Friday, September 2, 2016

Sage Does Hale Without Me, and Alex Does Another Solo. August 28, 2016

Please donate what you can to Global Fund for Women through Alex and Sage's fundraiser!  Here's the CrowdRise link -- all the money you donate goes to Global Fund for Women.  You can follow the girls' fundraising and Grid hiking progress on their Facebook Page.


Alex did this hike solo -- her detailed trip report is here.

We're about to head overseas for a week and a half; if all goes well, I'll have a nice trip report to write at the end of this month.  In the meantime, here is a quasi-report of the girls' recent hike of Mt. Hale.  I say the girls' hike and not our hike because I got halfway up and had to turn back.  Seems I injured my knee on Moriah the previous week -- how, I have no idea -- and though it's been getting better every day, halfway up Hale it started to feel uncomfortable so I turned back (it now feels almost 100%, so it should be fine for our imminent trip).

Alex went first, since she wanted to do this one solo and, since we've done Hale together many, many times, I was fine with staying half a mile or so behind her.

Off she went...

Our friend Samantha was with us, which turned out to be a very good thing because, in addition to us enjoying her company as always, she was able to keep heading up with Sage when I turned back.  Sage probably would have been fine going solo just like Alex, but I feel the age of solo 4K hiking in our family should start at 13 (as Alex is) and not younger (Sage is 11).

This is where I turned's just before what we consider to be roughly the halfway point.

Samantha continued up with Sage.  Sage told me later that she enjoyed having the chance to talk with Samantha on her own (she usually has to share Samantha with the rest of us).

Samantha took these photos of Sage at the summit and shared them with me later.

Back at the car, I was astonished to see Alex come out of the woods exactly two hours after she had begun her trek.  The three of us together have never done Hale in less than 2 hours and 50 minutes.  Fifteen minutes after she arrived, Sage and Samantha arrived...which means they also did the whole thing in close to two hours total.  That includes time eating a snack at the summit.

It was nice for both the girls to have a chance to hike at their own speeds, without me holding them back.  I've known for some time now they've grown faster and stronger than me, but I didn't realize how much faster and stronger.  Book time for Hale is 3 hours and 20 minutes, and they'd both done it in about 2 hours...that's quite speedy.

I'll write again in mid-September with a trip report of our upcoming thru-hike.  It's a small thru-hike as far as thru-hikes go, but it's supposed to be wonderful and I don't want to jinx it by saying where we're going.  :)  Have a good first half of your September!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Moriah. August 21, 2016

**Virginia Prescott of NHPR gave a wonderful mention of Sisters Hiking for Equality at the end of yesterday's Word of Mouth.  Click on "listen to the full story" and fast forward to 42:30 to hear the generous shout-out.  Many thanks, Ms. Prescott!**

Carter-Moriah Trail. 
9 miles roundtrip with 3550 feet of elevation gain

Alex didn't do this one solo; we haven't been up this mountain since around 2011, and though I am certain Alex can find her way up and down any mountain on her own at this point (even a trail-less one), we agreed that, for now, she'd only go solo on peaks she's done many times (and recently).

Alex's report of this hike is on her blog.  Also, don't forget, the girls are doing a fundraiser centered around the Grid.  Sisters Hiking for Equality seeks to raise close to $18,000 over the next five or six years for Global Fund for Women.  You can follow the girls' progress by "liking" their Facebook Page, and by following Alex's blog (and Sage's, once she turns 13 and creates one). 

Since Alex already posted a well-written report, I'll simply post my photos below and spare the prose.  I will say it was a lovely hike, and Sage now has only four more treks to go until she completes the Trailwrights peaks (two more rounds of the Carters and two more Bonds Traverses).

Sage on Moriah!

Sage and Alex on Moriah!

Snack time!


New friend

Friday, August 19, 2016

Alex's First Solo 4K, and Alex Finishes Tecumseh for the Grid

Don't forget, we need your support for Sisters Hiking for Equality!  Please donate, and "like" the girls' Facebook Page.

Alex has both solo hiked her first 4K and finished Tecumseh for the Grid!  Well done, kiddo.  Her trip report is here.

Sage and I hiked Tecumseh that same day, but we kept at least half a mile behind Alex so she could have her solo experience.  We had ways of communicating with Alex during the hike, and Alex had a way of keeping herself safe when she finished the hike and was waiting for us.  All went well, and this is likely the first of many solo hikes for Alex.

Both Alex and Sage are capable hikers; Sage may begin hiking solo too, after she turns 13 (13 is the age of many new privileges in our family).  Still, watching Alex disappear into the Tecumseh woods by herself was an emotional experience for me.  I was not afraid for her -- the girl knows what she's doing -- but I couldn't help thinking of the first time she ascended Mt. Tecumseh.  We didn't know it at the time, but that first ascent was the beginning of a certain way of life for all three of us.  It was the beginning of a journey that led to the publication of my memoir, UP: A Mother and Daughter's Peakbagging Adventure.  It eventually led to our highpointing adventures.  It was the beginning of our itch to hike not just in NH, but in different parts of the country and the globe, and it is responsible for the fundraisers past and present my daughters have run in order to raise thousands of dollars for girls and women worldwide.

We owe a lot to Mt. Tecumseh.

On with the hike.

Sage and I watched Alex go...

...then, fifteen minutes later, we began our own ascent.

The drought in NH is obvious...where's the water that usually fills this creek bed?



Up the "stairmaster" section...

The "stairmaster" section is now actually full of stone steps.  Eight years ago, when we first hiked this trail, there were no stone steps that we can remember.  The caretaker(s) of this trail has/have been slowly filling the path with stone stairs over the past several years.  The girls and I later joked that it seems the steps will eventually stretch all the way from the road to the summit.

Up on the ridge, after the stairmaster section...

Sign for the summit...

We reached the summit and there was Alex.  She was finishing up her fifteen minute break up top; I snapped a few photos of the view, and then I got a picture of her and Sage.

They were trying not to become blinded by the sun, hence their squinty expressions.

Alex finished her sandwich and began her descent.  Sage and I hung about and ate for a while, then, after fifteen minutes or so, we headed down.

Alex reached the viewpoint in what seemed like two seconds (she texted me).  Sage and I had barely begun going down the stairmaster section.  By the time we reached the viewpoint, Alex had finished her hike.  It was interesting to see how quickly she descended using her own speed, without having to stop and wait for me.  She was fast...I think she got down in less than forty minutes.

With that, Alex is finished with Tecumseh for the Grid.  Sage still has to hike this peak during the month of June, then she too is finished with Tecumseh. 

By the way, it may seem like Alex is getting most of the focus these days.  That's inaccurate, but I can see how one might get that impression.  Alex has a blog and a voice online now because of her age.  When Sage turns 13, she'll also have her own blog and her own independent voice.  We need to follow all the social media rules, so since the girls are two years apart, it means Alex gets a two year head-start on blogging and social media.  Sage understands and doesn't mind.

We'll hike again on Sunday or Monday.  No solo peaks for Alex this time around, since we'll be doing a set of mountains we've only done a couple of times before.

Happy hiking!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Sisters Hiking for Equality, Garfield, and Wilderness Navigation

The girls now have their own Facebook Page for their long-term Global Fund for Women fundraiser!  Please visit and "like" Sisters Hiking for Equality.  Most importantly, please donate!

Just a reminder that Alex is taking over the blog writing until Sage turns 13, then the two girls will take turns writing the trip reports.  The most recent mountain we hiked was Garfield; here is Alex's post.

Over the last couple of weeks, Alex had the pleasure of taking Mike Cherim's Wilderness Navigation course through Northeast Mountaineering.  She and Sage left for a vacation with their dad immediately after the last session ended, so she didn't get a chance to post photos or comment about her experience.  I do know she enjoyed the course and learned a ton.  I highly recommend this course to anyone who wants to be confident with map and compass navigation while off-trail in the wilderness.  She'll write about her experiences when she returns.

The girls will be back in mid-August, which is when Alex will post again on her blog.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Friday, July 22, 2016

THANK GOD the Highpointing Record is About to be Broken

Alex is back from camp -- she recently posted a South Hancock trip report.  She will soon post about our Alpine Trail Maintenance training session with the AMC, and next week she will write about whatever hike we decide to do next week.  :)  After that, she's off on vacation with her dad and Sage.  This summer is flying by!

There will soon be a new Facebook Page dedicated solely to the girls' fundraising efforts for Global Fund for Women.  Please "like" the page, spread the word, donate to GFW, and watch over the next few years as the girls hike each of the 48 highest mountains in New Hampshire during every single month of the year (not all within the same calendar year). 

(Scroll down for the 8/19/2016 edit at the bottom of the an nutshell, yes, Sage could still break the record, but that's not her plan).

A couple days ago, I discovered that the "youngest girl" record for highpointing the lower 48 is about to be broken by a twelve year old named Lucy Westlake .  I believe she's probably heading toward her final mountain, Utah's Kings Peak, right now, as I write this.  I congratulate her ahead of time on her accomplishments!  It is always wonderful to see other young women out there on the trails, doing amazing things.

And -- THANK GOD.  I say that from a completely selfish point of view, because this past month has been messing with my head.  I was happy to read about Lucy because, as some of my friends and my girls' father can tell you, I have been struggling with the financial and ethical implications of my girls going for Gannett, Granite, and Rainier all in the same summer next year. 

You see, the girls and I found ourselves in a strange dilemma after summiting Hood last May.  Without meaning to, Alex (13) and Sage (11) had come close to breaking the record for youngest girls for highpointing the lower 48.  That fact was NOT a blessing...we have never done anything hiking-related or mountaineering-related in order for the girls to break a "youngest" record.  Both Alex and Sage have broken NH "youngest" hiking records over the past four years, but only accidentally -- we hike all the time, so these records were broken as a happenstance.  I've expressed my ambivalence regarding "youngest" records for our family in previous posts.  See The Youngest Whatever and Our Next...(and Last..?) Highpointing Attempt.

I have to interrupt myself here to emphasize that all the remarks that follow are very personal and they pertain to MY FAMILY ONLY.  I am not judging others' parenting decisions and I acknowledge and respect that other families have different opinions and perspectives.

Back to us -- when all that's left is Gannett, Granite, and Rainier, and when tons of people start writing you to ask if you're going to go for it...well, that starts to mess with your head and with your decision-making process.  I'm not proud to say that I brought it up with the girls and introduced that factor into our planning discussions for next summer.  I felt that if we could get all three out of the way in one summer, next summer, then I would not have to deal with another year or two or three of emails/messages asking me if we were going to try to break the record (which is currently set at age 17, assuming Miss Westlake hasn't reached the summit of Kings Peak yet).  We'd just get it done, and then I could relax and the pressure would be off.

However -- my gut told me attempting all three remaining peaks next year just for the sake of trying to break a "youngest" record would be superficial and foolish, because we are not mountaineers -- we are hikers.  There's a difference.  We can hike anything, anywhere, during any season, we can be out there for weeks with full backpacks, and we can be completely self-sufficient.  Mountaineering is a different sport. 

We can't climb a glaciated peak without a guide.  Could we learn how to do that kind of thing on our own, here in the Whites, during our notoriously freezing and crazy winters?  Sure, if we wanted to.  The girls haven't shown any desire to do that, though.  They want to get back out there every week and hike something, and they both itch to do another thru-hike, but they haven't asked to take crevasse-rescue courses or ice-climbing courses or practice with roped travel on a regular basis.  If we DID do technical climbs on a regular basis, if we were used to that kind of thing, and if I thought the girls were ready, then we would go for Rainier, etc. next year, but, for us, that decision would/should be independent of whether or not there was a record to be broken.

I personally feel that, for us, continuing to highpoint simply means continuing a family tradition we started in 2010.  The girls and I started highpointing because I wanted to do something with my children to take their minds off the impending separation between their father and me.  My girls were already hikers, and they loved to camp, so we took off on a six-week road trip the summer of 2010 and highpointed almost everything east of the Rockies.  When we returned, we moved to NH fulltime, away from our Somerville, MA house (that their father kept), and the girls felt invigorated instead of sad.  We've taken a highpointing trip every summer since.  It's always been about the adventure, appreciating the different landscapes, sleeping by the trailheads, etc.  Also, highpointing, up until this year, has never cost much money.  If you buy food at grocery stores and camp along the way, highpointing is actually a great way to have a fairly cheap vacation.

Now, we're almost finished.  Now, we can no longer go unguided.  Now, the feel is very different.  It's still good, but it's different.  And, this year for the first time, this hobby of ours costs a lot of money.  I am not rich.  It costs quite a bit to pay for a guide service for three people, plus airfare, etc.  The guides deserve to be paid and paid well, absolutely.  What I am saying is that our highpointing used to cost almost nothing, and now, it most definitely costs.

So, up until a few days ago, I was trying to figure out that IF we tried to do all three next year, would we be doing that strictly to try to break the record?  Would that be the right motivation for us, ethically speaking?  Does that kind of motivation fit within our values?  Could I even afford to do that next year?  Life would certainly be easier if we waited a couple of years so I could save up some money.  Also, the girls would more easily be able to carry 40 or 50 pound packs (required on Rainier) if they were, say, 17 and 15 instead of 14 and 12.

I had gotten to the point where, if the record-thing was not a factor, I knew I would want us to wait a couple of years.  But then there was the record!  Which, before this year, has never been a factor for consideration, and I did not want it to ever be a factor.  Also, for me, claiming a youngest record if we depended on guides to get to the largest summits and back just wouldn't feel right.  I'd feel like we'd cheated, because we hadn't been self-sufficient.  AGAIN -- this is MY take on it for OUR FAMILY.  I know I'm probably a silly purist.  I know others certainly don't feel that way.  But still, that's how I would feel about our own accomplishments.  I explained a bit about the "cheating" feeling I had on my trip report for Hood. 

In the meantime, messages from people kept coming.  People offering to help, people offering route suggestions for the remaining peaks, etc.  And I appreciate the good intentions, and I appreciate the offers.  But still, it messed with my sense of making sure we were doing this for the right reasons.

A few days ago, I had just written a long, heartfelt, "what is the right thing to do, financially and ethically, for my kids" message to a friend of mine when I did a few google searches and found the news about Lucy Westlake.  THANK GOD THANK GOD THANK GOD.  My immediate feeling was one of great relief.  I felt like a 20-pound burden had been lifted off my shoulders. 

My reaction was telling.  I now know that, even if Miss Westlake for some reason does NOT summit Kings Peak tomorrow (but I am sure she will), we will wait a couple of years before doing Rainier, Gannett, and Granite so I can save up some money and the girls can get used to shouldering 40 or 50 pound packs.  We need to do this for the right reasons, for us, and the record thing should not even enter into it.  That's how I feel, deep down, when it comes to my children.  If the girls want to become the youngest developers of an iPhone app, or the youngest CEOs of a billion-dollar company, or the youngest in the state to score a perfect score on the SAT, then they can go for it with all their hearts.  But mountaineering...climbing...for our family, pushing forward strictly to get a youngest record does not sit well with me.  It doesn't mesh with what I feel is important for my kids.  Again, that's me.  Every parent has to make an honest assessment regarding this kind of thing for herself.

Bottom line -- I do not want "youngest" motivations to ever again even remotely enter into our decision making for any mountaineering or hiking goal we undertake.  I am greatly relieved I can now get that possibility out of my head for planning purposes.  I fear such a motivation might introduce a level of summit fever or subconsciously cloud our judgment when we're out there doing our thing.  For us, I am all for "youngest" records if they happen by accident, while we're doing things we would have done anyway, regardless of records. 

We will finish highpointing the lower 48, but we will likely wait a couple of years before tackling Rainier, Gannett, and Granite so I can save money and so the girls can be a little taller and stronger for those 40 or 50 pound packs.

A sincere congratulations again to Miss Westlake.  She supposedly is going to tackle Denali next year at the age of 13 -- be safe, Lucy.  Learn and have fun.  And congrats on your triathlons and running records -- those are amazing!  I'm guessing we'll see you on an Olympic team in the not-too-distant future.

***Edit (8-19-2016) -- Turns out that if we went for it next year, Sage could still break the record after all.  She'd be 12 years and a few months old, younger than Miss Westlake when she finished her last peak.

To be absolutely fair to my daughter, I sat her down and explained the situation.  I told her that I would support her either way, since I didn't want to prevent her from doing something if she truly wanted to do it.  I'm pretty sure I managed to ask her in a way that did not make her feel pressured in either direction.  Sage's response was that she'd like to wait a couple of years.  That she definitely wants to finish highpointing the lower 48 -- and before her older sister goes off to college -- but that she would enjoy Rainier more if she had more time to get used to carrying 40+ pound packs.  That for her, what was important was that we had a good time, and that the three of us finish together, no matter when that may be (as long as it's before Alex leaves for college).  She really wants to get back to thru-hiking, and if we don't highpoint next year, that means we have more opportunity and time to thru-hike a 250-mile or so trail.  That's what she'd truly like to do next year..thru-hike something...and so we shall.  :)  I'm proud of her for making this decision, which I feel is sound.***

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Welch/Dickey. July 11, 2016

Welch-Dickey (not a 4K).  4.4 miles roundtrip with 1751 feet of elevation gain.  July 11, 2016

This is Trish; instead of hiking another 4K this week, Sage and I decided to hike nearby Welch/Dickey.  It's a gorgeous trek, and we've done it many times before.  Our quest for the Grid makes it difficult for us to hike much of anything besides 4Ks these days, so having a bit of extra time this month to hike a lovely non-4K trail was nice.

Alex comes back from camp this week, and then she'll continue her trip reports.  We will likely hike a 4K next week, then another one after that, then there will be a short break in early August while the girls go on vacation with their dad.

Here are some photos from the W/D hike.  This is a lovely loop hike in Thornton that offers a lot of bang for the buck.  The trail never feels steep, and you reach the first viewpoint just 1.4 miles from the parking lot.  I'd advise starting early and/or hiking midweek, though -- this hike is popular and crowds swarm the area every summer weekend.

'Til next week, when Alex will do the writing (but I'll post photos to keep my personal records going).  Happy hiking, everyone.

View from first ledge

Views from the top

The trail descends over that ledge

Looking back toward the first summit as we head up the next