Legacy of Exploration: Explorers of Mountains
Legacy - HNRS 1120

Instructor(s): Troy Lovata

Course Description

"We have climbed the mountain,  

There’s nothing more to do.  

It is terrible to come down  

To the valley Where,  

amidst many flowers,  

One thinks of snow."  

--Donald Justice 

Explorers have ventured many places over the centuries, but mountains have held a special draw to many. Mountains have been viewed as both foreboding obstacles that divide peoples and as spiritually significant points worthy of pilgrimage. Mountains have held both the promise of untold riches and the possibility of unforgiving terror. Some have been lured to the mountains for science, some for religion, some for personal glory, and others to harvest the earth’s bounty. Whichever the reason, pioneering mountaineer Elizabeth Knowlton noted that, “to those men who are born for mountains, the struggle can never end, until their lives end.” This course examines why people have explored mountains and the draw of reaching high altitude. Students will study first-hand accounts, literature, and primary sources of both historic and contemporary mountain journeys from around the world and compare them to their own experiences here in the Mountain West. 

This course unfolds in both the classroom and the field. There are three required field trips into the mountains outside normal class time, on weekends. These include: a trip up the tram to the Sandia Crest in the Sandia Mountains next to Albuquerque on Saturday, August 27; a hike to Nambe Lake in the Sangre de Cristos Mountains above Santa Fe on Friday, September 16 (or for a self-guided, alternate hike on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, September 16, 17 or 18); and a hike up the pilgrimage site of Tomé Hill in Los Lunas on Friday, October 28. This course has a required $45 course fee to cover some field trip costs. 



A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains by Isabella Bird 

The Shameless Diary of an Explorer: A Story of Failure on Mt. McKinley by Robert Dunn 

Into Thin Air by John Krakauer 

Nature Writings by John Muir 


Other Course Materials 

Touching the Void (film) by Kevin Macdonald, director. 

A series of academic journal articles from the fields of Archaeology, Anthropology and Cultural Geography available for free download in PDF format. 


This course will be conducted both in the classroom and in the field as students participate in seminar discussions and complete a series of written projects. There are three day long field trips on Fridays or Saturdays outside regular class time. Students must, because this course contains significant field components, be physically able to travel to and hike outdoors in a variety of weather conditions and at high elevation. 


About the Instructor(s): Troy Lovata

Troy Lovata, Ph.D. is a Professor in the Honors College and Faculty Affiliate in UNM’s Southwest Hispanic Research Institute, where, for two decades, he has taught courses on landscape, culture, and how the past is defined in the present. He holds degrees in Anthropology with a focus on Archaeology from Colorado State University (Bachelors) and The University of Texas (Masters and Doctorate).