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The Benefits of Peakbagging

Peakbagging Friends on Northwest Hancock Mountain
Peakbagging Friends on Northwest Hancock Mountain

A lot of hikers look down at peakbagging as a motivation to get out and hike. I certainly viewed it with suspicion until I learned more about it.

I got my first glimpse into the joys of peakbagging when I was hiking two National Scenic Trails – the Long Trail in 2008 and the New Hampshire section of the Appalachian Trail in 2010. Both of those trails go over dozens of mountains that are on peak lists, which is how I got introduced to hiking up and down New England’s mountains.

Truth is, peakbagging is a lot more than ticking peaks off a list.

  1. It’s a fantastic way to meet other hikers with similar interests and find partners to hike with.
  2. It helps solve the problem of figuring out where to hike next.
  3. It helps concentrate overuse in a trail system and preserve the wilder parts. This was the original reason for the creation of the White Mountain 48 x 4,000 footers in New Hampshire and it has worked very well.
  4. Many of the lists force you to experience a wide range of different mountain flora and fauna, across many different areas.
  5. Peakbagging helps motivate the acquisition of more advanced hiking techniques such as weather forecasting, navigation, judgement, layering, advanced footwork, first aid and many other skills.
  6. It gets people out of the house, away from their TV sets and cell phones, and encourages rigorous physical exercise.
  7. It encourages volunteer stewardship of trails.
  8. It brings economic development to more rural areas.
  9. It helps create lifelong memories and friendships.
  10. You have to periodically face failure and bounce back.

I am a peakbagger and proud of it!

8 comments

  1. For me, hitting a summit is no different than making a “random” route or a traverse. If I think I may like the excursion, I go for that peak, and yeah, the feeling of getting to the summit is great, but I’m not there to carve a notch in my belt for every peak I bag.

  2. I agree! I’ve started to consider it since it appears the upcoming year will be devoid of any multi-night hikes. So single day or one night weekend trips will be the norm.

  3. 11. It keeps the liniment makers in business.

  4. I lover peak baggers here in Colorado! All the people doing 14ers (14k ft mountains) means that more obscures peaks, and areas without 14ers, are left to the people like me who don’t usually hike 14ers. :D

  5. #6 is especially good! Getting people out and experiencing the great outdoors is what it’s all about….even if it’s a little inconvenient for us at points.

  6. Peakbagging is climbing a hill just to get to the top. I find it hard to believe people would object to that, but I’m sure many do.

  7. My feelings about peakbagging are mixed. I agree with all of the benefits listed above, especially #3, which keeps quite a lot of beautiful country quiet and uncrowded for those of us who prefer wildness to summits on our hikes. Friends of mine who are peakbaggers have told me that trying to complete the various lists pushes them out the door and on to the trail, and for them, if that’s the motivation that works, good for them. (Truth to tell, finishing the list was a great motivation for me to visit all 48 of the NH 4Ks.) On the other hand, sometimes the obsession with lists can get in the way of other great trail experiences. The other day I invited someone to join a group going up Mt. Tecumseh for the Flags on the 48 event. They would have had a great time and would have met many new hiking friends, but no, they had no interest in “doing” Tecumseh until they needed it again for some stupid list. So okay, Tecumseh isn’t one of the big dramatic peaks, but what they missed was a really nice day hiking with great people.

  8. I think peak bagging has different motivation for everyone and shouldn’t be judged one way or another. For me, my main goal on a hike is to enjoy it, not just to get to the top or end goal of the hike. I love to hike and getting to the top of a mountain, for me, is one goal of hiking-not THE goal.I have, on numerous occasions, decided not to complete a route since that would have meant pushing on just to do one more peak, but it wouldn’t have been enjoyable. It may take me longer to complete all 4000’s in NH, but I’m enjoying the process.

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