Monday, March 11, 2013

Check that, will you?

H and I had a brief chat the other day about getting back into the mountains this year and polishing off at least my remaining New Hampshire 4,000-footers. Maybe hers and A’s, too, though they’ve got more to go than I have. On the other hand, they’re vastly fitter.

I’ve got 10 to go, and seven of them fall into two natural groups. Cabot, the northernmost of all 48, is tucked off by itself in the Kilkenny Range, and Isolation is—not surprisingly—isolated, deep in the Dry River Wilderness, but Moriah and the Carters are a natural single walk, as are North Twin and the Bonds. Carrigain I’m saving for last, because it has a spectacular view that takes in most of the other 47. So a good clear day is mandatory. And bubbly, of course.

We want to fit in as many of H and A’s unclimbed 4,000s as we can, too, so these natural groupings may be stretched or uncoupled. And B will be 5 in July, old enough to more independently handle some easy walks to huts or special spots. That will certainly figure into our planning. Fun, funner, and funnest.

Completing this list never interested me until about 10 years ago. Checking off peaks had always seemed like exactly the wrong approach to the hills. But then I realized that I was really missing wandering around with H and that having some goal would be likely to get the three of us out there together more often. Some years it has, some years it hasn’t. But—I can’t figure out if this is counter-intuitive or not—the creakier I get (and I’ve gotten very creaky indeed), the more I want to do it.

The mountains here are quite different from the Lakes, or Scotland, or California’s Sierra, or the Pyrenees, or the Alps. Not high by international standards, they are serious all the same. The trails are rocky, rough, and steep, generally straight up the fall line. The peaks and ridges can be dangerous, because bad weather can brew up  in a flash, even in high summer. (Nineties in the valleys? You can be operating below freezing on the Presidential Traverse. With wind. I’ve been blown over up there.) On the other hand, you don’t need to develop good navigational skills (and I, to my chagrin, haven’t) because signage is good, and in most areas you’re either on the obvious trail or deep in the puckerbrush. You do need to defer gratification (pretty New Englandy in that sense, actually), because on most of these mountains you won’t see a view until you get close to the top. Maybe not even then. Frankly, there are lots of places I’d rather walk. But these are my home mountains. And I’m checking off a list.

Here’s a good site on walking the bigger Whites.

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