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.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Dedicated Mountains from this past Winter

This is a list of the 4,000 foot mountains Atticus and I climbed this past winter that were decidicated to individuals who are fighting cancer, have beaten it, or have died from it. There are a few other mountains that were dedicated but they were not climbed yet. Even though winter is over, once those mountains are climbed they will be added to this list.

Friends, family members, and loved ones could dedicate a mountain to someone for $50. The donation went to the Jimmy Fund and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. In a few instances, mountains that were not claimbed were dedicated to individuals I know or knew or know of.
Washington 6,288 ft: Dedicated to Laura Williamson. Given by Ann and Ken Stampfer. Hiked on February 28, 2007.

Adams 5,774 ft: In memory of Evelyn Cates. Given by her friend, George Woundy. Hiked on February 26, 2007.

Jefferson 5,712 ft: In memory of Richard Wall, a wonderful man who died from complications after surgery for lung cancer several years ago. Given by his granddaughter, Amy DeMelia.

Monroe 5,384 ft: “In memory of my father, Albert Locy, who died in 1960.” Given by Doug Locy. Hiked on February 28, 2007.

Madison 5,367 ft: “In memory of June’s mom, Valerie ‘Vi’ Rogier, who died of cancer.” Given by John and June (J & J).

Lafayette 5,260 ft: “In memory of my mom.” Given by Debra Torris. Hiked on February 26, 2007.

Lincoln 5,089 ft: In memory of Vicki Pearson. Given by her friend, Esther Sayer. Hiked on February 26, 2007.

South Twin 4,902 ft: Dedicated to Lisa Manley. Given by her twin sister and brother-in-law, Michelle and John Morris. Hiked on January 24, 2007.

Carter Dome 4,832 ft: Dedicated to Margaret Forney, cancer survivor, and her husband, Merle, her support. Given by their daughter and son-in-law, Julie and Bruce Menin. Hiked on January 7, 2007.

Moosilauke 4,802 ft: In memory of Warren Taylor Brierly (1909-1982). Given by his granddaughter, Susan Elizabeth Gordon. Hiked on January 19, 2007.

Eisenhower 4,780 ft: In memory of Charles Read, who died of pancreatic cancer on January 9, 1987. Given by Peter and Lynda Alford. Hiked on February 28, 2007.

North Twin 4,761 ft: Dedicated to Florence Buckowski who has been battling stomach cancer for two years. Given by the Wolfe family. Hiked on January 24, 2007.

Carrigain 4,700 ft: In memory of Barrie Briggs who died on November 15, 2006. Given by her friend, Mary Eaton. Hiked on December 22, 2006.

Bond 4,698 ft: Dedicated to Richard Jones who is fighting cancer. Given by Gert Jones. Hiked on December 30, 2006.

Middle Carter 4,610 ft: Dedicated to Christine Vallerand, a cancer survivor who lost her beloved sister and father to cancer. Hiked on January 7, 2007.

West Bond 4,540 ft: In memory of Jamie Valente Richard. Given by her friend, Joyce Coady. Hiked on December 30, 2006.

Liberty 4,459 ft: In memory of Thelma Dodge. Given by her sister-in-law, Linda Miller. Hiked on February 22, 2007.

South Carter 4,430 ft: In memory of Billy Lemmler who died too young to see the mountains. Hiked on January 7, 2007.

Wildcat 4,422 ft: Dedicated to Ray Dodge who was diagnosed five years ago. Given by his wife, Linda Miller. Hiked on January 7, 2007.

North Hancock 4,420 ft: In memory of Charlie Stramielo who died of AIDS. Given by Bruce Menin. Hiked on January 3, 2007.

South Kinsman 4,358 ft: In memory of Lucy Grogan. Given by Terry Berns and Tom Jones. Hiked on December 25, 2006.

Osceola 4,340 ft: “In memory of my mother who passed away this summer from cancer.” Given by her daughter Kathy Miller and her son-in-law, bob Brustlin. Hiked on January 4, 2007.

Flume 4,328 ft: In memory of Ellen Ring-Dushane. Given by her cousin, Terry Berns. Hiked on February 22, 2007.

Pierce 4,310 ft: In memory of “my Dad, Justin Little.” Given by his daughter, Nancy Streeter. Hiked on February 28, 2007.

North Kinsman 4,293 ft: In memory of Isabella DeBethancourt. Given by Tom Jones and Terry Berns. Hiked on December 25, 2006.

Willey 4,285 ft: “In memory of our friend Linda Parker, who died of kidney cancer after a long, brave battle.” Given by Nancy and Dezi Ryan. Hiked on December 28, 2006.

Bondcliff 4,265 ft: “In memory of Mary Lou Vallerand Powers. Given by her sister, Christine Vallerand. Hiked on December 30, 2006.

North Tripyramid 4,180 ft: Dedicated to Lisa Manley. Given by Nancy and Kim at Natural High Fitness. Hiked on January 16, 2007.

East Osceola 4,156 ft: Dedicated to Laura Lippert, a cancer survivor. Given by her father, David McFarlane. Hiked on January 4, 2007.

Middle Tripyramid 4,140 ft: Dedicated to Ray Clarkson who is currently battling esophageal cancer. Given by his friends, Steve and Lori Wisiwell. Hiked on January 16, 2007.

Cannon 4,100 ft: Dedicated to Jon Giacalone who was diagnosed with cancer seven years ago. Given by the Breeden family. Hiked on December 21, 2006.

Jackson 4,052 ft: In memory of Irma Smith who passed away from cancer in 1997. Given by her son, Steve Smith. Hiked on January 20, 2007.

Tom 4,051 ft: Dedicated by Katie Kozin. Hiked on December 28, 2006.

Moriah 4,049 ft: Dedicated to Lillian Berns who was diagnosed four years ago. Given by her daughter, Terry Berns. Hiked on February 11, 2007.

Passaconaway 4,042 ft: “In memory of our daughter Brittany Dahms who passed away January 3, 2006 after a courageous two year battle with AML Leukemia.” Given by her parents, David and Robin and the No Trail Mountain Club.

Owl’s Head 4,025 ft: In memory of Peggy Zampell. Given by her daughter, Susan Zampell. Hiked on January 27, 2007.

Galehead 4,023 ft: “For our dear friend and co-worker, Larry Knight. Believe and conquer.” Given by his Fitness Factory friends. Hiked on January 27, 2007.

Whiteface 4,020 ft: Dedicated to Fanny and Daniel Streeter by their daughter-in-law, Nancy Streeter. Hiked on January 11, 2007.

Waumbek 4,006 ft: In memory of Dexter Guyette (1952-2006). Given by Nancy Sporborg and Pat Piper. Hiked on December 24, 2006.

Isolation 4,003 ft: In memory of Monk Jones, who died from Leukemia when he was eight years old. Given by his sister, Parkie Jones. Hiked on February 4, 2007.

Tecumseh 4,003 ft: In memory of Leonora Daniels Klein who died of breast cancer in 1988. Given by her daughter, Hailey Klein. Hiked on December 24, 2006.

Lafayette 5,260 ft: In memory of Priscilla Caron who died of pancreatic cancer in 1976. Given by her son, Ray Caron. Hiked on March 13, 2007.
Lincoln 5,089 ft: "Dedicated to to my most courageous friend, Doug Peirce, who is currently fighting cancer." Given by Hailey Klein. Hiked on March 13, 2007.

Garfield 4,700 ft: “This is for my cousin, Debbie Douglas, of Florida who is fighting breast cancer and who lost her sister to it six years ago.” Given by Louise Connors. Hiked on February 13, 2007.

Flume 4,328 ft: Dedicated to Larry Johnson of WEEI who is fighting cancer. Hiked on March 13, 2007.

Willey 4,285 ft: “In memory of our brave and loving house rabbit, Willie, who died at the amazing age (for a rabbit) of 14 of testicular cancer.” Given by Nancy & Dezi Ryan. Hiked on February 10, 2007.

Bondcliff 4,265 ft: “In memory of my mom, Shirley Hawley, who died of cancer in 1967.” Given by Andy Hawley. Hiked on March 12, 2007.

Whiteface 4,020 ft: “In memory of Tom’s dad, Louis M. Lyons, with happy memories of climbs together on this mountain many years ago.” Given by Tom and Eleanor Lyons. Hiked on February 1, 2007.

Waumbek 4,006 ft: “In memory of Dagmar Doeleman of Alphen aan den rijn, Holland.” Given by Tomas, Laurel and Maia. Hiked on March 10, 2007.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Tom & Atticus Featured in Mike Dickerman's Column "The Beaten Path" (March 25, 2007)

(The following Mike Dickerman piece ran as his weekly column in several newspapers, including Foster's Daily Democrat and the Littleton Currier.)

Michael Dickerman: Individual quests spice up 2007 winter peakbagging season

With the official start of spring earlier this week, another winter hiking season has come to an end in the White Mountains. Now I'd be kidding myself and all of you if I said winter had now completely given over to spring, because in the mountains winter-like conditions will certainly persist for another month and maybe even longer. When I say the winter hiking season has ended, I mean only that hiking during "calendar winter" is no longer possible.

To the average hiker, the distinction between hiking in winter and hiking under winter-like conditions doesn't mean a whole lot. It does matter, however, if you are among the legion of trampers who are working on the White Mountain 4,000-footer winter peakbagging list, for only summits reached during the calendar winter count on one's tally sheet. The growing popularity of winter hiking, and peakbagging in particular, has led to some interesting individual quests in recent years.

The winter of 2006-2007 proved no different, as the following two stories will attest. First there's the tale of Tom Ryan, 45, of Newburyport, Mass., and his faithful companion, Atticus M. Finch. By trade, Ryan is a journalist, but over the last two years he has frequently traded in his laptop computer and reporter's notepad for a backpack and a pair of hiking boots or snowshoes.

Ryan began exploring the Whites in 2005 and an instant love affair began. In less than two full calendar years he's been to the top of a 4,000-foot summit more than 235 times. And in most instances he's been joined by his faithful four-legged companion, Atticus, a miniature schnauzer with an apparently equal love of hiking and the mountains.

After completing the all-season 4,000-footer list in late 2005, Ryan and four-year-old Atticus tried their hand at winter hiking last year and found it instantly to both their liking. So this winter, Tom and Atticus set out to hike as many of the 4,000-footers as they could squeeze into the three-month season, and in doing so decided to raise money for the Jimmy Fund and the Dana- Farber Cancer Institute in Boston by getting sponsors to pledge money for each summit reached. They called their winter-long adventure, "Quest for a Cure."The tireless pair practically lived in the Whites for all three months, and on average wound up bagging nearly a peak a day.

Though Tom's goal of reaching all 48 of the peaks twice in the same winter season was not realized, he and the amazing Atticus did hit 81 peaks. Only the eight official peaks of the Presidential Range, the six summits along the Wildcat-Carter-Moriah range, and remote Mount Isolation on Montalban Ridge eluded the pair on their second go-around of the season.

That the two were able to reach as many summits as they did is a pretty remarkable achievement in itself, especially given the nature of this winter's weather. While the season was certainly late in arriving, once it came, it stayed. The Valentine's Day snowstorm that dumped up to two feet of snow in the mountains did not help Tom and Atticus as trail conditions were as tough in the storm's aftermath as anything hikers have seen in several years. Likewise, last week's warm-up and rain created a whole set of new problem for hikers (see below), as did persistent winds all winter long on the Presidentials. Those winds, in fact, limited the Tom and Atticus to just a couple of days of above treeline travel, not so much out of concern for Tom's well-being, but for his dog's. For Atticus's safety always came first.

The second interesting peakbagging story of note from this winter evolved around Mats Roing of Brighton, Mass., who late in the season added a bit of drama to the New Hampshire hiking scene when he attempted to set a new speed record for reaching all the 4,000-footers. (The existing winter record is 9 days, 20 hours, and 24 minutes established in March 2006 by Vermonter Tim Seaver.) Roing set off on his peakbagging sprint March 10 with a successful traverse of the Presidential Range. After following that up with a single-day traverse of the Wildcat-Carter-Moriah range, things looked promising for Roing. Then the weather gods took control.

A tougher than expected hike up Mounts Whiteface and Passaconaway on the third day of his quest forced him to alter his already tight schedule and postpone to another day ascents of three additional summits. The next day he reached three new summits, including one of the peaks originally planned for the previous day, but again he fell a bit further behind schedule.

Then on Day Five, unseasonably warm temperatures, combined with rainy weather, allowed Roing to snatch just one of the five peaks he'd hoped to grab that day. Following a near six-and-a-half-hour round-trip slog up Mount Carrigain, he drove west on Route 302 to Crawford Notch, where he began a planned traverse of the three peaks of the Willey Range.

Continued rain and uncooperative trail conditions reluctantly forced him to abandon that trek and a separate hike up Mount Hale.

To make up for the lost peaks, Roing caught a few winks of sleep, then headed to Cannon Mountain sometime after midnight, where he hoped to take advantage of colder temperatures and firmer snow conditions and hike up Cannon and neighboring North and South Kinsman. Hiking by himself, he slogged his way up Cannon under still unseasonably warm conditions. From the summit he sloshed down to Lonesome Lake, then attempted an ascent of the Kinsmans by way of the Fishin' Jimmy Trail. Melting snow and resulting runoff had flooded major portions of the trail, however, and less than halfway up the mountain he was forced to reverse course once again.With a major snowstorm looming the next day, more than half the 4,000-footers still left to climb, and less than five days to reach them if a new record was to be set, Roing knew the jig was up and made the call to abandon his effort. He immediately vowed to make another attempt next year, chalking up his failed 2007 run as a great educational experience.

So here's to Tom, Atticus, and Mats for making this a fun and interesting season of winter hiking and peakbagging. And to think, it's less than nine months before winter rolls around again.

Don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to it already.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Our Winter Quest Ends

The calendar reminds me today is the last day of winter. It ends just past 8:00 tonight. To be quite honest, I’ve had this date circled on my calendar since the end of last winter for I had hoped to be hiking straight through this last day. I figured we’d need every last hour of the season to finish our quest. However, our winter ended on Sunday morning.

The snowstorm wasn’t quite what was expected and that gave us hope that we’d be able to finish our last four hikes: Isolation; Moriah; a traverse of the Carters and Cats (5 peaks); and a Presidential traverse (8 peaks). After gearing up and getting ready to go I checked the forecast and it looked okay for the Carters and Cats but as I looked at the higher summits forecast for above tree line conditions and the extended forecast I came to realize a Pressie traverse before Tuesday was out of the question. There is just too much exposure, too many miles above tree line that could take their toll on me, and more importantly, Atticus.

The goal this winter was to hike each of the 48 twice. In falling short it didn’t matter to me whether we had 81 peaks or 88 and so that Sunday morning I pulled the plug on our winter quest, packed up the cabin and returned home to a Newburyport where I’ve become a stranger.

Before heading home on Sunday we stopped by Steve Smith’s Mountain Wanderer and we talked for quite a while. In reflecting on falling short in my winter goals for the second straight winter and on our successes these past three months I came to realize that since May of 2005 when we started hiking these mountains Atticus and I have stood on top of 239 4,000-footers. (There may be a few more; that number was just off the top of my head.)

And so we’re back in Newburyport licking my wounds, thinking about what we could have done differently. But there was not too much. There were precious few above tree line days and we took advantage of nearly every one of them.

We’ll go back and take a shot at a Pressie Traverse and this summer. I think we’ll also go for a one-day Pemi loop and there will be many hikes when we just go for the scenery, not necessarily 4,000-foot peaks. And there will also be plenty of traverses. I’ve come to love the longer get-lost-in-the-adventure hikes.

I feel compelled to report that the most important goal this winter was to keep Atticus as safe as possible and I’m happy I didn’t take chances with him in bad weather days. Yesterday he was sprinting down the beach like a demon, happy as can be with the whiff of spring in the air.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Carters...maybe Cats tomorrow

It's the day after the storm and we're doing fine. Not as much accumulation as we had expected, but still a good amount of snow. Not sure what the higher elevations have but we will find out tomorrow when we hike the Carters and perhaps the Cats, too.

We stand at 81 peaks right now with 4 hikes and 15 peaks left. Again, it is doubtful we'll be able to do this by the time winter ends on Tuesday at 8:00 pm. Much depends of course on the snow conditions and depth and, as always, what it looks like above tree line. However, the Mt Washington Observatory is having a difficult time with its internet service and posting the forecast so we have yet to see what the weather will be.

Yesterday, on the way up here the roads were so bad we spun out of control and ended up 30 feet off the road in a ditch. Then today, with thoughts of heading to Moriah we spun out once again, this time near the Flume parking on Rt. 3. Very dangerous driving. I'm sure it will be better by tomorrow morning.

That's it for now from the two of us.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

81 & Done?

I love this photo. It was taken by Jeff Veino a couple of weeks ago between North and South Twin.

That little guy behind me would follow me anywhere. (Even though he’s rarely behind me on any trail.) Knowing that, I have a responsibility to him. I have stated right from the very beginning of our hiking that I would do it so long as Atticus was safe and sound and happy. I think that may not be the case if this storm hits as predicted and we try to hike over the next few days.

We didn’t hike yesterday because we needed a rest day. And now the trails are deep slush and running water. Poor Atti wouldn’t like that one bit. We’re not hiking tomorrow. And then the storm is supposed to hit and dump some snow on us.

If it comes as predicted, I think our winter will be done. It’s just too much to make Atti wait while trail-breaking is done. In winter, he needs to keep moving to stay warm.
All that being said, it appears it’s 81 and done for us this winter. We will fall short of my goal to hike all 48 twice by four hikes: a Pressie Traverse; Cats and Wildcats; Isolation; and Moriah. Of course all that will change if the storm isn’t much of a storm at all and the cold weather solidifies these rotting trails. But that’s a lot to hope for at this time. Either way we will head north tomorrow…just in case.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Perspective: Lost & Found

We’re back in Newburyport today—catching our breath. We’ve had a busy few days and are waiting to see what the weather is going to do up in the White Mountains over these last six days of winter. A storm is brewing and as of yet there’s no way of knowing if it will be snow, rain, a combination, a lot, a little, or nothing at all.

Winter ends on Tuesday night at 6:05 pm. If we hike that day we’ll have to be off the trail by that time. We have the following left: Isolation; Moriah; the three Carters and two Wildcats; and the eight Presidentials.

While trying to juggle life back home in Newburyport, our hiking life, finances, my business, weather forecasts and a myriad of other things, I have my hands full lately. When life comes at you like this it's easy to lose focus on what matters most to us. And while I contemplate my own little concerns and what lays ahead for us over these last days of this winter season I have on occasion lost track of what we have been trying to do over these three months. And yet time and again it is brought back to me, even in the shadow of a daunting peak, a steep downhill, the sometimes surprisingly personal politics of the hiking community (hard to believe, I know) or the miles ahead on a long day. (On the subject of politics in the hiking community: It’s often much easier to hike when it’s just myself and Atticus. Lots more of this down the road, perhaps in the book.)

Today’s reviving message came from a Newburyport woman whose husband is fighting life-threatening cancer. Her words were exactly what I needed on this starless night.
"You are doing great. I love reading of your daily adventures. The pictures at the top of Mount Washington are awesome! You and Atticus have much to be proud of. I hope you are getting many donations for your cause. Every time we go to Dana-Farber and I look around at all of the people who are depending on these medicines to live it is gut-wrenching. They all want the same thing as us—a cure. We need to find the answers to this epidemic disease."
Talk of perspective.
While on the matter of raising funds for the fight against cancer, $850 came in today. Very nice. One check from a member of the hiking community; a corporate sponsoer; a couple of dedications, and one from a couple who read Steve Smith's article in The Mountain Ear.
If you haven't donated yet, there's still time. Just click on our donation page and you will see what to do. But remember, make the checks out to The Jimmy Fund and not Tom & Atticus: Winter Quest for a Cure. If you've already contributed...thank you.

Post on Mount Washington Observatory Forums

On Waumbek on Saturday we ran into a great little dog by the name of Emma. She had her two humans (Judy and Kevin Talbot) with her. Kevin was gracious enough to post the following on the Mount Washington Observatory discussion board:

Saturday, while on Mount Waumbek, Jude, Emma and I had the pleasure of meeting Tom and Atticus. Atticus is a miniature schnauzer about the same size as Emma, (who we think is a pomeranian mix.) It was nice to meet another dog her size on the trail and we got to talking. I always brag that Emma has her 4000 footer patch from the AMC. She got her patch the same day as Brutus the Newfoundland who went on to be the first dog to get his winter 4000 footers, then do it again, in one season! Emma (and Atticus) are about the size of Brutus' head! Anyway, Tom, very humbly I might add, made us feel to be completely inadequate hikers when I asked if they were on their quest for the winter 4000 footers. It turns out, in only their second full year of hiking, they are on their second time through the 4000 footers, THIS WINTER! After climbing Cannon Mountain at 3:30 Saturday morning, they drove to Waumbek and climbed it then finished up the day by driving to Mount Cabot and summiting. Unbelievable? They are doing it for a great cause, not just for bragging rights. Here is their website, full of great pictures: check it out and even if you don't wish to donate to their cause, send along a few words of encouragement. After Mount Cabot they had 25 more summits to do in the next 10 days. Even if they don't make it, it is an awesome feat! It took me 3 years to do what they're doing twice in 90 days!KDT

Many thanks to Kevin and Judy and Emma. Here's hoping his plug for us on the discussion board will bring in some contributions to the Jimmy Fund and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Moosilauke Photos

With my laptop on the DL as of late, I've been using my desktop, which has a dial-up connection to the internet. Therefore photos have been processed and posted a lot later than normal. Photos will be posted over time. The two best photo days were Friday, on Moosilauke under bright blue skies, and Monday's Bonds Traverse. So they will be the first to go up from this weekend.

I plead guilty to a lack of creativity as crunch time is here and we are well into our second round. The camera didn't come out of the case on Saturday while doing Cannon (it was still dark); and rarely did it make an appearance on Cabot, because of minimal scenery and a lack of "artistic" motivation. I didn't even bother to bring it on the Waumbek hike, although a gentleman we met on the trail took some photos of us and emailed them. Sunday's Owl's Head shots were taken by one of our hiking partners for the day, and she has promised them to us. In anticipation of some kind of precipitation I stuck my digital in a plastic bag today inside my pack and it rarely saw the light of the gray day.

A part of me looks forward to the end of this winter adventure. For I think when the hectic pace is all said and done I will finally be able to sit down and write about it at length. Right now the energy of living my Newburyport life and my White Mountain life at the same time is more than a little distracting. Don't get me wrong...I love this adventure. But with so much hiking and with trying to keep pace financially and with what's going on back home in Newburyport I am rather dried up when it comes to being creative. Such are the symptoms while seeking more than inspiration from these mountains. Atticus and I are on a marathon and the most difficult part of a marathon is always the last part of it. So I apologize for being a little less creative and inspired in these posts and with the photographs.

Moosilauke photos can be found here.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Photos from Washington through Pierce, and Twins/Galehead up

Well, it's taken a long time to get these up but photos to the Washington, Monroe, Eisenhower and Pierce hike are posted here.

Photos from North and South Twin and Galehead are posted here.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Turning Back on the Carters

With winter winding down we set out to hike the five mountains that make up the Carters and Wildcats. This is a hike we’d done earlier in the winter and if we succeeded we’d have 72 peaks done and have one less tiring traverse to do in the next two weeks. We also have a Bonds traverse, Presidential traverse, and Franconia Ridge traverse; not to mention long hikes to Owl’s Head and Isolation; and multiple hike days of Cabot/Waumbek; Moosilauke/Cannon and then Moriah too. Getting the Carters and Cats would help a great deal towards getting to two rounds of the 48 4,000-footers in one winter. Yesterday was also the last suitable hiking day we’d have until Friday, which meant if we could do all five peaks we’d still have to do some serious hiking over the last 12 days of winter to come close to finishing two rounds. But at least it would help lessen the load.

Aaron, a friend from Newburyport, joined Atticus and me. He had hiked the Twins and Galehead with us through a snowstorm and also did the Tripyramids on a rather cold day. He’s 15 years younger, in much better shape and he is game for nearly anything.

We started up Nineteen Mile Brook Trail. It was well packed out. We wore snowshoes to keep the integrity of the trail. Once we turned onto the Carter Dome Trail we could see it too had been broken out, but it was not well-packed by any means and our group of three slowed down and that leg of the journey took longer than expected. More often than not Aaron led the way while I followed and Atticus was in the sweep position. He likes to follow right behind me if he can’t lead and so we thought it best to keep him away from the loose snow and behind two sets of snowshoes. With the trail as it was there was plenty of loose powder and on a dog as small as Atticus it was rather deep on him even though we were trying to pack out the trail.

Seeing the Carter Dome Trail in this condition gave me concern. For if this wasn’t totally packed out I could only imagine the Carter-Moriah Trail most likely would be in an even worse condition. Trail conditions on Views from the Top told of two different parties hiking up North Imp to the North Carter Trail and breaking out the trail to Middel Carter. Nothing was said of breaking the trail between Middle and South or even further to Zeta Pass.

When we reached Zeta Pass we had our answer. Carter-Moriah going towards South Carter had not seen a person since the last snowstorm. After taking a break we plunged in and worked through the snow. First with myself in the lead, then Aaron. Atticus wove through the broken snow but was getting covered in powder and ice. The going was slow and Aaron assured me he’d do whatever he had to do to help Atticus and myself get the five peaks on this day.

I kept one eye on the trail and another on Atticus. Neither looked promising.

One of the problems with breaking trail through deep snow is that it is slow going and it leaves some loose powder behind. Atticus gets coated with this powder and whether or not he has his snowsuit on his core temperature starts to drop and he begins to shiver. That’s what happened yesterday. He was beginning to shiver. We couldn’t move fast enough for the little guy. But as always, he wasn’t complaining. He was game for anything and determined to keep going.

When this winter quest started I made a promise to myself that my friend would come first. His comfort and safety were not worth any number of peaks. We have been tricked by the weather on a couple of occasions; however, we’ve done a good job of picking the right days and the right trails. Breaking trail through six to 12 inches of snow is one thing, but on the Carter-Moriah Trail we were sinking deep and the going was slow.

The decision to turn back came easily to me. Although I must admit my ego grumbled a tiny bit. But a friend is a friend and a good one is hard to come by. So my ego and my obsession with peak-bagging this winter were easily overruled.

We are now back home in Newburyport and as I write on this frigid and windy morning, he snores. He snores peacefully and comfortably while curled in a pile of fleece blankets on the bed. His soft belly rises and falls with each breath. Watching him right now, in this level of comfort I envy him. Have I ever been so content? Have I ever felt so safe? So at peace?

In reaching the summit I often times find myself filled with joy and excitement in knowing I’ve changed my life over these past several months and I have come to discover some of the most special places I have ever seen. And yet sitting here listening to the snores escape this small, hairy little creature I know that what we share is more magnificent, more cherished than any list, any accomplishment, or any summit reached.

In reaching the summit and looking outward towards the various mountains we’ve gotten to know so well I often feel like we are looking out on new friends made over the past year and a half. But Shakespeare, as is often the case, helps to keep it in perspective:

"Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch'd, unfledg’d comrade."

I’m certain that when I am old and gray I look back on this winter and all these mountains we have climbed I’ll do so with wonder and pride. However, what will matter more to me is who was with me for each and every step. I’ll look back on this small but true friend and realize that he has taught me more about being a friend, about being a better person, than I have learned anywhere else.

Friday, March 02, 2007

North & South Kinsman; March 1, 2007

The day after finishing our first round of 48 Atticus and I decided to beat the coming snow storm by hiking North and South Kinsman. These were our 66th and 67th 4,000-footers of the winter. The first and last shots are of Franconia Ridge from Lonesome Lake. The second photo is from the view point at North Kinsman while the third shot is on the summit of South Kinsman.

We had originally planned a longer hike but decided instead to rest. We didn't hit the trail until 1:00 pm and were down by 6:30, feeling lucky to have finally earned a good rest. Over the last four days we have hiked three days and topped 12 summits, with 18 summits over the last nine days.

Photos from Eisenhower and Pierce

Photos on top of Eisenhower, where we ran into two hikers. One of whom took our photo. Then the last photo is of Atticus on Pierce. When we climbed Pierce, we completed our 48 4,000-footers in one winter season. It was our 65th 4,000-footer of the winter.

Photos from Monroe and Franklin

Photos on Monroe and Franklin from our Wednesday hike.

Some Photos from Washington

Until we get home to Newburyport, I'm working from a different computer so I'm only posting a few of our images. Here's some shots on the summit of Washington the other day and on the way to Monroe. More photos to follow in a few days and in the next few posts.