Sunday, July 23, 2006

Finally Done... After 11 Long Years

    Well, yesterday I finished my goal of climbing all the mountains in the Northeast above 4,000 feet.  There are four prominent climbing clubs in the Northeast - The Adirondack 46ers (All mtns. above 4,000 feet in NY), The AMC -Adirondack Mountain Club- 4,000-Footer of the White Mountains (All mtns. above 4,000 feet in NH), the New England 4,000-Footer (All mtns. above 4,000 feet in Vt, ME, NH) and the club with the biggest list, the Northeast 111ers (All the mtns above 4,000 feet in Ne_111er
the entire Northeast).  The Northeast 111ers actually includes 115 mountains.  The extra ones were included in the list later due to more accurate geological surveys showing that 4 more mountains actually stood above 4,000 feet.  In NY the 46er club started over 85 years ago and at that time 46 peaks were considered over 4,000 feet but in the most recent survey there are only 42 of the original mountains above the magic 4,000 foot number.  Because the club originally started with 46 it was decided that the other 4, now slightly under 4,000, still had to be climbed to become a member of the club.  The NE 111er club combines the NY 46 + The NY Catskills 2 + the NH 48 + the VT 5 + the ME 14 = 115 mountains (look at the picture for the official breakdown of mountains).  In the most recent survey in NY they found that MacNaughton (not on the original 46er list was actually exactly 4,000 feet.  MacNaughton isn't on any of the official lists and I have not climbed it yet but I plan to in August just for my own peace of mind.  As of Christmas 2005 there were 5,750 registered 46ers, and as of April 2005 there were 8,000 White Mountain 4000-Footer members, and 2,000 New England 4,000-Footer members.  As of March 2002 there were only 400 that had completed all the Northeast 115 to be a member of the NE 111er club.  To give perspective 2,500 people have now successfully climbed Everest..., over 5 times more than have climbed the Northeast 115. 
    Here are some stats for my climbs.     Since my first climb up Cascade Mountain on August 7th, 1995 it has taken me 10 years, 11 months and 20 days to complete all the mountains.  10 of my first Mountains_per_year
ascents were in Winter although I've done many of them again in the winter after initially climbing them in the summer.  I climbed 36 (31%) of them by solo.  It took me 68 trips to climb them all.  It took me 761.6 miles of climbing (one third Scan0168
the length of the Appalachian Trail), 472.25 hours (19.7 days) of climbing time, and I climbed over 184,000 feet.  That final number is low because it doesn't include the elevation changes of going up and down over hills andScan0169 ridges... it's just the elevation change from where I started to the highest point on that hike.  In reality I would guess I had climbed nearly 200,000 feet.  That's nearly 7 times the
height of Everest.  None of these figures Scan0170
encompass that time it has taken me to map out my routes, pack, and plan these hikes nor do they reveal the travel time it took to get to the trailheads for the hikes.  I have lived atleast an hour and half to two hours from the mountains I have climbed which often meant I spent more time driving to the mountains than actually climbing them!  This spring for instance the average driving time to NH and back for me was 7 hours and when I climbed Katahdin the trip was 16 hours of driving round trip.   I have spent thousands of dollars on hiking equipment throughout the years.  I've worn through 3 pairs of leather boots, 2 backpacks, and one pair of Leki hiking poles.  The cost of gas to get to the mountains I needed was ridiculous this past spring.  I climbed 24 peaks this spring and with gas, food, and accomodations each mountain on average cost me ~$40 (40 x 26 = $1,000 for just this spring).  I'd say that in total with gas, equipment costs, the two Pathfinder Camps I went to in 95' and 96', the motels I stayed in, and the food I spent for breakfasts, lunches and dinners afterwards it has cost me nearly $8,000 to $10,000 to climb all the 115.

    I have encountered bears, pine martens, racoons, many moose, partridges, wild turkeys, beavers, deer, snapping turtles, and many varieties of birds including owls, eagles, ospreys, and hawks.  I've waded through dangerously swollen rivers, scaled steep sections of rock, busted trail through 3 feet of fresh powder, and have dragged myself out of the woods bleeding and sore on many occasions.  I've had several close calls in the woods - Nearly laying down once from exhaustion in 10 degree weather deep in the Whites of NH, twisting my ankle miles from the trail in ME in deep snow, shivering, near hypothermia, from being soaked in 40 degree weather in NH, and being lost in a fog and freezing rain in northern NH.  I've climbed the ski trails of many ski resorts to the bewildered looks of skiers coming down and a few calls of "way to earn your turns buddy" from skiers before heading back down the same slopes from the summit on my skis. 

    I've had many great experiences and have learned a lot and acquired a lot of new skills from my travels.  I have developed exceptional balance and amazing foot placement while hiking (I don't trip or misplace a foot ever).  I have a great sense of direction - drop me anywhere in the northeast and I could find my way to the nearest road without a map or compass.  I can follow a trail through the woods that is nearly invisible to see.   Most importantly I've learned when to call it a day and turn around.  I've only had to turn around on about 5 of the mountains on my first ascents.  During these times I was either lost, the weather conditions were horrendous, daylight was running out, or I felt it was unsafe to take my hiking companions any further.  It took me 3 tries to finally summit Mt. Tripyramid in NH.  The first time the girl I was hiking with was exhausted while the 2nd time was in winter and the trail was unbroken and it was late in the day.  It is better to live to hike another day.   This is a very important virtue to have while mountaineering.  90% of the deaths on Everest are caused by people not knowing when it is time to turn around... people that care about reaching the summit more than they care about their own welfare.  Knowing when to turn around gives me confidence for my future mountaineering goals of climbing out west and eventually summiting Everest and the 7 summits of each continent. 

    Finally, I'd like to thank everyone who has supported and climbed with me throughout the past 10 years of my life.  Matt Jones finished his 46 NY peaks with me in highschool and has climbed with meArmstrong_upper_wolfjaw_hike_03
around the US and the Northeast.  My first experience in the high peaks of NY was with a Baptist Camp named Pathfinder and the pastor/leader of that trip played a big role in my initial interest in mountaineering - I believe his name was Joe (I'll have to look it up).  I met Neal Andrews a year after I began climbing in NY and he taught me much of what I know about hiking today when I was still in Highschool.  He was my mentor and is my friend.  We have traveled out west together and as I finish my Northeast 111 he is also at the same time finishing his 50 highpoints of the U.S.  I thank all the people that I've climbed with for the companionship in the often very quiet and remote woods of the Northeast.  Finally, I owe my parents a ton for the support they have given me throughout the years.  Without their support I could not have finished this very long goal.  I continually broke the cardinal rule of hiking (NEVER HIKE ALONE) which I'm sure made them very nervous but they dealt with it well.  I would also like to thank the wonderful hiking clubs of the Northeast.  The ADK (Adirondack Mountain Club), and the AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club).  These clubs are made up of members who pay annual duesNorth_south_brother_6506_012 that help to support trail maintenance throughout the Northeast.  It takes many volunteers to clear the trails of blowdown each spring after the harsh winters and to cut new trails through the woods, or to repair overused trail networks.  Every tourist and hiker to the Northeast owes these people a
lot of gratitude because it is very tiring work.  Finally, check out the last two pictures... the first is from the first year I started climbing the High Peaks of NY and the last is from this spring as I was wrapping up my final mountains on the list.  :)

    Well, that about sums up everything.  My first personal goal in life was to finish the NY 46 which I did on my 18th birthday and now on my 27th birthday I've finished this goal.  I feel like I'm ready to tackle the Western U.S. now and set new goals for out there such as possibly summiting all the Volcanoes in the lower 48 (just under 70 of them).  I'm already working on my 50 state highpoints and have done 16 of (including the hard states of CA, CO, ID, UT, SD, etc).  I'm also considering biking across the U.S. next summer from Oregon or Washington to Maine.  My biggest goal of course is to summit each of the 7 summits (highest point on each continent) including Everest before I'm 50.  I keep detailed logs of all my adventures and possibly when I'm too weak to climb, ski, bike, or boat anymore I may write a book.  :)  For all those who are still awake after reading all this... thanks for the interest :)


For more info on the Adirondack 46 click this link
For more info on the AMC Clubs and the Northeast 111ers click this link
For a great article on the 111ers click this link



No comments: