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.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Good Point

Two Newburyport friends sent a brief email a little while ago concerning the death of the hiker on Franconia Ridge. They wrote:You need to understand that in the back of most of our minds are the dangers you face climbing in the winter. Many of us hope, and pray, that you have the good sense not to endanger either of you by taking chances in this “quest.” Reminding your readership of your underlying desire for safety first might not be a bad idea.

Peter and Julie are correct, this is a fine time to re-affirm my goals this winter. The most important goal is to stay safe and to keep Atticus safe and make sure he has an enjoyable time. After that the physical goal is to reach the summits of 96 peaks in the 90 days of winter and raise as much money for Angell Animal Medical Center along the way.

I am sure pleased to announce that is what we’ve done so far this winter and that’s why we only have 39 peaks done at this time. There are days to hike and days to lay low. We have taken off more days than we have hiked this winter.

With all due respect to the gentleman who lost his life and the other gentleman who will hopefully fully recover, the biggest problem I had with their actions is that while I was not with them and cannot judge them for their actions on the hike, the most important thing is something I’ve said from the beginning of our Winter Quest, we can only take what the mountains and the weather gods offer us. On the day these men hiked we hiked too, however, we hiked a more sheltered hike, were not above treeline save for a couple of minutes, and started earlier in the day to beat the storm.

Atticus and I will never go above treeline in a dangerous situation of high winds or low temps. I’m happy to report that we’ve been above treeline three times this winter for elongated periods of time and on each of those days it was because the weather gods invited us up to play on those days.

I thank all of you who have inquired about our safety and have expressed concern.

On Monday I knew of a group of seven who were breaking out the trail to Owls Head and thought about going along for the journey. The hike is protected from the elements as it is in the trees the entire 16-17 mile hike. And while this group was safe and well-protected and I would have been very comfortable on this hike I didn’t feel it was right to bring Atticus out into the cold on such a windy day and so we sat it out.

Last Friday two friends were coming up from Newburyport to help me break out the deep snow but the day before I cancelled the trip because I didn’t want Atticus to have to stand in the cold deep snow while we broke out the trail.

The little guy comes first. In keeping him safe I keep myself safe.