Ten months later and I reached my goal of climbing all 48 4000 footers in NH, every one solo. This journey all started on a very warm, muggy and overcast day back on September 3rd. There was no plan that day, just go and hike one of the 4000 footers (Tecumseh) and see how things go. Somewhere on the long road walk back to the car it came to me that I was hooked and I wanted to do the other 47. I originally set out to complete this, in my mind, before the end of January for personal reasons. I wasn't sure how I was going to accomplish this as I never planned on doing any hiking during the winter. But that was my internal plan and goal.
I was so hooked and it would take another five weeks before I could get out again but it was well worth the wait. That was the day I planned to do Lafayette, Lincoln and Little Haystack. However, upon reaching Haystack at around 10:00 AM I definitely did not want to come down that early so off I went to Liberty and Flume, the whole Franconia Ridge in one trip. To date one of my most memorable hikes right behind my undercast Washington, Monroe and Eisenhower trip. Two more trips and three peaks later and my infamous running over my foot with an electric lift was not going to keep me away from the mountains. So off to Moosilauke and my limping up Beaver Brook Trail heavily favoring my right foot. Messed up foot and all yet for the next ten weeks (a stretch I have not accomplished since) I did not miss a weekend and hit 18 peaks during that span. To this day I still have residual effects from that injury but have not let it deter me from accomplishing my goal.
During that small streak I had to make a decision, to continue hiking in the cold and snow. I had set a goal of finishing towards the end of January but did not know how I was going to complete it because I had no desire to hike in the winter. Moosilauke was icy when I did it in the beginning of November and the following week Cannon and North Kinsman were just as bad. I remember coming down Fishin' Jimmy Trail and running into two guys coming up and we started talking about winter hiking and I really didn't want to do it. They put it in my head that it was much better because the roots and rocks were covered in snow and it made for better hiking. I still had no intentions even after that conversation. But for some unknown reason when Thanksgiving week rolled around and there was a 8-12 inches of snow dumped in the mountains on Wednesday I went and bought snowshoes that night. Two days later I am doing Tom, Field and Willey and out come the snowshoes and this winter hiking thing isn't so bad. The next day I am heading up to South Kinsman via North Kinsman and again the snowshoes are on. There was no stopping me now, I was really hooked.
It wasn't all easy but it was always great to get out and unwind by myself. North Tripyramid consumed all my nerves so I never made it to Middle Tri that day. Cannon and North Kinsman was cut short never making it to South Kinsman because I did not want to hike out in the dark. The Carters took two trips because of my first and only cold feet day because I didn't have the proper hiking shoes for cold weather. Galehead was supposed to be done with North and South Twin but would have been a long and very up and down day. Galehead was -18° when I started out, the coldest day I spent on the trail and yet it never affected me. Jackson and Pierce were going to include Eisenhower but the white out from the fog and clouds forced me to descend early that day. Wildcat took two trips to complete since breaking trail by oneself proved to be too much for me. And lastly, Jefferson and Adams were going to be done with Madison but the winds and visibility changed that plan. Yet through it all for every "defeat" there was a reward for going back to reclaim the peaks I missed. Most of them were better days and the views were well worth going back to complete the mission. So winter hiking is in my blood now and I am actually looking forward to this upcoming season.
Does it concern me that something could happen while I am out there alone? No, because I do not let it consume my thoughts. I always take my time when precarious situations are presented to me. I don't let the fact that some areas are dangerous nor let it consume me but instead respect the scenario and take my time going thru it. I feel this has made me a stronger person in helping me to deal with different situations that I would not have normally faced. I have challenged myself on a lot of these hikes and pushed myself a lot further than I expected. I have learned to face fear and respect it rather than fear it and turn away. It is, after all, about coming home safe and sound. Does it bother me that I do not hike with other people? Solo hiking has become my escape from all the BS we experience in everyday life and then some. It's challenging and rewarding as I do not have to rely or be concerned about another hiker. I get to hike where I want and at the pace I want. If I see something that interests me I can go and check it out at my own leisure. One of the many challenges of hiking solo for me has been how far can I go and how far do I push myself. There have been a few instances where I felt like stopping and turning around but didn't after reminding myself that I have not accomplished my goal yet. So off I went to continue, burying those thoughts and trekking along to finish my hike as planned. It is, after all, up to myself to push to my limits and sometimes beyond to accomplish my goal. Another challenge of hiking solo has been not being able to spot a car at the other end of a trail. It is either an out and back or where possible a loop hike usually involving a road walk back to the car. There have been times were other hikers have offered to give me a ride back my car which would have dramatically changed and sometimes shortened my planned hike. While very tempting offers and only after spending some time contemplating their offers I have always refused because I would have felt very guilty for "cheating" the hike. Solo has it's downside sometimes but for the most part it has been very rewarding and satisfying and I have not regretted it one bit.
Oh, there were disappointments in the beginning along this journey, the first being very hard to deal with mentally. I do not like failure and have a hard time accepting it. But as time moves on it has been easier to deal with and accept because I know there is very good reason for that particular "failure". My first hike where I did not accomplish my goal was the Tripyramids, the goal was to do all three, but after going up the slide trail of North Tri I had nothing left in the nerve department to continue on to Middle and South. That really bothered me for quite some time. I felt like I had quit on myself and if I continued to do that I would never reach me goal. But I had good reasons for turning back as last October was a very rainy month and it had rained over an inch the day before. The brook crossings were very swollen and the slide was a wet and slick slab. Going up the slide (my first ascent of a slide) was a nerve wracking experience. At one point about two-thirds of the way up I had reached a spot where I didn't think I could continue for lack of good footing. Yet turning around and looking back from where I came there was no other option but to go up. Upon reaching the top of North Tri I knew I still had to go down the slide of South Tri and not knowing if it was anything like the North then I was not mentally ready to go down it. That and the brook crossing was a challenge when coming up to North and I'd have to cross that same brook at a different location on the way out. I finally came to the realization that my decision was the correct and safe one. I still didn't like the idea that I had turned around but it is about hiking safe and knowing ones limits. I finally came to accept the fact that turning around under auspicious circumstances and not finishing the intended hike is OK and the mountain or trail will still be there for another day.
Now what? It's still less than two years before I go off and do the Appalachian Trail. Finishing this quest in July was a bit of a let down. I had no goal anymore, no drive to finish a "list". I took two months off from hiking for many reasons. One was because I did not know what I wanted to do next. Another was to catch up on some things at the house that I had put off during this time. The weather was a major factor also, it was hot and humid almost all summer and I do not care for that kind of weather. So during this time I contemplated what I wanted to do next between now and 2014 when I plan to hike the Appalachian Trail. It was actually put into my head one day but I dismissed it and never gave it any real thought until one day when I was poking around the Internet looking for my next goal. There are plenty of lists out there, 52WAV (52 with a view), Trailwrights 72, NE 4000' footers (67 of them), NEHH (New England's Highest Hundred), to name a few. But some of them include bushwhacks, which really does not interest me at this time, and others involve long drives to Maine and Vermont which is a logistical nightmare. So the idea that was put in my head a few months ago was redlining. This involves hiking all the trails that are in the White Mountain Guide, about 1400 miles of them. It is a grand task one that will be hard to complete on my own but that is what I want to do. It will take me to places and trails that I would never see otherwise, trails that most people never think of hiking (zero people day just might be a reality). The challenge to most of it will mean repeating peaks and trails numerous times to get that one section of trail, but that is part of the fun of hiking solo. I'll get to see some of the peaks and trails several times over and under many different conditions (summer or winter, cloudy or sunny, etc). So off I go onto another more grand adventure and I am just as excited and reinvigorated as when I started this journey of the 48!