Finishing the NH 4,000 Footers: Can I Do It?

Spring is in the imagination, if not quite yet in the air. I awoke this morning to find my hand reaching for the AMC guide that lives next to the bed.

Nothing beats a White Mountain vista on a fine day.

Nothing beats a White Mountain vista on a fine day.

Over the past four summers, I’ve hiked 29 of New Hampshire’s 48 4,000-foot mountains. The big gaps in my list are those in the North Country — the Presidentials, the Carter Range, and Mount Cabot, which is not far from Dixville Notch (the remote outpost, population 12, that always declares its results first in any election). There’s also a couple of mountains I’ve avoided just because they’re known for being annoying hikes: Owl’s Head, whose only trail is a rocky slide that goes straight up the side of the mountain to a viewless summit, and Isolation, which, true to its name, has no convenient approach. (Also, there’s known to be a very hostile grouse on the path to Isolation, and isn’t afraid to lunge at hikers invading its territory. Angry birds may be a fun iPhone game, but they don’t make great hiking companions.)

Even with no view, a day of hiking brings a big smile to my face! [Photo credit: Paul Green]

Even with no view, a day of hiking brings a big smile to my face! [Photo credit: Paul Green]

With only 19 peaks left to bag, can I make 2013 the year I finally complete this goal? I think so. Here’s my plan:

Weekend 1: Hike Galehead and South Twin in one day. (31 peaks total)
Weekend 2: Hike Owl’s Head in one day. (32 peaks)

Weekend 1: Hike Isolation in one day. (33 peaks)
Weekend 2: Hike the Presidentials over three days. Day 1: Mt Madison (staying overnight at Madison Spring Hut); Day 2: Mts Adams, Jefferson, Washington, Monroe, Eisenhower, and Pierce (staying overnight at Mizpah Spring Hut); Day 3: Mr. Jackson. (41 peaks)

Sit at the beach and rest my quads. It’s August, after all.

Weekend 1: Tackle Wildcat D and Wildcat Mountain (staying overnight at Carter Notch Hut), before moving on to Carter Dome, Middle Carter, and South Carter. (46)
Weekend 2: Hike Mt Cabot Saturday and Mt Moriah Sunday. (48!)

Hope you brought your headlamp.

Hope you brought your headlamp.

Now, I do have some doubts about this plan. First, elements of this plan are contingent on there being space in the huts for me — they’re already filling up, so I’ll need to hop on that. Second, if I take all of August off, will I really be ready to tackle the Carter Range in one go in September? Likely not. So I might need to find another hike to do that month — maybe one in Maine, which would mesh nicely with some of my beach-sitting. Third, I’m a little worried about my knees. Most of my hiking the last couple of years has relied heavily on a mix of trekking poles, Advil, and ice. Are my knees really going to stand up to a summer of vigorous hiking? There’s only one way to find out. But if they don’t, that weekend on the Carter Range will likely get broken up into a few different outings. And finally, some of these hikes will be much more pleasant as traverses rather than out-and-backs, which means I’ll need my driver I mean boyfriend to come along, drop me off, spend the day fishing, and pick me up. But hopefully this isn’t too tough a sell.

Nonetheless, if all of these variables break my way, it should be a great summer of hiking — and of finishing a goal I’ve been working toward since 2009. I’ll keep you posted!

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