Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship by Tom Ryan is published by William Morrow. It tells the story of my adventures with Atticus M. Finch, a little dog of some distinction. You can also find our column in the NorthCountry News.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Numbers Game

Today’s off day is as good as any to check out how we are doing so far when it comes to the challenge of reaching all 48 4,000-footers twice in the 90 days of winter.

This coming Thursday marks the end of January. Last year at that date we had 38 peaks done. If tomorrow’s hike goes well we’ll have 31 peaks done with three days left in January. After our long traverse it makes sense that we won’t be hiking on Tuesday, but Wednesday and Thursday are possibilities. If we can hike either of those days, we’ll be doing okay considering the strange conditions we’ve had this year with all the snow, then with the melt and then the ice.

I have set a conservative pace due to my leg, which is feeling much better than it was, the weather and snow conditions, and the flu-like feelings of the past week.

If I went into winter knowing we’d only hike on back-to-back days on two occasions and one where we hiked three days in a row and knew that my leg would be better and we hadn’t taken any unreasonable chances I’d be okay. Believe me, I’d much rather have 48 peaks right now, but we’re doing okay; we’re in the game.

Last winter we didn’t have the snow we have had this winter. It wasn’t until Valentine’s Day that we had snow of any consequence. And when checking on last winter’s calendar, after that storm we only were able to hike five more days in the month of February. In all we were able to hike 12 days in February. However, mild weather at the end of the month helped add to our totals as we ended up with 27 peaks during the month.

There is no way of knowing what will or will not come in the way of snow accumulation this coming month, but it’s clear that we’ve already been slammed this winter and it’s good to know we are not too far behind where we were last year. If we are able to hike Wednesday and or Thursday of this week the numbers could be very promising compared to last year.

As a reminder, we ended up with 81 peaks last winter, but that was only four hikes shy of completing our goal and we went into the last eight days with only four hikes to do. We ended up being turned back by the weather and weren’t able to hike on any of those last eight days.

The important thing for me in chasing after this improbable goal is to be safe, smart and to put us in a position where our goal is reachable if the weather cooperates. So much depends upon health; so much depends upon weather and conditions as you’ve already seen if you’ve been following along this far.

Knowing what I know now, it’s fair to say that I’m not unhappy with our total if all goes well tomorrow with our hike and we pick up those five peaks.