On August 10th, 2019 I approached the summit of West Bond Mountain in New Hampshire’s iconic White Mountain Range. Rain began to set in and my legs were cramping up after hiking around 14 miles that day. I asked my brother to give me a push from behind for the final few rocks I had to climb up, and when I finally hit the summit itself, a wave of emotion hit me like a train…for this was the 48th and final mountain peak I needed to conquer for the fabled Appalachian Mountain Club New Hampshire 48-4000 footer list.
The 48 4000-footer list is a collection of mountain peaks in New Hampshire’s White Mountains all above the 4000 foot mark, the lowest being Mount Tecumseh at 4,003 feet and the highest being the legendary Mount Washington at 6,288 feet. Completing the list earns you an official patch from the AMC, but the reward goes far beyond a material item. For those of us that have set out on this journey, we have put ourselves through quite the test. Psychically, mentally and emotionally, these mountains can present more than a formidable challenge.
The White Mountains themselves are a system of rugged mountains in northern New Hampshire, a part of the Appalachian mountain system running up and down the entire East Coast. They contain some of the most scenic hikes east of the Mississippi, boasting large swathes of wilderness areas, challenging trails and the “Worst weather in America,” especially in the Presidential Range and Mount Washington itself.
While the White Mountain region receives millions of visitors each year, the mountains can be less than friendly, with dozens upon dozens of rescues each year, Mount Washington having claimed an estimated 161 lives since the 1849. While it’s a bit morbid to read about these fatalities, as a hiker I feel it’s important to know how people met such unfortunate demises as to avoid a similar fate.
When I first began officially hiking the AMC 48-4000 footer list in May of 2017, I was far from a seasoned hiker or all that experienced. I had hiked plenty of times before that, but I had only hiked two of the NH 4000 footers. As I worked through the list with friends and my main hiking buddy Roberto, I quickly realized how challenging many of these peaks truly were. On the average 4000-footer hike you’re dealing with 8-10 mile days, trails made of pure rock, and unpredictable weather. Most of your hike is in the treeline with very little views, some opening up to unforgettable views and alpine zones, some mountains offering nothing more than a wooded viewless summit (I’m looking at you Owl’s Head). Some situations can get dangerous quickly and require you to turn around and give up a hike, which can be very frustrating, but there is a reason why they say “The mountains will be there another day.” That is especially true during winter hikes. While I certainly wouldn’t call myself an expert hiker two years later, I know myself and my abilities better and how to avoid the situations (like unpreparedness) that lead to a majority of rescues and fatalities.
All in all this journey left me with unforgettable memories, seeing these incredible mountains in all their glory, each with their own personalities and traits (often thrown at you in the form of rugged terrain) and at all times of day. Unreal sunrise hikes, seeing the Milky Way rise above Mount Washington, experiencing the first snow of the season in the creaky old cabin on Mount Cabot, many a laughs around a portable stove during multi-day treks, eating a disgusting amount of Subway or McDonalds post hike and so much more. If you’re considering starting the NH 48-4000 list or a similar hiking goal, you should. Prepare yourself adequately and always remember to leave no trace!
Here are a few of my favorite snapshots from this two year journey: