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The Pleasures of Peakbagging

Bondcliff, White Mountains
Bondcliff, White Mountains

I became a peakbagger sort of by accident, but I am a full fledged convert and climb a lot of mountains year-round on day hikes and backpacking trips. It all started when I hiked the New Hampshire section of the Appalachian Trail. That 160 mile stretch of trail runs over dozens of high peaks and I climbed so many (23) of the forty-eight White Mountain 4,000 footers, that it made sense to go back and day hike the rest.

That’s when I got hooked. I got hooked on being able to do a hard hike every weekend on top of the two or three day backpacking trips my wife lets me take periodically. If you’ve ever wondered about how I can keep writing about hiking every day, peakbagging is my way of keeping the experience and joy of hiking fresh in my mind in between multi-day backpacking trips.

But peakbagging is more than a way to pass the time between my longer trips. In fact, I am probably  a much better and more skilled hiker because of it. Peakbagging forced me to improve my compass and navigation skills, in addition to weather forecasting, above treeline hiking, my scrambling and climbing skills, and all of the technical skills required for safe winter hiking in the mountains.

In addition to the physical benefits of my weekly peakbagging hikes, there is also a charming social community that ties fellow peakbaggers together. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had in the mountains when I come across a fellow hiker who’s working on a list.

On top of that, there are many peakbagging forums and trip report sites online where hikers share information about trail conditions, as well as hiking clubs and meetup groups that run day hikes and backpacking trips over the peaks. It doesn’t matter if you’re an old hand or a newbie, it’s usually pretty easy to find a hike to go if you want to meet people or don’t feel like going alone.

Those are some of the reasons why I like peakbagging.

6 comments

  1. Sounds like exactly the reason I started peakbagging. On the AT I was totally uninterested in hitting the peaks and counting them off (stupid me, I didn't take some of those short side trails to awesome mountaintops), but once I was done I realized how many I had bagged and how silly it would be for me not to go for the rest. And it's nice just to have a solid goal. I find that a lot of people put as much, if not more, effort and devotion into peakbagging as through- and section-hiking. You end up hiking just as many miles in many cases, and it accomplishes the same goal– you end up hiking a lot of nice places.

  2. Nice post. Peakbagging has so many rewards. Those who choose to peak bag usually have their own unique approach towards it, which in turn, creates a unique and special experience for each individual regardless of whether you hike solo or with others. Every single hike is different, and the conditions experienced at any given moment will always keep us thinking on the trail of what is appropriate to do in certain situations or what equipment would make the experience better next time.

  3. Summit views are way better I find than down in the valley. So ticking of a list of summits/peaks is not a bad goal in pursuit of a view.

    Nice peaks BTW. White mountains look very nice.

  4. Peakbagging…maybe something I ought to try out. Seems like good challenge to start the new year :)

  5. Just got back in fact from another climb in the Whites. Trip report tomorrow.

    Guthook – yes – the level of effort can be quite high. I wouldn't be surprised if someone told me that you need to hike 300 miles or more to bag all 48 the White Mountain 4,000 footers. Plus they can be very hard miles.

    Dan – absolutely spot on. Every hike is so different, even to the same peaks. Which reminds me – I have to check up on your Franconia Ridge hike with your brother.

    Martin – there are many nice peaks, all packed fairly close together. Bondcliff (above) is very beautiful but there are many others just as impressive.

  6. Peak bagging can be amazingly addictive. I started hiking the White Mountain peaks just to spend time with my dad and then before I knew it I had 20+ peaks done and the 48 4000 footers seemed within reach. Claiming each peak felt like a huge victory that my friends and I would celebrate over a few brews in Woodstock. I can see why there are so many peak bagging lists out there so hikers can go on to the next list once they finish one. Now that I have finished the 48 I plan to go back and re-hike my favorites.

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