48 4000 footers in one year, Ending on Kinsmans

On Sunday as I hiked to the top of South Kinsman I realized I finally reached a goal in 2020. I hiked all the 4,000 footers in my 49th year. 2020 has been a rough year for everyone. One of the things about being in the mountains is that you feel far removed from the real world. Maybe that is why I like to do it so much. Reality has been hard this year.

It could be why I always seem to go long: running, triathlon and hiking. You get to escape from reality for a longer time. Ultra running, Ironman and White Mountain Traverses – I love them all.

Eight weeks ago I realized that I had 20 peaks to hike to actually accomplish one goal I set for myself for the year. I went into full planning mode. Somehow, magically, it all came together. If it wasn’t for the people who joined me on many of the hikes I may not have made it in time. Not every hike went as planned and there were some (attempt) days. One thing I know is true is that it’s good to have goals and arrange your life around them. You always have your life to come back to after hours and days in the mountains and on the trails. 

The Kinsmans were tough and I was procrastinating hiking them. John agreed to join me on this hike since he hiked it a few weeks ago. He told me that he fell a lot and lost the trail a lot; great, I thought. And, when we didn’t start hiking until 11:15 a.m., I wasn’t sure I was even going to make the peak.  

We parked at The Basin and took Cascade Trail to Kinsman Pond then Kinsman Ridge to the peaks. The hardest part of this route is just keeping on the trail and keeping your feet dry. We did neither. We hiked fast because of the late start. We had headlamps but I wanted to hike fast enough so we didn’t have to use them. 

We arrived at Kinsman Pond in all its glory. The bright, flat November light reflecting on the pond blinded us so I waited until the return to take this picture.

We looked up to see where we had to go from the pond and it seemed so far away. We had to keep moving.

As soon as we turned on the Kinsman Ridge Trail there were more people. We hoped they all had headlamps because it was late in the day. We knew we were going to need them although I wanted to make it to the end in daylight.

We got to North Kinsman and didn’t stop. The top of South Kinsman offered fantastic 360 degree views. John took my picture on this last summit. We ate some food and headed down. 

For some reason I had an abundance of energy and strong legs for the descent. About two miles from the car we needed headlamps. It was difficult navigating some of the trail in the dark, especially two of the river crossings. But we made it out alive and have some fun stories to tell. 

It’s good to finish this goal. It was truly a fun adventure with so many great tales to tell. I wanted to hike the 4,000 footers again because when I finished the first round in July 2019 I didn’t remember the mountains I hiked from 20 years ago. I wanted to know these mountains – all the 4,000 footers. I wanted to know the trails and listen to people talk about these mountains and actually know what they were talking about. I think I’m a little closer to this. 

These 4,000 footers in the White Mountains will scare the bejesus out of you and make you a believer in the power of your own body. They will bruise and batter you and make you stronger than you’ve ever known