “Staying strong through the end!”

By Annika and Page

After a few restful days in cabins at Friendly Pines camp, we headed to Snow Canyon State Park in St. George, Utah—to a campsite that had showers! But not before we prepared and enjoyed an incredible gluten free Thanksgiving feast. Mel and Annika braved the turkey and ham, Nick made the most delicious pumpkin pie many of us have ever indulged in, and Olivia made her famous green bean casserole. In total, we had 11 dishes and 8 bottles of Martinelli’s sparkling cider—a true feast! That night we shared gratitudes for each other and fell asleep watching a movie marathon.

Unlike our previous sections of the program, this final section was entirely student-led, which meant that we decided where to climb and how our daily schedule looked. Our days in St. George were filled with all the beauty that the area had to offer, from Zion national park to the gorgeous limestone at Lime Kiln Canyon. Each crag we climbed at was unique in terms of rock type, approach length and style of climbing. A perfect mix of all the climbing we’d done previously. There were also many exciting climbing accomplishments in the group—Annika did her first trad lead, Sophie and Page finally went multi-pitching, and Spencer did 19 laps of a climb at the Circus Wall, just to name a few. 

Near the end of our time in St. George, each of us developed a personal environmental ethic to share with the group. The creativity and thoughtfulness that went into these presentations was impressive and entertaining, and it was clear that our time at HMI had impacted how each of us viewed the environment and our role in it. 

On our last night in the field, we participated in “full circle,” a time for our community to have one last shared space to talk openly about our experience and convey our gratitude for each other. After a few tears and many laughs, it was clear we would not say goodbye to the friendships we formed even as we went our separate ways in the airport. 

After completing the final and best trailer pack ever (always a precise game of Tetris), many of us chose to sleep outside of our tents for the final night. Much to our surprise, at 3am we received a rude awakening of rain. One mad scramble and a few wet sleeping bags later, we were all safe inside the mids, and had a relatively uneventful rest of the night. 

The next morning we headed to Potosi Pines Camp in Las Vegas, where during the day we cleaned and sorted gear for the final time and in the evening played our favorite games—wah (with an epic moo-off), musical chairs, birdie on a perch, ducky wucky and murph. It was a fitting way to spend our final night together—full of laughs and enjoying each other’s company. 

Our van ride to the airport was not without a little adventure. A few minutes after we departed Potosi Pines, we realized that the left tire on the trailer was starting to shred! What we first thought was F-Trek vibing to a group classic, Cheryl, with us was actually them alerting us to immediately pull over. After a fire line on the side of the highway to move our bags to the van, and the sweet smell of burning rubber, we were on the road again and arrived safely at the airport. It was difficult to say goodbye to each other and the life we’d become so accustomed to, but we were filled with gratitude for our experience and excited to bring back what we’d learned to our lives at home. And despite the distance, we all know our friendships will remain strong. “Gravy train” out.