The Grid, Gridiots and the Gridiocracy

Mt Garfield in September

Mt Lincoln in July

Experienced hikers will tell you that no two hikes up the same mountain are ever the same. Which probably explains why some hikers are willing to climb the same mountains month after month, throughout the year, to experience the variety of weather conditions and seasonal changes that affect each climb.

There’s a peakbagging list like this in the White Mountains of New Hampshire called The Grid, where hikers climb each of the 48 White Mountain 4000 footers each month of the year, requiring 12 x 48 = 576 summits to finish. As you can imagine it’s a very difficult list to complete because there aren’t 28-31 good weather days each month of year, the mountains on the list are spread out across 7 different mountain ranges, and most people couldn’t hike every day if they wanted to due to job and family obligations.

Mount Lincoln (center) in February

Mount Lincoln (right) in February

Still, to date 30 people have finished The White Mountains Grid and I know many other hikers who are working on it. Click here, to download the spreadsheet checklist and application. Collectively, they’re often referred to as “Gridiots.”

The Rules

  • An official peak is a peak that is counted once on a hike from the beginning trailhead to the finish trailhead. Even though it may be passed over more than once in the course of the hike, it should be counted only once.
  • On a backpack trip, a peak can be counted once only. Unless of course, the backpacker goes all the way down to a legal vehicle trailhead, and turns around, and goes back. Or, goes back, via another legal vehicle trailhead and trail.
  • On a backpack trip, the date the summit is touched, on the initial pass over, is the “OFFICIAL” summit date.

Finishing might the Grid might seem like a daunting task only undertaken by fanatics, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to get hooked on attempting it. First you finish the 48 White Mountain 4000 footers. Next, the Winter 4,000 footers. By then you’re helping other hikers finish their first 4,000 footer list and you notice that you’re piling up more hikes to the same peaks. At that point, it’s natural to expand your horizons and do the seasonal grid – bagging all 48 peaks in summer, autumn, winter, and spring. And so on.

Mt Lincoln in June

Mt Lincoln in June

While challenging, there are a few tricks to consider when hiking The Grid. You are allowed to bag multiple peaks in one day, which makes hiking them much more manageable. For example, adjacent peaks such as Liberty and Flume; West Bond, Bond, and Bondcliff; and Galehead, North and South Twin are usually hiked on the same day. If you’re willing to do a little backpacking, it’s also possible to string together as a dozen or more peaks over a long weekend since the vast majority are bunched together on common ridge lines.

As for the White Mountain Grid Finishers, they are some of the nicest, most humble people you’ll ever meet. In addition to hiking, many are volunteer trail maintainers, lead hikes with local outdoor clubs, or are involved in local search and rescue efforts when people get in trouble in the mountains. They’re also a bit whacked, but I suppose you could say that about anyone who hikes regularly in the White Mountains. :-)

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10 Responses to The Grid, Gridiots and the Gridiocracy

  1. Jarra January 17, 2013 at 2:43 am #

    …and when you are done with that, start in on the Degree Confluence Project. That should keep you busy.

  2. Liz January 17, 2013 at 3:09 pm #

    Yes, I could see myself getting sucked into becoming a gridiot. When I was working on my NH 4000-footers I said to myself, “I’m never going to work on the winter list.” Now I’ve bagged four of them in winter and will be taking an above treeline workshop later this season, and I find that I would like to complete the winter list. See how it starts???

    • Earlylite January 17, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

      I said the same thing two years ago and I’m now about 2/3 of the way done. I’m not in a huge rush to finish them, but it happens, you know.

  3. Dan January 17, 2013 at 4:27 pm #

    Ahh, I’m definitely a whacked gridiot already. Being just over 25% complete, I can agree with you that no two hikes have ever been the same. It’s an unimaginable feat, and those who’ve done it or do it are simply normal folks doing extraordinary things to get this done. It is a goal of mine to finish this sometime in the next few years. I have Washington in 8 of 12 months, and most of the Pemi Loop peaks in 6 of 12 months.

    • Earlylite January 17, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

      That’s a great point Dan. Most of the people who hike the grid are not amazing athletes – just ordinary folk who are passionate about being outdoors. Good luck to you on your quest to finish the 4000 footers in one winter. If I was a betting man, I’d put my money on you!

  4. Grandpa January 17, 2013 at 5:52 pm #

    Let’s see…

    If you hike along a ridge and bag a half dozen or so on January 31, overnight just below the summit of the last one, then retrace your steps in the morning, does it still count?

    • Grandpa January 17, 2013 at 5:53 pm #

      I meant, does it count twice? Once for January and once for February…

      • Earlylite January 17, 2013 at 7:02 pm #

        Only if you hike down to a trailhead that has vehicle access (even if its snowed in) before you bag the same peak a second time.

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