[Ed: The information provided below is a reprint of an article that appeared in Apex to Zenith #31 – Fourth Quarter 1995.]
I am an average guy with two jobs and a family who committed to the unlikely task of reaching all 50 state summits, plus Washington, D.C., within two years from the start. Later I decided it sounded catchier to restate my goal as Fifty peaks in a hundred weeks! (and it was only 4 weeks less) I reached the summit of Mt. Rainier, my 50th highpoint, on September 3, 1995. It took me two tries to make this one. All in all, I completed my 50 state goal in 92 weeks, 1 day, 23 hours, and 45 minutes.
Why did I become a highpointer? I have always loved to travel and explore. In college, I spent summers hitchhiking, solo, across the U.S. and later, Europe. Although I traveled on my own, I was seldom alone, and I got to know the people in the places I went. I like this, and highpointing gives me a reason to travel and meet people. Now add to this the rugged granite beauty of the Rocky Mountains; or the hazy green-blue ridges fading to the horizon in the Great Smoky Mountains; and the crisp thin air, chilled by windswept glaciers atop Gannett Peak, and you have the rest of the reason I love highpointing.
Why a hundred weeks? I admit this seems puzzling when you consider that I don t have a lot of free time. I work 40-50 hours a week as a full time economist in Alexandria VA. I teach two economics courses in the evenings at Marymount University. Problems getting time off of work? Yes, Sometimes facing the boss was tougher than climbing the peaks! Using every scrap of vacation time, weekends, and planning climbs before and after business trips, I often had to drive hundreds of miles to reach different states. Problems at home? At first, my wife Caren didn’t understand why I wanted to make trips away from home, later my staunchest supporter, she now jokes her goal is to reach the top floor in the highest shopping mall in each of the 50 United States. My daughters, Erin (10) and Robin (7), whose combined weight is less than my winter backpack, each have rock collections retrieved from the highest peaks, but they, too, missed Daddy when business trips got extended by a few days. I don t fool myself for one minute; without support of my team at basecamp, none of my highpoints would have been possible.
I loved the planning, days and weeks spent getting ready, reading guidebooks, phoning ahead for road and trail conditions, and studying the USGS topo maps. All those travel arrangements, trying to dovetail highpoint excursions with business trips and family vacations, airline and rental car reservations, estimating distances and times. Then there s the driving, always the driving, often hundreds of miles, often over a thousand miles in a single multi-state trip, spanning distances that would define whole countries in other continents!
Most Difficult: Winter attempt of Mt. Rainier, WA (Mar 95). Most Beautiful: glacier blue icefalls on Mt. McKinley, AK (May 95) & yellow aspens shimmering against blue sky at Henry’s Fork Basin, Kings Peak, UT (Sep 94). Furthest drive: 1,718 miles in 50 hours, starting and ending in Atlanta, I made AL, MS, AR, LA, & FL (Oct 94). Most frustrating: roaming dead end logging roads at dusk, tramping in red Louisiana mud looking for Driskill Mt. (Oct 94) Ones that took 2 tries (MA, PA, CT, VT, AZ, WA–all winter attempts on 1st try). I climbed NH’s Mt. Washington, 3 times, including two climbs in February to celebrate Washington s birthday! Most jet lag: I flew from my home in Virginia to Portland, Oregon, climbed Mt Hood and flew home in less than 36 hours! (Jul 95) Naughtiest highpoint: narrowly escaped irate landowner in RI’s Jeromoth Hill (Jul 94). Greatest fear of falling: ID’s Borah Peak and WY’s Gannett Peak (Jul 95). Lifelong highpointer friends met along the way: Don Mercer, Steve Packer, Andy Brolin, Chuck and Bill Bonning, Tom Krebsbach.